MCCAUL RELEASES FEBRUARY TERROR THREAT SNAPSHOT

Homeland Security Committee, Feb. 8, 2016:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The February Terror Threat Snapshot was released today by Homeland Security Committee (HSC) Chairman Michael McCaul. The “snapshot” is a monthly Committee assessment of the growing threat America, the West, and the world face from ISIS and other Islamist terrorists.

Chairman McCaul: “The Islamist terror threat remains alarmingly high as recent arrests and terror plots demonstrate. ISIS recruits wage war in our communities, while thousands of deadly fighters trained in Syria stream back into the West – some of them infiltrating massive refugee flows. ISIS continues its global expansion on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the still-dangerous al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seizes greater territory in Yemen. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin and the revitalized Iran-Assad-Hezbollah terror axis are further destabilizing the Syrian crisis in the absence of U.S. leadership. This year is on track to be as dangerous as – if not worse than – 2015 for the American homeland and our national security.”

Key takeaways in this month’s Terror Threat Snapshot include:

  • The Iranian regime gained access to $100 billion in cash from the disastrous nuclear deal and is poised for further economic relief that will fuel its global network of terror.
  • An increasing number of battle-hardened fighters from Europe are returning from jihadist training grounds. Nearly 2,000 Europeans – among an estimated 6,600 Western fighters who have traveled to Syria and Iraq – have snuck back into Europe. A French counterterrorism official recently warned, “We are moving towards a European 9/11: simultaneous attacks on the same day in several countries…We know the terrorists are working on this.”
  • Islamist terrorists are exploiting global refugee flows to infiltrate and target the West. Germany’s domestic intelligence chief recently said terrorists “have slipped in camouflaged or disguised as refugees. This is a fact that the security agencies are facing.” A suspected ISIS terror plotter arrested in Germany this week snuck into Europe posing as a refugee. The European Union also recently assessed there is a “real and imminent danger” of Syrian refugees inside Europe being radicalized and recruited by Islamist extremists.
  • ISIS and al Qaeda are expanding their sanctuaries from North Africa to South Asia. ISIS is reinforcing its foothold in Libya, where it has amassed as many as 6,500 fighters and controls coastal territory on the Mediterranean Sea. Al Qaeda is making further gains in Yemen and its key ally in Afghanistan controls more territory than it has at any point since 2001.
  • The Obama Administration has surged the release of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay despite alarming rates of recidivism. The intelligence community has assessed that 30 percent of Guantanamo detainees released are either known to have or suspected of having rejoined the fight. The potential transfer of detainees to the United States, prohibited under law, would also pose a threat to the American people.
  • The United States faces the highest Islamist terror threat environment since 9/11. ISIS is waging war here in the homeland, where there have been 21 ISIS-linked plots to launch attacks. Law enforcement authorities have arrested 81 ISIS-linked suspects, including five thus far in 2016.

TerrorThreatSnapshot_February_Social-Media-862x1024The complete February Terror Threat Snapshot is available, here.

View the Committee’s interactive Terror Threat Snapshot map, here.

Home-drone terrorism

1006073240CSP, by Ben Lerner, Jan. 6, 2016:

Originally published at The Hill

In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack that took the lives of fourteen victims in San Bernardino, California last month, a raft of information has been coming out regarding the identities and histories of the perpetrators, and also the arsenal they had amassed to carry out their plans.

Amidst all the reporting, it would be easy to miss a significant item that authorities found among the weaponry, as reported by Fox News:

“…Another source said investigators discovered a dozen pipe bombs in the house, as well as small explosives strapped to remote-controlled cars – a signature of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, according to counter-terrorism experts.”

Why remote-controlled cars? Well, it turns out that as much as jihadist terrorists may value their own deaths in the course of their attacks, they also favor using any weapon that maximizes the number of casualties, and the fear that entails, whether they themselves are killed in the process or not. Hence the high utility of and interest in improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which can be built cheaply and detonated from afar, allowing operators to evade detection and therefore minimize interdiction. Add an ability to move the explosive to a specific location by remote, and you have a low-tech but lethal precision-guided weapon.

Those advantages of the remote IED – precision, evasion, cost-effectiveness – have prompted authorities increasingly to worry that terrorists will turn next to another device to help them carry out attacks: drones.

Drones have the potential to function essentially as the aerial version of the remote-controlled car bombs found in that San Bernardino apartment. They could be rigged to carry small explosives and sent to a target as a precision-guided weapon, or could be deployed without an explosive and just flown, deliberately, into a jet engine. And even if the user in question opts not to use the drone itself as a weapon, it can still operate overhead with a camera and provide what the military calls intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance (ISR) to support an attack on the ground, for example by providing intelligence on additional targets or possible escape routes for the attackers.

Non-state actors are already either deploying drones in the field or are drawing concern from security experts about their potential to do so. Both Hezbollah and Hamas have sent (for now) non-weaponized, rudimentary drones of limited capability into Middle Eastern skies, including one Hezbollah drone that made it 140 miles into Israel. Drug cartels are already attempting to use drones for smuggling narcotics, and some in law enforcement have speculated that cartels will find value in drones for surveillance purposes. The New York Police Department has beenworried for some time about the potential for terrorist attacks on New York City using drones.

Given the threat posed by drones in the hands of terrorists or criminals, there is an urgent need to grapple with how to secure American skies in effective, sensible ways. Broadly speaking, policymakers should proceed on this front bearing two things in mind:

Deploy counter-drone technologies to protect U.S. airspace. Addressing the terrorist/criminal drone threat will require the deployment of counter-drone technology, sooner rather than later, that can be used to safely disable and bring down drones in non-military environments. The military has been working on fielding counter-drone technologies for some time – the Navy has already made significant advances with deployment of directed energy technology to counter threats from Iranian drones and other weapons in the Persian Gulf, and recent reporting indicates that the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF) and Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) have been collaborating extensively to identify workable counter-drone options as well. While the homeland security side of the federal government appears to be catching up on this front, the question remains as to whether effective technology will be ready in time for use against this kind of bad-actor drone in the skies over American cities and infrastructure – particularly when, unlike their military counterparts, those responsible for homeland security are more constrained to avoid counter-drone measures that involve blowing one up in mid-air over lower Manhattan or knocking out electronic communications in downtown Washington, D.C.

Recognize the limitations of traceability and “geo-fencing.” In recent months, there have been numerous unauthorized drone flights in U.S. airspace – near airports, near commercial aircraft, over sporting events, and in some cases, in the path of wildfire relief efforts – the preponderance of which appear to have been the result of reckless or careless drone use, rather than a malicious intent to cause harm. These kinds of incursions have prompted the Department of Transportation to announce that it will require those who use drones to register them with the department by February of 2016. It is thought that having operators register their drones will give law enforcement an opportunity to trace drones back to their operators in certain circumstances for deterrence and accountability purposes, though there is room to debate whether this is unnecessarily burdensome for your average law-abiding user, and whether a more effective way to create deterrence and accountability would be through tracing manufacturer serial numbers, via the retailer, back to the point of sale.

