DHS Denies Grant to Islamic Radicalization Enabler MPAC

by John Rossomando
IPT News
June 23, 2017

The Department of Homeland Security has ruled that the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) will not receive the $393,800 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant approved by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson on Jan. 13, days before Johnson left office.

The DHS released its list of grant recipients on Friday. MPAC is not on it. The change came after “DHS utilized its discretion to consider other factors and information when reviewing applicants,” a spokeswoman said in an email to the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “The Department considered whether applicants for CVE awards would partner with law enforcement, had a strong basis of prior experience in countering violent extremism, had a history of prior efforts to implement prevention programs targeting violent extremism, and were viable to continue after the end of the award period. These additional priorities were applied to the existing pool of applicants. Top scoring applications that were consistent with these priorities remained as awardees, while others did not.”

In a statement, MPAC acknowledged that working with law enforcement isn’t a priority: “Our position on this issue has consistently centered on community-led initiatives that improve mental health resources, access to counseling, and a host of other social services without the involvement or spectre of law enforcement.”

Still, it disputed the loss of the grant, saying it would consider “all legal options…”

“The exclusion of groups like MPAC point to a DHS that is ineffective in coordinating with communities and unconstitutional in its treatment of a religious minority,” the statement said. “MPAC will continue challenging the trajectory of the Trump administration’s efforts in this space by advocating for a holistic approach that empowers rather than sidelines communities, focuses on all forms of violent threats, and fosters a climate of trust over fear.”

MPAC pledged to use the money for targeted interventions under its Safe Spaces program for people at risk for radicalization. Created in 2014, Safe Spaces aims to improve relations between Muslim institutions and law enforcement.

MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati introduced the program as an alternative to law enforcement agencies using informants to infiltrate mosques. The roll out meeting included Johnson, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., and other Muslim community groups including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Al-Marayati vehemently objects to anything that involves mosques or informants in terror investigations.

“Counter-terrorism and counter-violence should be defined by us,” he said at 2005 Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference in Dallas. “We should define how an effective counter-terrorism policy should be pursued in this country. So, No. 1, we reject any effort, notion, and suggestion that Muslims should start spying on one another. Everywhere I go either somebody tells me that officials have met with them publicly or they tell me that they know who those folks are that are representing law enforcement. So we know they have communicated one way or the other with the Muslim community.

“The question is how do you deal with it in a healthy, open, transparent manner? That is why we are saying have them come in community forums, in open-dialogues, so they come through the front door and you prevent them having to come from the back door,” Al-Marayati said.

Government agencies preferred CVE programs, especially during the Obama administration. But there’s no way to measure whether they work, a Government Accountability Office report issued in April said. The GAO “was not able to determine if the United States is better off today than it was in 2011 as a result” of CVE programs.”

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management offered similar criticism during a hearing last September. The committee has “no way of gauging whether CVE efforts have been successful – or harmful – or if money is being spent wisely,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.

MPAC may have won the grant simply because it is “the most organized group,” said Heritage Foundation counterterrorism scholar Robin Simcox. But that “is going down the wrong path. Often this means giving it to some very, very divisive voices who will play into the Islamist narrative; they will play off grievances. They will encourage a feeling of segregation and otherness, and we are promoting other problems for the future.”

MPAC promotes a narrative that Muslims are victimized by a hostile non-Muslim society, Simcox said. That message helps breed terrorists.

“I think it creates an environment where these radical ideas are in the ether, and it’s no surprise to me that somebody then [would] take that final step into violence,” Simcox said.

Research backs up Simcox’s assertion.

Grievances “framed around victimhood against Western foreign policy and military intervention” are among “a kaleidoscope of factors” in fueling extremism, Swedish jihad researcher Magnus Ranstorp has found.

MPAC’s recent messaging has emphasized threats to Muslim Americans’ freedom and security, including promoting a conspiracy theory that internment camps could be revived for them. In February, MPAC posted an image of Star Trek actor George Takei, on its homepage, with the heading “Stand Up for Muslims in the U.S.” The image linked to a petition in which Takei described his experience during World War II: “When I was just 5, my family was rounded up at gunpoint from our home in Los Angeles into an internment camp. We were prisoners in our own country, held within barbed wire compounds, armed guards pointing guns down on us.”

“A Trump spokesperson recently stated the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II “sets a precedent” for Trump to do the same today,” Takei wrote. [Emphasis original]

But that spokesman, former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, had no role in the Trump transition and only spoke for himself. No one in the administration has endorsed such a scheme.

But Takei’s statement, which MPAC embraced, claimed that “Trump continues to stand by his plans to establish a Muslim registry and ban immigrants from ‘certain’ Muslim countries from the U.S. It starts with a registry, with restrictions, with irrationally ascribed guilt, and with fear. But we never know where it might lead.”

Takei didn’t start the internment analogy. “Challenging patriotis (sic) of AmMuslims is un-American – what happened to Japanese Americans-loyalty test, confiscating their wealth #CruzHearing,” Al-Marayati wrote a year ago, in a Twitter post he later deleted.

Promoting the internment conspiracy theory destroys the credibility of “soft Islamist” organizations like MPAC that don’t engage in terrorist acts themselves, yet validate the jihadist narratives, Simcox said.

Al-Marayati has long promoted the narrative that the U.S. is waging “war on Islam,” one of the most potent terrorist recruitment tropes.

He called U.S. counterterrorism policies a “war on Islam” in a 2009 interview with Al-Watan Al-Arabi. Al-Marayati also engaged in “war on Islam” rhetoric when he chided U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a year ago for using the term “radical Islam” during a hearing about the Obama administration’s avoidance of using the phrase “So @SenCruz, do you want to have a war with Islam rather than a war on terrorists?” he wrote in a tweet he later deleted.

