from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 94
November 30, 2009

Secrecy News Blog:


"The only ones who are spending the money and time translating Jihad literature are the Western intelligence services," wrote Islamic radical Anwar al-Awlaki, "and too bad, they would not be willing to share it with you." ("Born in U.S., a Radical Cleric Inspires Terror" by Scott Shane, New York Times, November 19).

In fact, a growing number of websites offer jihadist literature and sermons in English. But it is true that U.S. intelligence maintains a prolific translation activity focused on Islamic extremist literature, and that most of the resulting translations are not intended for public distribution.

The DNI Open Source Center recently translated an Indonesian anthology of four short stories about aspiring young jihadists entitled "Wind From Paradise." The stories describe how their protagonists came to take part in jihadist campaigns in Afghanistan, Thailand, and Chechnya, and the ensuing "martyrdom" that they or their fellows found there.

It is not a particularly rewarding collection, on any level-- esthetic, theological or political. But the narrators and their stories have several characteristic features that may be worth pointing out.

Remarkably, their primary conflicts seem to be those of adolescence. Their Islam is not concerned with the divine will as much as it is with themselves and their own unruly passions. ("I drowned all my feelings by reading the Koran slowly," one says. "So a feeling of happiness and relief runs through my whole body," writes another. "I also have the feeling that the guilt that has plagued me all this time has now been uprooted.")

But above all, the stories portray jihad as an appropriate, even noble response to external oppression by the non-Muslim world. ("The mujahidin had to fight against the Christian United States, which wanted to control and dominate Afghanistan." The Western enemy mercilessly abuses prisoners, "but no matter how cruelly they interrogated and tortured him, [he] kept quiet.")

The logic of jihad is predicated on the victimization of Muslims by infidel forces, the stories repeatedly insist. ("So now he was defending his Muslim brothers who had been so cruelly oppressed.") The oppression of Muslims by other Muslims is beyond the narrators' ken. So is the possibility of confronting oppression by non-violent political means, except perhaps through the propagation of stories like these.

The translated stories have not been approved for public release. Rather improbably, their "authorized use is for national security purposes of the United States Government only." But a copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Indonesia: Translation of Jihadist Book 'Wind From Paradise'," Open Source Center, 1 March 2009:


Facing a rising number of suicides in its ranks, the U.S. Army last week published new guidance for improving the mental health of soldiers and for preventing or responding to suicide attempts.

"The key to the prevention of suicide is positive leadership and deep concern by supervisors of military personnel and [Army] civilian employees who are at increased risk of suicide," the new publication explained.

Factors contributing to suicide are said to include loneliness ("an emotional state in which a person experiences powerful feelings of emptiness and spiritual isolation"), worthlessness ("an emotional state in which an individual lacks any feelings of being valued by others"), hopelessness ("a strong sense of futility, due to the belief that the future holds no escape from current negative circumstances"), helplessness, and guilt ("a strong sense of shame associated with actions they believe are wrong").

The Army directed its commanders to carry out a series of efforts to promote soldiers' health, to reduce the stigma associated with addressing mental health issues, and to "manage at-risk soldiers, to include processing for separation as appropriate in a timely manner."

The New York Times last week described the rise of military suicide as a "near epidemic," and reported that 133 active-duty U.S. Army soldiers committed suicide this year through the end of October, making it likely that last year's record of 140 will be surpassed. ("Families of Military Suicides Seek White House Condolences" by James Dao, November 26.)

In its new publication, the Army said it is not always possible to detect or predict suicidal intent, and that eliminating suicide altogether was not a realistic objective. "Some suicides may be expected even in units with the best leadership climate and most efficient crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs. Therefore, it is important to redefine the goal of suicide prevention as being suicide risk reduction [which] consists of reasonable steps taken to lower the probability that an individual will engage in acts of self-destructive behavior."

See "Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention," Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-24, November 24, 2009:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

See also "Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works" by Steven Aftergood, Yale Law and Policy Review, vol. 27, no. 2, Spring 2009:

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