Intimidating Military Personnel by Targeting Their Families

This FBI alert is interesting:

(U//FOUO) In May 2015, the wife of a US military member was approached in front of her home by two Middle-Eastern males. The men stated that she was the wife of a US interrogator. When she denied their claims, the men laughed. The two men left the area in a dark-colored, four-door sedan with two other Middle-Eastern males in the vehicle. The woman had observed the vehicle in the neighborhood on previous occasions.

(U//FOUO) Similar incidents in Wyoming have been reported to the FBI throughout June 2015. On numerous occasions, family members of military personnel were confronted by Middle-Eastern males in front of their homes. The males have attempted to obtain personal information about the military member and family members through intimidation. The family members have reported feeling scared.

The report says nothing about whether these are isolated incidents, a trend, or part of a larger operation. But it has gotten me thinking about the new ways military personnel can be intimidated. More and more military personnel live here and work there, remotely as drone pilots, intelligence analysts, and so on, and their military and personal lives intertwine to a degree we have not seen before. There will be some interesting security repercussions from that.

Posted on August 12, 2015 at 5:49 AM • 46 Comments

Comments

War GeekAugust 12, 2015 6:06 AM

I wonder how carefully the roving bullies are picking their targets?

Perhaps they mistakenly assume that the American women they are trying to lean on are the stomped down victims they like to make their own women into...

This could get very messy for them given how many military spouses are at least as into shooting ranges as their husbands (my own wife no exception).

Welp...it'll be evolution in action I guess.

bickerdykeAugust 12, 2015 6:26 AM

Well i can fully understand that this woman and her family are scared by such an incident. But probably less scared than a generic middle eastern family who sees their children held at gunpoint during a raid at 3am.

Isn't it called collateral damage when civilians are effected by regular acts of war?

Clive RobinsonAugust 12, 2015 6:48 AM

@ Bruce,

This is not the first time such intimidation and scare tactics have happened.

Back in Maggie Thatchers time, armed service personnel were effectivly baned from wearing uniform "off base" as a result of the PIRA looking for "soft targets". One result was Territorial Army buildings were bombed with small bombs (If I remember correctky 36 Sigs in west London was the main news item on this).

In more recent times armed forces have been alowed to wear their uniforms "off duty" and it has resulted in the death of one Soldier Trooper Lee Rigby who was hacked to death by two radicalised men,

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Lee_Rigby

keinerAugust 12, 2015 7:04 AM

As these guys kill remotely with their drones, they are legitimate targets for other armies. Do the US care if they kill some 20 people to target one potential "target" obtained from some meta data somewhere in the world?

Good examples for the double-standards of you US guys....

MattAugust 12, 2015 7:25 AM

Fallout from the office of personell management hack? Distributing info to other groups outside of China to cause problems for US? Maybe...

deLaBoetieAugust 12, 2015 8:42 AM

I wonder how one reliably identifies a "Middle-Eastern person". Presumably, any Middle-Eastern person is de facto scary and likely bad? Are they actually US citizens and therefore good?

I fear there is likely a risk of attacks on soft military targets, it's part of asymmetric warfare, and has already happened, as noted by @Clive Robinson.

An article on The Intercept has recently described their identification of an NSA analyst/author (not publishing their name) using public information and data mining based on snippets in the Snowden material. It's not hard to do, and presumably could be done using the recent data leaks as a starting point. Once you've got the thread, pulling it out with public data mining tools and the stuff that people voluntarily publish on social media, blogs and photo sharing, means that you can pretty soon know where they live & have pictures of their families etc.