Of course, having the ability to trace a drone back to its owner only matters after a drone has already flown into restricted airspace – it won’t prevent incursions from taking place. That reality has prompted drone companies to explore the option of manufacturer-installed “geo-fencing”technology that pre-programs a drone to render it incapable of flying into restricted airspace.

Policymakers should recognize that while traceability mechanisms and geo-fencing could be important public safety tools to better manage increasingly crowded airspace and mitigate irresponsible or reckless drone use, they will not solve the problem of malevolent drone use. Terrorists and criminals won’t register themselves under any system, or make themselves otherwise vulnerable to having ownership traced back to them, and a determined terrorist or criminal will be all the more inclined to disable geo-fencing features, and perhaps all the more capable of doing so.

Drones are already doing much good in American skies for law enforcement, homeland security, and a variety of industries putting them to innovative use. As is the case with all beneficial technologies, however, bad actors will find ways to use a drone’s otherwise positive qualities to cause harm. Dealing with that threat will entail understanding which counter-drone technologies can be usefully applied to preventing terrorist/criminal acts, and which ones are less likely to get that particular job done, other potential benefits notwithstanding.

Feds lose track of thousands who have had visas revoked

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The Gorka Briefing, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka. Dec. 19, 2015:

A recent hearing on the Hill where the govt has no idea the number people whose visas have been revoked or where they are was like watching an Abbott and Costello sketch. On Fox to talk about this.

RELATED:

TERRORIST TRAVEL: VETTING FOR NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS (House Oversight Committee)

TAKEAWAYS

  • The Obama administration claims to have “very extensive screening procedures” in place, even though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rejected a plan to review the social media accounts of visa applicants. Current plans to review social media remain in the “pilot” phase.
  • For years, terrorists have used social media to promote their mission, recruit other terrorists, and plan attacks. DHS’ vetting process must evolve to stay one step ahead of those who pose a risk to national security.
  • In FY 2013 and FY 2014, DHS has apprehended and released more than 66,000 criminal aliens back into the United States.
  • Since 1996, Congress has required that an exit system be put in place to determine visa overstays. The biometric exit system has yet to be put in place, and DHS has failed to issue a mandated report to Congress on the number of overstays who remain in the U.S. in violation of the law.
  • DHS and State Department officials were unable to report the number of immigrants who had their visas revoked but still remain in the United States.

(see more plus videos)

Feds can’t say whereabouts of those whose visas were revoked over terror threat (Fox)

The Obama administration cannot be sure of the whereabouts of thousands of foreigners in the U.S. who had their visas revoked over terror concerns and other reasons, a State Department official acknowledged Thursday.

The admission, made at a House oversight hearing examining immigrant vetting in the wake of major terror attacks, drew a sharp rebuke from the committee chairman.

“You don’t have a clue do you?” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Bond initially said the U.S. has revoked more than 122,000 visas since 2001, including 9,500 because of the threat of terrorism.

But Chaffetz quickly pried at that stat, pressing the witness about the present location of those individuals.

“I don’t know,” she said.

The startling admission came as members of the committee pressed administration officials on what safeguards are in place to reduce the risk from would-be extremists. . . . (read the rest)

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Also see:

Jihad in America: The True Scope of the ISIS Threat

isis5CBN, by Erick Stakelbeck, Dec. 17, 2015:

WASHINGTON — From taking down a Russian airliner to horrific terror attacks in Beirut and Paris, ISIS is spreading its tentacles worldwide.

The threat reached into America recently when two ISIS supporters slaughtered 14 people in San Bernardino, California – and there could be more to come.

More than 250 American citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, and dozens have already returned to the U.S.  That finding comes directly from the House Homeland Security Committee.

Now, investigators believe an alarming number of Americans may welcome these ISIS recruits back home with open arms.

Obama administration officials say ISIS now has an extensive network of supporters and sympathizers inside the United States from coast to coast.

The husband and wife terror team that wreaked havoc in San Bernardino could be a sign of a growing trend.

FBI Director James Comey has said the Bureau is investigating ISIS-related activity in all 50 states – and that ISIS is recruiting here “24 hours a day.”

In fact, FBI resources are reportedly running down some 1,000 ISIS cases, raising fears that the agency is being stretched thin as it tries to get a handle on the homegrown jihadist threat.

Still, President Barack Obama has said that his strategy to defeat ISIS is working and that the terror group is contained.

“I think that the FBI knows full well how serious the threat is on the ground,” Katherine Gorka, president of the Threat Knowledge Group, told CBN News. “They’re trying to grapple with it.”

Gorka co-authored a recent report called “ISIS: The Threat to The United States,” along with her husband, Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

“The reason we did the report in the first place is we were getting the sense that the threat in the United States was being downplayed for political reasons,” Gorka told CBN News. “And that was exactly what the report showed – that the threat is far greater in this country than we had been led to believe.”

The report found that American law enforcement has intercepted some 82 ISIS supporters since March 2014, and that ISIS is recruiting within the U.S. at about three times the rate of al Qaeda.

“Out of the 82 cases that we looked at – this is in the last 20 months – 82 people who’ve been interdicted by law enforcement in this country,” Gorka said. “Only 18 have been turned in by someone that they knew. So this notion that the Muslim community is trying to protect us from radicalism right now is not really holding true.”

The ISIS goal for these American supporters? Rise up and carry out regular terror attacks in U.S cities, creating an atmosphere of guerilla war.

It’s no wonder recent polls show that concern over terrorism is as high today among Americans as it was in the weeks following 9/11; a majority lack confidence in the Obama administration’s handling of terrorism and expect “lone wolf” jihadi attacks to continue on U.S. soil.

***

Homeland Security Banned from Checking Social Media of Visa Applicants

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Here’s how useless that mutli-layered vetting is.

Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, Dec. 13, 2015:

That incredibly effective multi-layered vetting Obama was talking up while promising that the huge numbers of Syrian Muslim migrants he wants to bring to this country will be thoroughly vetted… it doesn’t include looking at their Facebook.

Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by U.S. immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. But none uncovered what Malik had made little effort to hide – that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.

She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it.

Here’s how useless that mutli-layered vetting is.

Tens of millions of people are cleared each year to come to this country to work, visit or live. It is impossible to conduct an exhaustive investigation and scour the social media accounts of each of them, law enforcement officials say.

Except companies do this before hiring employees. Yet our “exhaustive multi-layered vetting” can’t be bothered to check someone’s Facebook before we let them move here.

“We run people against watch lists and that’s how we decided if they get extra screening,” said C. Stewart Verdery Jr., a senior Homeland Security official during George W. Bush’s administration. “In cases where those lists don’t hit, there’s nothing that distinguishes them from people we would love to welcome to this country.”

Ms. Malik faced three extensive national security and criminal background screenings. First, Homeland Security officials checked her name against American law enforcement and national security databases. Then, her visa application went to the State Department, which checked her fingerprints against other databases. Finally, after coming to the United States and formally marrying Mr. Farook here, she applied for her green card and received another round of criminal and security checks.

Ms. Malik also had two in-person interviews, federal officials said, the first by a consular officer in Pakistan, and the second by an immigration officer in the United States when she applied for her green card.

All those reviews came back clear, and the F.B.I. has said it had no incriminating information about Ms. Malik or Mr. Farook in its databases. The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have said they followed all policies and procedures. The departments declined to provide any documentation or specifics about the process, saying they cannot discuss the case because of the continuing investigation.

