Corri Zoli Co-Authors Safety Science Article on “Terrorist Critical Infrastructures”

INSCT Director of Research Corri Zoli has published “Terrorist Critical Infrastructures, Organizational Capacity, and Security Risk” in the engineering journal Safety Science. This interdisciplinary article is co-authored with Zoli’s Syracuse University colleagues Professor Laura J. Steinberg of the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Professor Margaret Hermann of the Maxwell School, along with Martha Grabowski, an engineering professor at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY.

This essay addresses gaps between studies of terrorism and infrastructure resilience to explore “terrorist critical infrastructures” (TCIs) as one critically missing framework to understand the rise of terrorist political violence globally. This approach to global terrorism maximizes core perspectives common in resilience and safety research and uses comparative analyses from terrorism studies, systems engineering, and infrastructure protection.

The authors develop a topology of terrorist infrastructures, introduce the concepts of “enabling” and “coopted” TCIs, and contrast characteristics of TCIs with those of conventional infrastructures. They argue that the organizational intelligence that comes from aligning strategic goals with infrastructural capacity is critical to explaining the prevalence, durability, and resilience of many terrorist organizations (as well as their increasing use of violence).

“We can understand these emerging organizational forms by their design and development, often flat, mobile, and flexible ‘networks of networks’ themselves,” the authors explain.

Article Highlights
  • Analysis used a systems-based interdisciplinary approach to terrorism.
  • Informal, illicit non-state groups, such as terrorist organizations, build and design critical infrastructures to effect terrorist aims and goals, including targeting soft targets.
  • The types of TCIs can be categorized according to terrorist organizations’ strategic targeting priorities; interface with existing context-specific civilian infrastructure systems; and their need to design, build, and engineer new infrastructure systems particular to illicit organizations.
  • Such TCIs involve formal and informal, legitimate and illegitimate, and physical and virtual systems.
  • TCIs often interface with criminal networks and low-governance.
  • Results show the need for more research and a targeted, infrastructure based approaches to combating terrorism.\
  • Practical implications for governments and security sectors are discussed.

 

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Corri Zoli Speaks to CNYCentral About Planning the North Korea Summit

WSTM News Channel 5 | May 24, 2018

Transcript:

HOST: Let’s bring in some new perspective on this international news. Corri Zoli is an assistant professor at the Maxwell school at Syracuse University and a familiar face here on CBS 5.

Thanks for coming in. This is sort of an unconventional from the start, the way this plan for the summit was announced. Maybe it won’t happen, maybe it will. We’re hopeful it’ll happen, and then finally today … what do you make of today’s announcement.

ZOLI: I think that this is a great example of how negotiations are a language of power, so we’re seeing stuff on the surface … somehow this president of all people is impacted by insults … so what we think we’re seeing on the surface is not reflective of what’s actually going on here in terms of the power dynamics …

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Corri Zoli Offers Thoughts on Human Rights Training to US GAO

Corri Zoli, Director of Research for the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, discussed human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) training with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on April 19, 2018.

Zoli was invited to a teleconference session by recent graduate James I. McCully L’17, G’17, now an Analyst in International Affairs and Trade at GAO. A joint J.D./M.P.A. student, while at Syracuse McCully was a research assistant to professors Robert Ashford and David Driesen and Lead Articles Editor for the Journal of International Law and Commerce.

Explained McCully, the GAO is in the process of responding to a mandate in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to review human rights and IHL training provided by the departments of State and Defense to the security forces of foreign nations.

Specifically, McCully’s team asked Zoli, an expert in international law, about her observations and views on human rights and IHL training being provided to foreign security forces; her thoughts about the Leahy Laws, which prohibit the US from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights; and what assessments, monitoring, and evaluation are most effective when reviewing and auditing this type of training.

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Bad Cop: Corri Zoli Analyzes Trump’s John Bolton Appointment with Newsday

Experts: Trump appointments signal more hawkish foreign policy

(Newsday | April 1, 2018) President Donald Trump’s decision to replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with former UN Ambassador John Bolton and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo signals the commander-in-chief is moving toward a more hawkish approach on foreign policy matters, say national security and foreign affairs experts.