GeorgeAugust 12, 2015 9:07 AM

This is why--apart from positions on gay marriage or homosexuality--Don't Ask Don't Tell was a BAD idea, since it gave attackers leverage over military personnel based on easily discoverable secrets about their private lives. By threatening to out someone, an attacker had leverage.

d33tAugust 12, 2015 10:01 AM

I wonder ... if torture *weren't* so celebrated as an interrogation tactic if the same would be happening still? The only government action to out US sponsored torture here in the US was a "torture report" issued as a retribution piece by Feinstein against CIA on her way out the door and down the halls of shame. (Feinstein cares not about the welfare of others IMHO) No one in power is ever truly held accountable here and eventually war crimes come back to haunt us all. I guess, if I were tortured by anyone, for any reason, I would expect my torturer to go to great lengths to conceal his or her identity carefully and to take care of loved ones appropriately. Like ... witness protection program kind of careful. Perhaps the military should consider hiding interrogators and their families like the FBI hides people sometimes?

Sorry, I'm sure we're just talking about straight "no bathroom breaks" kind of interrogation with the good cop bad cop set up right? US sponsored torture has to be a thing of the past now that everyone knows it has been done even under this sitting President's watchful eye. Maybe we have just become comfortable with the term "Enhanced Interrogation" finally. Edward Bernays would be proud.

The trouble with constantly covering up and lying to the public, is that no one has any idea what to believe anymore, or they are cool with pretending a lot. There is a chance that these menacing folks believe that torture is still going on and that their family members go without justice. We'll never know for sure.

chris lAugust 12, 2015 10:03 AM

Whether these particular incidents are real or not, the recent OPM data breach provided someone with everything they need to do things like this (and much more). OPM handles/handled clearance data for much of the military. It's claimed that the three letter agencies handle their own, but it's also possible that they just say that as a smokescreen.

J.D. BertronAugust 12, 2015 10:10 AM

It's interesting to see the shift from terrorising the people to terrorising the agents of the State. I will argue that the shift is occurring as the State security apparatus is turning inward, from protecting its citizens to protecting itself from its citizens, as the citizenry is increasingly critical of its practices and slowly withdrawing its consent. It seems an inevitable consequence, since a non-consenting population is much harder to terrorize as a group, and the next best target, the remaining group still claiming much alliegance is the military apparatus.

edelAugust 12, 2015 10:10 AM

First, I don't think we can or do much on the issue due to the ramifications:

1) When is it intimidating and when just a question of free speech? For instance.. "so your partner works for the Navy in Iraq, isn't it?" or just a raise of a eyebrow could be considered as "intimidating".

2) The matter if being "Middle-Eastern" and "male" should not be an aggravation but probably will end up as such.

Some things is better to report but leave them alone since the risk unattended consequences of increased paranoia will be far worse that the current problem.

altjiraAugust 12, 2015 10:12 AM

@keiner

While your point might be valid if performed by uniformed armed forces of a country at war, I fail to see how spouses or family members are legitimate military targets.

albertAugust 12, 2015 10:13 AM

@deLaBoetie,
"...The men stated that she was the wife of a US interrogator...". That's clearly intimidation. It obviously doesn't matter if they're brown, black, white or yellow, nor does it matter if they are US citizens or not. I'm sure there must be much more information we don't know.
.
Pulling threads? All you need to do is get their license number as they leave work.
..............
@War Geek,
Unless they are 'suicide intimidators'. They face the very real risk of getting shot, and highly unlikely the shooter will be convicted. This is a 'no-win' game for the perps, and I'll bet the FBI (and MILINT) is all over this like a cheap suit.
..............
Now if this had happened in Texas.....Have y'all see the 'Lady Glock' TV ads?
. .. . .. o

MickeyAugust 12, 2015 10:15 AM

it would be great if it was a lot more difficult to find peoples addresses and other information online. But that will probably never happen.

of course the FBI alert does not say how the males were evaluated as being "middle eastern". Did they match some caricaturist ideas of how "middle eastern" males look like, perhaps?

even so they could have been US citizens.

or a government false-flag.


anonymousAugust 12, 2015 10:21 AM

Sadly this is nothing new, just google "mexican soldier family slaughtered" for example.

self-declared good guysAugust 12, 2015 10:22 AM

@altjira


I fail to see how spouses or family members are legitimate military targets.

