Well-Known Criminal Blamed in Paris Police Attack

Karim Cheurfi, a career criminal of Algerian descent inspired by the Islamic State, is identified as the person who killed a police officer in Paris and wounded two others just before the nation’s presidential election.

French authorities identified a small-time criminal, apparently inspired by the Islamic State, as the perpetrator of a deadly attack on police officers in a shooting that set France on edge just before a pivotal presidential election, the Washington Post reports. One police officer was killed and two others were seriously injured when a gunman, identified as Karim Cheurfi, opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle on a police patrol parked on Paris’s best-known thoroughfare, sending pedestrians fleeing into side streets. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Cheurfi was then shot dead as he tried to escape. Investigators found a number of knives and a pump-action shotgun in Cheurfi’s car, as well as a message apparently scribbled in support of the Islamic State. Cheurfi, a 39-year-old of Algerian descent who was born in the Paris suburbs, had a criminal record and was well-known to authorities. In a profile similar to those of perpetrators of other smaller-scale attacks, Cheurfi had been convicted at least four times since 2003. He spent nearly 14 years in prison for crimes ranging from burglary and theft to attempted murder.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Has Freed 400 Terror Convicts in Five Years

Many so-called terrorists weren’t particularly dangerous in the first place, concludes The Intercept. One of those released was one of the Herald Square bombers who plotted to attack the New York subway system in 2004.

Over the last five years, the U.S. government has quietly released more than 400 people convicted on international terrorism-related charges, The Intercept reports. Some were deported to other countries following their prison terms, but a large number of convicted terrorists are living in the United States. The release of people convicted on terrorism-related charges with little if any monitoring by law enforcement might suggest that U.S. government officials believe they can be fully rehabilitated after short prison terms. A more likely explanation is that many of these so-called terrorists weren’t particularly dangerous in the first place.

Among them is one of the Herald Square bombers, who plotted to attack the New York subway in 2004. Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay, egged on by informant Osama Eldawoody, conspired to plant bombs at the Herald Square subway station. They drew rough plans on napkins, surveilled the station, and discussed how they might acquire explosives. It was all talk. The two alleged bombers took different paths after their arrests. Siraj fought the charges and went to trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He won’t be released until 2030. Elshafay pleaded guilty and received a comparably modest sentence of five years in prison and three years of supervised release. He’s been a free man since January 28, 2009.



from https://thecrimereport.org

FBI Ensuring It Has Handled Terrorism Threats Correctly

The agency is reviewing how it handled terrorism suspects. Several killed or injured people in Florida and New York City after having been under FBI investigation.

The FBI is reviewing thousands of terrorism-related tips and leads from the past three years to make sure they were properly investigated and no obvious red flags were missed, the Associated Press reports. The review comes after attacks by people who were once on the FBI’s radar but who have been accused of massacring innocents in an Orlando, nightclub, injuring people on New York City streets and gunning down travelers in a Florida airport. In each case, the suspects had been determined not to warrant continued law enforcement scrutiny. A senior federal law enforcement official described the review as an effort to “err on the side of caution.”

The audit is reflects the challenge the FBI faces in predicting which of the tens of thousands of tips the bureau receives annually might materialize one day into a viable threat. Though there’s no indication of significant flaws in how terrorism inquiries are opened and closed, the review is a way for the FBI to “refine and adapt to the threat, and part of that is always making sure you cover your bases,” said the law enforcement official.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Boston Police Training Includes Terrorist Role-Playing

“It’s refreshing and encouraging to see law enforcement … trying to create their own innovations to stop these guys dead in their tracks,” says John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prof. Eugene O’Donnell.

