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

First Trump-Era Terror Arrest Was An Elaborate Sting

Robert Hester, 25, of Missouri, had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb. The agents suggested to Hester that they had contacts with ISIS.

The U.S. Justice Department announced the first FBI terror arrest of the Trump administration on Tuesday: An elaborate sting operation that snared a 25-year old Missouri man who had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb, and who at one point pulled a knife on him and threatened his family, reports The Intercept. Robert Hester of Columbia, Mo., didn’t have the $20 he needed to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, and roofing nails his new FBI friends wanted him to get, so they gave him the money.

The agents noted in a criminal complaint that Hester, who at one point brought his two small children to a meeting because he didn’t have child care, continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim. DOJ said Hester had plans to conduct an “ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack” on Presidents Day that would have resulted in mass casualties had it succeeded. The only contact Hester had with ISIS was with the two undercover agents who suggested to him that they had connections with the group. The agents, who were in contact with him for five months, provided him with money and rides home from work as he dealt with the personal fallout of an unrelated arrest stemming from an altercation at a local grocery store. Hester was arrested by police in October after getting into a dispute with his wife in the parking lot of a grocery store, allegedly damaging store property.

from http://thecrimereport.org

Trump Explains Mention of Supposed Swedish Terrorism

The President referred in a speech to what happened “last night” in Sweden, but a White House spokesperson said “he was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, and not referring to a specific incident.”

President Trump, after being ridiculed for apparently denouncing a terrorist attack in Sweden that had never happened, said Sunday he was referring to a Fox News report on violence in Sweden allegedly perpetrated by refugees, USA Today reports. “My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” the president tweeted. Trump responded after criticism over a Saturday speech in which he listed Sweden along with Germany and Belgium during a discussion of terrorism. “We’ve got to keep our country safe,” he said. “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” tweeted former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, a frequent social-media antagonist of the U.S. president. While there have been terrorist attacks in Germany and Brussels, Belgium, Trump’s comments about Sweden were inspired by a Fox News segment on random violence in that country allegedly committed by refugees. The president was “referring to a report he had seen the previous night,” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said, and “he was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general, and not referring to a specific incident.”

from http://thecrimereport.org

Research into the Root Causes of Terrorism

Interesting article in Science discussing field research on how people are radicalized to become terrorists. The potential for research that can overcome existing constraints can be seen in recent advances in understanding violent extremism and, partly, in interdiction and prevention. Most notable is waning interest in simplistic root-cause explanations of why individuals become violent extremists (e.g., poverty, lack of education,…

Interesting article in Science discussing field research on how people are radicalized to become terrorists.

The potential for research that can overcome existing constraints can be seen in recent advances in understanding violent extremism and, partly, in interdiction and prevention. Most notable is waning interest in simplistic root-cause explanations of why individuals become violent extremists (e.g., poverty, lack of education, marginalization, foreign occupation, and religious fervor), which cannot accommodate the richness and diversity of situations that breed terrorism or support meaningful interventions. A more tractable line of inquiry is how people actually become involved in terror networks (e.g., how they radicalize and are recruited, move to action, or come to abandon cause and comrades).

Reports from the The Soufan Group, International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (King's College London), and the Combating Terrorism Center (U.S. Military Academy) indicate that approximately three-fourths of those who join the Islamic State or al-Qaeda do so in groups. These groups often involve preexisting social networks and typically cluster in particular towns and neighborhoods.. This suggests that much recruitment does not need direct personal appeals by organization agents or individual exposure to social media (which would entail a more dispersed recruitment pattern). Fieldwork is needed to identify the specific conditions under which these processes play out. Natural growth models of terrorist networks then might be based on an epidemiology of radical ideas in host social networks rather than built in the abstract then fitted to data and would allow for a public health, rather than strictly criminal, approach to violent extremism.

Such considerations have implications for countering terrorist recruitment. The present USG focus is on "counternarratives," intended as alternative to the "ideologies" held to motivate terrorists. This strategy treats ideas as disembodied from the human conditions in which they are embedded and given life as animators of social groups. In their stead, research and policy might better focus on personalized "counterengagement," addressing and harnessing the fellowship, passion, and purpose of people within specific social contexts, as ISIS and al-Qaeda often do. This focus stands in sharp contrast to reliance on negative mass messaging and sting operations to dissuade young people in doubt through entrapment and punishment (the most common practice used in U.S. law enforcement) rather than through positive persuasion and channeling into productive life paths. At the very least, we need field research in communities that is capable of capturing evidence to reveal which strategies are working, failing, or backfiring.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

Trump Adviser Gets Three Pinocchios for Terror Talk

White House aide Stephen Miller said 72 people from the seven countries involved in the travel ban “have been implicated in terroristic activity in the United States.” The Washington Post says that number is much exaggerated, and calls Miller’s “use of the list to defend Trump’s executive order quite questionable.”

President Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller gets three Pinocchios from the Washington Post for his allegation yesterday about terror and the White House travel ban from seven countries. “First of all, 72 individuals, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, have been implicated in terroristic activity in the United States who hail from those seven nations,” Miller told “Meet the Press.” The center found that 33 of the 72 people “were convicted of very serious terror-related crimes,” including conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, material support of a terrorist or terrorist group, and international money-laundering conspiracy. The Post says it’s important to note that being convicted of material support is not always evidence that the person was planning a terrorist attack or terrorism-related activities.

Some cases involved individuals who were convicted of charges unrelated to terrorism activities, but whom prosecutors charged were related to terrorist groups abroad. For example, three Rochester businessmen were convicted of money-laundering charges in 2009. Federal prosecutors charged that the men sent $200,000 overseas knowing the money could benefit Hezbollah. A federal prosecutor said, “This is simply a money laundering case. There are no charges claiming that they were giving money or aiding any terrorist organizations.” Suspected or potential terror links involving these 72 individuals do not confirm Miller’s claim that they were “implicated in terrorist activity.” Moreover, some people on this list entered the U.S., many of them naturalized, decades before they were charged with any of the crimes. That makes Miller’s use of this list to defend Trump’s executive order quite questionable, the Post says.

from http://thecrimereport.org