...but yet they are: US soldiers frequently kill and threaten spouses or family members when working as part of the troops sent by US to a foreign country. Sometimes US soldiers kill spouses or family members using remote-operated drones.

So yea, would be great if US actually had the mentality that spouses/family members are NOT legitimate military targets.

altjiraAugust 12, 2015 10:49 AM

@good guy

You're hedging. If valid military targets are traveling with spouse and children and it is the only opportunity to attack this target, even with a remote controlled drone, then I would think yes, that's collateral damage and unfortunate but legal under international law. This story is about unidentified agents approaching a spouse when the military target is not present.

Are you accusing US forces of intentionally, specifically targeting civilians? That's a war crime. I do not advocate that.

Maybe you see that as splitting hairs. I see it as a whole different conversation than what this thread is talking about.

deLaBoetieAugust 12, 2015 10:57 AM

@aibert - I agree their parentage shouldn't matter, but there is was, top & centre of the report with the obvious inference that they were possibly terrorists. And in Wyoming! I'm sure you know the research that demonstrates unconscious bias which might have tainted the reports.

That they stated she was the wife of a US interrogator should rationally have her scared in the first place. In her position, if true, I'd have long ago moved, changed names and left no forwarding address. The notion that you can act with impunity when you've done things that would likely make many people extremely unhappy with your conduct is very parochial.

It doesn't matter what the thread was or how hard it was to get, these days, once you've got it, their whole life can exposed. Of course, if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear...not.

I think some of the reactions to the Snowden revelations have been driven - not because they threaten national security, enemies would already have known the information, nor from shame that they had been acting in that unprincipled, unlawful, unconstitutional way towards their own citizens (they seem immune), but that they feared that individuals could be identified and would then be at risk.

iDontKnowMyNameAugust 12, 2015 11:19 AM

How do we know this isn't an integrity test? Would the husband back off or keep doing his job? We want people who will keep doing their jobs regardless, we don't need people who are easy to scare.

d33tAugust 12, 2015 11:28 AM

@altjira

I understand the differences you are putting forth in terms of "collateral damage" vs murder and war crime. There is also this innocent person:

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki ... of course this was a CIA drone strike against a young boy having lunch during a quest to find his father. So not really military I guess. Some people may not care about that distinction though while seeking revenge. This is only meant as an example of what is being done behind the lines .. not enemy lines even.

Or people like this: July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike

These people weren't tortured or put to the "Enhanced Interrogators" question, but you talk about collateral damage and war ... Neither of these acts were carried out as "legal acts of war", they are murder cases. One perpetrated in a country the US is not at war against, erasing a person who was not guilty of any crime or other (insert catch phrase here). The second carried out against the international press (and children) in a country the US claims it has been at war with under entirely false pretenses, which of course is not really -- really war at all.

Then there are stories like this one: In 2003, West was charged in an incident that involved the beating and simulated execution of an Iraqi policeman. After an Article 32 hearing was held, West accepted non-judicial punishment, was fined $5,000, and allowed to retire as a lieutenant colonel.

Some of the people being "interrogated" by military may have family inside the US legally from one or more countries.

Imagine all of things being done right now that no one has heard about yet. Including interrogations, extraordinary renditions, or other (insert catch phrase here).

I highly doubt we'll ever know the truth. It would be far too inconvenient and wouldn't support the newest iPhone sales very well either.

MrCAugust 12, 2015 11:41 AM

@ altjira:

Self-declared good guys' point is well taken. The general principle is "don't harm civilians." In both the case of drones strikes and the case of these mystery men, the actors are claiming entitlement to the same exception: "but this is the only way I can get at my target." If that exception is valid for us, it's valid for them too. Likewise, if it's not valid for them, it's not valid for us either.

