Posted tagged ‘Department of Justice’

Top Lawmaker Pushes Trump Admin to Freeze Pakistani Assets Tied to IT Breach Scandal

August 3, 2017

Top Lawmaker Pushes Trump Admin to Freeze Pakistani Assets Tied to IT Breach Scandal, Washington Free Beacon, , August 3, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz / Getty Images

A leading lawmaker on the House oversight committee is urging the Trump administration to pursue a court order freezing recent wire transfers to Pakistan made by Democratic IT staffers who are accused of stealing computer equipment from House lawmakers’ offices and penetrating internal congressional networks, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), an oversight committee member and chair of its national security subcommittee, petitioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions to disclose if federal investigators are moving to freeze recent wire transfers of nearly $300,000 by Imran Awan, a top IT staffer for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) and scores of other Democrats who was recently arrested on charges of bank fraud.

Awan and several of his family members are believed to have stolen computer equipment used by Congress and penetrated sensitive networks linked to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and other networks.

Awan and others allegedly involved in the scandal remained on the congressional payroll for months after their activity became public, prompting calls by senior lawmakers for an independent investigation in Wasserman Schultz’s handling of the situation.

Awan is also believed to have defrauded the House of Representatives by using taxpayer funds to buy computer equipment that is now missing.

DeSantis, who has spearheaded efforts to move forward with the probe into this scandal, told the Free Beacon on Thursday that the Trump administration must take immediate steps to freeze any assets that may have been transferred by Awan to Pakistan.

“The DOJ needs to do what it can to freeze proceeds from any illicit transactions made by Awan,” DeSantis said. “Given the allegations against him it would be unthinkable that he’d be allowed to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pakistan.”

In his letter to Sessions, DeSantis seeks to ascertain what steps the DOJ is taking to investigate Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, who is also tied to the scandal.

“Given the alarming amount of funds that were wired to Pakistan, has the Department of Justice utilized the United States Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to investigate the financial records of Awan and Alvi to discover evidence of other potential crimes?” DeSantis asks.

“Have any U.S. financial institutions filed reports of suspicious activity on any bank account held by Awan or his wife?” the letter continues.

“Is the Department of Justice investigating whether any funds generated from the sale of stolen property of the House of Representatives were included as part of the wire transfer to Faisalabad, Pakistan?” DeSantis asks.

“Finally, will the Department seek a court order freezing the proceeds of any real estate transaction or from the sale of stolen technological equipment?”

DeSantis has described the situation as one of the biggest congressional scandals in the past 30 years, and other sources intimately familiar with the matter have told the Free Beacon that Congress has been roiled by the situation.

There is concern that sensitive information potentially obtained by Awan and other Democratic staffers could be used against lawmakers who may have been bound up in the penetration of sensitive congressional networks.

“I hope that we can work together to undo the serious damage done by these individuals while in the employment of the House of Representatives,” DeSantis writes. “While we can never tolerate breaches of the public trust, the wire transfer to Pakistan is particularly alarming as Pakistan is home to numerous terrorist organizations. I look forward to your timely response into these matters.”

The Free Beacon first disclosed earlier this week that Congress is seeking a brief from Capitol Police into their investigation of the situation, which some feel has proceeded too slowly.

Senior congressional sources say that investigators should set their sites on Wasserman Schultz, who has been accused of stonewalling on the matter. Some have even called for Wasserman Schultz to resign.

“The extent of the potential breaches has been made more clear” in recent weeks, according to one senior congressional source who would only speak on background when discussing the sensitive matter. “The inexplicable nature of the conduct of Wassermann Schultz and others has broadened” congressional interest.

Lawmakers are confused as to why Wasserman Schultz continued paying Awan and other staffers implicated in the breach for several months after this information came to light.

“At best for her that is gross misapplication of public funds that could merit resignation alone,” the source said. “There’s got to be more to that story.”

The Administrative State Declares Independence

August 2, 2017

The Administrative State Declares Independence, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, August 1, 2017

Yates argues for a permanent bureaucracy in Washington that is impervious to the wishes of the voters, who may occasionally be so imprudent as to elect a Republican president. In Yates’s view, that must not be an obstacle to the liberal policies of the Justice Department or, by analogy, any of the dozens of other federal agencies that are manned nearly exclusively by liberal Democrats.

The administrative state is by far the greatest contemporary threat to the liberty of Americans. The appalling Sally Yates urges that the Constitution be left in the dust, and that unelected bureaucrats be elevated above the president whom they ostensibly serve. It is hard to imagine a theory more at odds with our Constitution or our political traditions.

