Stupid Movies, Dumb Moves


Today there is a big conference [ar] starting, organised by Mauritania’s Tewassoul party, with high-level delegates in attendance from many Arab states, including Tunisia, Kuwait, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Algeria. I’d expect increased security in and around Nouakchott, but have not seen the usual reports of any. Last night, the political opposition coalition held a licensed event which tens of thousands attended, but they were denied permission for a similar event a couple of weeks ago, with the authorities claiming the need to avoid large gatherings because of the security risks. Yet a few days ago, the American Embassy in Mauritania issued an oddly paranoid statement to nationals, warning them to be cautious in case of unrest or protests on or near December 14 and 19. These events are likely, they claim, because of the anticipated release of another film which is deliberately insulting to Muslims,  as well as a new video about Osama bin Laden.

The Embassy in Mauritania has a quiet little Facebook page that mainly posts friendly invitations to attend the regular sessions they host for throngs of hopeful student visa applicants at the “American Corner” of Nouakchott University. The statement is not posted on Facebook, and I would never have known about it, except for a tweet from the US State Dept’s travel advisory account:

To be honest, I had ignored an earlier “exclusive” report on a local website with little to commend it in the way of credibility, which claimed the embassy had sent all residents a warning note.

People in Mauritania were baffled by the embassy’s official warning. “When did we ever see a protest in Mauritania about bin Laden?” one asked. Another said “bin Laden is no prophet, people can make any film they want about him, and no one will care.” One replied to @TravelGov:

Bearing in mind that less than 5% of the population has internet access, and even then most of the time it’s like dial-up that has been heavily sedated,  there’s precious little chance either film will reach a sizeable audience even in Nouakchott. To be super helpful in case any random terrorists really do fancy their chances, Ould Abdel Aziz listed a few potential targets during his recent speech at a UNESCO event in Paris, his default location since the 13 October incident. Taking all this into account, and  in light of recent events in Egypt and the Maghreb region, it  makes sense to stay tuned.

Stupid Movie 2

Stupid Movie 2

The sequel to the highly successful (in terms of provoking riots, and making a few people in the State Department look foolish) but very stupid “Innocence of Muslims” movie is called “The Innocent Prophet” and was delayed by the Spanish authorities threatening to revoke the Pakistani film maker Imran Firasat’s refugee status if he released it on 14 December as planned. But it’s out now, and the news cycle has calmed down enough to make space for a bigger splash than it would have gotten on December 14, given the terrible tragedy that occurred in Connecticut that day. Like it’s fore-runner, The Innocent Prophet has a staggeringly small number of views so far. I suppose intelligence agency cyber trolls will have to post the link liberally on “jihadist” forums if they want to see more riots, arson attacks and deaths in time for Christmas.

Randy Wilson was arrested by FBI officers, just as he and his family were boarding a plane in Atlanta

Randy (Rasheed)Wilson was arrested by FBI officers, just as he and his family were boarding a plane in Atlanta

(Updated 21 Dec) While I am thinking about false flags, do be on the lookout for more news about the two Alabama men arrested separately in Georgia, allegedly planning to make their way to Mauritania to “wage violent jihad”. It’s possible* Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair** and Randy (Rasheed) Wilson***, like so many others before them, got the idea after speaking to an undercover FBI agent. Including the agent, that is three people I would not want to have near any weapons or explosives. In any case, you could probably staff an entire katiba of terrorists and the necessary weapons for the price of their air fare from Alabama, by recruiting within the region. It just does not make sense for people to travel half way across the world to do it, unless they were incredibly dumb, or were just playing along, intending to renege on their end of the deal and get a free desert safari in the process. Now that international aid and development agencies are more interested in hiring locally, would it be too much to expect the FBI to follow suit?

Still on jihad, something that is jarring my instincts: these pastebin posts allegedly from a new(ish) cyber army of angry “Qassam Cyber Fighters” who hate American banks so much they decided to give advance notice of their intention to take down their websites, and even apologised for the delay in staging their onslaught, codenamed “Operation Ababil”. Nice and polite, if not exactly stealthy, but thanks for giving all your targets time to tighten security, change passwords, etc. Anyone would think they were not a real cyber army at all. If you are a linguaphile, have fun analysing and comparing their use of Arabic and English. If not, have fun wondering why an Iranian regime cyber operation (as claimed) would use Arabic, when they apparently have a proud, Farsi-speaking, cyber army.

A late, but convenient addition to end with: a random tweet was posted yesterday about an alleged hacking ten months ago of  Bank of Israel by a group calling themselves “Mauritania Hacker Team”

Here’s their Facebook page, where the old news reports were reposted yesterday, which I assume explains the tweet.

Back in February, they posted this video claiming to show evidence of  an intrusion that netted “all” Bank of Israel customer accounts:

Ignoring the fact that it looks decidedly fake, note the speed with which typing errors of English words are corrected, and use of words like “bingo” and the phrase “don’t try this at home”. Add to that the use of classroom French, typed more slowly with far higher accuracy in their next video. It gives the impression whoever created at least the first and probably the second would feel more at home in Oxshott than Nouakchott. No offence to Oxshottonians, it could be any cosy corner of over-privileged middle-class and perhaps even middle-aged (bingo? really?) England.

