The CSS Blog Network

Denying Terrorists Glory

Denying terrorists the glory. photo: Adam Tinworth/flickr

In the wake of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks on European and American soil governments felt the need to adapt their legislation to what was perceived as a new threat paradigm. Policymakers considered existing criminal laws as insufficient to combat terrorism. A contributing factor was that governments needed to be seen doing something about the threat. Enacting new laws is one of the things governments are very good at.

A large number of new laws have since then been enacted specially aimed at terrorism-related offenses. Examples include the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the UK, the US PATRIOT Act and various law amendments in Germany.

These special laws have been criticized on many accounts. Civil rights advocates disapprove of the sweeping powers some of these laws bestow upon authorities. The potential for abuse has been highlighted repeatedly. The main thrust of the argument has been that special laws for terrorism were not necessary, because killing people was a crime anyway, regardless of the ideology behind such acts.

While the process of radicalization is still poorly understood, it seems that adventure-seeking is an important part in the trajectory of many radicalized people. Terrorism, after all, is “exciting” business. That is the way it is depicted in jihadist videos and print publications with guns, explosives, and heroic battles against the West. This does not square with reality. An important number of uncovered plotters in the US and in Europe were amateurs and completely inept at their trade. They seemed to have little in common with their role models.

An unintended consequence of these aforementioned terrorism laws is that they give would-be terrorists a status which they clearly do not deserve. The label “terrorist” signals danger to society. In some circles this is seen as a badge of honor. » More

New ISN Partner: Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales

We are delighted to announce that the Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (CAEI) has joined our global partner network.

Based in Buenos Aires, CAEI is a civil society institution that aims to foster understanding of prominent issues on the international agenda from a pluralistic and interdisciplinary perspective. CAEI runs academic programs on all regions in the world, with a special focus on Latin American countries. Several thematic programs cover subjects from the history of international relations to science and technology.

CAEI’s specialty is the Program on Political Phenomenology (PPP), which aims at creating innovative ideas and making theoretical and methodological contributions to the field of area studies.

We’re thrilled to be able to extend our reach in Latin America with CAEI’s support. CAEI’s research will allow our users to get better insights into Latin American politics, as well as a different perspective on global affairs.

As Cyberparanoia Spreads

All Rights Reserved? Courtesy of Paul Gallo/flickr

A new fear is engulfing Switzerland and this time its about cyberspace.

True, the threat of ‘cyberwar’ and cyber-attacks is real and sometimes very difficult to prepare for. Recent events, like the hacking of political parties’ websites or the recent distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) on Postfinance, the bank hosting Julian Assange’s account, point to a future where sometimes crippling cyber-attacks are an all-too common occurrence.

The Swiss parliament recently passed a motion asking the government to develop the legal framework for responding to and defending against cyber-attacks. The government, however, is not really convinced that a legal basis to fight ‘cyberwars’ should be the priority and I agree with them.

A solid legal framework is certainly needed for cybercrime. But when it comes to cyber-attacks, having a legal framework is of no help. What legal measures could you take if someone launches a cyber-attack on your country, key industries or public figures?  This also links up to the equally tricky debate about attribution in the case of such attacks. Who attacked and from where? Who is behind the attack and who should be held resonsible? Moreover, we still lack a clear definition of what a cyber-attack even is. Experts still disagree on this and I don’t think that the Swiss government will be able to break this definitional deadlock.

The legalization of cyberspace is generally speaking a dangerous trend. So far, no international treaties exist on the subject, and attempts to “nationalize” part of it by promulgating a national legal framework for hostile acts on the internet is creating borders and limits on a ‘global good’. The internet cannot be structured on the basis of national borders and it should remain so: common, shared, unlimited and open. Indeed, legalizing cyberspace from a national standpoint is not only inefficient; it also sets a dangerous trend for the fragmentation of cyberspace. » More

ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

The new ISN Insights week starts today, photo: Caro's Lines/flickr

Last week, ISN Insights looked at:

This week, we will be examining: Congo minerals, Indian defense policy, the effects of global currency wars on Africa, the upcoming elections in Belarus and Haiti in Friday’s ISN Podcast.

Make sure to tune in each day for the newest ISN Insights package. And if you’re an active Twitter or Facebook user, look us up and become a follower/fan!

“Cyberguerillas” on the March

Cyberwar? © Chappatte/Globecarton

Cyberwar? © Chappatte/Globecartoon (permission to reproduce granted by creator, 10.12.2010)

Fans of WikiLeaks have launched numerous, high-profile Denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) on sites that turned against WikiLeaks recently. Targets as varied as Sarah Palin, Mastercard, the Swedish government, and the Swiss bank Postfinance have come under attack for either criticizing WikiLeaks or for refusing some services to Julian Assange.

I don’t know the details of all the services that have been refused to Assange, but in the Swiss case, Postfinance closed down the Swiss bank account of Julian Assange because Assange had provided a fake postal address in Geneva. The bank simply followed normal procedures vis-a-vis account holders that provide false information. The client may have been high profile, but the procedure was normal.

In revenge for a variety of acts designed to curtail WikiLeaks’ space for maneuver by the above-mentioned institutions, a group, calling themselves „Anonymous,“ has been waving a kind of cyberbattle in the name of free speech and in support of WikiLeaks. These attacks by “Anonymous” are problematic for several reasons: » More

Page 2 of 4