Archive for the ‘Counter terrorism strategies’ category

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

March 1, 2017

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security, Long War Journal, February 28, 2017

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.

Since 2015, if not earlier, the U.S.-led coalition has launched airstrikes against the Islamic State operatives responsible for these operations. Jihadists such Rachid Kassim, Junaid Hussain, and Abu Issa al Amriki have all been targeted. Both Hussain and al Amriki sought to “remotely-control” attacks inside the U.S. They have reached into other countries as well. For example, British Prime Minister David Cameron connected Hussain to plots in the UK. And Hussain’s wife, Sally Jones, has also reportedly used the web to connect with female recruits.

Kassim was tracked to a location near Mosul, Iraq earlier this month. Hussain was killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa, Syria on August 24, 2015. Along with his wife, al Amriki perished in an airstrike near Al Bab, Syria on April 22, 2016. But law enforcement officials are still dealing with their legacy and it is possible that others will continue with their methods.

In this section, I will briefly outline several cases in which Hussain and al Amriki were in contact with convicted or suspected terror recruits inside the U.S. In a number of cases, the FBI has used confidential informants or other methods in sting operations to stop these recruits. It should be noted that it is not always clear how much of a threat a suspect really posed and the press has questioned the FBI’s methods in some of these cases. I have included the examples below to demonstrate how the Islamic State’s digital operatives have contacted potential jihadists across the U.S.

For example, Hussain was likely in contact with the two gunmen who opened fire at an event dedicated to drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammed in Garland, Texas on May 3, 2015. As first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, Hussain (tweeting under one of his aliases) quickly claimed the gunmen were acting on behalf of the caliphate. Then, in June 2015, Hussain claimed on Twitter that he had encouraged Usaamah Rahim, an Islamic State supporter, to carry a knife in case anyone attempted to arrest him. Rahim was shot and killed by police in Boston after allegedly wielding the blade. The DOJ subsequently confirmed that Rahim was “was communicating with [Islamic State] members overseas, including Junaid Hussain.”

On July 7, 2016, Munir Abdulkader, of West Chester, Ohio, pleaded guilty to various terrorism-related charges. According to the DOJ, Abdulkader communicated with Hussain, who “directed and encouraged Abdulkader to plan and execute a violent attack within the United States.” In conversations with both Hussain and a “confidential human source,” Abdulkader discussed a plot “to kill an identified military employee on account of his position with the U.S. government.” Abdulkader planned to abduct “the employee at the employee’s home” and then film this person’s execution. After murdering the military employee, Abdulkader “planned to perpetrate a violent attack on a police station in the Southern District of Ohio using firearms and Molotov cocktails.” Hussain repeatedly encouraged Islamic State followers to attack U.S. military personnel, just as Abdulkader planned.

On August 11, 2016, Emanuel Lutchman of Rochester, New York pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State as part of a planned New Year’s Eve attack. Lutchman admittedly conspired with Abu Issa al Amriki after he “initiated online contact” with the Islamic State planner on Christmas Day 2015. “In a series of subsequent communications,” DOJ noted, al Amriki “told Lutchman to plan an attack on New Year’s Eve and kill a number of kuffar [nonbelievers].” Al Amriki wanted Lutchman “to write something before the attack and give it to” an Islamic State member, “so that after the attack the [Islamic State] member could post it online to announce Lutchman’s allegiance” to the so-called caliphate. Lutchman wanted to join the Islamic State overseas, but al Amriki encouraged him to strike inside the U.S., as it would better serve the jihadists’ cause. “New years [sic] is here soon,” al Amriki typed to Lutchman. “Do operations and kill some kuffar.” Al Amriki also promised Lutchman some assistance in traveling to Syria or Libya, if the conditions were right. Lutchman divulged his contacts with al Amriki to individuals who, “unbeknownst to Lutchman,” were “cooperating with the FBI.”

On November 7, 2016, Aaron Travis Daniels, also known as Harun Muhammad and Abu Yusef, was arrested at an airport in Columbus, Ohio. He was reportedly en route to Trinidad, but he allegedly intended to travel to Libya for jihad. According to DOJ, Daniels was in contact with Abu Issa al Amriki, who acted as a “recruiter and external attack planner.” Daniels said at one point that it was al Amriki who “suggested” he go to Libya “to support jihad” and he allegedly “wired money to an intermediary” for al Amriki. The DOJ did not allege that Daniels planned to commit an attack in Ohio or elsewhere inside the U.S. Still, the allegations are significant because Daniels was allegedly in contact with al Amriki.

On November 29, 2016, Justin Nojan Sullivan, of Morganton, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges. “Sullivan was in contact and plotted with now-deceased Syria-based terrorist Junaid Hussain to execute acts of mass violence in the United States in the name of the” Islamic State, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord said in a statement. Sullivan and Hussain “conspired” to “plan mass shooting attacks in North Carolina and Virginia,” with Sullivan intending “to kill hundreds of innocent people.”

On February 10, 2017, the DOJ announced that two New York City residents, Munther Omar Saleh and Fareed Mumuni, pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. “Working with [Islamic State] fighters located overseas, Saleh and Mumuni also coordinated their plot to conduct a terrorist attack in New York City,” the DOJ explained. Saleh, from Queens, sought and received instructions from an [Islamic State] attack facilitator to create a pressure-cooker bomb and discussed with the same [Islamic State] attack facilitator potential targets for a terrorist attack in New York City.” Saleh “also sought and received religious authorization from an [Islamic State] fighter permitting Mumuni to conduct a suicide ‘martyrdom’ attack by using a pressure-cooker bomb against law enforcement officers who were following the co-conspirators and thus preventing them from traveling to join” the Islamic State. Federal prosecutors revealed that the “attack facilitator” Saleh was talking to was, in fact, Junaid Hussain.

Also on February 10, 2017, Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, a Virginia man and former member of the Army National Guard, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years supervised release for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. According to the DOJ, Jalloh was in contact with Islamic State members both in person and online. He met Islamic State members in Nigeria during a “six-month trip to Africa” and also “began communicating online with” an Islamic State member located overseas during this time. The Islamic State member “brokered” Jalloh’s “introduction” to the FBI’s confidential human source. This means the U.S. government’s intelligence was so good in this case that the digital handler was actually fooled into leading Jalloh into a dead-end. Still, Jalloh considered “conducting an attack similar to the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood, Texas,” which left 13 people dead and dozens more wounded.