Additional information added 21 December 2012:

American terror suspect Omar Hammami, aka Abu Mansour al-Amriki

American terror suspect Omar Hammami, aka Abu Mansour al-Amriki

* In the criminal complaint that led to his arrest, Randy Wilson was said to be a former room mate of another Mobile, Alabama man, Omar Shafik Hammami (aka Abu Mansour al-Amriki), who was just reportedly kicked out of Somalian al-Qaeda franchise Al-Shabaab for spreading the wrong message in videos he posted online.  Although they did know one another about 10 years ago, the  information about Wilson and Hammami’s living arrangements turned out to be false (see below). There was a rather long delay between news about his first video – in which he said he feared his life was in danger – appearing in March 2012, and the 17 December reports of the announcement of Hammami’s expulsion. March was also when the coup in Mali was claimed to have accelerated the spread of rebel groups in the north, as the vast region was abandoned by both civil and military authorities along with most NGOs and aid agencies. This heightened activity was accompanied by reports that fighters from other al Qaeda groups were moving into Mali. Wherever Hammami – who incidentally is married to a Somali woman, and they have at least one child, a daughter – shows up next, it is unlikely to be America.

** According to this post, a Syracuse, NY native by the name of Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair was arrested in Egypt in 2010 on charges of suspected terrorist activity. In 2011, he was deported back to the U.S., taking residency in both Ohio and Alabama.

*** Randy Wilson appeared in court and was refused bail after the judge heard testimony from FBI Special Agent Tim Green, who had established an online relationship with the defendant and his co-accused over a period of two years, by pretending to have a shared interest in Islam. Green also confessed in court that the story about Wilson being a former room mate of Omar Hammami was a lie and claimed he” didn’t know where it came from”. Wilson’s case will be heard on December 27, local press reported. There are no similar reports for Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair as yet. Given the fact that the two New Jersey men arrested in the almost identical “Operation Arabian Knight” case in 2010 have still not been sentenced, despite accepting a plea bargain, we should not expect any swift justice.

Related Posts

#Iran’s 2009 Election Remembered


Photo Gallery

Collection of tweets

from 12 June 2009 – 22 Khordad 1388 on the Persian calendar – the date of Iran’s parliamentary election, which erupted in massive protests swiftly followed by a brutal crackdown with the loss of many lives and the arrest, torture and detention of thousands.

— weddady (@weddady) June 12, 2009

— (@TIME) June 12, 2009

I’ve re-tweeted the following at the same time today as they were originally posted.

Actual link for Guardian article in Rachel Maddow tweet:

BBC coverage of the protests over election results:

The rise of social media

International media correspondents were quickly expelled from Iran after protests erupted. Citizen media took over, and social media was transformed from an unpopular web wasteland where bored people could read about what – or who – other people were eating, to become the world’s biggest platform for real-time reporting of events. It’s also arguably the world’s biggest platform for propaganda, and a spam magnet sans pareil.

The geeks and nerdy college grads who created today’s most popular social media applications were only too happy to leverage the instant celebrity status bestowed by the media as a result of the massive increase in popularity that the Iran election generated: most if not all are millionaires now. The activists who fuelled that meteoric rise definitely get the raw end of the deal.  Governments all over the world, from the US to the UK, from China to Kuwait, seem to view social media as both an innovative tool to spy on their citizens, and a means to oppress them. These security-obsessed states show a disturbing willingness to prosecute users with extreme sentences, often on spurious evidence but with serious charges such as “endangering national security”. This is testament to the importance of social media in society today.

Meanwhile, application developers make changes that disrupt and inconvenience users without warning, and incidents of arbitrary censorship of user content are fairly commonplace. None of the apps were built with the concept of user security and privacy as paramount, and re-engineering efforts don’t seem to be a priority compared to, say, changing terms of service to increase marketing and monetisation opportunities. As we’ve watched Google’s departure from its “don’t be evil” tag-line with a mixture of alarm and resignation, sites like Twitter have similarly changed course from “it’s your content, you own it” to “it’s your content and although you can’t access it, we’re selling it.” (and will readily censor or surrender it in response to government requests). As an added challenge, there is the growing trend of user credentials being “leaked” and the accompanying rise in incidents of user accounts being “hacked”.

Related content

For fascinating first-hand observations and insight into what it’s like in Iran these days, I recommend Laura Secor’s excellent article in the New Yorker.

Israel immigration law discriminates against thousands from Palestine


This document threatens to ruin Lana Khatib’s life – it makes no mention of her university degree, husband or two children. It simply states she’s a Palestinian – and therefore illegal and unwanted in Israel.

“I have a permission to stay here, but I don’t have any rights, just to breathe and eat and drink and for me it’s not a life”, Lana Khatib told RT.

But Lana chooses this non-life because it’s where her husband and children live. By law they’re Israeli whereas the rest of her family live across the border in Jenin, West Bank.

Taiseer Khatib, Lana’s husband, says that: “each time we travel to Jenin during the week, during the usual days, Lana goes through a path, and I and the kids go through another path. What does this remind us of?”