MPAC Whitewashes Jihad

Al-Marayati appeared on C-Span in 2014, and balked when asked why Muslims weren’t speaking up against jihadism: “Well I think we’ll call this violent extremism. And one thing we have to be clear about, we should not be countering jihad,” Al-Marayati said. “Jihad to the violent extremists means holy war. But jihad in classical Islam means ‘struggle.’ So let us at least not use religious terminology in fighting groups like ISIS. It just plays into their hands. They want this to be a war on Islam, a war on religion.

“We should be at war on criminal behavior, war against terrorism.”

Al-Marayati again rejected the connection between jihad and violence during a Jan. 25 debate with American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder and President Zuhdi Jasser. Jihad is not holy war, he said, but a struggle against oneself.

“We must allow the Muslims to reclaim their faith and not let Islam be defined by the extremist distortions of Islam,” Al-Marayati said.

Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna disagreed, writing that jihad only had to do with fighting and argued that purely spiritual jihad was spurious. MPAC co-founder Maher Hathout described himself as an al-Banna disciple.

“Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one’s ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad),” al-Banna wrote in his tract On Jihad. “This narration is used by some to lessen the importance of fighting, to discourage any preparation for combat, and to deter any offering of jihad in Allah’s way. This narration is not a saheeh (sound) tradition.”

Jasser sees a dichotomy between Al-Marayati’s public rejection of violent jihad and his group’s embrace of Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood-linked cleric Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi. MPAC hosted Ghannouchi at a 2011 dinner, and Al-Marayati flew to Paris in 2013 to attend a conference with Ghannouchi. The sheikh is a member of the International Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau.

Back in 1990, Ghannouchi spoke at a conference in Tehran, Iran where he called for the “destruction of the Jews” and invoked Ayatollah Khamenei’s “call to jihad” against America, “the Great Satan.” Ghannouchi aspired to wage “worldwide jihad,” a 1991 State Department cable said. Ghannouchi still favors violent jihad, 5 endorsing the Palestinian knife jihad against Israelis in 2015.

“The central problem with MPAC … is the schizophrenia with which they deal with American issues versus how they deal with global issues,” Jasser said. “The Islamists assume Americans are not very smart, so they are going to listen to their apologetics about jihad and then not connect it to what happens when the Ghannouchis of the world get into power.”

MPAC leaders have made their own pro-terrorist and anti-Israeli statements.

Al-Marayati didn’t seem to have a problem with Hizballah calling its terror campaign against Israel “jihad” in a November 1999 interview with PBS’s Jim Lehrer.

“If the Lebanese people are resisting Israeli intransigence on Lebanese soil, then that is the right of resistance and they have the right to target Israeli soldiers in this conflict. That is not terrorism. That is a legitimate resistance. That could be called liberation movement, that could be called anything, but it’s not terrorism,” Al-Marayati said.

Similarly, MPAC Public Affairs Consultant Edina Lekovic served as managing editor of Al-Talib, the defunct newspaper of UCLA’s Muslim Student Association, when it published an editorial saying Osama bin Laden was not a terrorist in its July 1999 issue.

“When we hear someone refer to the great Mujahid (someone who struggles in Allah’s cause) Osama bin Laden a ‘terrorist,’ we should defend our brother and refer to him as a freedom fighter; someone who has forsaken wealth and power to fight in Allah’s cause and speak out against oppressors,” the unsigned editorial said.

MPAC Defends Al-Qaida and Hamas Financiers

Another hit against MPAC’s credibility is its history of apologism for terrorist financiers.

Just after 9/11, Al-Marayati painted Muslims as victims after the federal government shut down the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) on suspicion it provided material support to al-Qaida. Its leader, Enaam Arnaout, had close ties with Osama Bin Laden, court documents show.

He had similar reactions after Treasury Department asset freezes in December 2001 targeted the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), which illegally routed charity money to Hamas, and the Global Relief Foundation, which provided assistance to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.

“Selective justice is injustice – it does not help us in the war on terror and continues to project the image that the U.S. is anti-Islam,” Al-Marayati wrote in July 2002 press release posted on MPAC’s website defending all three charities.

Closing these terror-linked charities could send the message to Muslims abroad that America is intolerant of religious minorities, Al-Marayati said that October in a New York Times op-ed.

When the Treasury Department shut down the Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA) in 2004, saying it “provided direct financial support for” Osama bin Laden, Al-Marayati described it as “a bit disturbing that the announcement of shutting down another charity… [took] place just before the month of Ramadan in the peak of the election season.”

Arnaout pleaded guilty to violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and acknowledged that his group hid the fact it used a portion of its donations to fund terrorists overseas.

HLF’s leaders were convicted of providing material support to Hamas in 2008.

MPAC’s magazine, The Minaret, cast these charity closures in an anti-Semitic light in a political cartoon it published in its March 2002 issue. It shows President George W. Bush doing the bidding of Israel and the Anti-Defamation League knocking down a building with a foundation labeled “Islamic Foundations (Holy Land, Global Relief, etc.” The top of the building being knocked down says, “Relief for Muslim Orphans” and “Support for U.S. Muslim Free Speech.”

This was not an isolated incident. A January 2000 Minaret cartoon showed “The West” apologizing for the Holocaust and handing over money to an old woman holding a cane with the label “Jewish holocaust.” At the same time, an Arab wearing a keffiyeh labeled “Palestine” says, “Ahem ‘scuse me” followed by a person with a crutch and bandaged foot labeled “Indian genocide” and a black person emblazoned with “African slavery.”