More than 15 years after the 9/11 hijackings, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S.

Al Qaeda has not been able to replicate its most devastating attack in history, the September 11, 2001 hijackings. But this does not mean the al Qaeda threat has disappeared. Instead, al Qaeda has evolved. There are multiple explanations for why the U.S. has not been struck with another 9/11-style, mass casualty operation. These reasons include: the inherent difficulty in planning large-scale attacks, America’s improved defenses, and a prolific counterterrorism campaign overseas.

In addition, contrary to a widely-held assumption in counterterrorism circles, al Qaeda has not made striking the U.S. its sole priority. In fact, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri has even ordered his men in Syria to stand down at times, as they prioritized the war against Bashar al Assad’s regime over bombings, hijackings, or other assaults in the West. However, Zawahiri could change his calculation at any time, and it would then be up to America’s intelligence and law enforcement officials to detect and thwart specific plots launched from Syria. One additional caveat here is warranted. Despite the fact that Zawahiri has not given the final green light for an anti-Western operation launched from Syrian soil, al Qaeda has been laying the groundwork for such attacks in Syria and elsewhere. There is a risk that al Qaeda could seek to launch Mumbai-style attacks in American or European cities, bomb trains or other mass transit locations, plant sophisticated explosives on Western airliners, or dream up some other horrible attack.

In September 2014, the Obama administration announced that it launched airstrikes against al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group” in Syria. There was some confusion surrounding this group. The Khorasan Shura is an elite body within al Qaeda and part of this group is dedicated to launching “external operations,” that is, attacks in the West. Several significant leaders in the Khorasan Group were previously based in Iran, where al Qaeda maintains a core facilitation hub. In fact, at least two Khorasan figures previously headed al Qaeda’s Iran-based network, which shuttles operatives throughout the Middle East and sometimes into the West. As I have previously testified before this committee, some foiled al Qaeda plots against the West were facilitated by operatives based in Iran.

Al Qaeda began relocating senior operatives to Syria in 2011. And the U.S. has targeted known or obscure al Qaeda veterans in Syria in the years since, often citing their presumed threat to the U.S. and the West. I will not list all of these operatives here, but we regularly track the al Qaeda figures targeted in drone strikes at FDD’s Long War Journal.

During the final months of the Obama administration, American military and intelligence officials highlighted al Qaeda’s continued plotting against the U.S. on multiple occasions. And there was also a shift in America’s air campaign, from targeted strikes on individual al Qaeda operatives in Syria to bombings intended to destroy whole training camps or other facilities. In addition, the U.S. Treasury and State Departments began to designate terrorist leaders within al Qaeda’s branch in Syria who may not play any direct role in international operations. This change in tactics reflects the realization that al Qaeda has built its largest paramilitary force in history in Syria. And while only part of this force may have an eye on the West, there is often no easy way to delineate between jihadists involved in al Qaeda’s insurgency operations and those who are participating in plots against America or European nations.

In October 2016, the Defense Department announced that the U.S. had carried out “transregional” airstrikes against al Qaeda’s “external” operatives in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda “doesn’t recognize borders when they conspire to commit terrorist attacks against the West, and we will continue to work with our partners and allies to find and destroy their leaders, their fighters and their cells that are planning attacks externally,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said shortly after the bombings. Davis added that some of al Qaeda’s “external” plotters enjoyed a “friendly, hospitable environment” within Al Nusrah Front, which was the name used by al Qaeda’s guerrilla army in Syria until mid-2016. Davis added that the jihadists targeted “are people who are from outside Syria in many cases and who are focused on external operations.”

The Pentagon provided short descriptions for each of the al Qaeda operatives targeted in October 2016. On October 17, Haydar Kirkan was killed in Idlib, Syria. He was “a long-serving and experienced facilitator and courier for al Qaeda in Syria,” who “had ties to al Qaeda senior leaders, including Osama bin Laden.” Davis added that Kirkan “was al Qaeda’s senior external terror attack planner in Syria, Turkey and Europe.” Kirkan oversaw a significant network inside Turkey. The U.S. has killed a number of individuals with backgrounds similar to Kirkan since 2014.

On October 21, an AQAP leader known as Abu Hadi al-Bayhani and four others were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen’s Marib governorate. The Pentagon tied al-Bayhani to AQAP’s “external” plotting, noting that the al Qaeda arm relies on “leaders like Bayhani to build and maintain safe havens” from which it “plans external operations.”

Then, on October 23, two senior al Qaeda leaders, Farouq al-Qahtani and Bilal al-Utabi, were killed in airstrikes in Afghanistan. Qahtani was one of al Qaeda’s most prominent figures in the Afghan insurgency, as he was the group’s emir for eastern Afghanistan and coordinated operations with the Taliban. Osama bin Laden’s files indicate that Qahtani was responsible for re-establishing al Qaeda’s safe havens in Afghanistan in 2010, if not earlier. But Qahtani was also tasked with plotting attacks in the West.

General John W. Nicholson, the Commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, described the threat posed by Qahtani in a recent interview with the CTC Sentinel, a publication produced by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Gen. Nicholson described Qahtani as al Qaeda’s “external operations director,” saying that he was “actively involved in the last year in plotting attacks against the United States.” Nicholson added this warning: “There’s active plotting against our homeland going on in Afghanistan. If we relieve pressure on this system, then they’re going to be able to advance their work more quickly than they would otherwise.”

Kirkan, Bayhani, and Qahtani are just some of the men involved in anti-Western plotting who have been killed in recent bombings. And these targeted airstrikes are just part of the picture.

In October 2015, the U.S. and its Afghan allies destroyed what was probably the largest al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan’s history in the Shorabak district of Kandahar. The facility was an estimated 30 square miles in size, making it bigger than any of al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 camps.

