Hizballah’s Ongoing Threat to U.S. National Security

by IPT News  •  Mar 7, 2017

Most analyses of Hizballah focus on the terrorist group’s intervention in Syria or its threat to Israel. But the Iranian-backed organization maintains a significant presence in and near the United States, threatening national security. Current American proposals to strengthen borders and immigration measures may be limited to address this important, yet poorly understood, threat.

A recent Al-Arabiya article examines Hizballah’s North American threat.

It has the expertise to build advanced tunnels on the southern U.S. border, enabling Hizballah terrorists and Mexican cartel operatives to infiltrate the United States. Relations between Iranian-backed proxies, including Hizballah, and Latin American drug cartels are well established. Mexican gang members learn from Hizballah’s combat experience and use of advanced weaponry. Hizballah, in turn, derives a significant portion of its finances from the drug trade and other illicit activities.

In recent years, security officials in southwestern states noticed a rise in tattoos featuring Hizballah’s insignia among imprisoned drug cartel operatives. This surprising trend indicates a strengthened relationship between the terrorist group and Mexican gang members. In line with its foreign policy, Iranian operatives infiltrating Latin America seek to convert individuals to adopt its extremist Shi’ite ideology. Over the years, pro Iranian websites have proliferated across Latin America, in an attempt to cultivate support for the Islamic Republic.

Powerful Latin American politicians also help Iran and Hizballah penetrate the region and threaten the United States. In February, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries demonstrating ties between Venezuelan Vice President Tarreck El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah operatives. El Aissami “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis,” the report shows.

Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the region is ripe for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking. Hizballah continues to exploit other Lebanese Shi’ite diaspora communities, including in the United States, to strengthen its presence worldwide.

In 2011, the United States disrupted a plot led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in cooperation with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington.

The problematic nexus between Iranian-backed operatives, including Hizballah, and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These connections also enable Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.

American intelligence reports show that Hizballah maintains a significant network of sleeper cells in the United States. Though Hizballah has not conducted a major attack on U.S. soil, the group could decide to strike key American sites should U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate substantially. Preparations to combat Islamist terrorism broadly should strongly consider the nuanced and growing Hizballah threat to U.S. national security.

HOLTON: Why Is Louisiana’s Media Attacking Efforts To Aid Law Enforcement In Keeping Us Safe Against Terrorism?

The Hayride, by Christopher Holton, March 6, 2017:

In case you haven’t noticed, the global jihadist insurgency has entered a new, more dangerous phase in the past two years.

The number of jihadis and the number of attacks that they have carried out–as well as the number of casualties they have inflicted and the number of countries they operate in–has grown drastically.

The excellent, private IntelCenter organization estimates that the Islamic State has killed 18,000 people in 28 countries since they declared their Caliphate on 29 June 2014.

This includes individual acts of jihad carried out in this country in places like Orlando, Chattanooga, Boston, Garland, San Bernardino, Queens and Philadelphia.

There is no reason to believe that this trend won’t continue. The effort to take down the caliphate was half-hearted at best because it simply wasn’t something President Obama was interested in. He apparently felt that the killing of Osama Bin Laden should have been enough. Never mind that the world has become awash in jihad since then.

Because of the complete lack of leadership on this vital issue, our federal bureaucratized counterterrorism apparatus has not even allowed to study Islamic threat doctrine–the very doctrine that the Islamic State cites repeatedly.

Time and time again we find that the warning signs of the jihadi attackers were missed. We were warned about the Tsarnaev brothers (the Boston bombers) repeatedly by the Russians and the FBI knew that their mosque was founded by a convicted Al Qaeda member, yet they were still able to carry out their attack.

There were warning signs about the San Bernardino jihadis as well. The female, Tafsheen Malik, used a fake address to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. She also gained entry into the U.S. under the horribly flawed federal “Visa Express” program that allowed applicants to bypass the interview in the screening process.