The president’s move to surround himself with two figureheads with a reputation for choosing military intervention over diplomacy comes as he prepares to meet with North Korea for denuclearization talks, and as he continues to voice his displeasure with the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran …

Corri Zoli, director of research at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, said in selecting Bolton, Trump is probably attempting to have a “bad cop” in place ahead of his discussions with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“I would say he’s chosen Bolton very much thinking about North Korea . . . so he can have a bad cop . . . so that Bolton can be the real hardliner in the discussions, so that Trump can negotiate on even terms, so the president can play the pure negotiator role,” Zoli said …

Read the full article here.

 

 

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Corri Zoli Discusses North Korea Talks with CNY Central

Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism Director of Research Corri Zoli spoke to Syracuse-area channels 3/5 on March 9, 2018, about the overtures between the United States and North Korea on the subject of nuclear weapons. Zoli called them “interesting developments” that we should approach with a “healthy dose of skepticism” given North Korea’s broken promises in the past …

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Corri Zoli Discusses Latest North Korea Missile Test with CNYCentral

SU expert discusses North Korea’s latest missile test

(CNYCentral | Nov. 28, 2017) Watch CBS 5’s Michael Benny’s discussion on Tuesday’s North Korea missile test with Corri Zoli, the INSCT Director of Research/Research Assistant Professor/Research Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

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Corri Zoli Participates in UN Counterterrorism Conference

On Nov. 15 and 16, 2017, Corri Zoli, Director of Research, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, represented Syracuse University at two United Nations Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED) workshops, at New York University and UN headquarters.

“Few people know that the UN has taken a leading role in counter terrorism efforts around the world,” says Zoli. “Two weeks after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the UN unanimously established the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) by Security Council Resolution No. 1373 (2001), comprising all 15 Security Council members. To help advise member states around the world in measures to advance their legal and institutional capacity to counter terrorist groups, attacks, and criminal activities, the Security Council in 2004 established CTED to assist in the research needed to help the CTC monitor and implement counterterrorism measures, from criminalizing the financing of terrorism to information sharing about safe havens or groups supporting terrorists.”

At both events, Zoli provided insights on data-driven approaches to understanding terrorism, radicalization, and countering violent extremism (CVE). She also shared information with colleagues and delegates on the systems, critical infrastructures, and organizational structures that terrorist organizations often use to effect their goals of political violence and creating fear among local populations.
 
At the UN headquarters event, Zoli was included as an expert on questions from concerned delegates from across the globe interested in understanding “best practices” to combat terrorism. Queries posed included how to lawfully deal with foreign fighters returning home and what measures should be taken for counter-radicalization, including for women and children who were also drawn to the Levant by groups such as ISIS and Al Nusra.

Zoli’s presence at this conference continues INSCT’s close collaboration with UN CTED. For the past few years law and graduate students in INSCT’s Law 822 Research Center have presented research to the directorate on how UN member states are complying with UN Security Council Resolution 2178, which calls on members to prevent the “recruiting, organizing, transporting, or equipping of individuals who travel to a State … for the purpose of the perpetration, planning of, or participation in terrorist acts.”

In May 2016, INSCT was invited by UN CTED to join The Prevention Project, directed by former US Department of State counterterrorism official Eric Rosand through the Global Center on Cooperative Security. The project aims to support member states’ efforts to deal holistically and constructively with citizens who travel to fight with extremist and terrorist organizations.

Emerging Trends in Terrorism and Counterterrorism

New York University Center for Global Affairs | Nov. 15, 2017

Session I: Returning & Relocating Foreign Terrorist Fighters

While the flow of FTFs to Iraq and Syria has slowed, returnees and the relocation of fighters from the conflict zones to other regions present a considerable threat to international security. The flow of returnees risks spreading the threat posed by individuals loyal to ISIL to new regions. In addition to calling for terrorist attacks on an international scale, terrorist organizations—including ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab—have compensated for their territorial losses by expanding their presence to new areas. This session will focus on discussing challenges related to returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs).