Until now Lana’s moved between the two worlds with temporary visas issued by Tel Aviv. But she’s afraid that could stop as the government tightens its grip on an eight-year-old law denying permanent citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis.

Mohammad Darawshe, Co-Executive Director of the Abraham Funds Initiative told RT that Israel “is trying to limit the demographic natural growth of the Arab citizens, encourage Arab citizens who marry Palestinians from the west bank and Gaza or Jordan to actually emigrate, to actually leave Israel.”

Taiseer and Lana Khatib

Taiseer and Lana Khatib

Israel says the law is for security purposes. And it’s trying to prevent Palestinians from taking advantage of being able to get an Israeli ID through marriage and then carry out attacks on Israeli citizens.

But human rights groups don’t buy that they petitioned the law arguing that in the last 14 years, more than 130 000 Palestinians have entered Israel because of family ties with Israelis only 54 of them were ever found to be a security risk.

In upholding the so-called citizenship law the Israeli Supreme Court president said it was one of the most difficult questions in the state’s history – the battle against terror while at the same time maintaining the nation’s democratic nature.

Sawsan Zaher Attorney and Director of Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel says: “we are talking about thousands of families, that as a result of the decision of the supreme court that validated and upheld the law, they are now living under the tangible threat of being forcibly separated from their spouses, from their children, from their parents, so we are indeed talking about a huge issue.”

But in the meantime it threatens to tear families apart – as Lana and Taiseer now face the very real danger that they might not be able to continue living together.

News and Comments 5 Feb 2012


Imprisoned student Abdullah Ould Kampala has begun a hunger strike after 3 sleepless nights in pain from broken ribs sustained during his arrest by police in a violent raid on Nouakchott University last Thursday. Abdullah is one of 5 students who remain in prison. About 45 classmates arrested in the raid were released on Saturday.

Mauritania student prisoner Abdullah Ould Kampala has begun a hunger strike after 3 sleepless nights in pain from broken ribs sustained during his arrest by police

Mauritanian student prisoner Abdullah Ould Kampala

300 members of the civil guard attacked families who were camped out on the sidewalk after being evicted on Thursday  in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Evicted Families in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Evicted Families in Sao Paolo, Brazil

This tasteless advert for the Israel market is in the news again now Iran is threatening to ban Samsung.

Maybe Mali’s FM would have been less surprised by heavily-armed rebel attacks if France, America, etc shared intel from drone surveillance, which has been increased in the region since the war in Libya. As it is, we are being subjected to largely unconfirmed speculation about numbers of rebels, weapons and refugees. Intriguingly, we hear that members of the Malian army are among the refugees. Now we can expect to read lots of hype about rebels recruiting from the camps. We can also anticipate lots of appeals for funds to care for tens of thousands of displaced people, being shuffled around a region already dealing with drought and food shortages. Added revulsion will be delivered in the form of reports of rape, and of illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and people. Inevitably there will be outbreaks of sickness – perhaps even imported by UN aid workers, as we saw with the outbreaks of Cholera in Haiti for the past two years. An entire global industry has been quietly readying itself for this situation for at least the past few months, and it will now grind up, one relentless gear at a time.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is my firm conviction that all of the above will be a mere backdrop for events in the rest of Africa.

04 Feb 2012 Malian Refugees in Niger

04 Feb 2012 Malian Refugees in Niger

Egyptian officials say Hosni Mubarak will shortly be moved to a prison hospital as soon as the facility is upgraded to house the 83-year-old former president. I don’t suppose they trouble themselves to upgrade facilities for arrested protesters or those working for “NGO’s”.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lying on a stretcher inside a cell in a courtroom in Cairo. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak lying on a stretcher inside a cell in a courtroom in Cairo. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Rather unpleasant C4 post questioning whether autism can be used as hacking defence, and worded in a way that insinuates Gary McKinnon only “sought” a diagnosis for autism after being charged with computer hacking.

Gary McKinnon with his mother, Janis Sharp

Gary McKinnon with his mother, Janis Sharp, who says a review into the extradition law concerning his US computer hacking case is a whitewash. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

‘We are legion’: Anonymous hacks French presidential website

English: Anonymous Español: Anonymous

Image via Wikipedia

Anonymous’ attacked the French president’s website on Friday, apparently in retaliation of the country’s official support of an American clampdown on the popular file-sharing website, Megaupload.

Anonymous inserted their online slogan “We are legion” into the website’s navigation bar, where it stayed until the end of the day.

The French government reiterated its stance on the issue and denounced the people behind as criminals and their actions as massive violations of copyright law.

“It is delinquency, it is theft,” AFP quoted the French Culture Minister, Frederic Mitterrand, as saying. “The truth is that they are stealing on a large scale.”

The US authorities have indicted seven people for “massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works, through Megaupload.Com and other related sites.”

An international crackdown has led agents to serve at least 20 search warrants across the globe. Four of the company’s senior figures have already been arrested in New Zealand, and Washington is now demanding their extradition to the US to be prosecuted for alleged online piracy, racketeering and money laundering.

via RT.