The U.S. military says that approximately 250 al Qaeda operatives were killed or captured in Afghanistan in 2016. This is far more than the U.S. government’s longstanding estimate for al Qaeda’s entire force structure in all of Afghanistan. For years, U.S. officials claimed there was just 50 to 100 al Qaeda jihadists throughout the entire country.

On January 20, the Defense Department announced that “more than 150 al Qaeda terrorists” had been killed in Syria since the beginning of 2017. In addition to individual terrorists involved in plotting against the West, the U.S. struck the Shaykh Sulayman training camp, which had been “operational since at least 2013.”

The reality is that al Qaeda now operates large training camps in more countries today than on 9/11. The next 9/11-style plotters could be in those camps, or fighting in jihadist insurgencies, right now. If so, it will be up to America’s offensive counterterrorism campaign and its defenses to stop them.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

US Agents Tasked With Deradicalization Lack Arabic

February 2, 2017

US Agents Tasked With Deradicalization Lack Arabic, Clarion Project, Elliot Friedland, February 2, 2017

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A U.S. Department of Defense program to counter Islamist radicalization efforts is fell into difficulty because of the lack of skills of those tasked with running the program, according to former employees who have gone public.

The DoD says the program, subcontracted and  comprising 120 staff members, fights radicalization online  “through regular engagement, in-language, with regional target audiences online, using factual information consistent with our approved narratives.”

Yet according to ex-staff of the WebOps program, many employees could not speak Arabic properly, frequently mixing up words or even mistaking Arabic messages for other languages like Farsi or Urdu.

The agents would use keywords to identify which social media users were likely to be at risk of radicalization. However once in touch with someone who was at risk, staff of the deradicalization program made errors like mixing up the words for “salad” and “authority,” thus undermining their credibility.

As embarrassing, staff lacked awareness of the differences between the myriad Islamist groups. One ex-member said many employees “don’t know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas.”

The program was subcontracted to the private corporation Colsa Corp. Former employees allege the company, which runs its own in-house internal assessment of the success of the program, encouraged them to indicate progress regardless of whether or not progress was taking place, in order to maintain funding.

A lack of language skills has long inhibited U.S. counter-radicalization efforts. After 9/11, intelligence sources said, less than a dozen CIA field agents spoke Arabic. In 2006 just 33 FBI agents had even limited familiarity with Arabic. That year, the House Select Committee on Intelligence concluded U.S. human intelligence – ie, the condition of its spying apparatus in terms of personnel, as being in “an entirely unacceptable state of affairs.”

In 2009, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence warned that the necessary organizational familiarity with the key languages of Pashto, Dari and Urdu for the government “remains essentially nonexistent.”

If the U.S. is serious about winning the “war on terror” then language fluency within the departments charged with waging that war needs to be brought up to the required standard.

Comprehensive Terrorism Strategy Needed

December 8, 2016

Comprehensive Terrorism Strategy Needed, The Cipher Brief, Bruce Hoffman, December 8, 2016

(Please see also, Obama: “If we act like this is war between US and Islam, we’re going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks”. — DM)

The Cipher Brief sat down with Bruce Hoffman, Director for Security Studies at Georgetown University, to discuss President Obama’s counterterrorism legacy and the outlook for the terrorist threat in the coming year. According to Hoffman, although the U.S. has achieved “tactical gains” against al Qaeda and ISIS during Obama’s tenure, the U.S. currently faces the “most parlous international security situation in terms of terrorism, at least since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.”

The Cipher Brief: How has U.S. counterterrorism policy developed in the eight years under President Obama?

Bruce Hoffman: Clearly during the eight years of the Obama Administration there was an effort to shift from the deployment of U.S. ground forces for prolonged periods overseas to using other forms of engaging terrorists, principally unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, as well as the increased deployment of Special Operations forces. Tactically, it was successful – it eliminated at least three-dozen senior al Qaeda commanders following the ramp up of drone strikes in 2009 – and it crystalized of course with the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. These tactics served to disrupt terrorist operations and keep these groups off balance. Tactically, it was unquestionably successful.

But strategically, the U.S. faces the most parlous international security situation in terms of terrorism, at least since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. According to the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC), despite our ongoing efforts in Iraq and Syria over the past two years, ISIS has expanded geographically. The NCTC reported that in 2014, when the U.S.-backed campaign against ISIS began, the group had branches in seven countries. By 2015, they had branches in 13 countries, and by 2016, this number had increased again, now to 18. So clearly the Obama Administration’s strategy hasn’t stopped the spread of ISIS.

Similarly, al Qaeda today is present in about three times as many places as it was in 2008.  Even if there have been significant tactical achievements in keeping both these groups off-balance and making it more difficult for them to attack in the U.S., for instance, except perhaps by mobilizing lone-wolves, we’re nonetheless still facing serious terrorist challenges in the future. This was the message delivered by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in his testimony before the U.S. Senate last February, when he cited a resilient al Qaeda that, he said, was poised to make gains in 2016 and therefore continues to pose a local, regional, and international threat. He also worried about the continued threat from ISIS, even despite the intense pressure that we’ve put them under in Iraq and Syria.  Clapper was especially concerned about the threat of terrorist attacks in Europe—outside the geographical locus of ISIS’ caliphate

While tactically the gains may only have been ephemeral and temporary, given that in the overall strategic sense, the terrorist threat is arguably greater now than it’s been at any time over the past decade-and-a-half.

Also, in 2001 we faced only one major terrorist adversary. Today we face two. Further, in 2001, we faced one terrorist adversary that did not have a raft of active affiliates, associates, and branches. We now face two terrorist groups with affiliates, associates, and branches variously located in west, north, and east Africa, the Levant, the rest of the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere.

TCB: What were some of the strongest elements of President Obama’s CT policy? What were the weakest?

BH: First, from 2011 until very recently, we were told by a succession of senior U.S. counterterrorism officials, including the President, that al Qaeda was on “the verge of strategic collapse.” DNI Clapper’s statements last February reveal something very different. His melancholy assessment at the Senate hearings suggests that a lot of the progress over the eight years was mostly tactical and may yet prove to be evanescent.