***********************************

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover, recently authored one of the most pernicious columns within memory in the New York Times. Her column was titled, “Protect the Justice Department From President Trump.” Yates argued, in essence, that there exists an Executive Branch that is independent of, and superior to, the President–at least as long as that Executive Branch is staffed pretty much exclusively by Democrats. This is, of course, a boldly unconstitutional theory.

The invaluable Manhattan Contrarian deconstructed Yates’s novel theory:

As I have pointed out multiple times, there is nothing complicated about the constitutional law on presidential control of the Justice Department. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution places all of the executive power of the federal government in the President: “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” The Justice Department is an executive agency, and therefore reports to the President in every respect. That of course does not mean that it is a good idea for the President to get personally involved in day-to-day prosecutorial decisions; but he is perfectly entitled to do so if he wants. And he certainly has final say on all policies of the Department.

Yates has a different view. Here are a few key quotes from her op-ed:

The president is attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out, regardless of which political party is in power. . . . [Ed.: When liberals refer to the “rule of law,” they nearly always mean rule by liberal lawyers, having no reference to any actual laws.]

The Justice Department is not just another federal agency. It is charged with fulfilling our country’s promise of equal and impartial justice for all. As an agency with the authority to deprive citizens of their liberty, its investigations and prosecutions must be conducted free from any political interference or influence, and decisions must be made based solely on the facts and the law. To fulfill this weighty responsibility, past administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have jealously guarded a strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House when it comes to investigations and prosecutions. While there may be interaction on broad policies, any White House involvement in cases or investigations, including whom or what to investigate, has been flatly forbidden.

Yates doesn’t trouble herself to give us a citation of something in the Constitution that supports her position. Nor does Yates inform us of the origin of what she calls the “time honored” “strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House” that has supposedly been followed by “past administrations, both Democratic and Republican.” … If we’re going to talk about “dismantl[ing] the rule of law,” how about the rule that says that every four years the people get to elect a new guy, with policies different from the prior guy, and the new guy gets to implement his policies?

This is the heart of the matter, of course. Yates argues for a permanent bureaucracy in Washington that is impervious to the wishes of the voters, who may occasionally be so imprudent as to elect a Republican president. In Yates’s view, that must not be an obstacle to the liberal policies of the Justice Department or, by analogy, any of the dozens of other federal agencies that are manned nearly exclusively by liberal Democrats.

The permanent staff of the Department of Justice, which Yates wants to be independent of, and superior to, any president who is actually elected by American voters, is relentlessly left-wing. The Contrarian documents this in great detail at the link; this is just a sample:

Just in case you have the exceedingly naive impression that the lawyers at the Department of Justice really are neutral and apolitical, and just “seeking justice,” perhaps it is time for a brief history lesson focusing on the years of the Obama administration. Here goes:

* First, Jonathan Swan at The Hill on October 26, 2016, helpfully did a comprehensive analysis of political contributions made by bureaucrats in the various federal agencies in the 2016 election cycle. Here’s the result for the Justice Department: “Employees of the Department of Justice, which investigated Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State, gave Clinton 97 percent of their donations. Trump received $8,756 from DOJ employees compared with $286,797 for Clinton.”

The administrative state is by far the greatest contemporary threat to the liberty of Americans. The appalling Sally Yates urges that the Constitution be left in the dust, and that unelected bureaucrats be elevated above the president whom they ostensibly serve. It is hard to imagine a theory more at odds with our Constitution or our political traditions.

Report: Obama Holdovers Slow-Roll Release of Clinton Emails, Officials Cite ‘Diminished Public Interest

July 24, 2017

Report: Obama Holdovers Slow-Roll Release of Clinton Emails, Officials Cite ‘Diminished Public Interest, BreitbartKristina Wong, July 24, 2017

AP/Cliff Owen

Officials from the State and Justice Departments argue a hiring freeze and lack of public interest are responsible for its inability to process and release the 100,000 Hillary Clinton emails as ordered under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, according to a report.

A U.S. official familiar with the case told Circa “there are still holdovers” within the State and Justice Departments who don’t want to see the emails released, and are slow-rolling the process. But the report also said the president’s own Justice Department attorneys are citing “diminished public interest” in the emails, and that the president should demand the agencies abide.

According to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, the FBI turned over to the State Department a new disk of emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin that were discovered on a laptop owned by her husband, Anthony Weiner.

State and Justice Department lawyers say they can’t release them until they judge whether they are personal or government, and can be shared publicly. Fitton said there are apparently 7,000 emails on the laptop.