Moreover, DHS whistleblower Phillip Haney has testified before Congress and written in his new book, See Something, Say Nothing, that he had been ordered to cease investigations into Tablighi Jamaat, the notorious Islamist organization that had ties to the San Bernardino mosque.

Then there is the case of Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, who was twice interviewed by the FBI because he was on the contact list for an American Islamikaze bomber in Syria and because he made “incendiary” remarks to co-workers about jihad. Oh, and his Dad posted pro-Taliban online videos too. He was given the “all-clear,” only to end up massacring 49 innocent Americans.

What all this points to is the vital need for state and local law enforcement to take the lead against jihad inside this country. I promise you, the NYPD does not wait for the FBI to vet suspected terrorists. Other state and local agencies around the country need to take the same approach, albeit with resources that can’t match the NYPD, which is probably the most effective counterterrorism law enforcement organization anywhere in the world.

The fact is, the Feds are unaccountable. They can’t follow up all the leads they have now and very often have a lack of knowledge as to what or who they are dealing with. I have a hunch that the FBI agents who interviewed Omar Mateen probably thought he was creepy at best, but they had nothing to charge him with and they had to go about their business. Complicating matters even more is the fact that both the FBI and DHS have been forbidden from tying Islam to terrorism. That restriction right there makes them ineffective at conducting counterintelligence operations.

State and local cops are not unaccountable. They have deep roots in their communities. If an Omar Mateen is in someone’s precinct and they know he is a known associate of an Islamikaze bomber and made threatening statements about terrorism, they will keep an eye on him way past the initial interview. There won’t be much more important in that precinct once an Omar Mateen comes to the local cops’ attention.

Furthermore, state and local police are not under any restriction to refrain from studying the enemy threat doctrine. If the local sheriff or police chief is bold enough, he will mandate that his intelligence and investigative people get educated about the threat in an objective, unbiased manner–allowing the subject matter to take them where it leads them, rather than starting from the position that there is no connection between Islam and terrorism.

State and local police are now at the tip of the spear in this war. 15 years ago America sent soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines overseas to protect us all from jihad. Today, local law enforcement is being tasked with protecting soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from Jihad inside our own country. This is a profound shift in this war that has been lost on the overwhelming majority of the American people.

In Garland, Texas, it was a 62-year old motorcycle cop who gunned down the two jihadi attackers who were wielding AK47s.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, it was the local police who gunned down Mohammad Abdulazeez.

In Boston, it was Boston PD who ran down the Tsarnaev brothers.

In Queens, New York, it was rookie patrolmen who were targeted by and gunned down Zale Thompson.

The San Bernardino shooters were killed by members of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department.

In Philadelphia, it was a police officer sitting in his patrol car that was targeted by Edward Archer in the name of ISIS.

And, of course, we know that it was the Orlando Police Department who responded to Omar Mateen’s massacre.

By the time DHS and FBI show up, they have to ask permission to cross the crime scene tape. In Marine Corps parlance, by the time the Feds get involved, it’s “right of bang.”

State and local police need to prepare to operate against jihadis “left of bang,” and that means taking their own initiative and not depending solely on our bureaucratized, federal counterterrorism apparatus for training or intelligence about potential bad guys in their jurisdictions.

Fortunately, increasingly, local sheriffs departments around the country have recognized the threat from jihad and have taken the initiative in training their personnel in the strategy and tactics needed to prepare, including studying the enemy threat doctrine as our jihadist enemies themselves teach it.

One such curriculum of training is from an organization called Understanding the Threat (UTT). The leader of this organization is former FBI agent and Force Recon Marine officer John Guandolo. There is no one in America more qualified to conduct training on the threat from jihad than this organization. Mr. Guandolo was decorated by the FBI for establishing the original training program for the Bureau on the Global Islamic Movement, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. Guandolo’s colleague, Chris Gaubatz, is the only known operative to have conducted counterintelligence of HAMAS, when he interned for the Council on American Islamic Relations. That operation is detailed in Paul Sperry’s book, Muslim Mafia.