For instance, the 2015 U.S. national security strategy cites three pillars of U.S. counterterrorism policy: leadership attrition, training host militaries to take the fight directly to the terrorists, and countering the terrorists’ narrative and message.

Clearly we’ve eliminated a number of leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaqi, and more recently Mohammad al-Adnani, but whether it is al Qaeda or ISIS, both these groups seem to have a deeper bench than we believed. In other words, they each have thus far shown an unfortunate ability to be able to continue to summon their forces to battle despite the loss of senior leaders and the damage otherwise inflicted on them in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, among other places. Both organizations appear to have succession plans that despite the loss of key leaders, they nonetheless are able to recover or rebound from those setbacks, hand over command authority to a new person, and carry on the struggle. I don’t see this changing—at least any time in the short term, unfortunately.

I’m not by any means implying that we shouldn’t be killing terrorist leaders, but what I have often observed is that we are confusing a tactic (high value leadership targeting) with a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy—and they are not the same. In this war, we shouldn’t in any event be looking at one, single metric as a defining variable.

So the first pillar has not fundamentally changed the war on terrorism to an extent where we are much safer than we were before.

Second, the training of host militaries has been a significant failure. Just a few years ago, Mali and Yemen were being touted as success stories where we had trained indigenous forces so that Western intervention wouldn’t be required. In both places, however, we’ve seen that we couldn’t train host-nation forces fast enough to keep pace with terrorist recruitment or terrorist territorial gains.

Third, is countering the narrative. DNI Clapper also spoke of upwards of 40,000 foreign fighters from at least 100 countries throughout the world who have gravitated to both al Qaeda and ISIS in recent years. That doesn’t suggest to me that our counter-narrative is really having an impact if we see this tremendous ground swell in the unprecedented number of foreign fighters drawn to the conflicts not only in Syria and Iraq, but also in Yemen, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, among other places.

Further, in contrast to a decade ago when the vast majority of these foreign fighters came from the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf, or North Africa, we now see hundreds of recruits from Latin America and from places like Benin and Bangladesh, countries that had hitherto been unaffected by the process of terrorist radicalization but are nonetheless providing fighters.

You can almost argue that, going back to the first point about high value targeting, we basically kill terrorist leaders but it seems as if these groups have continued to spread and seize more territory and meanwhile also appeal to a broader constituency of recruits in more countries than before. Meanwhile, we’ve downsized our military over the past eight years while we’ve seen these terrorist groups’ numbers increase as a result of the flow of foreign fighters into their ranks. We see that even as we build up our intelligence capabilities, the terrorists are developing means to frustrate those same capabilities by using off the shelf, encrypted communication apps.

TCB: Is President Obama’s counterterrorism legacy defined by executive actions such as drone strikes?

BH: Yes. President Obama came in with a commitment to draw down U.S. combat forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did succeed in doing that, but what we’ve seen is that even while we were withdrawing these troops, the terrorist threats in both those countries and elsewhere as well hasn’t diminished.

The drone campaign emerged as the major means of addressing these threats and controlling the growth of terrorist movements. But, by definition this lone tactic can only go so far when you have organizations that over the past decade and a half have proven to be more dispersed, adaptive, and resilient than we’ve imagined.

Think of it this way, U.S. forces – the Joint Special Operations Command combined with the U.S. Air Force – were spectacularly successful in 2006 in killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. That knocked the group off-balance temporarily and significantly weakened it, but over time, it re-emerged and resurrected itself as ISIS, which has shown itself to be more deadly, more consequential, and more threatening than al Qaeda in Iraq had ever been.

TCB: Looking forward into the next year, aside from ISIS and al Qaeda, do you see other terrorist threats?

BH: Right now, our main challenge is that ISIS has completely preoccupied our attention and has consumed most of our resources in the ongoing war on terrorism during a time when, as I have argued in a previous Cipher Brief interview, al Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding. Our ability to focus on two preeminent threats, much less the range of potentially second or third order threats, has been seriously constrained, not least because of the geographical spread of both those movements and their stubborn resiliency.

Off the top of my head, I can’t see any other threats as significant as either ISIS and al Qaeda emerging in the near future, but that’s because both of these adversaries already seem too much for us to focus on simultaneously. But you are right that we need now to be thinking of the threats that might surface from a post-caliphate ISIS and a potentially resurgent al Qaeda.

Our track record in anticipating these threats has not been impressive. For the two years preceding the 2015 Paris attacks, for instance, ISIS build up a formidable external operations capability in Europe that largely went completely unnoticed by intelligence and security services around the world. We know that al-Zawahiri has attempted to constrain al Qaeda’s international terrorist operations since around 2013, so we perhaps also don’t have a clear picture of what al Qaeda’s capabilities and future intentions are. In many respects, the threats and the troubles we see right now may just be the tip of the iceberg given the proliferation of terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens in recent years.

TCB: As ISIS is pushed out of its stronghold in Mosul and possibly its headquarters in Raqqa, how will those CT campaigns affect terrorism here in the U.S.? Could there be an uptick in lone wolf style attacks as ISIS concentrates its efforts on conducting attacks abroad?

BH:  We are never going to be able to completely eliminate ISIS in the near term given its tremendous growth in recent years. It will likely retain some terrorist strike capability at some level even as it continues to lose men, materiel and territory in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. We need to anticipate what ISIS’s next steps will be in response to the dismantling of its caliphate and power and be concerned whether in desperation or otherwise this leads to an upsurge of terrorist attacks in Europe and beyond.

Accordingly, ISIS is likely to exist in one form or another. Just one year ago, ISIS unleashed the most consequential attack on a major European city in over a decade: shattering the prevailing analytical paradigm of the time, which held that ISIS’s violence would remain largely confined to Syria and Iraq. That caught intelligence and security services by surprise. And especially as the group becomes more desperate as it’s weakened on the battlefield, the danger of it striking elsewhere becomes greater. If the immediate past is any guide, I worry that we may not understand the full extent of that capability until it actually materializes.

