Who are the top candidates to replace Gen. John Kelly at DHS?

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, Aug. 2, 2017:

With the appointment of Gen. John Kelly as President Trump’s chief of staff, the top vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security has again opened up.

Since the George W. Bush administration created the DHS in 2001, the DHS secretary has engaged in a variety of roles. But in the Trump era thus far, the department has seemingly been refined to focus on border security, illegal immigration, and Islamic terror issues.

Here’s a look at the potential candidates to become the next homeland security chief.

Rick Perry

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Energy Secretary Rick Perry has emerged as a possibility for the post. His position on immigration, however, might disagree with president’s nationalist base. As governor of Texas, Perry supported programs that allowed illegal immigrants to obtain in-state tuition. In the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Perry controversially said his rivals didn’t have enough “heart” on the immigration issue.

Rep. Michael McCaul

Before Gen. Kelly was appointed as DHS head, Texas Rep. Michael McCaul was rumored as a frontrunner for the post. McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, is regarded by immigration hawks as a “pro-amnesty” politician who isn’t liable to make good on President Trump’s campaign promise to secure the border. Nonetheless, Politico recently described McCaul as a “leading candidate” for the job, citing several White House officials.

Jeff Sessions

The sitting attorney general and former Alabama senator has fallen out of favor with the president, leading some to believe he would be better suited at DHS. Sessions has long been seen as an ally to the president’s nationalist supporters on border security and immigration.

Elaine Duke

While the search for an official replacement continues, deputy secretary Elaine Duke will continue to lead DHS as its acting director. She has worked in government (in both Democrat and Republican administrations) for almost 30 years as a civil servant.

Kris Kobach

Like AG Sessions, the Kansas secretary of state is a border and immigration hawk. He is currently leading President Trump’s commission on voter fraud.

Who else?

Other reported candidates for the position include Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, acting ICE director Thomas Homanformer DHS deputy secretary James Loy, and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Before Trump assumed office, potential nominees for the post originally included Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, N.J. Governor Chris Christie, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, California Rep. Duncan Hunter, former Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Smith Walker, Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, and Ambassador John Bolton.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.

White House keeps failed ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program

Department of State | Flickr

GEORGE SELIM PROMOTES NARRATIVE THAT ISIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM.

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, July 29, 2017:

The Trump White House continues to support a failed counter-extremism office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that engages fringe Islamic activists while rejecting Muslim reformers.

The promotion of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) was initiated by the Obama administration as an approach to stopping radicalization from within vulnerable communities. CVE resources mostly focused on Islamic radicalism, but did not officially recognize the Islamic component due to the former administration’s politically correct approach.

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on “Combatting Homegrown Extremism.” One of the panelists at the hearing, George Selim, is the director of “Countering Violent Extremism” at DHS. His office was established by the Obama administration in 2015. Before Selim went over to DHS, he was a lead figure in the National Security Council, working alongside Ben Rhodes and Susan Rice as the White House director for community partnerships.

In his position, Selim admitted to holding “hundreds” of meetings with representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group originally founded as a Muslim Brotherhood front group to support Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The shocking revelations documenting the extensive relationship between the Obama White House and CAIR came as a surprise to the law enforcement community. At the time, FBI policy had banned meeting with CAIR due to its nefarious ties.

Instead of calling for reform within the Islamic world (a track that several Muslim world leaders and segments of the Trump administration now advocate), the Obama White House under Selim (in both his positions on the NSC and now at DHS) sought to protect Islam from the jihadi groups that wage terror in the name of the religion.

Selim told a House committee in 2016: “To be successful in our homeland security efforts, we have to underscore and reinforce the fact that ISIL does not represent Islam and cannot justify its barbaric terrorism with twisted interpretations of one of the world’s most prominent religions.”

Well-informed families and communities are our best defense against terrorist ideologies, which represent the current threat from ISIL propaganda,’’ Selim continued in September. “Within this context, working with communities to prevent radicalization to violence has become imperative.”

So, according to Selim’s logic, Muslim reformers are in the wrong, because they propose (like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) that a conversation must be had about Islamic doctrine as a whole.

As Andrew McCarthy explains at National Review, “CVE delusionally forbids the conclusion that radical Islamic ideology has any causative effect on terrorist plotting.”

The Muslim Brotherhood believes in essentially the same end-goal as ISIS: the installation of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. The group actually acts as a gateway to violent jihad. For example, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and current al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri were once members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Trump Administration needs to understand that countering violent extremism as a policy runs against their vision of tougher counterterrorism. As long as the Trump Administration allows Obama holdovers to conduct outreach to Islamists like CAIR under the guise of CVE, the President’s efforts to make America safe again will fail,” Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy tells Conservative Review. “Returning to a strong counterterrorism policy that focuses on solid intelligence and police work requires shutting down the White House CVE effort.”

The CVE strategy is dangerous for two reasons. Not only does it quash discussion over the connection between Islam and terror, but it empowers radical groups like CAIR to act as the voice of the Muslim community. This dangerous blend results in a policy concoction of political correctness and the empowerment of Islamic supremacists that threatens to undermine American national security. If the Trump administration fails to rid itself of CVE, it will succumb to an America-last strategy that has shown no documented successes in curbing terror and extremism.

Also see:

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.