During the 2006 Israeli war with Hizballah in Lebanon Al-Marayati similarly diminished the Holocaust.

“And as far as the Holocaust is concerned, we’ve come out very clearly saying that the Holocaust is the worst genocide, war crime, in the 20th century. We’re against Holocaust denial, but we’re also against people who exploit that as a way of shoving this kind of war propaganda and dehumanization of the Arab peoples and the Muslim peoples as if they have to pay the price for what Nazi Germany did to the Jews back in the 20th century,” Al-Marayati said in an interview.

“MPAC’s default position is that the government is on a witch hunt against Muslims, and that any identification of organizations or non-profits doing quote end quote humanitarian work must be anti-Muslim if they are identified as a terror group,” Jasser said. “And if they are found to support terror, they say they are not the rule; they are the exception.”

MPAC’s statements and actions suggest that DHS’s decision to rescind Johnson’s decision to award the CVE grant was the right thing to do.

Trump Continues Obama DHS Policy of Engaging CAIR

IPT, by John Rossomando  •  May 17, 2017:

Donald Trump might be the president of the United States, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to treat the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a credible outreach partner.

Its officials participated in DHS town hall discussions in Miami and Tampa, CAIR-Florida announced Thursday.

A discussion at Miami-Dade College included Veronica Venture, the outgoing DHS acting officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Kareem Shora, section chief of the DHS Community Engagement Section.

Venture and Shora are both holdovers from the Obama administration.

Shora enjoys close relations with CAIR-FL, organizing multiple events with the group on DHS’s behalf. He helped organize a December training event for visiting French police officials with CAIR-FL in conjunction with the State Department.

This marks the latest example of DHS’s partnering with CAIR as a Muslim community liaison partner despite its well-documented connection to Hamas – a tie that caused the FBI to sever similar outreach in 2008. CAIR officials have worked to discourage Muslims from cooperating with the FBI.

Both Shora and CAIR oppose to President Trump’s vocal support for Israel and desire to counter Islamic terrorism.

Shora urged the U.S. to stop shipping weapons to Israel during its 2006 war with Hizballah because Lebanese civilians we “getting bombed.” As executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Shora claimed in 2009 that Muslim charities fell victim to “undue scrutiny” from law enforcement in the effort to cut off funding terrorist groups. He also called the portrayal of Muslims as more “vulnerable” to terrorist recruitment an “unfortunate reality.”

The two Florida DHS programs indicate that the Trump administration has yet to change course on the Obama administration’s controversial Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. The government has no way of telling whether these outreach programs work, the General Accountability Office (GAO) noted in an April report.

In Tampa, DHS allowed CAIR-FL Executive Director Hassan Shibly to participate in a roundtable with local law enforcement. Shibly played a key role in the December outreach event with the French police along with Shora. He also has made his share of radical statements.

He accuses FBI agents of unjustly killing a Muslim suspect who attacked them after questioning. After independent investigations found no evidence of wrongdoing, Shibly repeated the accusation and is helping the family sue the FBI.

He also opposes FBI sting operations as an “entrapment program targeting the Muslim community” and a form of tyranny that strayed away from the “great ideals of liberty, equality and justice.”

FBI Investigating Radical Terrorists in All 50 States as Threats Hit Peak

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly / Getty Images

Robert Spencer has a very good comment on this article. I’m wondering why the word “radical” needs to be used as a qualifier for  the word terrorist.

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 18, 2017:

Federal authorities have open investigations into radical Islamic terrorists in all 50 states, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which is warning that the threat of terrorism in the United States has reached an all time high with radicalized individuals in the country plotting to strike “each and every single day.”

The FBI has “open terrorist investigations in all 50 states,” according to DHS Secretary John Kelly, who disclosed on Tuesday that there have been at least 37 “ISIS-linked plots to attack our country” since 2013, a number that shows no signs of diminishing.

Kelly, in his first wide-ranging public address on the threat of terrorism in America since taking office, warned that America’s borders remain wide-open and that there is evidence terror-linked individuals are exploiting these national security weaknesses and entering the United States.

“We don’t know their intentions,” Kelly said during an address at George Washington University. “We don’t know why they’re here or why they’re coming. We are completely blind to what they’re capable of.”

Terrorist also continues to sprout inside American communities across the country, according to Kelly, who said that in just the past year, there have been “36 homegrown terrorist cases in 18 states.”

“We’ve seen an unprecedented spike in homegrown terrorism,” Kelly disclosed. “These are the cases we know about—homegrown terrorism is notoriously difficult to predict and control.”

Terrorists in the United States are plotting attacks “every single day,” according to Kelly.

“I tell you, without exaggeration, they try to carry out this mission each and every single day and no one can tell you how to stop it. No one,” he said.

The United States, he continued, is “under attack” from a wide variety of bad actors, including “failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals.”

“And we are under attack every single day,” he said. “The threats are relentless.”

Those who slip over the border undetected, including criminals and potential radicalized terrorists, pose an unparalleled threat to the country.

“We don’t get to vet them,” Kelly said. “We don’t know their intentions. We don’t know they’re here. They slip into our country unnoticed, living among us, and we are completely blind as to what they are capable of.”

These threats just scrape the surface of the danger posed to America by terrorists inside and outside of the country, Kelly said.

“This is all bad news, but it gets much worse,” he explained. “Experts estimate that perhaps 10,000 citizens of Europe have joined the caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Thousands more are from nations in Asia, Africa and the Western Hemisphere. They have learned how to make IEDs, employ drones to drop ordnance, and acquired experience on the battlefield that by all reports they are bringing back home.”