Session II: Countering Violent Extremism

Some Member States are concerned that the numbers of FTFs returning to their countries of origin, potentially intending to perpetrate attacks, in combination with those being radicalized to violence within those countries, present a growing challenge to national security. The purpose of this session is to share and discuss good practices in countering violent extremism (CVE), including the role of the media, civil and religious society, the business community and educational institutions to enhance dialogue and broaden understanding, and in promoting tolerance and coexistence, and in fostering an environment which is not conducive to incitement of terrorism.

Session III: Protection of Soft Targets

Over recent years, the proportion of terrorist plots resulting in fatalities has increased, in part due to the activities of returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), as well as due to the evolution in terrorists’ modus operandi, including: (i) their use of basic (legal and easily accessible) tools that reduce opportunities for detection and disruption; (ii) their emphasis on (often poorly protected) civilian targets; and (iii) their use of information and communications technologies (ICT), including encrypted messaging services, for terrorist purposes, including to remotely guide single-perpetrator terrorist attacks. The purpose of this session is to analyze and discuss challenges and good practices related to preventing terrorist acts against civilians.

Session IV: The Future of the Global Research Network

The purpose of this session is to assist CTED in its preparation of: (i) A list of specific trends, developments and issues that require further research and analysis; and (ii) An internal work plan for future engagement with members of the Network, with a view to developing further evidence-based research that can support the work of the Committee and CTED.

CTED Second Open Meeting of the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee and Global Research Network Partners

UN Headquarters, New York City | Nov. 16, 2017

  • Session I: Summary of NYU technical consultations
  • Session II: Implementation of Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014)
  • Session III: National practices in CVE that can be conducive to terrorism
  • Session IV: The protection of civilian (“soft”) targets

Speakers included:

  • Emman El-Badawy, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
  • Cheryl Frank, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria
  • Pavel Mareev, Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorism Center (CIS ATC)
  • Magnus Ranstorp, Swedish National Defence CollegeDavid Scharia, Chief of Branch, Counter-Terrorism Executive Director (CTED)
  • Ali Soufan, The Soufan Group
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What the US Government Can Do to Prevent Low-Tech Terror Attacks

By Corri Zoli

On Oct. 31, 2017, as reported by CNN, eight people were killed and almost a dozen injured when 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov drove a rented pickup truck down a busy bicycle path in New York City’s Lower Manhattan district. Authorities found a note claiming the attack was made in the name of Islamic State (ISIS) near the truck used in the attack.[1] Saipov was shot by police and taken to the hospital. Originally from Uzbekistan, he entered the United States under a visa program designed to encourage immigration from underrepresented nations.

“Likely, the visa lottery program Saipov used to enter the US in 2010 will come under scrutiny.”

Given the case facts, this tragic incident looks like yet another low-tech terrorist attack, similar to vehicular attacks in the last two years in London, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, and elsewhere. The inspiration for these attacks comes from ISIS and its online recruitment materials that advocate for the surprise killing of civilians using any available modern tools as weapons, such as trucks, knives, or homemade bombs.[2] Europe has suffered hundreds of deaths due to this “low-tech” but powerful strategy.

US Congressmembers emphasize that we’re in a high-threat environment given ISIS attacks across the world and given thousands of foreign terrorist fighters returning to their home countries (as Islamic State collapses). It should be remembered that 60,000 foreign fighters have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq since 2012. While numbers of recruits from the US are far lower than from France and Britain—not to mention other countries—they are not zero. Since 2014, 136 individuals have been charged for ISIS-related offenses in the US, with 79 so far found guilty.

What can the US government do to prevent such low-tech terror attacks in the homeland? Physical barriers to prevent car and truck attacks would help in places where people congregate, but it is not feasible to line every road or bike path with such concrete barriers. Nor do we have as many domestic policy tools as we might like to have to deal with this issue, such as heavily secured borders or detailed vetting procedures for immigrants and refugees. Instead, we must turn to surveillance, public notification of extremist behavior, forward-leaning law enforcement professionals, and community engagement, all of which must be balanced with civil liberties.