Recently, UTT has conducted training for several departments and agencies in Louisiana. Their program has come under fire from two out of state organizations with questionable ties and a record of nefarious activity. Louisiana’s media, including the Times-Picayune’s J.R. Ball at the link just above, have repeated the attacks of those organizations.

The first organization is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC). At one time the SPLC may have served a useful purpose, but those times have long since passed. Today, the SPLC uses the term “hate” to silence and intimidate those with whom it disagrees politically.  The SPLC’s abuses of the term “hate” became so bad that in 2014, during the Obama administration, the FBI quit using the SPLC as a hate crimes resource.

The SPLC’s fast and loose use of the term and its blacklisting of those whom it disagrees with has even contributed indirectly to violence when Floyd Lee Corkins attacked the Family Research Council’s headquarters after viewing the SPLC’s irresponsible list of “hate groups.” Corkins shot and wounded a security guard during his attack.

The fact that the media regurgitates SPLC statements and data without question demonstrates the degree to which our free press has become corrupted by ideologues who no longer act as responsible journalists to report the news, but work as advocates for certain viewpoints.

The other organization that has raised objections to UTT’s training program in Louisiana is the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a wing of the notorious Muslim Brotherhood here in the United States.

Michael Kunzelman of the Associated Press actually referred to CAIR as a “civil rights group,” again demonstrating the degree to which the media have been infected with corruption.

CAIR’s statement on the training actually included chilling code language used internationally by Islamist organizations to silence free speech. CAIR referred to John Guanadolo as an “Islamophobe.”

The term Islamophobe was made up by the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood organizationwhose founding board included Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual guide for the Muslim Brotherhood for decades.  Qaradawi is also infamous for having been banned from travel to the US, the UK and France for his ties to terror. Moreover, he is particularly notorious for having, as a renowned Shariah scholar, instructed Muslim men on how they are to properly beat their wives and endorsed the barbaric, Shariah practice of female circumcision (known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

IIIT coined the term Islamophobe with the express purpose of silencing critics of the Global Islamic Movement and to label enemies.

For CAIR to label someone as an Islamophobe is not to be dismissed or taken likely, especially given CAIR’s nefarious activities and those of its members, employees and directors:

  • The FBI suspended all formal contacts with CAIR due to evidence demonstrating a relationship between CAIR and HAMAS, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
  • In the U.S. v the Holy Land Foundation, the largest successful terrorism financing prosecution in U.S. history, CAIR was identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front group and was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial.
  • CAIR opened its first office in Washington, D.C. with the help of a grant from the Holy Land Foundation., a charitable organization that was shut down by the US Treasury Department for funding Jihadist terrorist organizations.
  • In 2014, US ally the United Arab Emirates officially designated CAIR as a terrorist organization.
  • In March 2011, Muthanna al-Hanooti, one of CAIR’s directors, was sentenced to a year in federal prison for violating U.S. sanctions against Saddam’s Iraq.
  • In 2006, the co-founder of CAIR’s parent organization, IAP (Islamic Association for Palestine), Sami Al-Arian, was sentenced to 57 months in prison on terrorism charges for financing Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a designated terrorist organization according to the US State Department.
  • In 2004, CAIR-Northern Virginia director Abdurahman Alamoudi pled guilty to terrorism-related financial and conspiracy charges, which resulted in a 23-year federal prison sentence. Alamoudi was a major financier for Al Qaeda. It’s was John Guandolo’s team that took down Alamoudi.
  • In 2009, Ghassan Elashi, who served as a founding board member for CAIR’s regional chapter in Texas, was sentenced to a total of 65 years in prison after being convicted of 10 counts of conspiracy to provide, and the provision of, material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization; 11 counts of conspiracy to provide, and the provision of, funds, goods and services to a Specially Designated Terrorist; 10 counts of conspiracy to commit, and the commission of, money laundering; one count of conspiracy to impede and impair the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); and two counts of filing a false tax return.
  • Randall Todd (Ismail) Royer, who served as a communications specialist and civil rights coordinator for CAIR, trained with and set up an internet-based newsletter for Lashkar-I-Taiba, an al Qaeda-tied Kashmir organization that is listed on the State Department’s international terror list and was also indicted on charges of conspiring to help al Qaeda and the Taliban battle American troops in Afghanistan and was sentenced to twenty years in prison on April 9, 2004.
  • In September 2003, CAIR’s former Community Affairs Director, Bassem Khafagi, pled guilty to three federal counts of bank and visa fraud and agreed to be deported to Egypt after he had funneled money to activities supporting terrorism and had published material advocating suicide attacks against the United States, illegal activities which took place while he was employed by CAIR.
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan CAIR fundraiser Rabih Haddad was arrested on terrorism-related charges and was deported from the United States due to his work as Executive Director of the Global Relief Foundation, which in October 2002 was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for financing al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