Here’s the complete uselessness of all that multi-layered vetting in all its multi-layered glory. All this does is move paper around. If they’re not in the database, then we can’t know anything about them. And we won’t bother checking their social media because that’s just… inappropriate.

Had authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country. But immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks, and there is a debate inside the Department of Homeland Security over whether it is even appropriate to do so…

In a brief telephone interview on Saturday, the sister, Fehda Malik, said Tashfeen Malik was not an extremist, and she rejected the allegations against her sister.

“I am the one who spent most of the time with my sister,” she said. “No one knows her more than me. She had no contact with any militant organization or person, male or female.”

She said her sister was religious, studied the Quran and prayed five times a day. “She knew what was right and what was wrong,” Fehda Malik said. She added that the family was “very worried and tense,” before hanging up the phone.

On social media, Fehda Malik has made provocative comments of her own. In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, she posted a remark on Facebook beside a photo of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center that could be interpreted as anti-American.

What the comment was and what her sister’s comments were, the New York Times wouldn’t tell us. That might lead to Islamophobia.

Also see:

Deobandi Butchery in San Bernardino: 1977 Roots of the Jihad Carnage

san_bernadino_terrorists_article_banner_12-13-15-1.sized-770x415xcPJ Media, by Andrew Bostom, Dec.13, 2015:

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whistleblower Philip Haney made a startling series of revelations Thursday evening (12/10/15) on Fox News’ The Kelly File. Haney described how he began investigating scores of individuals with links to the traditionalist Islamic Indo-Pakistani Deobandi movement, and its related offshoots, prominently, Tablighi Jamaat. He maintained the groups were exploiting the visa waiver program to transport suspected jihadist operatives in and out of the U.S., thus he started tracking them, and recording these findings within a DHS database. Haney’s efforts (as summarized by Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller) were eventually noticed by the National Targeting Center (NTC), which operates as an umbrella organization in U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Haney was subsequently asked to work for the NTC and rivet his attention on these Deobandi-related organizations. Over the course of his investigation, Haney received an award for identifying more than 300 potential jihad terrorists with links to the Deobandi affiliates.

Tablighi Jamaat certainly merited the attention Haney was giving it, having been connected to a series of jihad terrorist attacks, which included targeting the U.S.: the October, 2002 Portland (Oregon) Seven, and September, 2002 Lackawanna (New York) Six cases; an Aug. 2006 plot to bomb airliners en route from London to the U.S.; attempted bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland, in July 2007; and involvement in the July 7, 2005, London bombings, which killed 52 and injured more than 700. French investigators have further estimated Tablighi Jamaat ideological indoctrination was associated with 80% of their jihad terror cases.

Haney’s fastidious investigations raised serious concerns about the San Bernardino Deobandi movement-affiliated Darul-Uloom al-Islamia mosque—attended by jihad-waging killer Syed Farook. In addition, Farook’s jihadist accomplice wife, Tashfeen Malik, attended a traditionalist Islamic education center in Pakistan, also connected with the Deobandi movement. Notwithstanding his patriotic, yeoman efforts, DHS shut down Haney’s probe, and revoked both his security clearance and access to the databases he compiled. Retributive investigations against Haney by DHS and the Obama Justice Department, however, revealed no wrongdoing on his part. Tragically, as Haney explained, had his probe not been terminated for alleged “civil rights violations” of jihad-indoctrinated Muslim followers of the Deobandi movement:

Either Syed would have been put on the no-fly list because association with that mosque, and/or the K-1 visa that his wife was given may have been denied because of his association with a known organization.

The Deobandi-linked jihad carnage that transpired in San Bernardino has much deeper roots, not only on the Indian subcontinent, but dating from at least 1977, within North America, as well.

The traditionalist Islamic Darul Uloom Deoband school was founded in conjunction with the mid-19th century Indian Muslim jihad against British colonial rule, becoming a hub of the broader global Caliphate revival movement centered in India after the humiliating Ottoman defeat during the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War. Mahmood Hasan (1851-1920), the first graduate of the Darul Uloom Deoband, was active in early 20th century jihadist activities against British colonial India, and he was also an accomplished Koranic scholar whose seminal 20th century commentary on the Koran (via his pupil S.A. Usmani) remains an influential work for Indo-Pakistani Muslims. Moreover, per a reverent biography of Muhammad Ilyas (1885-1944), founder of the Tablighi Jamaat, who was “infused with the spirit of Jihad,” Ilyas “took the pledge of Jihad at the hands of the Maulana Mahmood Hasan for that very reason.” Muhammad Ilyas in turn, formally mentored Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi (1914-99)

Nadwi was a founding member of the Muslim World League, a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now Cooperation), a member of the World Supreme Council for Mosques, and a member of the Fiqh Council of Rabita. He participated in a host of other activities under the umbrella of these, and other Islamic supremacist organizations and institutions, including, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). In India, during his “formative years,” Nadwi was associated with Maudoodi’s Jamaat Islami, in addition to Tablighi Jamaat founder Muhammad Ilyas. Nadwi later became president of the Academy of Islamic Research and Publications, which published his own 1983 hagiography of Muhammad Ilyas, who had written directly to Nadwi “perhaps the most detailed letters concerning the aims and principles of the [Tablighi Jamaat] Movement.” Most significantly, Nadwi served as rector of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama [“Organization of Scholars”], sister institute of Darul Uloom Deoband, and a major disseminator of traditionalist Islamic, Deobandi teachings.

Read more

Fox News is getting the message out on jihad!

a gThese interviews are packed with important information that Americans need to hear. Kudos to Fox News for interviewing the experts!

After O’Reilly gives his opinion on Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslim Immigration, he interviews counterterrorism specialist Aaron Cohen and Center for Security Policy’s Jim Hanson. They discuss taking a temporary pause in issuing visas to people from terror supporting countries and a detailed plan to go after ISIS.

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Megyn Kelly interviews Andrew McCarthy and Dr. Sebastian Gorka. They discuss the importance of vetting for Islamic supremacist ideology and sharia adherence. Dr. Gorka points out that the San Bernardino attack used  classic jihadi tradecraft. They also touched on the need Mosque surveillance and looking at the background of Imams.

***

And Dr. Gorka was on Fox and Friends this morning.

Terror Expert: Don’t Expect Calif. Attack to Be the Last on US Soil (foxnewsinsider.com)

Counterterrorism expert Dr. Sebastian Gorka said we should not expect the San Bernardino terror attack to be the last by jihadis on American soil.

He said that in the last 20 months, the U.S. has killed or arrested 82 ISIS suspects, and that a significant portion of them planned on staying in the country to kill Americans.

“They have decided the best way to serve the new caliph, the new emperor, would be to kill Americans here. We published that report before San Bernardino, with one conclusion: If you just look at the facts, a Paris-type attack is not a question of if, it is a question of when.

“Do not expect this to be the last attack in America by jihadis.”

Gorka also weighed in on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to ban the entry of Muslims into the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Gorka said that the plan is bad for national security, because U.S. intelligence depends heavily on the Muslim community and allies in the region, and “this is going to make them just close down.”

