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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Origin of 'Bojinka'?

Detail-oriented students of terrorism have often contemplated a minor mystery concerning "Operation Bojinka," a 1994-1995 plot to bomb a dozen U.S.-bound airlines by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The mystery: What does the name mean?

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told U.S. interrogators that he had heard the word "Bojinka" while serving on or near the front lines in Bosnia and said it came from the Serbo-Croatian language (spoken by all three Bosnian peoples).

The problem is -- no one in Bosnia has ever heard of it.

However, I noticed a interesting possible explanation when I was in Bosnia this month doing interviews and research for "Sarajevo Richochet," a forthcoming documentary about the Bosnian mujahideen and their relationship to both al Qaeda and the U.S. intelligence community.

The Serbo-Croatian word for soldiers is vojnika (voy-nee-kah). Not particularly similar, of course. But if it's rendered in Cyrillic type (used by the Serbs), it looks like this:

KSM or some of his peers could easily have seen the word "soldiers" rendered in Cyrillic -- on a transport, document, barracks, etc. -- and simply read it off as it one might sound it out from its Latin-looking characters.

All this is highly speculative, of course. I haven't had it confirmed by a source ... yet. But it's the best explanation I've seen so far -- which isn't saying all that much, I grant you.

"Sarajevo Ricochet" is expected to be released in spring 2009.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

D.C. Madam Investigative Files

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has released about 40 pages of material under the Freedom of Information Act related to its investigation of Deborah Jean Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam" who died in an apparent suicide earlier this year.

The USPS refused to release information on the D.C. part of the case, citing a FOIA exemption that allows case files to be withheld if there is a "reasonable chance they will interfere with ongoing law enforcement proceedings." According to ABC News and other sources, several well-known and senior government officials were among Palfrey's clients.

However, Palfrey was arrested and convicted as the result of an earlier investigation in California, during the 1990s. Information on that case was released, including copies of checks and correspondence related to Palfrey's California prostitution ring and a fairly graphic affidavit in support of a search warrant, describing informant accounts of what life was like as a prostitute working under Palfrey's direction. Informants who worked as prostitutes for Palfrey said they charged $200 an hour for a regular call, half of which went to Palfrey.

"Palfrey told (the informant) she didn't have to do 'kinky stuff ' like being 'tied up or beaten up', if she didn't want to, but if she did, it would cost the client extra," the affidavit states.

Another informant showed up for a job interview after responding to an ad for an escort service.

The informant "was told by Palfrey that hers was a full service escort service, and then was asked by PALFREY, 'How open minded are you?' Palfrey told (the informant) she would be sent to male clients and her job was to make the men happy and not let the men be disappointed." The second informant became involved in violent encounters while working for Palfrey, many details of which are redacted.

Click here for the files


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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wagdy Ghoneim Arrested

Egyptian cleric Wagdy Ghoneim has been arrested in South Africa, according to Ikhwan Online (via the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report).

No reason was given for the arrest. Ghoneim is a highly controversial figure who has nevertheless been a featured speaker at various U.S. events. A declassified State Department cable obtained by INTELWIRE describes some of the views of this "avowed Muslim Brother." An excerpt follows:
The message propagated by Ghoneim is bluntly anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-Western.

Observant muslims are admonished to avoid Western clothes, Western music, even to avoid shaking hands with non-Muslims.

Christian beliefs are mocked in a crude fashion -- for example, Ghoneim, in one tape, snarlingly asks how anyone can worship a savior who had bodily functions and odors.

Ghoneim accuses the [Egyptian government] of favoring the Christian minority by allowing the building of fifty new churches per year (a figure that would surprise several local priests who cannot even obtain permission to repair, for example, caved-in roofs).

Ghoneim also charges that Copts are using monasteries and convents to hide arms that eventually will be used against Muslims. The increasingly obvious problem of drug abuse is depicted not only as a straying from god's established rules, but as the result of a Zionist-American conspiracy against the Islamic "Umma."


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", granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe


INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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