For most citizens of Louisiana, we can be thankful that Understanding the Threat is training our law enforcement heroes about this threat.

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

ISIS Threat in Washington, DC

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Unconstrained Analytics, December 29, 2016:

UA’s Stephen Coughlin and Patrick Poole joined Congressman Louie Gohmert, filling in for Sean Hannity on the Hannity radio show, to discuss the growing evidence that there is an ISIS threat living right outside of our nation’s capitol as well as what needs to be done to effectively combat this threat.

Related:

Islamic State arrests reveal jihadi threat near seat of U.S. government (Washington Times)

Law enforcement agencies have arrested nine Northern Virginia residents on charges of aiding the Islamic State since the terrorist group rose to power in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and launched social media propaganda to attract followers, a government message to police states. . .

. . . Of the nine Northern Virginians who were arrested, all but one were in their teens and early 20s. They included a police officer, a Starbucks barista, Army soldiers, bankers and a cabdriver. Four of the nine graduated from Northern Virginia high schools, one with honors. Two attended Northern Virginia Community College.

In other words, all of them appeared to have opportunities via public education to become successful Americans but instead were charged with what amounted to a devotion to violent jihad.

They are suspected of conducting terrorism planning through Twitter, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp and other platforms and apps, as well as on prepaid phones. . . . (read all)

US Reveals ISIS Directly Orchestrated Foiled Homeland Attack On Soldier, Cops In Ohio

A rebel fighter takes away a flag that belonged to Islamic State militants in Akhtarin village, after rebel fighters advanced in the area, in northern Aleppo Governorate. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

A rebel fighter takes away a flag that belonged to Islamic State militants in Akhtarin village, after rebel fighters advanced in the area, in northern Aleppo Governorate. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjeti, November 10, 2016:

The Islamic State directed Ohio man Munir Abdulkader to kill a U.S. service-member and attack a police station, court documents from his sentencing obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation reveal.

“Abdulkader was specifically tasked by Hussein and ISIL with killing an individual in the United States,” Court Documents provided to TheDCNF from the Program on Extremism at The George Washington University reveal. Abdulkader’s director Junaid Hussian a British teenager was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike outside of ISIS’s capital city of Raqqa.

Abdulkader was reportedly an Eritrean immigrant to the U.S. and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006. University records show he was once enrolled at Xavier University, and the University of Cincinnati.

Abdulkader pled guilty July 7 to “to attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence”

“The Defendant placed himself under the direction and control of a pernicious foreign terrorist organization and plotted with that organization to conduct multiple murderous attacks in the Cincinnati area,” the sentencing memorandum says confirming the explicit foreign control of the operation.

The revelation may be the first revelation of an ISIS enabled attack on U.S. soil, Deputy Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University Seamus Hughes told TheDCNF. Hughes elaborated that Hussian’s involvement in the May 2015 attack in Garland, Texas, is still unclear. If Hussian was involved in the Garland plot, that would make it the first ISIS directed attack.