He also said there’s logistically no good way to vet people on the basis of religion.

“Are we going to test them on Bible verses? How many Americans are going to pass a Christian test?” Watch the interview below.

Islamic State Can Launch an Undetected WMD Attack on the US

islamic-state-chemical-attack-630x350By Brian Fairchild, Nov. 27, 2015:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

  • Based on the analysis of the facts and findings below, as of November 27, 2015, the Islamic State has the intent and capability to launch an undetected WMD attack against the American homeland. Absent specific actionable intelligence, there is no way to predict the specific date or location of an attack, or the type of attack that will occur, but it is clear from the intelligence that such an attack is feasible and credible.

On November 15, 2015, White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes stated that the Islamic State aspires to attack the United States in a manner similar to the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks but does not have the capability to do so.  He based his assessment on only one criteria – the number of foreign fighters that had returned to Europe.  He said that while thousands of European foreign fighters have traveled to Syria and then returned, only 40 Americans are known to have gone to Syria and returned.  His assessment, however, does not address the key criteria that would allow an accurate assessment of the Islamic State’s intent and capability to launch such an attack.

The following analysis uses primary sources to answer the following relevant questions regarding the Islamic State’s capabilities:

  • Does it have the intent and desire to attack the United States?
  • Does it have the requisite number of personnel and operational experience to conduct such an attack?
  • Does it have access to conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, and, if so, can it smuggle them into the country?
  • Does it have the financial ability to finance such an operation?

Once established, an analysis of these facts leads to general findings about the capabilities of the Islamic State, and these findings allow for a logical and credible forecast of its ability to launch such an attack against the homeland.

FACTS:

Intent and desire to attack the United States:

The Islamic State has issued many direct threats against the United States that illustrate its intent and desire to attack inside America.  The following are a few selected threats that illustrate this point.

  • In August 2014, IS declared war against the US in a document sent to the family of beheading victim James Foley. It was addressed to the “American government and their sheep like people” and threatened the following (NOTE:  all emphasis in the text was added by the Islamic State in the original):

Today our swords are unsheathed towards you, GOVERNMENT AND CITIZENS ALIKE!  AND WE WILL NOT STOP UNTIL WE QUENCH OUR THIRST FOR YOUR BLOOD.  You do not spare our weak, elderly, women or children, so we will NOT spare yours!  You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings!  The first of which being the blood of American citizen, James Foley.

  • The above threat was followed soon after by the Islamic State’s September 22, 2014, statement encouraging its followers to seek out and kill American, French, and Australian citizens in their homes with whatever weapons are available including cars, knives, and rocks.
  • On April 11, 2015, the Islamic State released an 11 minute video that specifically promised another 9/11-style spectacular attack against the American homeland.
  • On November 18, 2015, in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, the Islamic State released two videos threatening attacks on the United States; one threatening to burn down the White House, the other showing images of New York’s Time Square in conjunction with a suicide bomber zipping his jacket over his suicide vest.

Capability/Personnel:

Threats that are not backed-up by trained, willing, and capable personnel are little more than propaganda.  The Islamic State, however, has the requisite number of trained, combat-hardened, and ideologically motivated personnel to conduct attacks against the United States.

  • The CIA estimates that the Islamic State has smuggled approximately 31,000 foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq.  These individuals hail from over 100 countries, including 250 Americans, and 5,000 Europeans.  But their sheer number of foreign fighters only tells part of the story.  There has also been a qualitative change in the character of today’s jihadists – they are more ideologically extreme, and much more brutal than the jihadists of the bin Laden era.  Because of the Islamic State’s extensive and widely disseminated video propaganda and statements of beheadings, crucifixions, rape, torture, the revival of slavery, and the inhumane execution of prisoners, there is no doubt that, before they even leave home, the thousands of foreign radical Muslim fighters that flock to the new caliphate do so fully understanding and embracing its barbaric ideology and actions.
  • In direct response to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’ assertion that the Islamic State is incapable of launching an attack against the US because relatively few Americans have gone to Syria and Iraq and returned, there is no Islamic State doctrine, policy, or ideological prohibition that requires it to create attack cells against the United States using only American operatives.
  • The Islamic State emerged from al Qaeda in Iraq which provides some insight into how the organization might prepare and conduct an attack against the United States, and the historical record reveals that no previous al Qaeda-directed attacks against the United States have employed American operatives. Rather, all previous al Qaeda-directed jihadi operatives, including all of the 9/11 conspirators, as well as Richard Reid (the Shoe Bomber), and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the Underwear Bomber), were non-Americans who entered the United States with legal visas.  None of these attacks were discovered by American or Western intelligence agencies prior to their commencement. 
  • The fact that no previous al Qaeda-directed attacks were conducted by American citizens is not to say, however, that the Islamic State does not have the capability to include American citizens in an attack cell.  Quite to the contrary, the Islamic State has an aggressive program to recruit Americans which has alarmed and overtaxed the FBI.  According to FBI Director James Comey, in just the last year, the Bureau’s Islamic State case load has exploded to 900 active cases, a number, he says, that is quickly reaching the point of exceeding the Bureau’s personnel and financial resources. Worse, he says that the bureau is stymied in monitoring the most important of these cases because of the Islamic State’s use of digital encryption technology, which enables it to “go dark”. 

Capability/Operational:

A terrorist organization can have all the intent in the world and thousands of motivated personnel, but if it does not have actual experience in conducting military and clandestine operations its threats against an adversary are not necessarily credible.  The Islamic State, however, has extensive experience in conducting both military and clandestine operations.  

  • On August 21, 2014, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed this very question when he stated that the Islamic State demonstrates “a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess” that represents an “imminent threat to every interest we have”.
  • This “…strategic and tactical military prowess” was demonstrated recently when, in less than two weeks’ time the Islamic State coordinated and carried-out the following three sophisticated clandestine attacks in Lebanon, Egypt and France:
  1. On November 12, 2015, just a day before the Paris attacks, an Islamic State team defeated the vaunted security measures of Hezbollah’s nerve-center in Lebanon and carried-out two suicide bombings, killing 43 and wounding 239.
  2. On October 31, 2015, Islamic State operatives conducted the first successful terrorist attack against a civilian airliner since September 11, 2001 when it thwarted security at the international airport at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and placed an improvised explosive device on-board Russian Metrojet flight 9268. The bomb detonated approximately 20 minutes after take-off killing all 224 passengers.
  3. On November 13, 2015, the Islamic State alarmed all of the world’s western security and intelligence services when, undetected and by surprise, it conducted multi-location attacks in the middle of Paris where French security was operating at its highest alert status. In approximately half-an-hour, three teams, all armed with explosive vests and AK-47 automatic assault rifles, attacked six separate locations including the stadium in which the French president was watching a soccer game, murdering 129 individuals and wounding 350.   This was the worst terrorist attack in France since the end of WWII, and represents the realization of the West’s greatest fears – that foreign fighters would return from Syria and Iraq to wreak havoc.