These highly trained terrorist fighters are likely to return to their countries of origin and “wreak murderous havoc” across Europe, Asia, and the United States, among other countries.

America lacks the ability to properly vet these individuals when they attempt to enter the country, according to Kelly, who warned that scores of radicalized individuals are trying each day to enter America.

“Many are citizens of countries in our Visa Waiver Program, they can more easily travel to the United States which makes us a prime target for their exported violence,” he said.

The threat to America “has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is as threatening today as it was that September morning almost 16 years ago,” Kelly warned.

“We are under attack from terrorists both within and outside of our borders,” he said. “They are without conscience, and they operate without rules. They despise the United States, because we are a nation of rights, laws, and freedoms. They have a single mission, and that is our destruction.”

’60 Minutes’ Whitewashes Massive FBI Failure in 2015 ISIS Texas Terror Attack

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, March 26, 2017:

“Complexities.”

That’s the excuse invoked at the end of a 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday evening to explain why the FBI failed to stop two ISIS-inspired terrorists in direct contact with two ISIS terror recruiters. The attackers rolled up in a car loaded with guns and ammunition to the “Draw Mohammad” cartoon contest event in Garland, Texas, on May 3, 2015:

What 60 Minutes, fronted by Anderson Cooper and echoed in an interview with Seamus Hughes of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, explains is that FBI sources are stretched so thin that there’s no possible way to devote resources to every single potential threat.

I’ll grant that FBI counter-terrorism resources are overloaded WAY BEYOND capacity. That’s an appropriate and warranted discussion for policymakers to address. Also, in the real world of law enforcement, there are indeed many “complexities” during a case that lead to some very important investigative clues being missed — especially when FBI resources are overstretched beyond capacity.

But these “complexities” don’t even remotely begin to explain the massive failure by the FBI in this particular case. Like a blanket that’s too short that you can never turn the right way to cover everything, invoking “complexities” to explain the FBI failure in the attempted Garland attack doesn’t cover the very issues raised by 60 Minutes in their own report. Yet “complexities” is all that 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, and Seamus Hughes give viewers.

So here’s the real clarity in this story: at the time of the Garland attack, as the two terrorists, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, were traveling in their car loaded with guns and ammo, they were being closely tailed by an undercover FBI agent (not an informant — an actual FBI agent) whom they had previously been in contact with on social media.

The undercover agent even snapped pictures of the attack site just seconds before Simpson and Soofi jumped out of their car with guns blazing:

60 Minutes helpfully provides the undercover FBI agent’s picture taken seconds before the attack showing two individuals, including a police officer, who were shot at by the pair:

And they provide a helpful graphic of how close the undercover FBI agent was tailing Simpson and Soofi (see the terrorists’ car turning into the Curtis Culwell Center, and the FBI undercover agent following immediately behind):

And yet, according to a statement provided to 60 Minutes, the FBI claims they had no advanced knowledge of the attack:

We wanted to ask the FBI those same questions. But the bureau would not agree to an interview. All the FBI would give us was this email statement. It reads: “There was no advance knowledge of a plot to attack the cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas.”

This is not even remotely believable.

The information about the undercover FBI agent being at the scene was already known before the 60 Minutes broadcast, given some details were included in court documents for a related terrorism case in Ohio this past August:

I noted that here at PJ Media, while mentioning the (at that point) dozen “Known Wolf” terror cases during the Obama administration:

But the FBI undercover agent being at the Garland attack site was more than coincidence. In fact, the FBI agent had been in contact with Simpson on social media in the three weeks prior to the attack, and at one point had even told Simpson to “tear up Texas,” as the attorney in the Ohio case explained to 60 Minutes:

Anderson Cooper: After the trial, you discovered that the government knew a lot more about the Garland attack than they had let on?

Dan Maynard: That’s right. Yeah. After the trial we found out that they had had an undercover agent who had been texting with Simpson, less than three weeks before the attack, to him “Tear up Texas.” Which to me was an encouragement to Simpson.

The man he’s talking about was a special agent of the FBI, working undercover posing as an Islamic radical.  The government sent attorney Dan Maynard 60 pages of declassified encrypted messages between the agent and Elton Simpson — and argued “Tear up Texas” was not an incitement. But Simpson’s response was incriminating, referring to the attack against cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: “bro, you don’t have to say that … ” He wrote “you know what happened in Paris … so that goes without saying. No need to be direct.”

Again, this is information that was reported months ago:

The FBI isn’t too interested in answering questions about their undercover agent’s encrypted communications with would-be Garland killer Elton Simpon, as Daily Beast reporter Katie Zavadski found out when she asked them directly:

Press officers for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, the Cleveland FBI Office, and the Department of Justice declined to comment beyond the affidavit. FBI spokeswoman Carol Cratty hung up on The Daily Beast after being asked about the “tear up Texas” text.

Complexities. But as the late Billy Mays would say: “But wait! There’s more!”

Unmentioned in the 60 Minutes report: the FBI sent a bulletin to Garland police hours before the event warning that Simpson — whom the Justice Department had already unsuccessfully prosecuted previously for his role in a terror cell — might be on his way to the Garland event, even including his photo and his license plate number:

FBI Director James Comey even admitted they had information, saying:

We developed information just hours before the event that Simpson might be interested in going to Garland.

Garland police claim they never saw the FBI’s bulletin. But 60 Minutes never bothers to mention it at all.

Also unmentioned was the considerable online chatter in ISIS circles about the event, and in some cases directly threatening it.