Abdulkader was reportedly advised by Hussain that travel to Syria was too risky, and that he should “consider a violent attack within the United States” instead. Abdulkader instead focused on a plot to “murder a government employee simply because that employee proudly served the United States of America. Furthermore, Abdulkader planned to attack a police station in the Cincinnati area, using both explosives and firearms, in order to kill as many police officers as possible.”

The documents reveal that Hussian directed the specific actions Abdulkader took, down to minute details. He provided the address and personal information of the U.S. soldier to Abdulkader and laid out a plan.

“Hussain’s plan was for them to raid a soldier’s home, behead him, record it, send the recording to Hussain. Once this attack was completed, the Defendant was to go to a police station, throw pipe bombs, engage the police officers with firearms, and then fight to the death.”

Abdulkader came under FBI surveillance after repeatedly praising ISIS on Twitter throughout 2015.

“In preparation for the attacks, Abdulkader conducted surveillance of the police station, received a targeting package about the victim, went to a shooting range, learned how to operate certain firearms, and practiced shooting the firearms. He also bought an AK-47 assault rifle for the attack.”

Upon buying the weapon in a parking lot, the FBI swooped in to arrest him in May 2015.

Terror Threats to US Election

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Al Qaeda and Iran both represent an immediate danger, but lone wolf ISIS attacks could happen too.

CounterJihad, November 4, 2016:

CBS News reports that US intelligence has alerted terrorism task forces in three states about an al Qaeda plot to disrupt American elections next week.  Though election day is Tuesday, the warning was about attacks on Monday.  This could indicate an attempt to attack poll workers setting up for the election, or simply to lower turnout by terrifying people about going to public places.  Texas, Virginia, and New York have received warnings of possible pending attacks.

The exact nature of the threat was not stated, though many recent lone wolf attacks have used guns instead of bombs.  Texas is normally considered an unlikely target for shooting attacks, but it is one of only six states that bans firearms from being carried at polling places.  As a result, the ordinary distributed defense of a well-armed population will not be available to Texans on this occasion.

Separately from this threat, a top figure in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) recently proclaimed in an interview with state media that they were infiltrating the United States and Europe with militants.  “The whole world should know that the IRGC will be in the U.S. and Europe very soon,” Salar Abnoush is quoted as saying.  Iran has been increasingly provocative in its conduct towards the United States, going so far as having proxy forces fire missiles at US Navy warships.  The IRGC last year seized an American boat and held US Navy personnel hostage for some time.

An actual attack within the homeland, especially one targeting the elections process, would be a significant escalation.  Nevertheless, the trend of Iranian attacks has been towards escalation lately.  According to a source who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon, the recent influx of investment may provide Iran with a sense that it is freer than it has been to conduct such attacks without punishment:

“If we look at Iran’s previous terror attacks and assassination campaign around the world, such a statement is alarming,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon. “The Islamic Republic has killed hundreds of Iranians and non-Iranians around the world in a coordinated campaign of terror. Iran may decide to restart the project now that many western companies are going to Iran and Iran feels its action in Europe may not be punished strongly.”

In addition to these centrally-organized threats, there is of course a persistent danger of attacks by Islamic State (ISIS) inspired militants.  Such attacks have been of increasing frequency across both Europe and the United States.  Because they lack central planning, they are very difficult to stop before they happen.

American citizens should be aware of the dangers posed by these actors.  Nevertheless, the right to vote is an act central to the life of a free and self-governing people.  Citizens should take appropriate precautions, but no one should avoid voting because of any physical threat.  Rather, Americans should defy those who would deny them the right to vote through terror in the manner of their ancestors.

