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I learned something from the 2003 release of “Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia.” It was published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster. That meant everything was centralized in New York City.

This time around, I wanted to do it differently. 10 Days, 10 Years: FROM BIN LADEN TO FACEBOOK launched in the Philippines on the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings, which killed 202 people on Oct. 12, 2002. It was our region’s 9/11 and a fitting date to launch. Instead of hardcover, the first edition was paperback. It was published by a Filipino house, Anvil.

On April 2, 2013, the hardcover international edition “FROM BIN LADEN TO FACEBOOK: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism” launched in Singapore. It’s published by Imperial College Press in London and distributed by World Scientific from Singapore.

Now it’s available on Kindle! Here’s part of the preview and Chapter 1.

Let me know what you think!

Posted in Internet, Journalism, Media, Terrorism | 1 Comment

Sorry for being gone so long!

What a year it's been!

What a year it’s been!

I realized my last blog was before I came back home to the Philippines to start our new baby, Rappler. What an incredible year it’s been!

Since 2011, I finished that book! There are 2 editions out now: the first paperback edition released on the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings on Oct. 12, 2012 is available only in the Philippines; the second hardcover edition (really a beautiful book) was released in Singapore this April and will be available in the US and Europe this week!

At the end of 2011, I moved back to the Philippines from Singapore (I will miss that wonderful, peaceful writing and thinking time) and we started this new adventure called Rappler.

I wanted to use the new technology available to try to imagine how journalism will change and how we can use it to make our democracy stronger. Here are some of the ideas behind it, first published in National University of Singapore’s Journal of Public Affairs.

It’s a new phase in my life – a wonderful, amazing adventure in this brave, new world. Here are the people who helped me turn an idea into a reality!

The picture at the top of this post was our Friday briefing before the first #RapplerDebate on April 13. In a little more than a year, we grew from 12 people to more than 70! My wish? That we never stop pushing the limits.

It’s 19 days before the Philippines’ mid-term elections on May 13. I have a lot to tell you about, but now I’ve got to get back to work. Chat soon!

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New Threats in a Peer-Networked World – From Chechnya to Boston

When the Chechen roots of Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became public, it threw me back in time to the end of September 2002 when I delved into Chechnya’s links to al-Qaeda’s global jihad.

I was in a small cubicle on the 6th floor of the North Tower of CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. For nearly a week, I had spent 16 to 18 hours a day wading through 251 videotapes from Osama bin Laden’s personal collection. Afraid they’d be mistaken as members of al-Qaeda, the Afghans who found the tapes buried them again until after the arrival of US troops. Then they dug them up and gave them to CNN’s Nic Robertson and Mark Phillips.

One by one, I shook the sand out of each tape, placed it in the deck and watched the video roll, taking notes I still have today. The video was graphic, at times horrifying and extremely alarming. CNN’s investigative producer in charge of the tapes, Henry Schuster, asked me to go through all of them to look for faces and places from Southeast Asia. I watched everything closely, aware we were seeing this before governments and security agencies.

Read more on Rappler.

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Author in Basilan, 2011

How could good men with good intentions go so horribly wrong? You’ve seen my summary of what actually went wrong. This is my attempt to figure out WHY it did. Keep in mind that just because the October 18 operation in Basilan was inept (and led to the deaths of 19 soldiers in Al-Barka) doesn’t mean the individual soldiers are inept.

Two officers have been relieved: Lt. Col. Leo Pena, 4th Special Forces Battalion Commander, and Col. Alexander Macario, head of the Special Operations Team-Basilan (SOTF-B). Speaking with high-ranking officers familiar with the case, one more officer, they say, should have been questioned – if not relieved – as well: Col. Alminkadra Undug, Army Special Forces Regiment Commander based in Zamboanga. He is Pena’s immediate superior in the Special Forces chain of command and the man whom sources say gave Pena the target intelligence package for the operation. Col. Undug handled MIG9 (the Military Intelligence Group) in Zamboanga and was implicated in the Hello, Garci scandal.

Read more

Posted in Military, Terrorism | 2 Comments


Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino faced a dilemma last week after the deaths of 19 soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan. Despite the public outcry and mourning, he resisted numerous calls to declare war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and break a ceasefire that’s been in place since 2008. Instead, he decided to hold the military accountable. He also chose not to tell the public about the numerous mistakes that led to the tragic deaths.

Results of a classified military investigation paint a picture of incompetence that seems hard to believe. There are conflicting statements from military officers regarding the purpose of the mission: a high-ranking officer said the troops were supposed to serve a warrant of arrest against the Abu Sayyaf’s Long Malat Solaiman. Army spokesmen, however, publicly stated their goal was to serve a warrant of arrest against the MILF’s Commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, who was involved in the beheadings of soldiers in 2007. However, these statements do not explain why soldiers are doing a police function.

According to a classified report, details of which were confirmed by military officers familiar with the investigation, the battle between the military and the Abu Sayyaf began less than 2 km. away from a designated safe zone called the Area of Temporary Stay (ATS) of the MILF’s 114th Base Command. The battle lasted 10 hours and moved 4.3 km away from the ATS, disproving the MILF’s claims that soldiers violated the ceasefire rules.

Read more here.

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