As I reported exclusively here at PJ Media at the time, what initiated most of the chatter was the attempt by the only two Muslim members of Congress — Keith Ellison and Andre Carson — to prevent Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders from attending the event:

The chatter began when news broke that two Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, had appealed to Secretary of State John Kerry to deny entry into the U.S. for Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.

Wilders was scheduled to be the featured speaker at Sunday’s cartoon contest.

One law enforcement source who was monitoring potential threats to the event told PJ Media the following:

[Ellison and Carson] clearly set things off. Nothing was being said until that news story came out, and then the usual suspects began to talk about it. By the time the weekend rolled around, there were clear and identifiable incitements calling for an attack on the event.

So there was considerable ISIS chatter about the event, even incitement calling for an attack on the event. That concerned the Texas Department of Public Safety so much they committed considerable resources, including creating what one Texas DPS described to me as “a death trap” for anyone who attempted to attack the event.

The online chatter caused no concern for the FBI or any other federal agency. Again, as I reported exclusively, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent out a “Joint Intelligence Bulletin” to law enforcement four days before the Garland event dismissing any threat:

Their reasoning was astounding:

Although past events involving the alleged defamation of Islam and the prophet, Muhammad, have resulted in threats or overt acts of violence overseas, we have not yet seen such violence in the United States. The most frequent reaction among US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) is discussion and verbal disapproval via online communication platforms, including websites with violent extremist content and social media sites.† We assess it is unlikely that any one event perceived to defame Islam would alone mobilize HVEs to violence.

Because such an attack had not happened here yet, as it had just four months prior in the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it was unlikely to happen here, the FBI and DHS said.

The FBI and virtually all federal agencies were following a narrative enforced by the Obama White House that ISIS was the “JV team” and posed no domestic terror threat to the United States. That’s not where the facts led, but it was the narrative blinders that the FBI and Director James Comey were willing to assume.

How much of that narrative enforcement is still in place? No one really knows, and 60 Minutes doesn’t bother to ask.

So at this point we have:

  • An undercover FBI agent tailing the Garland terror attackers to the Draw Muhammed event
  • The FBI agent in direct communication with Elton Simpson telling him to “Tear up Texas”
  • The FBI sending Garland police a bulletin with Simpson’s picture and license plate warning he may show up hours before the attack
  • Considerable online chatter by ISIS operatives, including direct incitement calling for an attack on the event

For those outside the political/media establishment bubble, these might seem to be really important investigative clues that raise serous concerns about the FBI’s claims they had no prior warning to the Garland attack. But for 60 Minutes and Seamus Hughes of GWU’s Program on Extremism, all their viewers are left with in conclusion are … “complexities”:

The FBI’s actions around this foiled attack offer a rare glimpse into the complexities faced by those fighting homegrown extremism. Today, the battle often begins online where identifying terrorists can be the difference between a massacre, and the one that never occurred in Garland, Texas.

Anderson Cooper: People brag about stuff. People talk big. One of the difficulties for the FBI is trying to figure out who’s just talking and who actually may execute an attack.

Seamus Hughes: That’s the hardest part when you talk about this, right. There’s a lot of guys who talk about how great ISIS is. It’s very hard to tell when someone crosses that line. And in most of the cases, you see the FBI has some touchpoint with those individuals beforehand. There had been an assessment, a preliminary investigation or a full investigation. It’s just very hard to know when somebody decides to jump.

It should come as no surprise that Seamus Hughes trains FBI officials in knowing when somebody decides to jump.

Yes, that’s right. 60 Minutes turned to, as its sole outside “expert,” one of the FBI’s own advisers and terrorism training instructors.

That said, let me suggest that when one of your undercover agents is tailing a car with two ISIS operatives, including one you’ve already tried unsuccessfully to put in prison on previous terrorism charges, loaded with guns and ammunition and headed towards an event that has been targeted by ISIS supporters on social media: that might be an indication that somebody is prepared to jump.

Ironically, after their Garland attack whitewash, 60 Minutes continued their broadcast with a segment on “Fake News”:

However, Hughes’ colleagues over at the GWU “Project on Extremism” seemed pretty happy with how it all turned out:

No doubt a contract for FBI training is on its way to GWU right now.

Electronic Devices to be Banned in Cabin on Certain U.S.-Bound Flights

A Qatari passenger walks to the check-in area inside Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, on May 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, March 21, 2017:

Two affected airlines leaked the news Monday that the United States will announce a ban on electronic devices other than a cell phone in cabins of U.S.-bound flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries.

Royal Jordanian tweeted that all such devices, including laptops, handheld video games, cameras and tablets, would have to be put in checked baggage starting today. The airline then deleted the message, subsequently tweeting, “Further updates will be announced soon regarding #electronicsban.” Saudi Airlines also posted an announcement with the new guidelines, adding Kindles to the banned list, and the kingdom’s official news agency reported on it as well.

Citing an unnamed U.S. official, the Associated Press reported that the indefinite ban will apply to nonstop flights from international airports in Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Doha, Riyadh, Jeddah, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The rules won’t apply to U.S. airlines coming from the Middle East, but only foreign carriers coming from affected countries.

The Transportation Security Administration reportedly was in charge of disseminating the new rules. There was reportedly early confusion about whether flight crews are affected under the ban as well.

A federal official, who said the ban was in response to an unspecified threat assessment, told NBC News that Royal Jordanian leaked the news too early, and may not have relayed the details correctly.

The Department of Homeland Security had not issued any release on the guidelines; a spokesman told the Guardian that “we have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.” An official announcement is now expected today, the same day the rules go into effect.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN on Monday evening that his panel had not been briefed on the ban or reason behind it, but “the Department of Homeland Security is looking at this issue.”

