The U.S. home front has become a war zone under persistent attack by adversaries who employ an array of weapons and execute operations exploiting stealth, ambush, naivete and, in many cases, utter stupidity.

Austin Bay

I’ll use the terror threat to make a general point.

“War on the home front” brings to American minds violent terror attack — and after 9/11, it should.

However, international Islamic terrorists opened their war on U.S. soil in 1993 with a truck bomb attack on the World Trade Center that killed six and injured several hundred.

Osama bin Laden and his terror gang warned us. The planet was their battlefield and killing Americans on American soil a premier objective. Few bothered to pay attention. Naivete and stupidity exacted a terrible price. 9/11’s mass bloodletting demonstrated that international terrorists could and would launch ruthlessly destructive attacks on U.S. cities.

Eighteen years later, most Americans heed 9/11’s message. The U.S. public accepts (perhaps expects) enhanced security measures at political rallies and sporting events — and closed-circuit cameras on the streets. Terrorists remain a physical threat to lives and property, so U.S. travelers continue to tolerate the ham-handed Transportation Security Administration.

Terror attacks rely on stealth to position the terrorist or bomb; the actual attack ambushes its victims. An alert citizenry is a counter-stealth weapon that helps the FBI and state and local security agencies thwart terror attacks. Alert and armed citizens can stop a terror attack.

Unfortunately, the home front faces an increasingly complicated array of attacks — some of them ambushes that the perpetrators prefer go unnoticed.

Cyber hacks and thefts are one category of attack. We’ve been warned. In February 2014, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s minority staff released an assessment titled “The Federal Government’s Track Record on Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure.” Then-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sponsored this particularly well-crafted warning that drew on over 40 agency audits and inspector general reports.

The assessment told one high-tech horror story after another, such as the theft of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “non-public database” with information on the nation’s dams.

Knowing a dam’s vulnerability would interest terrorists and hackers who might want to disrupt the devices that control a dam’s electrical generation equipment.

Coburn’s report said that despite “precise guidance” on information security, federal “agencies — even agencies with responsibilities for critical infrastructure or vast repositories of sensitive data — continue to leave themselves vulnerable, often by failing to take the most basic steps toward securing their systems and information.”

In 2015, stupidity and reckless senior leader neglect at the Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, led to a data breach that will harm American national security for another 10 years. Hackers stole personnel data on some 4 million federal workers. StrategyPage.com reported that the theft “included all military personnel” (former and retired). “Since the CIA recruits many … field agents from former (often retired) SOCOM personnel, many key CIA people were now much less secret,” the site said.

“Identify theft” like this cripples American intelligence operations.

In August 2017, FBI agents arrested a mainland Chinese citizen involved in the OPM breach.

China and other adversaries target the whole of America. Hackers steal economically valuable knowledge (intellectual property) from businesses, schools and civilian research institutions.
The hackers exploit sloppy IT practices. China also uses research funding schemes (stealth) and intelligence agents posing as “intellectually interested parties” to gull naive scientists and educators.

These thefts appear bloodless, but that isn’t the case if the knowledge improves Chinese weapons. The thefts will cost Americans future jobs as well as royalties.

As for “the war on drugs”: Profits from illegal drugs fuel crime but also support guerrilla gangs and terrorist organizations. Myanmar, Afghanistan and Mexico are examples. Narcotics fed the Marxist guerrillas in Colombia’s now-quiescent (temporarily?) war.

Iran and North Korea use drug profits to finance terror operations and purchase luxury items for their leaders.

The thugs love U.S. dollars. Alert citizens, take note.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and author.


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