Capability/Weapons:

As stated above, the Islamic State was able to smuggle explosives undetected into Lebanon, as well as through airport security in Egypt to place a device on-board the Russian Metrojet flight.  In Paris, it demonstrated that it had the ability to smuggle conventional explosives and AK-47 assault rifles into the center of Paris.  These operations prove conclusively that the Islamic State can smuggle conventional weapons and explosives into very secure areas.  Because of the brutal nature of the Islamic State and the fact that it recognizes no moral red-line, however, analysts must also consider the likelihood that future attacks in Europe or the United States will include weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical, biological, or radioactive weapons.

  • On November 19, 2015, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned of just this possibility in future attacks against France stating: “we know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons”.
  • On the same day, American and Iraqi intelligence officials revealed that the Islamic State created an organization dedicated to creating chemical weapons and has hired scientists from Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program and elsewhere to accomplish this task.  Nobody knows how far the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program has progressed, but according to US officials, ISIS has already used mustard gas against in enemies in Iraq and Syria on at least four separate occasions. Weapons experts state that the Islamic State is likely only capable of manufacturing crude devices at this point, but a crude device detonated in a public space, such as a shopping mall, is all that is required for it to terrorize a civilian population.
  • Separate from creating its own arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, over a year ago, the Islamic State seized already existing chemical weapons from Iraq’s al Muthanna chemical weapons complex.  The seized weapons include munitions containing Sarin gas, Mustard gas, and the nerve agent VX.  The al Muthanna chemical weapons complex was Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons production line that weaponized these chemical agents in the form of mortar and artillery shells.  Many of these mortar and artillery rounds are not useable in their present form, but in 2006, then Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. General Michael Maples stated that, while these munitions could not be used as originally intended because of corrosion, “the agent remaining in the weapons would be very valuable to terrorists and insurgents”. 
  • In July 2014, IS fighters seized 88 pounds of uranium compounds from the University of Mosul that can be used to construct a radioactive dirty bomb, and in late November 2014, Islamic State operatives boasted on Twitter that the Islamic State had created a dirty bomb from this material.  The Pentagon confirmed that the Islamic State has the capability to construct such a weapon.

Capability/Transporting WMD or conventional weapons into the United States:

Having access to such weapons of mass destruction and being able to transport them into the United States are two separate matters, which begs the question – “is it possible for the Islamic State to smuggle WMD into the United States?”

This question was definitively answered in March 2015 by US Marine General John Kelly, commander of US Southern Command in his testimony before Congress, in which he described the capabilities of drug smuggling networks and the possibility of terrorist organizations piggy-backing on these networks:

“Clearly, criminal networks can move just about anything on these smuggling pipelines. Terrorist organizations could seek to leverage those same smuggling routes to move operatives with intent to cause grave harm to our citizens or even quite easily bring weapons of mass destruction into the United States.

  • The Islamic State, however, does not have to rely on drug smuggling cartels to smuggle people or weapons into the United States. As recently revealed by the news media, after Islamic State troops were pushed out of the Iraqi city of Sinjar, Kurdish forces discovered that the Islamic State constructed 30 to 40 elaborate tunnels on its own.  The tunnels, some spanning over 200 meters, were wired with electricity, and contained sleeping quarters and weapons storage areas.  It is possible and credible that it could dig its own tunnels into the United States at the southern or northern borders.

Capability/Financial:

  • The Islamic State is described as the richest terrorist organization on earth. It has a war chest estimated at over $2 billion dollars accrued from:  taxes, smuggling oil and antiquities, ransom for hostages, seized bank assets, donations from wealthy Gulf donors, the theft of all property and assets from the minorities it victimizes, and proceeds from zakat (tithing) and Muslim charities.
  • On November 19, 2015, media reports revealed that the US Government recently discovered that it miscalculated the income the Islamic State makes from oil. Originally, the government estimated that it made only $100 million a year, but now realizes that it makes $500 million a year from its oil smuggling operation.

FINDINGS:

  • Over the past year in numerous videos and statements, the Islamic State has specifically expressed its intent and desire to attack the American homeland, including a video presentation promising another 9/11-type spectacular attack.
  • The Islamic State has tens of thousands of experienced and blooded foreign fighters in its ranks, many thousands of which come from Western Europe and require no visas to travel to the United States. This number also includes at least 250 American citizens, but this number is augmented by the 900 American citizens, spanning all 50 states, that the FBI is currently investigating as supporters and/or operatives of the Islamic State.  It is likely that from among these thousands of operatives and supporters, the Islamic State could, at the very least, create and dispatch a 10 to 20 man team to the United States.
  • The Islamic State demonstrated its “…strategic and tactical military prowess” when it launched three sophisticated terrorist operations in less than two weeks.  By attacking Egypt, Lebanon, and France it demonstrated conclusively that it has the strategic intent and capability to launch operational teams to conduct terrorist operations outside of its immediate area of operation. All three of these attacks took Western intelligence agencies by surprise, establishing the fact that the Islamic State can smuggle its teams and weapons into very secure areas undetected.  This is due to the operational security of the selected teams as well as the Islamic State’s use of very secure encrypted communications technology.
  • The Islamic State has a two-pronged approach to chemical weapons; it is developing its own chemical weapons program, and over a year ago it seized existing chemical weapons and radioactive compounds from Iraqi institutions.  Moreover, according to U.S. officials, it has already used chemical weapons on the battlefield on at least four separate occasions.  The commanding officer of the U.S. Southern Command revealed in Congressional testimony that terrorists could easily smuggle personnel and weapons of mass destruction into the United States via the existing smuggling routes controlled by drug smuggling organizations on the border between Mexico and the U.S.  Moreover, the Islamic State has the capability of unilaterally digging tunnels, as was discovered in the Iraqi city of Sinjar.
  • With a war chest exceeding $2 billion dollars, the Islamic State can easily create, train, and fully support a ten to twenty-man operational cell dispatched to the United States to conduct terrorist operations.
  • Despite the increasing number of American, Russian, and French airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq, there is no evidence that indicates the Islamic State leadership seeks to avoid further military confrontation with any of these countries. Quite to the contrary, all evidence indicates that it is actively trying to provoke additional confrontations.  On November 24, 2015, the Islamic State released a new video that likely rates as the best piece of terrorist propaganda ever made; it throws down the gauntlet and tells the US and the international community to “bring it on!”

FORECAST:

Based on the above facts and findings, as of November 27, 2015, the Islamic State has the desire, intent and all the capabilities required to launch an attack against the American homeland.  Within its ranks it has the expertise, trained operatives, financial resources, and possession of WMD to carry-out such an attack.  Absent specific actionable intelligence, there is no way to predict a specific date or location where attacks will occur.  It is likely, however, that the Islamic State has the capability to launch an attack, undetected, within the United States at a time and place of its choosing.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

 

How the Paris Attacks Increase the Threat to America

A woman takes part in a vigil in front of the French Consulate in Los Angeles as a show of solidarity with the people of France. (Photo: © Reuters)

A woman takes part in a vigil in front of the French Consulate in Los Angeles as a show of solidarity with the people of France. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Nov. 15, 2015:

The coordinated attacks in Paris and suspected Islamic State bombing of a Russian airliner raises the risk that Islamic State supporters in the U.S. and other Western countries will spur into action. The opening of a new phase in Islamic State (ISIS) terror will also result in a fresh wave of recruits radicalized by the appearance that the Islamic State is quickly ascending.