“We do all know from other news reports of not just about this, that there has been some concern for some time about electronic items being used to hide explosive devices and their threats to airline traffic,” Turner said.

The congressman added, “When you look at, you know, how, you know, those who seek to do us home have progressed, everything from the shoe bomber forward, you know, this is all about getting the intelligence we need, applying it to, you know, the type of protections and interventions that we can do, and then trying to lessen that threat and this certainly sounds like it can be part of that.”

***

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U.S. Bans Laptops, Tablets from Cabins on Flights from Middle East – Breitbart

Washington (AFP) – The United States warned Tuesday that extremists plan to target passenger jets with bombs hidden in electronic devices, and banned carrying them onto flights from 10 Middle East airports.

Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from eight countries had been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am (0700 GMT), to ban devices bigger than a cellphone or smartphone from the cabin.

Laptops, tablets and portable game consoles are affected by the ban — which applies to direct flights to the United States — but they may still be stowed in the hold in checked baggage.

Passengers on approximately 50 flights per day from some of the busiest hubs in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa will be obliged to follow the new emergency ruling.

“The restrictions are in place due to evaluated intelligence and we think it’s the right thing to do and the right places to do it to secure the safety of the traveling public,” one US official said.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, refused to discuss the “intelligence information” that led the Transportation Security Administration to issue the order.

But one said that concerns had been “heightened by several successful events and attacks on passenger lanes and airports over the last years.”

– No end date –

The official would not go into detail about which attacks had raised fears, but did cite an incident from February of last year in which suspected Somali Islamists blew a hole in the side of Daallo Airlines passenger jet with a small device. Only the bomber was killed and the plane landed safely.

CNN quoted a US official as saying the ban was believed to be related to a threat posed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP.

“Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items,” an official said.

The airports touched by the ban are Queen Alia International in Amman, Jordan; Cairo International in Egypt; Ataturk in Istanbul, Turkey; King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; King Khalid International in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait International; Mohammed V International in Casablanca, Morocco; Hamad International in Doha, Qatar; and the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports in the United Arab Emirates.

No US carriers make direct flights from these airports, so they are unaffected by the ban, which will hit Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The airlines and their host governments have already been informed of the order by US officials, and some of them have begun informing passengers about the restriction.

Airlines will be responsible for policing the cabin ban, and if they fail to do so could lose their rights to operate US routes.

No end date has been put on the order, and officials would not say whether the restriction might spread to other airports.

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security

joscelynLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | February 28, 2017 | tjoscelyn@gmail.com | @thomasjoscelyn

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee Counterterrorism and Intelligence, on the future of counterterrorism and addressing the evolving threat to domestic security.

Chairman King, Ranking Member Rice, and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. The terrorist threat has evolved greatly since the September 11, 2001 hijackings. The U.S. arguably faces a more diverse set of threats today than ever. In my written and oral testimony, I intend to highlight both the scope of these threats, as well as some of what I think are the underappreciated risks.

My key points are as follows:

– The U.S. military and intelligence services have waged a prolific counterterrorism campaign to suppress threats to America. It is often argued that because no large-scale plot has been successful in the U.S. since 9/11 that the risk of such an attack is overblown. This argument ignores the fact that numerous plots, in various stages of development, have been thwarted since 2001. Meanwhile, Europe has been hit with larger-scale operations. In addition, the U.S. and its allies frequently target jihadists who are suspected of plotting against the West. America’s counterterrorism strategy is mainly intended to disrupt potentially significant operations that are in the pipeline.

-Over the past several years, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies claim to have struck numerous Islamic State (or ISIS) and al Qaeda “external operatives” in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. These so-called “external operatives” are involved in anti-Western plotting. Had they not been targeted, it is likely that at least some of their plans would have come to fruition. Importantly, it is likely that many “external operatives” remain in the game, and are still laying the groundwork for attacks in the U.S. and the West.

-In addition, the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to adapt new messages in an attempt to inspire attacks abroad. U.S. law enforcement has been forced to spend significant resources to stop “inspired” plots. As we all know, some of them have not been thwarted. The Islamic State’s caliphate declaration in 2014 heightened the threat of inspired attacks, as would-be jihadists were lured to the false promises of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause.

-The Islamic State also developed a system for “remote-controlling” attacks in the West and elsewhere. This system relies on digital operatives who connect with aspiring jihadis via social media applications. The Islamic State has had more success with these types of small-scale operations in Europe. But as I explain in my written testimony, the FBI has uncovered a string of plots inside the U.S. involving these same virtual planners.

-The refugee crisis is predominately a humanitarian concern. The Islamic State has used migrant and refugee flows to infiltrate terrorists into Europe. Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda could seek to do the same with respect to the U.S., however, they have other means for sneaking jihadists into the country as well. While some terrorists have slipped into the West alongside refugees, the U.S. should remain focused on identifying specific threats.

-More than 15 years after 9/11, al Qaeda remains poorly understood. Most of al Qaeda’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in several countries. But as al Qaeda’s insurgency footprint has spread, so has the organization’s capacity for plotting against the West. On 9/11, al Qaeda’s anti-Western plotting was primarily confined to Afghanistan, with logistical support networks in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Testifying before the Senate in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper warned that the al Qaeda threat to the West now emanates from multiple countries. Clapper testified that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” To this list we can add Yemen. And jihadists from Africa have been involved in anti-Western plotting as well. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S. from Afghanistan.

Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to seek ways to inspire terrorism inside the U.S. and they are using both new and old messages in pursuit of this goal.