Aside: I'm somewhat dubious that this event even happened at all. It's uncorroborated, it sounds a lot like a "black helicopters" kind of conspiracy theory, and it stirs up FUD that works to the benefit of the authoritarian powers that be in this country.

SamAugust 12, 2015 11:49 AM

@altjira

IANAL, but this is a quote from someone who is (Luis Moreno Ocampo):

> A crime occurs if ... an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collateral_damage#International_humanitarian_law

Whether or not it's your only opportunity to attack doesn't enter into it; it's about whether civilian damage is "clearly excessive" to derived military advantage. The timing of your attack might minimise civilian harm but it could still be "clearly excessive" in proportion to the military gain.


My main comment, and what I think is a little closer to the article: how are we to regard international military law when the hostile force isn't a nation state, and when neither the hostile force nor the military technology applied (eg drones) conform to the assumptions made by international military law? How will we conceive and then enact effective yet reasonable precautions?

Mad ScientistAugust 12, 2015 11:54 AM

Maybe some of those incidents were actually a security test to see if family members were told stuff they were not supposed to be told. Or to test whether they report an incident.

albertAugust 12, 2015 12:02 PM

Well, we don't even know if the husband of the woman in question had anything to do with drone strikes, and if he had, so what?

What has that got to do with the intimidation?

If y'all got something to say, spit it out!
. .. . .. o

AubAugust 12, 2015 12:26 PM

False flag bureau of instigation. I thought everyone knew this... I wonder what the ultimate goal is for this one. As of late it appears to be gun control, mandatory mental health screening, and the usual spreading of fear. Couple that with all the divisiveness (obama's word, not mine) between the poorer societal segments, ever increasing surveillance, mistrust in all aspects of authority, and impending global economic collapse, you are left with a perfect storm of fubar'd desparation that would make the reichstag blush. Shirley, you have already thought of leaving but to where? We won't go down without a fight, so that leaves a bloody revolution (unless ww3 breaks off, in which case I'm not sure how a revolution would work). It's only a matter of time, no reversing course now.

LessThanObviousAugust 12, 2015 2:25 PM

@edel

"When is it intimidating and when just a question of free speech?"

In America showing up at a persons home uninvited when only the wife is home when you have no legitimate business being there is considered intimidating. Ask any American how they feel about a stranger showing up and asking questions about their family, you'll get a reaction of serious anger. I think in most places it would be the same. Everyone recognizes threatening behavior.

"The matter if being "Middle-Eastern" and "male" should not be an aggravation but probably will end up as such."

It's relevant to military personnel, we have recent and ongoing conflicts in the middle east. Their ethnicity does describe them and offer possible motive for their actions.

JonAugust 12, 2015 6:22 PM

This was happening in Australia last year.

"It is understood mysterious strangers have visited Defence Department homes in suburbs near the military barracks in Holsworthy and nearby Steele Barracks in Moorebank with vague or implausible excuses.

Soldiers believe radical ­Islamic splinter groups have been trying to identify potential targets with a high propaganda value. The word “stalking” has been used to describe it, one source said."

---

"Army, navy and air cadets as young as 12 have been warned to cover up their uniforms when travelling to and from organised after-school activities in WA over fears they could become the target of terror attacks"

Clive RobinsonAugust 12, 2015 8:07 PM

One point to note,

... confronted by Middle-Eastern males...

Does anybody here know what a "Middle-Eastern male" looks like?

Before you say "skinny bloke in a nightshirt" or something else equally as crass from the last one and a half centuries of racial stereotyping, take it from those of us that have been to the Middle East. We can tell you that it covers the full spectrum of European African and Asian males, which also happens to describes a significant proportion of US males...

But it's even broader than you might think from that, since before 4000BC the middle east has been the hub of trading and thus a melting pot of ethnicity so it includes just about every ethnicity outside of the indigenous north and south American continents and those of the Pacific and Austrilation areas.