Maryland imam swept up in alleged ‘conspiracy’ to commit jihad

Sebastian Gregorson, left, may have had help in purchasing an ‘arsenal’ of weapons by Maryland imam

Sebastian Gregorson, left, may have had help in purchasing an ‘arsenal’ of weapons by Maryland imam

WND, by Leo Hohmann, Sept. 23, 2016:

The FBI is widening its probe into a Detroit Muslim who investigators now suspect was conspiring with a Maryland imam to acquire military-grade weapons and commit acts of jihad on behalf of ISIS.

WND reported Aug. 30 on the alleged “arsenal” found at the home of Sebastian Gregerson, a convert to Islam who now goes by the name Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl.

The Detroit News reported a new twist in the story Thursday, that Gregerson likely did not act alone. He allegedly had help from an imam who specializes in Shariah law. That imam, Suleiman Bengharsa of Clarksburg, Maryland, may have used donations from his mosque to help finance Gregerson’s purchase of grenades, two AK-47s, seven rifles, tactical knives, a shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

More than 200 pages of sealed federal court records offer new details about an FBI investigation spanning at least three states, the News reported.

The investigation started about 18 months ago but bore fruit on July 31 when Gregerson was arrested near his Detroit home after allegedly buying fragmentation grenades from an undercover FBI agent.

It is unclear whether imam Bengharsa was financing weapons purchases in other parts of the country, but WND sources, including retired Homeland Security officer Philip Haney, say this type of financing involving American mosques happens all the time.

According to Shariah law, one-eighth of all charitable donations at a mosque, called zakat, must go to fund jihad around the world, Haney told WND. And approximately 80 percent of America’s more than 3,000 mosques are financed by Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most Shariah-compliant nation in the world.

“Based on the totality of the aforementioned information and evidence, there is reason to believe that Bengharsa and Gregerson are engaged in discussions and preparations for some violent act on behalf of (the Islamic State),” an FBI agent wrote in a Jan. 7 search warrant application.

The scope, targets and number of people involved in the investigation are unclear, but the case also involves Virginia, according to the Detroit News report.

Imam Bengharsa, 59, laughed and scoffed at the FBI’s allegations, which he told the Detroit newspaper were “ridiculous.” He also denied being an ISIS supporter and dismissed the charges as a witch hunt against Muslims.

“It feels like McCarthyism,” Bengharsa told the newspaper.

“No, no, no, that is absolutely untrue,” Bengharsa added. “It might appear that way. I am an advocate of the United States and the West getting the hell out of the Middle East and the Muslim world.

“It’s ridiculous. All I can say is it’s ridiculous,” he added. “If this was the case, why haven’t they come to arrest me?”

He said he would rather go to jail than live in a country that goes the route of McCarthyism.

Haney said the imam’s comments were brazen.

“People will say, ‘Oh, Sharia doesn’t teach that.’ Well, one-eighth Muslim charitable contributions are obligated according to Shariah to go to the support of jihad, which means if this imam is gathering money up to buy hardware, like grenades and guns, then he’s doing it in accordance with Shariah. And according to the Detroit News article, he’s an expert in Shariah,” said Haney, author of the best-selling book “See Something Say Nothing.”

Promoting Shariah law in U.S.

Bengharsa is founder and director of the Islamic Jurisprudence Center, an independent legal resource center near Baltimore that promotes understanding of Shariah law.

The center has issued several fatwas, or religious edicts, including one calling supporters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations disbelievers and traitors to Allah, the News reports.

“(Islamic Jurisprudence Center) management firmly believes and propagates that Islamic law is divine law, and therefore, unequivocally superior to man-made laws,” according to the center’s website.

“He actually presents himself as a Shariah-compliant imam but he is using taqiyya, a defensive response, when questioned by the newspaper,” Haney told WND. “He responds to the allegations, saying it’s ridiculous, that it feels like McCarthyism, pushing it on us, he’s the victim, an innocent victim, and we are the oppressors.

“It’s a wonderful arrangement,” Haney added, and a favorite tactic of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Victims are never responsible for anything they do. And that’s exactly what the imam’s position is: ‘We’re not at fault, they’re persecuting us, we’re the victims.’”