The jihadists have long sought to inspire individuals or small groups of people to commit acts of terrorism for their cause. Individual terrorists are often described as “lone wolves,” but that term is misleading. If a person is acting in the name of a global, ideological cause, then he or she cannot be considered a “lone wolf,” even if the individual in question has zero contact with others. In fact, single attackers often express their support for the jihadists’ cause in ways that show the clear influence of propaganda.

Indeed, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) first began to aggressively market the idea of “individual” or “lone” operations years ago. AQAP’s Inspire magazine is intended to provide would-be jihadists with everything they could need to commit an attack without professional training or contact. Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP ideologue who was fluent in English, was an especially effective advocate for these types of plots. Despite the fact that Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011, his teachings remain widely available on the internet.

The Islamic State capitalized on the groundwork laid by Awlaki and AQAP. In fact, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s operation took these ideas and aggressively marketed them with an added incentive. Al Qaeda has told its followers that it wants to eventually resurrect an Islamic caliphate. Beginning in mid-2014, the Islamic State began to tell its followers that it had already done so in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate has also instructed followers that it would be better for them to strike inside their home countries in the West, rather than migrate abroad for jihad. The Islamic State has consistently marketed this message.

In May 2016, for instance, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani told followers that if foreign governments “have shut the door of hijrah [migration] in your faces,” then they should “open the door of jihad in theirs,” meaning in the West. “Make your deed a source of their regret,” Adnani continued. “Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them.”

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State,” Adnani told his audience, “then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” Adnani told jihadists that they should “not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land,” nor should they “underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahidin and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”

The Islamic State continued to push this message after Adnani’s death in August 2016.

In at least several cases, we have seen individual jihadists who were first influenced by Awlaki and AQAP gravitate to the Islamic State’s cause. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife were responsible for the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino massacre. They pledged allegiance to Baghdadi on social media, but Farook had drawn inspiration from Awlaki and AQAP’s Inspire years earlier.

Omar Mateen swore allegiance to Baghdadi repeatedly on the night of his assault on a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. However, a Muslim who knew Mateen previously reported to the FBI that Mateen was going down the extremist path. He told the FBI in 2014 that Mateen was watching Awlaki’s videos. It was not until approximately two years later, in early June 2016, that Mateen killed 49 people and wounded dozens more in the name of the supposed caliphate.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man who allegedly planted bombs throughout New York and New Jersey in September 2016, left behind a notebook. In it, Rahami mentioned Osama bin Laden, “guidance” from Awlaki, an also referenced Islamic State spokesman Adnani. Federal prosecutors wrote in the complaint that Rahami specifically wrote about “the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This was Adnani’s key message, and remains a theme in Islamic State propaganda.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that other individuals who sought to support the Islamic State were first exposed to Awlaki’s teachings as well.

These cases demonstrate that the jihadis have developed a well of ideas from which individual adherents can draw, but it may take years for them to act on these beliefs, if they ever act on them at all. There is no question that the Islamic State has had greater success of late in influencing people to act in its name. But al Qaeda continues to produce recruiting materials and to experiment with new concepts for individual attacks as well.

Al Qaeda and its branches have recently called for revenge for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in a U.S. prison earlier this month. Rahman was convicted by a U.S. court for his involvement in plots against New York City landmarks in the mid-1990s. Since then, al Qaeda has used Rahman’s “will” to prophesize his death and to proactively blame the U.S. for it. Approximately 20 years after al Qaeda first started pushing this theme, Rahman finally died. Al Qaeda’s continued use of Rahman’s prediction, which is really just jihadist propaganda, demonstrates how these groups can use the same concepts for years, whether or not the facts are consistent with their messaging. Al Qaeda also recently published a kidnapping guide based on old lectures by Saif al Adel, a senior figure in the group. Al Adel may or may not be currently in Syria. Al Qaeda is using his lectures on kidnappings and hostage operations as a way to potentially teach others how to carry them out. The guide was published in both Arabic and English, meaning that al Qaeda seeks an audience in the West for al Adel’s designs.

Both the Islamic State and AQAP also continue to produce English-language magazines for online audiences. The 15th issue of Inspire, which was released last year, provided instructions for carrying out “professional assassinations.” AQAP has been creating lists of high-profile targets in the U.S. and elsewhere that they hope supporters will use in selecting potential victims. AQAP’s idea is to maximize the impact of “lone” attacks by focusing on wealthy businessmen or other well-known individuals. AQAP has advocated for, and praised, indiscriminate attacks as well. But the group has critiqued some attacks (such as the Orlando massacre at a LGBT nightclub) for supposedly muddying the jihadists’ message. AQAP is trying to lay the groundwork for more targeted operations. For example, the January 2015 assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris was set in motion by al Qaeda and AQAP. Inspire even specifically identified the intended victims beforehand. Al Qaeda would like individual actors, with no foreign ties, to emulate such precise hits.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has lowered the bar for what is considered a successful attack, pushing people to use cars, knives, or whatever weapons they can get in their hands. The Islamic State claimed that both the September 2016 mall stabbings in Minnesota and the vehicular assault at Ohio State University in November 2016 were the work of its “soldiers.” It may be the case that there were no digital ties between these attackers and the Islamic State. However, there is often more to the story of how the Islamic State guides such small-scale operations.

The Islamic State has sought to carry out attacks inside the U.S. via “remote-controlled” terrorists.