You can watch Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro discuss this increasing threat on FOX News’ “America’s News HQ” on Saturday afternoon below:

First, there is a risk of “copycat” attacks by the Islamic State and other Islamist terrorist supporters, including those who are loyal to Al-Qaeda and want to show that the group hasn’t become a “has-been” in the jihadist world. It is hard to express the excitement that an aspiring jihadist will feel at two breakthrough moments in the war against the West in such short order. At this sensitive time, any kind of an attack—even a simple shooting or pipe bombing—takes on much greater significance.

If an Islamist terrorist is planning or considering an attack, it is difficult to resist the temptation to strike now. Even a relatively minor attack becomes part of a bigger story, rather than being forgotten amongst the wave of headlines about acts of violence. On an egotistical level, a jihadist will want to attach his name to this dramatic story.

Secondly, there are those who will worry that they might now lose their chance to strike and earn their ticket to Paradise by dying in jihad as a “martyr.” Supporters of the Islamic State have every reason to expect Western governments to become extra aggressive in rounding up possible terrorists. ISIS supporters who believe they are on the authorities’ radar could choose to act sooner instead of patiently preparing their plot and risk being foiled.

The attacks in Paris and on the Russian airliner show that the threat from the Islamic State is greater than ever, and we’ve entered a new period where they’ve moved towards more sophisticated, Al-Qaeda-style attacks in the West. They are engaging in pre-planning and dispatching teams of operatives instead of just hoping to inspire a random supporter into committing violence independently. This upgrade in quality is a powerful tool in the Islamic State’s propaganda arsenal.

The organization’s ability to recruit is largely based on the appearance of success. No one wants to join an organization whose recent history is filled with losses. Moreover, success is seen as Allah‘s endorsement; the ultimate winning argument in a theological debate among those dabbling in Islamist extremism.

Just as the Islamic State’s burst onto the scene with the capturing of Mosul in 2014 earned it a wave of recruits, these attacks will also earn it a wave of recruits and it will encourage the millions of Islamic State supporters who have yet to take up arms to finally act upon their beliefs.

It is critical that the West push back against the Islamic State’s convincing narrative of success. Those in the region understand the importance of this. We saw many tweets from people in the Middle East directed towards ISIS that told the group that their attacks in Paris cannot erase their setbacks elsewhere.

Dramatic events like these make recent losses like the killing of “Jihadi John” and the Kurds recapturing Sinjar seem like distant memories, but they deserve to be a part of the news coverage and U.S. government’s international messaging. Instead of focusing on single events that the Islamic State hopes will grab our attention, we must put them into a broader context that the Islamic State is less eager for the public to know about.

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Also see:

U.S. Worries About Airport Security After Possible ISIS ‘Inside Job’ in Egypt

TSA-agents-Getty-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Nov. 10, 2015:

Mounting suspicion that a Russian Metrojet airliner was destroyed over Egypt by a terrorist bomb, planted by an ISIS “inside man” at the airport, has led to concerns by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over possible security flaws at American airports.

This is somewhat unusual since, as CNN points out, “The U.S. has spent billions of dollars beefing-up screening of passengers with scanners and background checks.” Transportation Security Agency receives an annual budget of over $7 billion. It is fair enough to perform a review of security practices, to increase public confidence that nothing like the appalling situation at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport exists here, but the concerns cited by CNN run considerably deeper than that:

The worries in the U.S. lie partly in the fact that the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees air travel security, relies on the operators of the nation’s more than 450 airports to do the vetting of aviation workers. The airports use TSA contractors to do background checks, including checking terrorism databases, legal immigration status and criminal histories.

A U.S. official with knowledge of American aviation security and its vulnerabilities says that while U.S. security is viewed as the gold standard, the screening of workers poses cause for worry.

“(The TSA) checkpoint is only one part of it. You can lock that front door all you want, if you’ve left the back window open it doesn’t really matter,” the official said.

CNN cites a Homeland Security Inspector General report from June that worried the TSA “lacked effective controls to ensure that aviation workers did not have disqualifying criminal histories and that they possessed lawful status and the authorization to work in the United States.”

The inspector found 73 airport workers who passed background checks, but “should have been flagged for terrorism-related categories.” TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger later argued before Congress that the true number of questionable workers was 69, not 73, and the troubling information about them “wasn’t sufficient to raise known or suspected terrorist status.”

Every review of the TSA’s actual performance argues the concerns may be valid. Screeners have consistently failed to detect explosives and weapons in security tests. Now there are serious concerns about the agency’s ability to maintain personnel security at airports.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, made this point on ABC’s This Week last Sunday. “This is a problem here at home. When we test the TSA, they fail,” said Schiff. “And I think we really need to step up our security here.”

ABC News notes that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Friday that enhanced security measures would be be taken with “commercial flights bound for the U.S. from certain foreign airports.” A source told CNN those airports include Cairo, Kuwait City, and Amman, Jordan.

One official who spoke with CNN said the background checks on airport workers are comparable to those for “passengers who qualify for the TSA Precheck program, which typically allows passengers to board by walking through metal detectors instead of more invasive screening machines.”

Also see:

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One Chance is All a Terrorist Needs

150622dc

How DHS is failing to heed its own warnings.

Frontpage, by Michael Cutler, July 5, 2015:

On June 22, 2015 the ICE Newsroom posted a startling “Top Story” news release under the category, “Document and Benefit Fraud.” The title of the news release was obviously crafted to create the illusionthat a major vulnerability to U.S. national security, the threat of a terror attack, was being addressed: “ICE-DMV partnership combating identity, document fraud.”

The news release was accompanied by a poster. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine how many words the above poster is worth.

Here is how the news release begins:

If you walk into your local Department of Motor Vehicles office (DMV) on any given day, you’ll most likely find a crowd of people waiting to get a new license or updating their vehicle registration.

What many aren’t aware of is that while they’re waiting in anticipation of their number to be called there may be document and identity fraud taking place just a few feet away.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) identified a potential vulnerability in which DMV employees exploit their positions by selling DMV-issued identification documents for financial gain. The access DMV employees have to the tools and technology needed to produce identity documents has been exploited by criminals who seek these documents to mask their identities and commit crimes ranging from narcotics trafficking, firearms distribution, and murder to even terrorist acts.

With these factors in mind, in December 2009, HQ HSI Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit (IBFU) launched a national outreach campaign to raise awareness about potential employee misconduct at DMV facilities. HSI Special Agent Keith Fowler, a National Program Manager within the IBFU, was charged with implementing and overseeing the outreach campaign.

Since day one, Mr. Obama and his administration have created a larcenous narrative that was carefully crafted to skirt the nexus between immigration and the threat of terrorism. The news release is consistent with that narrative and ignores the nexus between immigration and terrorism.

The 9/11 Commission certainly made note of failures of state agencies, especially Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) that enabled a number of the terrorists who wrought such destruction to assume multiple false identities by acquiring multiple driver’s licenses. However, the 9/11 Commission made it clear that failures of components of the immigration system enabled the terrorists to enter the United States and embed themselves in the United States.