War zones in Iraq and Afghanistan are the template for Boston’s fight against terrorists and other “bad actors,” according to a police plan to stage intense training to ready SWAT teams and bomb squads for threats that could “hit our shores in full force,” the Boston Herald reports The Boston Police Department request for proposals seeks an organization to lead a five-day, 40-hour course for 30 SWAT team members and 22 bomb-squad members, training them to recognize IED components and booby traps and splitting them into teams to role-play as terrorist cells and plan attacks on a given target. “The increasing operational tempo of terrorist organizations and lone wolf actors around the world are shaping the battle­space into one resembling the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan,” the request says

Police spokesman Det. Lt. Michael McCarthy noted that terrorists trade diagrams of explosive devices via social media, and the devices used in the Boston Marathon bombings were modeled after designs in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We adapt our training to keep it relevant to what is happening around the world and here at home,” McCarthy said. “In terms of improvised explosives devices it is imperative that we train for those types of threats.” John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prof. Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York police officer, said Boston is “blazing a trail” and correctly taking major threats seriously. “Terrorists are experimenting and innovating at an alarming rate, there are lots of evil minds looking to inflict carnage,” he said. “It’s refreshing and encouraging to see law enforcement trying to get out in front of that, trying to create their own innovations to stop these guys dead in their tracks.”


from https://thecrimereport.org

London Attacker a ‘Peripheral Figure’ Known as Extremist

The British-born man killed four in a rampage at the threshold of Parliament. Although authorities said he acted alone, they arrested eight people in related raids at six addresses across the country.

The attacker behind the terrorist rampage Wednesday at the gates of the Houses of Parliament in London was a British-born man previously known to MI5 due to concerns over violent extremism, reports the Guardian. The assailant was shot dead as he attacked police officers in the shadow of Big Ben. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “The man was British-born and some years ago was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns of violent extremism. He was a peripheral figure. His case was historic. He was not part of the current intelligence picture.” Armed police arrested eight people during late-night raids at six addresses across the country, including in Birmingham and London.

The dead included Aysha Frade, 43, a London teacher and mother of two; a man in his mid-50s, as well as police officer Keith Palmer, 48, who was married with children. Among the 29 treated for injuries at hospital were 12 Britons, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese national, one Irish national, one Italian, one American and two Greeks. A police official said the attacker acted alone and “was inspired by international terrorism.”

from http://thecrimereport.org

State Dept. Cables Spell Out ‘Extreme Vetting’ Action Plan

A series of memos from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has directed U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups, including a “mandatory social media check.” The messages highlight the labor-intensive details involved in carrying out President Trump’s often-repeated campaign promise.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has directed U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups, according to diplomatic cables seen by Reuters. He has also ordered a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State. Social media screening is now done fairly rarely by consular officials, and the new action plan would be a broad, labor-intensive expansion of such screening, officials said.

Four cables issued by Tillerson in March provide insight into how the U.S. government is implementing President Trump’s campaign promise of “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the U.S. The cables also demonstrate the administrative and logistical hurdles the White House faces in executing its vision. They provided instructions for implementing Trump’s March 6 revised executive order temporarily barring visitors from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees. The flurry of cables to U.S. missions abroad issued strict new guidelines then retracted some of them in response to court rulings. The final cable seen by Reuters, issued on March 17, leaves in place an instruction to consular chiefs to convene working groups of law enforcement and intelligence officials to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.”

from http://thecrimereport.org

NYPD’s O’Neill Visits D.C. to Protest Trump Security Aid Cut

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill says the President’s proposed budget cut “represents about a third of what we’d spend on counter-terrorism.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will lead a fight against the White House’s plan.

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill isn’t happy that President Trump wants to cut money to protect his city from terrorism. O’Neill traveled to Washington yesterday to meet with key stakeholders and set a battle plan with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to fight $110 million in cuts to security programs, the New York Daily News reports. That money “represents about a third of what we’d spend on counter-terrorism,” O’Neill said during a meeting with Schumer. “This is critical for our operation… that $110 million represents about 600 cops. I don’t think there’s clearer terms than that.”