Look at it this way. A little bit more than a year ago, we thought that terrorists’ ability to attack commercial aviation had been seriously challenged if not negated. Then came the October 2015 in flight bombing of the Russian charter plane in the Sinai, which killed over 200 people. And, the previous February, al Shabaab had been able to smuggle a bomb concealed in a laptop computer on board a passenger jet that departed Mogadishu. Fortunately, the plane had not yet reached cruising altitude when the device exploded so it didn’t crash, but they were still able to smuggle a bomb on board an aircraft, which is of course profoundly troubling.

Therefore, we need to be careful not to neglect the possibility that terrorist groups, including ISIS, have been deterred from continuing to attempt attacks on commercial aviation.

TCB: Under President Obama, we’ve seen the weakening of al Qaeda, the rise of ISIS, and more recently the decline of ISIS and the rise of al Qaeda. What should we expect moving forward in the next year?

BH: Both groups have successfully locked us into a strategy of attrition.  They understand that they cannot defeat us militarily but instead seek to undermine confidence in our elected leaders, polarize polities, and create profound fissures in our society that they believe will wear down our resolve to resist their depredations and threats. Too often in the past we have precipitously declared that we are on the verge of victory only to see our adversaries rebound from even the most consequential setbacks. We pay a price for that over time that inadvertently plays into the terrorists’ strategy of attrition.

Public expectations rise as we are told victory is at hand, only to plummet in the wake of some new attack, and therefore as the war on terrorism seems to drag on. Each new terrorist attack appears to generate not just new fears and anxieties, but tears at the fabric of our society creating an atmosphere where popular pressure can drive a liberal democracy to embrace increasingly illiberal means in hopes of enhancing security.

Accordingly, the main challenge that we face is in breaking this stasis and frustrating this war of attrition that terrorists seek to keep us enmeshed in. To do this, we have to more decisively engage, dismantle, and defeat these organizations and their networks.

This is not to say that what we’ve been doing so far is ineffective and has not been successful, but that it clearly hasn’t been enough. What is required today is a more comprehensive, more systemic and aggressive counterterrorism strategy. We have to very critically start asking questions about why the host nation militaries we are training are failing in their efforts to take the war to the terrorists. We need to step back and assess what we’re doing now and why it is not producing decisive results so that we can break this stasis once and for all.

TCB: Would a more effective counter-messaging campaign aid in this effort?

BH: The problem is that counter-messaging works best after you have first broken the terrorists’ power and you’ve diminished their allure by depriving them of their appeal. We need to better counter their narrative which is that they’ve survived the greatest onslaught ever directed against a terrorist group in history, whether it’s the decade and a half-long conflict against al Qaeda or the more recent one against ISIS. For them, the fact that they are still fighting is enormously evocative in terms of their appeal and propaganda; that they have stood up to this very formidable counterterrorism campaign and have not only survived but have even expanded geographically despite our considerable efforts.

Counter-messaging works best when terrorists are deprived of their power, which means they are deprived of their sanctuary and safe haven, their efforts to recruit are thereby diminished: that’s when counter-messaging is enormously useful in preventing the recrudescence or the reemergence of these movements. But in-and-of-itself, without weakening the terrorist groups’ power, the messaging is going to be ineffective, as we’ve seen today, as demonstrated by the current worldwide proliferation of foreign fighters.

Brennan: Comments That ‘Taint’ Islam ‘Tremendously Detrimental’ to Counterterrorism

October 1, 2016

Brennan: Comments That ‘Taint’ Islam ‘Tremendously Detrimental’ to Counterterrorism, PJ Media, Bridget Johnson, September 30, 2016

(The fantasy religion of peace. — DM)

isishalab-sized-770x415xcISIS video screenshot

WASHINGTON — CIA Director John Brennan said comments that “taint” Islam “as being the source of the problem” are “tremendously detrimental to our interests and to a better understanding of this phenomenon” of terrorism.

Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum this week, Brennan said he’s met with “princes or presidents and prime ministers throughout the Middle East” who are “outraged that their community — their Muslim community — has been infected by this cancer, individuals who have this distorted and very perverted interpretation of Islam that pursue these psychopathic agendas of horrific violence, and they recognize that they have a very important role — the leading role to help purge their communities of these influences.”

“These individuals who are fanatics — extremists and terrorists — they are driven by this ideology that is not rooted in Islam,” Brennan said. “It’s a psychopathic ideology that is very absolutist, that either you are with us or against us.”

“And that’s why the establishment of the caliphate — the so-called caliphate by ISIL, as well as al-Qaeda’s agenda, really, are trying to cause this …clash of civilizations. They want to drive this wedge between the West and the Muslim world.”

Brennan said he has not spoken with Donald Trump, but “anybody who promotes that type of characterization of the problem, and mischaracterization, in my mind, I would try to describe how those comments are being interpreted and how they are feeding this narrative that the terrorist organizations are propagating, that it does not help to arrest this cancer that has taken over so many of the communities because of a lot of the underlying conditions that exist within Middle East and Africa, South Asia, the areas, because of economic deprivation, political disenfranchisements, lack of opportunity.”

“These terrorist organizations and this perverted version of religion preys upon their sense of hopelessness,” the CIA director continued. “And by making comments that are incendiary and are viewed as attacking a religion or a people or a community only further drive those individuals to grasp onto those extremist views because they interpret a lot of the comments that are made as the Western United States are out against them. And so, when those comments come forward, the comments of a Bin Laden or others resonate with them.”

“And they say, yes, you’re right. You know, the West is determined to exterminate us.”

Brennan was asked how he can separate terrorism from Islam when terrorists are quoting the Quran and enjoy support from some Muslims, particularly in certain parts of the world.

“People can take any faith — the Jewish faith, the Christian faith — and distort it and use it for violent agendas. And we’ve seen through the course of history that individuals who think that they are the vanguard of the effort of Christianity or Judaism or even Hinduism or other religions, really have this distorted interpretation of their faith,” Brennan replied.

“And the overwhelming majority, the 99.9 percent of Muslims do not support that type of violent agenda. Yes, there may be some individuals who are considered to be radical within their Islamic faith or even extremist,” he added.

“But the use of this horrific violence, the type of violence that’s being perpetrated by ISIL is something that we have not seen, I think, previously… their philosophy is, well, even if the innocents are killed, God will sort them out and they’ll go to heaven even earlier.”

