Somalia is much in the headlines these days. There is the big weekend news of a Navy Seal operation that was in response to the horrific terrorist attack on a Kenyan mall several weeks ago. Additionally, the 20th anniversary of Black Hawk Down has triggered media remembrances and new details of that searing event. Then there is this revelatory piece in Foreign Policy and have I mentioned the new Hollywood movie about Somali pirates (starring Tom Hanks) coming out Friday?
Amidst all this is my Washington Post magazine profile of Michele Ballarin, the strange story of a Northern Virginia businesswoman who has inserted herself into Somali affairs the past decade.
The first time Ballarin made news was in 2006, when the UK’s Observer reported on a covert military plot to aid the U.N.-installed transitional government of Somalia’s then president Abdullahi Yusef. Read More
This story at desmogblog reminds me of that classic Mad magazine cartoon.
That’s because the CIA today is treating climate change seriously, while one of its supposed former spooks is chasing shadows. I say supposed, because what self-respecting spy goes around publicly advertising himself as a “CIA counter-terrorism operations expert”?
It’s called the Center on Climate Change and National Security. This strikes me as huge news, not so much because it further institutionalizes and legitimizes climate change as a national security issue, but because the center’s mission will necessarily overlap with a broader suite of environmental issues, as indicated by the CIA’s own press release:
Its charter is not the science of climate change, but the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources.
Obviously climate change is the rubric and impetus for opening this CIA shop. But even if anthropogenic climate change didn’t exist, there would still be a need for such a center, due to the national security implications of drought, over-exploitation of natural resources, population pressures, etc.
Yes, that’s a complicated equation in of itself. And adding climate change (and its rubbery timescales and environmental uncertainties) is tricky and open to manipulation, as environmental security advocate Geoff Dabelko cautioned here last month:
it is important to remember that in the mid-1990s, advocates oversold our understanding of enviromental links to security, creating a backlash that ultimately undermined policymakers’ support for meeting the very real connections between environment and conflict head-on. Today, “˜climate security’ is in danger of becoming merely a political argument that understates the complexity of climate’s security challenges.
The CIA has a real chance to analyze and communicate that complexity in ways that could enhance climate change as a credible national security issue, but only if it can avoid the pitfalls of politicization.
H/T: Natural Security
Earlier this summer, after federal investigators arrested two dozen residents from Blanding, Utah, for looting ancient Indian burials, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was quick to denounce the FBI’s conduct. Hatch called the federal pothunting raid “overkill” and asked Congress to investigate the FBI’s sting operation.
A Salt Lake Tribune editorial scolded Hatch for
trying to make cheap political points back home at the expense of federal agents.
Yesterday, Hatch held the CIA to a different standard. As the Salt Lake Tribune reported, he
said the Justice Department’s decision to open a preliminary inquiry into whether CIA officers violated federal laws would put a chilling effect on the nation’s ability to gather intelligence and thwart potential terrorist acts.