At the risk of stating the obvious, for the terrorists to game the process by which driver’s licenses are issued, they first need to enter the United States. If the terrorists could not have acquired visas and could not have entered the United States. They could not have attacked us.

Even if the terrorists had managed to enter the United States by stowing away on a ship or running our borders, but were unable to successfully defraud the immigration benefits program they could not have attacked us.

While the poster seeks to create the illusion that DHS is working aggressively to protect America and Americans, In reality, some of the greatest threats to national security are the direct result of the many failures of the DHS that fundamentally undermine national security and public safety.

To this point, the staff of attorneys and federal agents who were assigned to the 9/11 Commission issued a report known as the “9/11 and Terrorist TravelStaff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.”

This report focused specifically on the ability of the terrorists to travel around the world, enter the United States and ultimately embed themselves in the United States as they went about their deadly preparations. Page 54 contained this excerpt under the title “3.2 Terrorist Travel Tactics by Plot.”

Although there is evidence that some land and sea border entries (of terrorists) without inspection occurred, these conspirators mainly subverted the legal entry system by entering at airports.

In doing so, they relied on a wide variety of fraudulent documents, on aliases, and on government corruption. Because terrorist operations were not suicide missions in the early to mid-1990s, once in the United States terrorists and their supporters tried to get legal immigration status that would permit them to remain here, primarily by committing serial, or repeated, immigration fraud, by claiming political asylum, and by marrying Americans. Many of these tactics would remain largely unchanged and undetected throughout the 1990s and up to the 9/11 attack.

Thus, abuse of the immigration system and a lack of interior immigration enforcement were unwittingly working together to support terrorist activity. It would remain largely unknown, since no agency of the United States government analyzed terrorist travel patterns until after 9/11. This lack of attention meant that critical opportunities to disrupt terrorist travel and, therefore, deadly terrorist operations were missed.

The poster and press release above focus on how the administration is trying to convince state motor vehicle agencies to go after their corrupt officials who provide criminals with licenses they should not have. Does DHS have to convince state governments to seek to identify corrupt officials?

The irony is that DHS is providing lawful status to immigration law violators without any legal underpinning. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), the division of DHS that adjudicates all applications for various immigration benefits has provided hundreds of thousands of “DREAMERs” with official identity documents to signify that they have been granted temporary lawful status and employment authorization- without a face-to-face interview and without field investigations. This is a virtual open invitation to fraud.

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What Fireworks Does ISIS Plan for the 4th of July?

0 (5)PJ Media, by  James Jay Carafano On June 29, 2015:

What to make of reports that ISIS may try to pull off a terrorist attack on Independence Day?

Let’s look at the facts.

It is not the first time after 9/11 that U.S. authorities have expressed concerns about possible terrorist attacks timed to coincide with significant dates like the 4th of July.  In 2011, a senior U.S. official told reporters, “We have received credible information very recently about a possible plot directed at the homeland that seems to be focused on New York and Washington, D.C.,” timed for the anniversary of al Qaeda’s big attack on the two cities. Some hold that the assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi was scheduled to coincide with 9/11.   In fact, warnings of impending terror threats from authorities go back as far as 2002.

Next, we know that ISIS is active—both promoting and inspiring transnational terrorist attacks. Just last week near simultaneous assaults occurred in France, Kuwait and Tunisia.

Further, the US remains a prime target for terrorist activity.  There was another Islamist terrorist related plot uncovered last week—the third in less than a month.

Additionally, we can’t even be sure of where an attack might happen. Terrorists have contemplated hitting everything from high-profile targets in big cities to shopping malls in the suburbs.

None of that necessarily means that something bad will happen between grilling the hot dogs, cheering on the main street parades and watching the fireworks over the capitol.

Coordinating a terrorist attack to happen at a specific time and place, particularly when there will likely be heightened awareness and security, complicates the challenge of pulling off a terror strike–though those obstacles didn’t thwart two relative amateurs who bombed the Boston Marathon (and who had also considered conducting an attack on Independence Day).

Still, if an attack does occur the odds of any particular American being a victim are pretty small.  That’s cold comfort, as the real purpose of terrorist attacks is to terrorize us, killing us is just a consequence.

Best advice is to have a nice day, but take the common-sense precautions that people should always take in public. There are plenty of lists out there of the right steps to take. Read one.

The reality is that even the best security can’t child-proof a free society.  On July 4, of all days, Americans shouldn’t want it any other way. When a free society gives up on freedom the terrorists win.

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Also see:

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I’ve been searching for a good article on situational awareness and there is precious little out there. If my readers can find any please leave links in a comment. Here is an interesting one:

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Personal-security-2-Situational-awareness_0Stratfor.com series:

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Rep. Nunes: America Faces Highest Terror Threat Level Ever

ftnnunes0621-450x323Frontpage, June 25, 2015 by Michael Cutler:

Usually the first challenge I face in writing my commentaries is to come up with a concise title that captures the most salient part of the issue I am writing about. Today I found this task easy, I simply borrowed the headline from CBS News’ Face the Nation article that quoted none other than Congressional Representative Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That headline is concise and echoes the very same concerns I have had in reviewing all of the publicly available information on the issue of threats posed by international terrorists.

What is impossible to understand is how the administration, members of Congress, local and state politicians and journalists have been absolutely unwilling to “connect the impossible to ignore dots” that are flashing, not unlike the strobe lights on a police car or other emergency vehicle.

Here is the segment of the article that accompanied the headline and addressed the topic of the threat of terrorism in the United States today:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, said the nation faces “the highest threat level we have ever faced in this country” due to the flow of foreign fighters to and from Iraq and Syria and the radicalization of young people on the Internet.

U.S. officials have been warning for months about the threat posed by people from America or Western Europe who travel to the Middle East to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and then return to their home countries, where they may carry out attacks. Nunes said the U.S. is not aware of all the people who have made the trek or who have now come back, although FBI Director James Comey has said there are cases open in all 50 states.

Officials are increasingly looking for ways to combat radical jihadists’ effectiveness in recruiting supporters through social media.

“They’re very good at communicating through separate avenues where it’s very difficult to track,” he said. “That’s why when you get a young person who is willing to get into these chat rooms, go on the Internet and get radicalized, it’s something we are not only unprepared [for], we are also not used to it in this country.”

He said that investigations often “do no good” in encrypted chat rooms where those communications take place, so Americans should be diligent about reporting suspicious activity to the proper authorities because “we are having a tough time tracking terrorist cells within the United States.”

The warnings are particularly pertinent with the July 4 holiday approaching. Nunes noted that there will be large gatherings in every city across America.

“It’s just tough to secure those types of areas if you have someone who wants to blow themselves up or open fire or other threats of that nature and we just don’t know or can track all of the bad guys that are out there today,” he said.

The famed playwright, George Bernard Shaw’s statement says it all:

We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

If our leaders were to seek to learn history’s lessons they should read the appropriate history books.

The 9/11 Commission Report and the “9/11 and Terrorist TravelStaff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” are the most complete and authoritative “history books” concerning the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and even included evaluations of vulnerabilities that led to previous terror attacks — both those that succeeded and those that failed. These books were prepared by the government of the United States in response to the horrific terror attacks that left more than 3,000 innocent victims dead.