Importantly, lawmakers and law enforcement officials need to stay ahead of global terrorist strategic, tactical, and recruitment trends, especially after the fall of Raqqa and now that ISIS operatives are beginning to return home or move into other regions (such as Mali in western Africa). To politicize these issues—or ignore them or wish them away—is folly. Preventing terror attacks will require thorough policy reviews, investigative reports, and new bipartisan laws and agency procedures, such as those developed in the past to close VISA loopholes. The U.S. is not alone on these challenges—France issued a new anti-terrorism law this week, and British ministers are actively asking what to do with foreign terrorist returnees. 

In addition to the challenge of homegrown terrorism, our immigration systems are not immune to these threats. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have increased vetting of immigrants and refugees to deal with the ways terrorist operatives target migration flows and programs. Former FBI Director James Comey in 2015 Congressional testimony noted that 15% of refugees (300 out of 2,000-plus open FBI cases) are under FBI investigation for “some contact with foreign terrorists.”

Terrorists exploiting immigration and refugee programs is a bigger problem, however, in Europe, where ISIS operatives in the Paris (2015) and Belgium (2016) attacks, among others, used refugee flows and passports to skirt border security measures.

Likely, the visa lottery program[3] Saipov used to enter the US in 2010 will come under scrutiny[4]. While a small program,[5] after the San Bernardino attack in 2015, President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson and lawmakers—including Central New York’s John Katko, who leads the House bipartisan Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel—reevaluated the K-1 VISA program for fiancée/spouses, some recommending social media surveillance of individuals.

The vetting process for the K-1 program was determined to be less rigorous than refugee vetting processes and therefore changed. In this case—as in the case of San Bernadino killer Tashfeen Malik, who was determined to have been radicalized before entering the US—an important question is whether Saipov exhibited signs of radicalization before he entered the US and whether he was properly vetted.


[1] Sayfullo Saipov’s first name translates into “Sword of Allah.” Reportedly, he pledged allegiance to ISIS and had ISIS flags in his vehicle.
[2] Here’s a sample from Rumiyah: Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner. This was superbly demonstrated…by the brother Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel who, while traveling at the speed of approximately 90 km p/hour, plowed his 19-ton load-bearing truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, harvesting through his attack the slaughter of 86 Crusader citizens and injuring 434 more. The method of such an attack is that a vehicle is plunged at a high speed into a large congregation of kufar, smashing their bodies with the vehicle’s strong outer frame, while advancing forward—crushing their heads, torsos, and limbs under the vehicle’s wheels and chassis—and leaving behind a trail of carnage.” (Rumiyah, 2016, Issue 3, p. 10)
[3] There were 1,051,031 new legal permanent residents (“Green Card” holders) in FY 2015, with about 5% coming from the “diversity” visa lottery program and most (66%) coming from family relations preferences.
[4] News outlets are also reporting that Saipov was in fact investigated by the FBI in 2015 over his ties with suspected terrorists. He was further listed as a “point of contact” for 23 visitors and immigrants, two of whom were found in DHS’s counterterrorism database and overstayed their tourist visas, itself a growing problem in the US (more than 700,000 overstayed their visas in 2016). One individual was flagged as arriving from a threat country while the other was identified as a “suspected terrorist.” Vetting procedures were again changed—this time to link classified (US Department of Defense) and unclassified data on jihadists—when it was discovered that two Iraqi refugees arrested on terror offenses in Bowling Green, Kentucky had previously committed IED attacks against US soldiers in Iraq.
[5] The Diversity Visa Program prioritizes immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US. Congressionally mandated as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, the program creates priorities—diversity—beyond traditional US immigration policy of immigrating family members or US employment needs. The program allows for 55,000 immigrants per year (beginning in 1995) with countries excluded that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the previous 5 years.

 

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“Terror Has Gone Low-Tech” Says Corri Zoli, Writing in Foreign Policy

Terror Has Gone Low-Tech

The Catalonia attacks are a case study in the future of violent extremism. Governments need to figure out how to respond.

(Re-published from Foreign Policy | Oct. 2, 2017) After the fifth low-tech terrorist attack this year alone in the U.K. — not to mention a spate of attacks across Europe since 2014, and earlier — it is time for governments to reevaluate their approach. At the core of this self-assessment should be a simple recognition, which itself requires separating facts from appearances when it comes to terrorism.