Thus there is not a "Middle-Eastern male" look.

On a historical note that Aryan Race Hittler was looking for most likely originated from Persia, long before Cleopatra was dealing with Julius Ceaser. And the "Master Race" nonsence atributed to the Nazi's was originaly an idea that was put together by the French Aristocrat Arthur de Gobineau in the 1850's.

And to be quite honest I suspect this "Middle Eastern Male" appearance nonsense can be traced back to of Arthur de Gobineau's ideas.

Clive RobinsonAugust 12, 2015 9:18 PM

@ Anura,

Man that's a face "Made for Radio" and not one you'd want to KISS, proving that some people realy realy should not go out without their makeup ;-)

DataBelongaUsAugust 12, 2015 9:21 PM

I do not understand? Not at all? Some vague bulletin without much physical evidence put out by the FBI of all people and we are accepting it as accurate or true - WHY?

scpAugust 12, 2015 9:59 PM

It worked in Iraq.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikegiglio/fear-of-isis-drives-iraqi-soldiers-into-desertion-and-hiding

"...Intimidation at the hands of ISIS goes well beyond the battlefield.

A captain from Fallujah said that ISIS’s first priority when it advances on a city is to terrorize members of the security forces and their families. While international attention zeroed in on ISIS when it captured Mosul, the stage was set for its takeover of much of Iraq’s Sunni heartland when it moved into Fallujah — home to some of the deadliest fighting of the Iraq War — early this year. Immediately, the captain remembered, ISIS sent messengers into the streets, announcing that any members of the security forces should publicly renounce their positions and declare tawbah — repentance — or be killed.

There was no hiding, the captain said: ISIS knew who all the police and soldiers were and where their families lived. He was posted elsewhere at the time, but he quickly moved his family to Baghdad...."

B1FFAugust 12, 2015 10:03 PM

If people in middle east countries can dig up this data about American troops, maybe the "black lives matter" protesters here should find out how they do it! It would be poetic justice if the next dozen American cops who murder people and have the system whitewash that action wake up to discover that their names, photos, home addresses, and phone numbers are now on web sites all over the world. Nobody is likely to come hunting them, but just maybe they'll get a sample of the fear they put their victims through daily.

tyrAugust 13, 2015 2:00 AM


If this hadn't mentioned Wyoming I'd find it a
lot more plausible. The western US isn't the
same as the overcivilized city folk. Like
Clive says middleeastern male covers a lot of
territory and ethnic groups most Amerkins have
no clue about.Four brown skinned guys in a
car hardly constitute an invasion of Wyoming
from the middle east.
Like the judge said in the case of sixgun vs
buffalo rifle duel "worse case of suicide I
ever saw". Picking the victims would be a real
necessity and you better not ever come back
to that neighborhood again. If this is true
it is the dumbest thing those clowns ever
pulled.

RyanAugust 13, 2015 4:42 AM

In pre-democratic Eastern Europe, activists would shame authority figures for their brutality, by going to the neighborhoods of those figures and telling the neighbors about what they do.

thevoidAugust 13, 2015 9:37 AM

@Clive, tyr

re: 'middle-eastern types'

in my city, and this is a large eastern city, a very cosmopolitan place, there were news reports a few years ago about 'middle-eastern men' having done something, i don't exacly remember what... an abduction i think. this was reported on multiple stations. it turned out later they were 'hispanic', likely puerto-rican given local demographics.

although i have often seen (laughable) '100% PR', especially on 'their' day, they tend to be much as Clive described the middle-easterners, perhaps with a little (but only a little) Amerind heritage (as most of the natives in the carribean were wiped out, and most people there are racial mixtures of the 'old world', including Arab, directly and also thru Spaniard heritage).

i can usually(!) tell the difference myself, but this just shows that even in very diverse places, people can not always tell, and even when there is a very large population of such people (hispanic), they think 'middle-eastern'.