My May 22, 2015 commentary for the Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) website, “Bin Laden, The 9/11 Commission Report and Immigration,” addressed the fact that when the U.S. Navy SEALS raided the bin Laden compound, among the documents found in his library were a copy of the 9/11 Commission Report and a copy of an application for United States citizenship. It must be presumed that he had no intentions of filing for U.S. citizenship himself, but was contemplating embedding his terrorist operatives in the United States through the naturalization process.

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House Subcommittee Hearing on “Intelligence Void” involved in admitting Syrian Refugees

3927540564CSP, by Alessandra Gennarelli, June 24, 2015:

Wednesday, June 24th, the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing titled “Admitting Syrian refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat.” This hearing addressed the issue of the FBI’s inability to vet incoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees that could have terrorist ties.

Chairman Representative Peter King (R-NY) started by stating that “Americans opening doors to those who flee violence is a part of who we are” giving examples to past refugee success stories such as Albert Einstein, before summarizing the security threat in Iraq and Syria and the “vulnerabilities in the screening process.”

Rep. King went on to highlight the threat of “refugees who take advantage of the safe haven,” stating that the “savagery of ISIS” has caused the “worlds biggest refugee crisis.” He stated that the area has a “lack of stable foreign governments” and the “information and intelligence we are able to acquire is limited and often times unverifiable.”

Rep. King ended his opening statement by saying that while America “should not close [it’s] doors” it should be “thoughtful and intuitive with the most assurance that we are not importing terrorists” and that the panel testifying should “solicit recommendations on additional measures that should be taken.”

In his opening statement, Dr. Seth Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, warned that a “growing number of attacks in the US are linked back to this region” and that there are “4 million refugees based in the Syrian province.” He went on to say that Syria has the “highest number of foreign fighters, several [terrorist] groups in the region have planned to put operatives in the west including Europe, and the US intelligence understanding [in the area] is worse.” He summarized by saying that the “US does have a long standing tradition of offering asylum … however an integral part is insuring that those refugees including those in jihadist battlefields do not present a risk to safety and security in the west.”

Thomas Fuentes, former FBI Assistant Director, followed by stating that the International Police Cooperation or Interpol, is “essential in everything we do” and that lack of working partners in Syria, specifically the lack of police and government in the region, is a large reason the FBI does not have the capabilities to vet incoming refugees from the area. Thomas Fuentes stated that he has served as a member of the Executive Committee of Interpol and opened an FBI office in Baghdad, which was a crucial resource for intelligence on the area. He continued to state that a lack of government in Syria deeply affects America’s ability to gain information concerning refugees in the area.

Daveed Gartenstein- Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense Democracies, began his opening statement discussing the interest the country should have in “alleviating the situation in Syria.” He added that if a terrorist group should decide to pose a terrorist as a refugee they would have to “land in a refugee camp and get picked up in the lottery process by the UN” to be chosen to come here. He continued in saying that the radicalization process of those already in the United States is the bigger problem. He gave the example of someone in the United States who has an interest in Syria and looks at the terrorist group al- Nusra as cooperative as having an alleviated risk of radicalization than imported refugees. He also stated that the declining domestic product causes a risk in handling these problems, and that a reevaluation of the US migration policy is in order. He ended by stating that the US has a bad reputation of “not standing by those who help us” and that we need to “focus on our obligation to Iraqis and Afghans who assisted U.S. efforts in these countries.”

Rep. King then asked the panel whether Jordan could be relied upon to help in the vetting process. Fuentes answered by stating that the United States has an excellent relationship with the Jordanians and their intelligence is excellent. Dr. Jones agreed in saying that Jordan does have the best handle on the problem but that there should be a layered system in which our intelligence program follows the Jordanian vetting process, and that we should not rely on anyone else to do this process for us.

Congressman Lou Barletta (R- PA) asked, “How would you access the intelligence communities to properly vet refugees for admission?” Dr. Jones commented that Syria has far fewer human collectors, intelligence capabilities and has a much weaker ability to collect information useful for the vetting process.”

Fuentes then went on to point out that since “refugees are enemies of the state, we cannot rely on that state to vet them properly.”

The witnesses were then asked about helping these refugees in ways other than bringing them into the country. Daveed answered saying that the American public has a strong duty and that “actually addressing the situation over there is important.” He commented that we could “improve the situation in camps and provide job and educational opportunities.” He supported thinking about helping the issue in the area of origin and that it would be “the best use of money.” Fuentes agreed with providing resources “that would make camps more livable” but warned that the length of time that this aid would be provided would determine the timing of terrorism, because these groups would wait until the program ends to send their men through refugee camps.

Rep. Keating (D- MA) asked about the internal intelligence found on the ground with limited people there. Dr. Jones answered that while “capabilities are better today than a few years ago … better doesn’t mean good.”

Chairman King asked about maintaining surveillance on those entering the United States as Syrian refugees. Fuentes quickly answered saying the FBI cannot track these people “unless there is a predication or indication that the person is involved in criminal activity” and that tracking a large population such as all Syrian refugees is not plausible as the amount observed has to be narrowed down before it can be initiated. Daveed followed by saying that the US vetting system is “very antiquated.”

Chairman King concluded the hearing by saying there is currently “no real answer” to the problem, and “there is still going to be risks there no matter what process we follow.” However, it is “in our national interest that something be done and we are going to have to find a way to do it…

Investigation: Undercover agents snuck fake explosives, banned weapons past TSA

7941074_GFox News, June 1, 2015:

Undercover agents were able to sneak fake explosives and banned weapons through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, in an investigation that revealed a massive, system-wide security failure at America’s airports.

The findings were part of a DHS inspector general probe. The report is still classified, but Fox News has confirmed the investigation found security failures at dozens of airports.

Homeland Security officials confirmed to Fox News that TSA screeners failed 67 out of 70 tests — or 96 percent — carried out by special investigators known as “red teams.”

In one case, an undercover agent with a fake bomb strapped to his back set off a magnetometer — but the screener still failed to find it.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued a statement late Monday outlining a series of actions he had ordered in response to the findings, including more training for all transportation security officers, re-evaluation of airport screening equipment and continued covert testing.

“We take these findings very seriously,” he said.

The tests, and findings, were first reported by ABC News.

The tests were designed to push the boundaries of the screening system — set up after 9/11 — to prevent weapons from getting onto planes. These tests are covert and designed to be as challenging as possible.

Johnson reportedly sought a briefing on the findings last week at TSA headquarters.

“Red Team testing of the aviation security network has been part of TSA’s mission advancement for 13 years,” the DHS spokesman told Fox News in a statement. “The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security.”

The spokesman said “several” of the changes Johnson directed following the report are now in place.

“These actions are in addition to a number of security enhancements the Secretary has directed TSA to implement to our aviation and airport security since the beginning of his tenure,” the official said, stressing that all travelers are “subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of protection, both seen and unseen.”

On Capitol Hill, an aide to Senate homeland security committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said the chairman has not yet seen the full report but preliminary news reports “raise valid concerns in light of earlier inspector general findings and ‘red team’ tests of TSA’s vulnerabilities.”

The aide, said, “Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to secure our air travel system. It’s important for that goal to be met.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Matthew Dean contributed to this report.