Trump’s proposed cuts would gouge programs for vapor wake bomb-sniffing dogs and training for New York officers to deal with active-shooter situations. Schumer said Trump should know better than to mess with his city’s antiterrorism programs. “You’ve got to walk the walk, not talk the talk, and this is key terrorism money,” he said, alluding to Trump’s frequent tirades against terrorism and promises to keep America safe. “New York desperately needs this money. At a time when terrorism is if anything on the increase with lone wolves and everything else, there’s no better police force, local, nonfederal, than the NYPD. And they may be the best in the world, period. They do a great job, but it costs money,” Schumer said. “You take it away and it’s going to hurt us badly.” Schumer worked with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to keep former President Obama from making less draconian cuts a few years back, and is teaming up with him again.


from http://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Lacks Effective System to Find Homegrown Terrorists

New report urges federal backing for an array of programs that would seek to prevent radicalization from taking root in local communities, as well as measures to identify and help people already on a path toward radicalism. The proposed remedies would mostly take place outside the criminal justice system.

On his way to planting an explosive in a New York City alley last September, suspected bombmaker Ahmad Rahimi stumbled into a deep hole in the U.S. system of safeguards against domestic terrorist attacks, reports the Washington Post. The Elizabeth, N.J., resident had twice come under scrutiny by the FBI because of reported extremist views and suspicious travel overseas. Investigators found no grounds for arresting him, and they lacked alternative measures for maintaining surveillance or influencing the ­Afghan immigrant’s behavior. That gap is the subject of a new report that warns of a serious flaw in U.S. defenses against homegrown terrorism: the lack of an effective system for finding, redirecting and rehabilitating Americans who may be on a path to violent extremism. Unless such a system is put in place, the report says, law enforcement officials will be left to try to prevent attacks only after the would-be terrorist becomes operational.

The report is based on a year-long study commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank. The report urges federal backing for an array of programs that would seek to prevent radicalization from taking root in local communities, as well as measures to identify and help people already on a path toward radicalism. The proposed remedies would mostly take place outside the criminal justice system while maintaining a strong “connective tissue” with law enforcement so that police can be forewarned if someone appears on the brink of committing violence, it says. The study’s release comes as the Trump administration is conducting a formal review of federal programs that focus on countering violent extremism (CVE). Current efforts have drawn criticism from lawmakers as well as some senior Trump aides. Matthew Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst and a co-author of the study, said past U.S. administrations have been slow to embrace community-based approaches that some politicians see as “soft.” The resulting absence of comprehensive strategy has allowed dangerous people to slip under the radar screen, he said.

from http://thecrimereport.org

Many U.S. Terror Probes Were Inventions of FBI Stings

In several plots investigated recently in Kansas and Missouri, alleged terrorists reportedly were unknowingly following the directions of undercover FBI agents who supplied fake bombs and came up with key elements of the plans, reports the Kansas City Star.

Announcements of foiled terrorist plots make for lurid reading. They include schemes to carry out a Presidents Day jihadist attack on a train station in Kansas City, to bomb a Sept. 11 memorial event, to blow up a 1,000-pound bomb at Fort Riley, Ks.,, and detonate a weapon of mass destruction at a Wichita airport,  reports the Kansas City Star. How much of it was real? Often not much, according to a review of recent terrorism cases investigated by the FBI in Kansas and Missouri. The most sensational plots invoking the name of the Islamic State or al-Qaida here were largely the invention of FBI agents carrying out elaborate sting operations on individuals identified through social media as being potentially dangerous.

from http://thecrimereport.org

Homeland Security Challenged Trump Travel Ban Basis

In a draft report, the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Trump’s travel ban pose a terror threat to the U.S.

The Homeland Security Department’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Trump’s travel ban pose a terror threat to the U.S., the Associated Press reports. A draft document concluded that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of terrorism threats to the U.S., and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria’s civil war started in 2011. Trump cited terrorism concerns as the primary reason he signed the sweeping temporary travel ban in late January, which halted the U.S. refugee program. A federal judge blocked the government from carrying out the order. Trump said Friday a new edict would be announced soon.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen did not dispute the report’s authenticity, but said it was not a final comprehensive review of the government’s intelligence. The Homeland Security report is based on unclassified information from various sources. It challenges Trump’s core claims. It said that of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or try to carry out an attack in the U.S., just over half were U.S. citizens born in the United States. The others were from 26 countries, led by Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Of these, only Somalia and Iraq were among the seven nations in the ban.

from http://thecrimereport.org