also, some jews will look 'middle-eastern' (sephardim), and i saw an advert on a bus for a lawyer named Silverman who looked alot like the Arabs who run the store where i get my produce (which is interesting also because the surname Silverman is more typical of ashkenazim, but i digress).

albertAugust 13, 2015 11:04 AM

I am assuming, for lack of other evidence, that the incident was described accurately (and not a psyop*). I'm also avoiding strawmen like drone strikes, collateral damage, etc. We don't have:

1. Exact descriptions
2. Exact text of their statements
3. Was their English accented in any way? It doesn't take an expert to distinguish between Arabic and Spanish accents.

So we really don't have much to go one, do we?

For you conspiracy theorists:
There's only one US military base in Wyoming, Warren AFB, an ICBM site, with no 'runways', only helipads. "...home to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations...". No drone activity listed, so far, but drone control can be anywhere.

. .. . .. o

*which would rank as one of the dumbest ever, but, again, I wouldn't be surprised.

ThunderbirdAugust 13, 2015 2:58 PM

This FBI alert is interesting:

Do we have any reason to assume this is from the FBI? A Google search restricted to domain:gov returns nothing when using the ID number at the front of the document. I'd assume that if it was really released by them it would be somewhere on some .gov site. I'm hypothesizing "forgery," but am prepared to be proven wrong.

OmriAugust 13, 2015 3:02 PM

According to Joe Haldeman's novel 1968, soldiers in Vietnam were told to use nicknames to prevent Vietcong overhearing their real names, relaying them down a chain to agents in the United States, and enabling those agents to inflict distressing disinformation on their loved ones back home (false KIA notices, things like that).

Any Vietnam vets on this blog's commmentariat care to confirm that detail?

Sancho_PAugust 13, 2015 5:26 PM

OK, let’s assume the story is true (I’m skeptical),
why was _she_ intimidated?

If the men stated that she was the wife of a US physician / teacher / engineer / craftsman / (add any honorable profession here) / -
would _she_ have been intimidated, too?

No, _she_ always knew (at least felt) that her partner’s conduct was unethical.

And _she_ knows that terrorizing people will not bring peace, because most women “know” the simple things men must learn the hard way.

BTW, why is _she_ a she?
And why are they “Middle-Eastern males”?
The “protection needing angel” and the foreign stranger, nice.
Coming from worshippers [1] - or Hollywood? Both?
Oh, not finally evaluated intelligence.
Attempt to inflate their budget?
-> FUD.

[1]
Religion is the most cruel enemy of mankind.

AnuraAugust 13, 2015 5:37 PM

@Thunderbird

Good catch - everything seems to originate from that site, and there doesn't seem to be anything else; could be a forgery. Someone could call the Denver Office of the FBI and ask if they can confirm the accuracy.

PhotobugAugust 13, 2015 8:35 PM

@Thunderbird, @ Anura,

SIRs are not officially publicly released, but many of them are leaked. They are designated as For Official Use Only (FOUO), and are not posted to public .gov sites. (Doing so by a government worker would constitute a breach of document control rules and would subject the poster to disciplinary action.) So I'm not at all surprised that your searches didn't find this one.

Also, the reported activities are not unique to active duty military, but are also happening to contractors.

My entire family have gone to full time concealed carry due to this and other recent events.

BrubakerAugust 13, 2015 9:17 PM

@Anura


"Does anybody here know what a "Middle-Eastern male" looks like?"

hmmm...the thin line between Gene Simmons and Richard Simmons

FOIA requesterAugust 15, 2015 3:35 PM

@Photobug:

"For Official Use Only" is a legally meaningless designation. It does not correspond to any of the categories of legally withholdable material under the Freedom of Information Act. In other words, it is an official attempt to break the law -- to suppress information that any member of the public has a right to receive. News at 11 -- governemnt officials are corrupt.

If you really want an official copy of this document, use MuckRock.com to FOIA a copy of it.

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