Terrorist attacks in Europe have occurred at such a pace in the last few months that we are in danger of treating them as the new normal. No sooner had the attack on Barcelona’s La Rambla district disappeared from the headlines than the Parsons Green London tube station was targeted in an improvised explosive device attack claimed by the Islamic State. Worse, without time to pause, analyze the case facts, or think strategically, law enforcement across Europe and elsewhere run the risk of getting stuck in a reactive rather than proactive stance.

“Careful analysis exposes common themes across these attacks, which are useful in a strategic response to the hard-to-predict acts of low-tech terror.”

Yet careful analysis exposes common themes across these attacks, which are useful in a strategic response to the hard-to-predict acts of low-tech terror. Although this analysis will focus on the brotherly ties that many analysts missed in the recent Barcelona terror attacks, readers will readily see elements echoed in Parsons Green, in other recent U.K. attacks (Westminster, London Bridge, and Manchester), and beyond. In many cases, the attackers’ networks were held together by family ties. The suspects in Parsons Green, for instance, were foster brothers, young men with recent immigrant backgrounds, who used low-tech terror tactics in busy, unguarded public places; and they appear to have responded to calls from a parent terror organization (in the case of London, by Inspire, an al Qaeda magazine) to attack trains.

The ties that bind

In the three incidents associated with the recent August Barcelona terror attacks, nine of the 12 attackers were brothers. Only leader Abdelbaki Es Satty and two additional recruits, Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Salh El Karib, did not possess family ties in the group. The operatives were young (with the exception of Es Satty) and shared Moroccan nationality or heritage. This kinship element was often glossed over in discussions of the Catalonia attacks, as well as others in which cell members were often related in other ways (for examples, cousins, via families in marriage, etc.).

Although undertheorized, the subject of kinship in terrorism research reveals the utility of social network theory in underscoring how interpersonal relationships — the ties that bind — structure both groups and commitment levels. In low-tech terror attacks in Belgium, France, the U.K., and elsewhere, these bonds — literal or constructed — help operationalize “brothers in arms” willing to sacrifice themselves for transcendent aims. (Literal bonds involve biological, kinship relations in families, brothers and cousins, while constructed bonds involve the close friendships.)

So what role can identifying kinship ties play in government responses to repeated low-tech terrorist attacks, and can it help to deter such attacks?

Catalonia: the facts and the suspects

Any discussion of preventive and countermeasures must begin with case facts and to contemplate the details of this now familiar style of low-tech, small-cell attack in urban settings. The Aug. 17, 2017, La Rambla van attack was executed by an Islamic State cell and involved three related incidents, all linked back to a central figure, Es Satty. He was incarcerated between 2010 and 2014 for drug smuggling from North Africa, had established ties with al Qaeda jihadis from the 2004 train attack, and successfully appealed his deportation order in 2015 after his release from prison. He was also the subject of recent Belgian intelligence warnings to Catalan authorities.

The Alcanar explosion: The night before the Barcelona attack — Wednesday, Aug. 16 — in the town of Alcanar, several members of the Islamic State cell accidentally blew up their house, killing two members: Es Satty, who rented a room in the house, and 22-year-old Youssef Aallaa, born in Naour, Morocco, and affiliated with the Ripoll mosque, where Es Satty worked as an imam. A third member was injured in the attack — 21-year-old Spanish national from Melilla, Chemlal, reported to be the bomb maker, who is currently under arrest.

Like Aallaa and his two brothers, Mohamad and Said, Chemlal was recruited by Es Satty via the Moroccan immigrant community in Ripoll. Authorities discovered more than 100 gas canisters stored at the location, and supplies of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) indicated that the group was planning a spectacular bombing of the Sagrada Família basilica. Es Satty had communicated to his roommate — internet café owner el Karib who bought tickets for both Es Satty and Moroccan national Driss Oukabir — that he was soon leaving for Morocco, where he had already sent his wife and children …

To read the full article, click here.

 

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