DHS Provides the Security Islamists Need and Want

September 24, 2016

DHS Provides the Security Islamists Need and Want, Dan Miller’s Blog, September 23, 2016

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM) 

However, the Department of Homeland Security does not provide the security the rest of us need and want; instead, it does its level best to diminish it. Providing a reasonable level of security would contradict Obama’s view of Islam, Life, the Universe and Everything.

Refugee Fraud

On September 22nd, members of the U.S. Congress made public an internal Department of Homeland Security memo in which it was acknowledged that Refugee fraud is easy to commit and much tougher to detect:

The U.S. has relaxed requirements for refugees to prove they are who they say they are, and at times may rely solely on testimony. That makes it easier for bogus applicants to conspire to get approved, according to the department memo, which was obtained by the House Judiciary and Oversight committees. [Emphasis added.]

“Refugee fraud is easy to commit, yet not easy to investigate,” the undated memo says.

 The memo said there are clear instances where “bad actors … have exploited this program,” gaining a foothold in the U.S. through bogus refugee claims.

The revelation comes just a week after the administration said it was boosting the number of refugees it wants to accept next year to 110,000, up from 85,000 this year. Officials also said they’ll take more Syrians than the 12,000 they’ve accepted so far this year — and they are on pace to resettle as many as 30,000 in 2017. [Emphasis added.]

The President’s decision to increase overall refugee resettlement – and specifically that of Syrian refugees – ignores warnings from his own national security officials that Syrians cannot be adequately vetted to ensure terrorists are not admitted. Revelations about fraud, security gaps, and lack of oversight have demonstrated that the program is creating national security risks,” Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Bob Goodlatte said in a letter to Homeland Security on Thursday. [Emphasis added.]

The Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acknowledged that she had never seen the internal DHS memo. Why not? Isn’t ICE in charge of enforcing “our” immigration laws?

Countering Violent Extremism

The video provided above explains how CVE has been implemented thus far.

The head of DHS’s “countering violent extremism” program acknowledged on the same day, September 22nd, that its thus far year-long-in-the-brewing “strategic plan” for “combatting violent extremism” has not yet been completed.

George Selim, director of the Office of Community Partnerships at DHS, was repeatedly asked by members of the House Homeland Security Thursday why he could not provide a document outlining the organization’s $10 million plans for countering the spread of terrorism.

. . . .

Selim finally admitted the plan is not finished, stating that a finalized version is “nearly ready.”

He added that he didn’t want to give the impression that the organization is without any strategy after being up and running for a year, and stressed that he takes the use of taxpayer dollars seriously.

Congress appropriated $10 million in funding to the Countering Violent Extremism initiative, which can issue grants to nonprofit organizations working in local communities to prevent radicalization. [Emphasis added.]

But when asked by Rep. Barry Loudermilk R-Ga., to provide evidence that the program was not a “black hole” for taxpayers, Selim could only answer that he has seen positive changes “anecodally” and could not provide any metrics for success.

“I can’t sit hear before you today and definitively say that person was going to commit an act of terrorism with a pressure cooker bomb, but we’re developing that prevention framework in a range of cities across the country,” said Selim.

When asked whether any of the funding provided to DHS for its “countering violent extremism” was being given to terror-linked groups, Mr. Selim responded that

there is no blacklist of non-governmental organizations prohibited from applying for federal funding in the government. He did not say whether their current vetting process has ever mistakenly funded groups that jeopardize national security when questioned, but argued there is always room for improvement when a program is in its infancy. [Emphasis added.]

Mr. Selim’s reply was not responsive; there may be no Federal blacklist, but that an NGO is not on one should not authorize DHS to fund it. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is, of course, one of the principal Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamist organizations upon which the “countering violent extremism” farce relies. Secretary Johnson recently delivered an address to the Islamic Society of North America, which is similarly linked. The countering violent extremism farce focuses, not on root problem of preventing Islamist terrorism, but on rooting out “Islamophobia.”

Here’s a video of Dr. Zuhid Jasser’s testimony before Congress on September 22nd

on Identifying the Enemy: Radical Islamist Terror. This hearing examines the threat of radical Islamist terrorism, the importance of identifying the threat for what it is, and ways to defeat it.

A transcript of Dr. Jasser’s testimony is available here

Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra also testified:

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Former Congressman and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra at the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency of the House Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress. Congress must ask the Obama administration about PSD-11, which made official the US Government’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. [emphasis added.]

In His efforts to push the narrative that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam, Obama has (a) shared His erroneous perception of the Islamic State and (b) tried to suggest that the Islamic State is the only entity which diverges from “true” Islam. His argument as to (a)

is a strawman argument: the real question isn’t whether ISIS “represents” Islam, but whether ISIS is a byproduct of Islam.  And this question can easily be answered by looking not to ISIS but Islam.  One can point to Islamic doctrines that unequivocally justify ISIS behavior; one can point to the whole of Islamic history, nearly 14 centuries of ISIS precedents.

Or, if these two options are deemed too abstract, one can simply point to the fact that everyday Muslims all around the world are behaving just like ISIS. [Emphasis added.]

For example, Muslims—of all races, nationalities, languages, and socio-political and economic circumstances, in Arab, African, Central and East Asian nations—claim the lions’ share of Christian persecution; 41 of the 50 worst nations to be Christian in are Islamic.  In these countries, Muslim individuals, mobs, clerics, politicians, police, soldiers, judges, even family members—none of whom are affiliated with ISIS (other than by religion)—abuse and sometimes slaughter Christians, abduct, enslave and rape their women and children, ban or bomb churches, and kill blasphemers and apostates.

. . . .

Or consider a Pew poll which found that, in 11 countries alone, at least 63 million and as many as 287 million Muslims support ISIS.  Similarly, 81% of respondents to an Arabic language Al Jazeera poll supported the Islamic State. [Emphasis added.]

Do all these hundreds of millions of Muslims support the Islamic State because they’ve been suckered into its “narrative”—or even more silly, because we have—or do they support ISIS because it reflects the same supremacist Islam that they know and practice, one that preaches hate and violence for all infidels, as America’s good friends and allies, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar—not ISIS—are on record proclaiming? [Emphasis added.]