A series of attacks in Europe and elsewhere around the globe have been carried out by jihadists who were in contact, via social media applications, with Islamic State handlers in Syria and Iraq. The so-called caliphate’s members have been able to remotely guide willing recruits through small-scale plots that did not require much sophistication. These plots targeted victims in France, Germany, Russia, and other countries. In some cases, terrorists have received virtual support right up until the moment of their attack. The Islamic State has had more success orchestrating “remote-controlled” plots in Europe, but the jihadist group has also tried to carry out similar plots inside the U.S.

Read more

***

Homeland Security Committee:

Multiple terrorist networks actively plot attacks against the United States, and American interests, or encourage adherents to conduct inspired attacks inside the U.S Homeland without specific direction. Though significant progress has been made in improving American counterterrorism efforts since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, challenges persist. Over the last several years, the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence (CT&I) has continually worked to identify and address these weaknesses and improve U.S. domestic security. This hearing provides an opportunity to examine the continued evolution of the terrorist threat and review recommendations for improvement from national security experts.

OPENING STATEMENTS

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), Subcommittee Chairman
Opening Statement

WITNESSES

Mr. Edward F. Davis
Chief Executive Officer
Edward Davis, LLC
Witness Testimony

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
Witness Testimony

Mr. Robin Simcox
Margaret Thatcher Fellow
Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
The Heritage Foundation
Witness Testimony

Mr. Peter Bergen
Vice President, Director
International Security and Fellows Programs
New American
Witness Testimony

Four Muslim Groups Reject US Counter-Terror Funding

Four Minnesota youth from the Somali community who were convicted of terrorism-related offenses.

Four Minnesota youth from the Somali community who were convicted of terrorism-related offenses.

For these groups, their image is a higher priority than actually fighting radical Islam and helping their communities.

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, February 13, 2017:

In a revealing trend, four nonprofits groups involved with the Muslim-American community have rejected federal funding for countering violent extremism. For these groups, their image — as well as making a political point – is a higher priority than fighting radical Islam and helping their communities.

The four Muslim groups had been privileged to receive Homeland Security grants to support their efforts to “counter violent extremism,” a generic and politically-correct term that the Obama Administration used to avoid verbiage related to Islam.

Now, these groups are willing to sacrifice that funding and cut their programs just to stick it to President Trump. Their form of protest is not to use their voices, but to try to show how bad President Trump is by increasing the suffering and danger for their constituents and country more broadly.

An organization for Somali youth in Minnesota named Ka Joog is rejecting $500,000 that was supposed to promote education, prevent radicalization, drug use and other harmful activities. Whether you agree with the premise that radicalization is caused by those problems or not, the fact is that Ka Joog chose to deny help to Somali youth in need.

Apparently unaware of how ridiculous his sentence sounded, executive director Mohamed Farah said the decision was made because President Trump is “promoting a cancerous ideology.” Yes, he actually said he’d decline an opportunity to fight the cancerous ideology of radical Islam because he is offended by the so-called “cancerous ideology” of President Trump.

One local Somali activist with a record of standing against radical Islam, Omar Jamal, said he disagrees with President Trump but “the community desperately needs the money” and it’s better to work with the government as best you can, regardless of politics.

A group in Michigan, Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities, won’t take $500,000 because it believes President Trump’s counter-extremism programs involve spying on Muslims. The group provided no evidence that accepting the money would actually require them to do that.

The organization’s programs involve public health, human services, youth development and education. They will suffer because of a hypothetical requirement that hasn’t happened yet or even been proposed by the Trump Administration.

The third group to join in, Unity Productions Foundation of Virginia, was offered $400,000 to develop films featuring Islamic scholars condemning terrorism and Muslim-Americans contributing to society.

Muslim-American leadership regularly complains that Islamic condemnations of terrorism do not get adequate attention and the public doesn’t seeing how Muslim-Americans are a positive part of the country.

This group was given a whopping $400,000 to do just that—but instead, it is responding to President Trump’s alleged anti-Muslim sentiment by rejecting money from his administration to combat anti-Muslim sentiment.

That makes absolutely no sense.

The Bayan Claremont Islamic school in California is the latest to join the trend, turning down $800,000 that was to be given to “improve interreligious cooperation, civic engagement and social justice.” About $250,000 of that would have been transferred to a dozen other nonprofits doing work for the Muslim-American community.

The school’s faculty includes some controversial Islamic leaders accused of spreading radicalism and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The staff includes Imam Suhaib Webb, Omid Safi and Ihsan Bagby.

Its president, Jihad Turk, said it was partially a response to reported plans by the Trump Administration to rename the Countering Violent Extremism programs to a title identifying radical Islam as the focus.

Keep in mind, Trump’s controversial plans—the travel pause (derided as a “Muslim ban”) designed to identify threats of radical Islam—don’t alter these services. These policies do not stop these groups from combating extremism on their own or from providing charity to those in need. You don’t have to agree with your president to help others and work to protect your country to the best of your ability.

By this logic, schools that dislike Education Secretary Betsy DeVos should punish their students by turning away federal funding.

Another element is at play here: Pressure from Islamists and their allies.

Fox News reports that two of the nonprofits “said they were rejecting grants they had already been awarded under the program because of concerns that it could damage their credibility or come with uncomfortable strings attached.”

Such attacks can make the Trump Administration lose Muslim partners, enabling Islamists to rally the community together like a single political party under their helm. An added bonus is that any danger and controversy that arises from the severed relationships can be blamed on Trump’s policies that these Muslim groups sabotaged.

The good news is that there are plenty of non-profits, including Muslim ones with an unequivocal stand against Islamism that deserve the grant money. These organizations generally lack financial support from which to build a network, provide services, etc.

If certain Muslim nonprofits choose to put politics and ego above fighting extremism, then there are plenty of other options for these grants.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.