The imam said “if that’s what this country has come to,” he’d rather be in jail.

“This is how bold they are now,” Haney said. “He’s throwing it in our face that he’d rather go to jail.”

The imam is clearly well schooled in how to deploy classic Islamic deception while living in a non-Islamic society, Haney said.

There’s a passage, Quran 8:60, that Haney points to. It says, “prepare to strongly terrorize your enemy.”

That word “prepare” is also a main tenet of the Brotherhood.

Bengharsa has not been charged with a crime during the investigation, which is ongoing.

“In the real world, evidence matters,” former FBI counter-terrorism specialist John Guandolo told WND.

“Yet another Islamic leader is found to be directly involved with jihad on behalf of some named jihadi group, all for the sake of Islam,” said Guandolo, founder of the website UnderstandingTheThreat.com. “He joins the ranks of Alamoudi, Awlaki, and so many others. And he does it all while laughing at us and throwing ‘McCarthyism’ in our face. Our leaders will probably apologize to him for executing the legal search warrant based on facts.”

Search warrant affidavits that revealed the focus on the imam were briefly unsealed in federal court in Detroit this week and obtained by The News before a federal magistrate resealed them.

The affidavits show that FBI counterterrorism agents have spent months analyzing bank records, social media accounts, phone records, emails and messages involving Gregerson, 29, and the imam.

American convert supports ISIS

As WND reported last month, Gregerson is an Islamic State supporter who allegedly told undercover FBI agents that he fantasized about killing local Muslim religious leaders and others.

Detroiter Sebastian Gregerson, aka Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl

Detroiter Sebastian Gregerson, aka Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl

Gregerson is being held without bond and faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted of the weapons charges. He has not been charged with a terror-related crime amid the ongoing investigation.

FBI agents likely are investigating whether the imam bankrolled weapons purchases for anyone else and if there are plans underway for attacks, Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor, told the News.

Gregerson grew up near Ann Arbor and converted to Islam after high school. He is married, the father of 4-year-old twins and, until his arrest, worked retail at a Target store.

Gregerson and the imam met about five years ago in Maryland, the FBI alleges.

“Suleiman Bengharsa is the former imam of a mosque Gregerson attended while living in Maryland,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.

Gregerson lived in Windsor Mill, Maryland, from 2011 to 2014.

During that time, Bengharsa was imam at the Masjid Umar mosque in Woodlawn – less than three miles from Gregerson’s apartment – according to the imam’s LinkedIn page, the News reports.

By 2015, Gregerson had moved to Detroit and started amassing tactical knives, according to the FBI.

“(Islamic State) members have used knives that appear similar to those purchased by Gregerson in beheadings, such as those seen in the videos of ‘Jihadi John’ beheading western hostages,” an FBI agent wrote in one search warrant affidavit.

“The nature of Gregerson’s purchases roughly correlate with instructions given by (the Islamic State) to individuals living in Western countries on how to prepare to commit violent jihad in those countries,” the FBI agent wrote in a filing.

The FBI subpoenaed Gregerson’s phone records and learned he was in frequent phone contact with Bengharsa while amassing the arsenal.

Bank records obtained by the FBI showed the imam wrote a $1,300 check to Gregerson on June 24, 2015.

In the memo line on the check was the word “zakat,” a word referring to the Muslim obligation to give charity, according to the FBI.

Gregerson cashed the check days later and deposited $800 in his checking account, the FBI said.

“This is a very typical event,” Haney told WND. “You see this type of thing going on in many places around the world, where you see Islamic leaders or imams providing leadership, counsel, guidance, to members of the Islamic community. And one of the ways to become a better Muslim is to follow Shariah law.

“Violence is but one part of a spectrum of tactics used explicitly for the implementation of Shariah law; it’s a tactic. What you’re looking at in this story is a tactic for the ultimate implementation of Shariah law.”