It is this phenomenon, that Muslims the world over—and not just this or that terrorist group that “has nothing to do with Islam”—are exhibiting hostility for and terrorizing non-Muslims that the Obama administration and its mainstream media allies are committed to suppressing.  Otherwise the unthinkable could happen: people might connect the dots and understand that ISIS isn’t mangling Islam but rather Islam is mangling the minds of Muslims all over the world. [Emphasis added.]

Hence why White House spokesman Josh Earnest can adamantly dismiss 14 centuries of Islamic history, doctrine, and behavior that mirrors ISIS: “That is mythology. That is falsehood. That is not true.” Hence why U.S. media coverage for one dead gorilla was six times greater than media coverage for 21 Christians whose heads were carved off for refusing to recant their faith.

As to (b),

The powers-that-be prefer that the debate—the “narrative”—be restricted to ISIS, so that the group appears as an aberration to Islam.  Acknowledging that untold millions of Muslims are engaged in similar behavior leads to a much more troubling narrative with vast implications. [Emphasis added.]

Conclusions

obamaatun

Obama has what one might wish were a unique world view. However, as Obama has not yet discovered, wishing that something were true does not make it true. He elucidated His world view in His recent address to the United Nations.

U.S. President Barack Obama sang his swan song this week at the United Nations, and seemed baffled by the stubborn refusal of the world to reform itself in his image and on his say-so. [Emphasis added.]

How can there still be “deep fault lines in the international order,” Obama wondered aloud, with “societies filled with uncertainty and unease and strife?”

Shouldn’t his identity as a man “made up of flesh and blood and traditions and cultures and faiths from a lot of different parts of the world” have served as a shining and irresistible example of blended global peace? How can it be that, after eight years of his visionary leadership, peoples everywhere aren’t marching to his tune of self-declared superior “moral imagination”? [Emphasis added.]

It is indeed a “paradox,” Obama declared.

In his preachy, philosophical and snooty address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, Obama expressed deep disappointment with the world. Alas, it seems peoples and nations are just not sophisticated enough to comprehend his sage sermonizing, smart enough to follow his enlightened example, or deep enough to understand his perfect policies. [Emphasis added.]

Why does the world not snap to order as he imperiously wishes and drool in his presence?

. . . .

The words “enemy, “threat” or “adversary” do not appear even once in Obama’s 5,600-word address. They are not part of his lexicon, nor are concepts like “victory” for the West or “beating” the bad guys. He won’t even names foes, such as “radical Islam” or “Islamist terror.”

All this high-minded intellectualizing, self-doubt and equivocation leave the U.S. with little ability to actually drive towards a more ordered world and provide a modicum of global security.

Instead, we have only Obama’s “belief” that Russia’s imperialist moves in Ukraine and Syria, China’s power grabs in Asia, and Iran’s hegemonic trouble-making in the Middle East (and by inference, Israel’s settlement policies in Judea and Samaria) will “ultimately backfire.”

Obama has many such unsubstantiated and illusory “beliefs.” It is very important for him to tell us what he “believes,” and he does so repeatedly. Clearly, he believes in the overwhelming potency of his own beliefs, despite the global security collapse. In fact, the U.N. speech reads like chapter one of the expected Obama memoirs, which surely will be filled with more inane “beliefs” and other ostentation. [Emphasis added.]

Fortunately, Obama will soon leave the presidency.

It falls to Congress and the next president to redirect U.S. policy and hopefully base it less on whimsical, wayward beliefs and more on a hard-nosed, forceful reassertion of Western interests.

Unfortunately, Hillary shares many of not most of Obama’s delusions.

Fortunately, Trump does not and seems to have a pretty good chance of becoming our President.

With The Terror Threat Growing, Europe Changes Course

August 31, 2016

With The Terror Threat Growing, Europe Changes Course, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, August 31, 2016

Sixteen years ago, when Dutch commentator Paul Scheffer published his “Multicultural Drama” declaring that multiculturalism in the Netherlands had failed, the response was swift and angry. Critics across Europe called him racist, bigoted, nationalistic. Others dismissed his views as mere rants and ramblings of a Leftist in search of a cause.

Not anymore.

With over 275 people killed in 10 Islamic terrorist attacks since January 2015, Europeans harbor no more illusions about the multiculturalist vision: where immigrants from Muslim countries are concerned, that idealist vision has more than just failed. It has produced a culture of hatred, fear, and unrelenting danger. Now, with European Muslim youth radicalizing at an unprecedented rate and the threat of new terrorist attacks, Europe is reassessing its handling of Muslim communities and its counterterrorism strategies and laws.

Among the changes being considered are a reversal of laws that allow radical Muslims to receive handouts from the very governments they seek to destroy; restricting foreign funding of mosques; and stronger surveillance on private citizens.

Chief among the new counterterrorism approaches is a program to coordinate intelligence data among European Union countries – a tactic that has not been pursued with any regularity or such depth before now. But following the November attacks in Paris, the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD initiated weekly meetings among intel agencies from all EU countries, Switzerland, and Norway, with the objective of sharing information, exchanging new clues, insights, and suspect alerts, and discussing improvements to a Europe-wide system of counterterrorism and intelligence.

Through these meetings and the improved shared database, it is now possible for each country to contextualize its intelligence and understand links between individuals and various groups from one city to another – and so, between radicals and radical groups as they pass through a borderless EU.

Concurrently, EU members are now beginning to share information about web sites and even details about private citizens where needed. Most countries had been reluctant to make such exchanges, citing both privacy concerns and the need to protect their sources. Other cooperative efforts include an EU initiative begun in February 2015 to counteract Islamic extremist propaganda. The project received a major €400 million boost in June, indicating the high priority Europe now places on fighting recruitment.

Earlier this month, Europol began a new effort to screen refugees still awaiting placement in Greek asylum centers. According to a report from Europa Nu, an initiative between the European parliament and the University of Leiden, Europol agents “specifically trained to unmask and dismantle terrorists and terror networks” will be dispatched to the camps to try to prevent terrorists from infiltrating the flood of refugees to Europe.

Some EU measures, however, have been based more in politics than counterterrorism, including efforts to crack down on the ability of radical Muslims to benefit from welfare programs. British citizens, for instance, reacted with outrage when it was discovered that the family of “Jihadi John” had received over £400,000 in taxpayer support over the course of 20 years. In Belgium, Salah Abdeslam, the terrorist accused of participating in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, pulled in nearly €19,000 in welfare benefits from January 2014 and October 2015, according to Elsevier. And Gatestone reports that more than 30 Danish jihadists received a total of €51,000 in unemployment benefits all while battling alongside the Islamic State in Syria.

Such concerns have also spread to the United States. Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, introduced the “No Welfare For Terrorists Act.”

“Terrorist victims and their families should never be forced to fund those who harmed them,” he said in a statement. “This bill guarantees this will never happen.”

But not all of Europe’s new approaches to the terror threat are being coordinated out of Brussels. Many more, in fact, are country-specific, such as England’s decision to follow an example set earlier by the Netherlands and Spain, separating jailed terrorists and terror suspects from other prisoners. The measures follow others the country adopted after the July 7, 2005 bombings of a London underground and buses, to criminalize “those who glorify terrorism, those involved in acts preparatory to terrorism, and those who advocate it without being directly involved,” the New York Times reported.

In fact, prisons worldwide, including in the U.S., have long been viewed as warm breeding grounds for radicals and potential terrorists. Ahmed Coulibaly, the gunman at the Porte de Vincennes siege in January 2015, was serving time for a bank robbery, for instance, when he met Cherif Koauachi, one of the Charlie Hebdo attackers. Both converted to Islam there. It was in that same prison that the two encountered Djamel Beghal, an al-Qaida operative who attempted to blow up the American Embassy in Paris in 2001.

Hence many experts now argue in favor of isolating those held on terrorism-related charges as a way to stop them from radicalizing their fellow inmates.

Yet British officials have until now resisted creating separate wings for terror suspects, arguing that doing so gives them “credibility” and makes it harder to rehabilitate them. But a recent government report on Islamist extremism in British prisons forced a change in thinking, in part by noting that “other prisoners – both Muslim and non-Muslim – serving sentences for crimes unrelated to terrorism are nonetheless vulnerable to radicalization by Islamist Extremists [sic].”

Similarly, France, the site of the worst attacks of the past two years, also balked at first at the idea of separating terrorists from other prisoners, arguing that doing so “forms a terrorist cell within a prison.” But the Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 2015 changed all that. Now, officials are even going further, looking at other potential sources of radicalization: the mosques.

Shortly after the Bastille Day attack in Nice, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced plans to ban foreign financing for French mosques as part of an effort to establish a “French Islam,” led by imams trained only in France. France hosts dozens of foreign-financed mosques – many sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Morocco – which preach Salafism, an extreme version of Islam practiced in the Saudi Kingdom and the root of much radical Islamist ideology. And according to a new report on counter-radicalization, about 300 imams come from outside France.

That same report also calls for “regular surveys” of France’s 4-5 million Muslims,according to France 24, in order “to acquire a better understanding of this population in a country where statistics based on religious, ethnic, or racial criteria are banned.”

Both proposed measures have been met with resistance. The “surveys,” as even the report itself notes, are a means of circumventing laws against gathering information on the basis of religious criteria – and so, go against democratic principles. And many French officials also oppose the ban on foreign funding for mosques, arguing that French government intervention in places of worship contradicts separation between church and state. Besides, they claim, radicalization doesn’t take place there anyway.

But Dutch authorities and counter-extremism experts are not so sure. The announcement earlier this month that Qatar would finance an Islamic center in Rotterdam, for instance, set off alarms even among Muslim moderates, including Rotterdam’s Moroccan-born mayor Ahmed Marcouch. There are good reasons for this. The Salafist Eid Charity, which sponsors the project, has been on Israel’s terror list since 2008, according to Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad. Moreover, in 2013 the U.S. Treasury Department accused the charity’s founder, Abd al-Rahman al-Nu’aymi, of providing funding for al-Qaida and its affiliates, and named him a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Plans for the center sound much like those of the now-abandoned plans for New York’s “Ground Zero mosque,” with sports facilities, prayer space, tutoring for students, Islamic child care, and, reports Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, imam training.

Yet the center’s prospective director, Arnoud van Doorn, a convert to Islam and former member of the far-right, anti-Islam political party PVV, insists that any fears about the project are unfounded. “Our organization has nothing to do with extremism,” he told theNRC. “We want only to provide a positive contribution to Dutch society.”

Notably, though, France’s proposal to ban foreign mosque funding and the Qatari backing of the Rotterdam center point to some of the deepest roots of Europe’s radical Islam problem, and, despite all the new initiatives now underway, the greatest challenges to ending it. When Muslim immigrants came to Europe in the 1970s, they carved prayer spaces wherever they could: the backs of community grocery stores, in restaurants and tea rooms. But these soon became too small to handle the growing Muslim population. Mosques – real mosques – would have to be built.

But by whom? The Muslim communities themselves were too poor. Western governments, wedded to the separation of church and state, could not subsidize them with taxpayer funds. And so the door was opened to foreign – mostly Saudi – investment, and the placement of Saudi-trained and Saudi-backed imams in European mosques. Europe had, in essence, rolled out the welcome mat for Salafism.

Now they want to roll it in again. But is it too late? Even as Western intelligence is now uniting to fight radical Islam, Islamic countries are pooling together in Europe to expand it. The result, as Manuel Valls told French daily Le Monde, is that, “What’s at stake is the republic. And our shield is democracy.”

Hence as the number attacks against Western targets increase, many Europeans are coming to understand that preserving the core of that democracy may mean disrupting some of the tenets on which it’s built, like certain elements of privacy, for instance, and religious principles that violate the freedom that we stand for . It is, as it were, a matter of destroying even healthy trees to save the forest. But in this tug-of-war between the Islamic world’s efforts to shape the West, and Western efforts to save itself, only our commitment to the very heart of our ideals will define who wins this fight.