State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala told Circa that the Department “takes its records management responsibilities seriously and is working diligently to process FOIA requests and to balance the demands of the many requests we have received.”

“We are devoting significant resources to meeting our litigation obligations,” she said.

Fitton argued they are moving too slowly. The State Department was ordered in November to process 500 pages per month, but he said it would take until 2020 for the bulk to be made public.

“President Trump needs to direct his agencies to follow the the law but right now they are making a mockery of it by saying they won’t finish releasing it until 2020,” he said.

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, released 448 pages of documents the State Department did turn over from Abedin last week. The group said the emails describe preferential treatment “to major donors to the Clinton Foundation and political campaigns.”

“The documents included six Clinton email exchanges not previously turned over to the State Department, bringing the known total to date to at least 439 emails that were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department, and further contradicting a statement by Clinton that, ‘as far as she knew,’ all of her government emails had been turned over to the State Department,” the group said in a July 14 press release.

Is it time for the DOJ to reopen the probe into Clinton?

July 19, 2017

Is it time for the DOJ to reopen the probe into Clinton? Judicial Watch via YouTube, July 19, 2017

(But that would be misogynistic and besides, it’s just old news.  Let’s just keep trying to impeach President Trump. That gets lots of headlines.– DM)

 

A Terrorist and Naturalization Fraud

July 11, 2017

A Terrorist and Naturalization Fraud, Front Page MagazineMichael Cutler, July 11, 2017

On June 29, 2017 the Department of Justice issued a press releases, Ohio Man Pleads Guilty to Providing Material Support to Terrorists.

Numerous politicians have proposed legislation that would strip an American of his/her citizenship if that American attended terror training overseas or fought on the side of terrorist organizations.  This is entirely understandable and other countries have proposed similar laws be enacted.

Incredibly, in this case, this terrorist could have easily been stripped of his citizenship because he apparently acquired it by committing fraud in his naturalization application.

Yet, inexplicably, the federal prosecutors in this case failed to indict him for this crime even as they successfully charged him with other crimes relating to terrorism, for which he pleaded guilty. Adding this crime to his charges would have been a simple matter, indeed.

The “Ohio Man” was Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud a native of Somalia who, according to the information filed by federal prosecutors, entered the United States at the age of two.

The DOJ press release began with these two paragraphs:

Court records unsealed today reveal that Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 25, of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty to all counts alleged against him regarding a terrorist plot.

A federal grand jury charged Mohamud in April 2015 with one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization – namely, al-Nusrah Front – and one count of making false statements to the FBI involving international terrorism in an indictment returned in Columbus. Mohamud pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers on Aug. 14, 2015, and the plea was sealed because of an ongoing investigation.

According to the information provided in the press release and court documents (Revised Statement of Facts) filed on August 14, 2015 in the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, by federal prosecutors, the defendant did not become a naturalized citizen until 2014 when he was approximately 20 years of age.

Furthermore, the information contained in the documents made it clear that his motivation for becoming a United States citizen was not because of his love and respect for America but rather to enable him to acquire a U.S. passport to facilitate his travel to Syria to join his brother, Abdifatah Aden in fighting on the side of the al-Nusrah Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Lying on those applications constitutes fraud.  As stipulated in federal law, Title 18 U.S. Code § 1425 (Procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully) when this crime is committed in conjunction with terrorism, the punishment is a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, a greater penalty that he faces for lying to an FBI agent.

However, the greatest incentive for this additional charge goes well beyond increasing his possible period of incarceration.  By having Mohamud successfully prosecuted for this violation would result in his being stripped of his U.S. citizenship and consequently he would be subject to removal (deportation) from the United States.

This is of considerable importance considering that the DOJ press release reported:

According to a statement of facts supporting Mohamud’s guilty plea, while in Syria, Mohamud trained with al-Nusrah Front on fitness, and on the use of weapons and tactics. Mohamud also engaged in a firefight and expressed his desire to die fighting in Syria.

After his brother was killed while fighting for al-Nusrah Front, Mohamud returned to the U.S. According to the statement of facts, after returning to the U.S., Mohamud planned to obtain weapons in order to kill military officers or other government employees or people in uniform. Evidence seized by the FBI indicates that Mohamud researched places in the U.S. to carry out such plans.

Given that his goal, in returning to the United States, was to carry out terror attacks inside the United States, it is incomprehensible he was not charged with naturalization fraud to ultimately remove him from the United States upon completion of his prison sentence.

This excerpt from the previously noted Revised Statement of Facts provides clear and unequivocal evidence that the defendant procured United States citizenship unlawfully by concealing material facts in his application for U.S. citizenship:

1. Abdirahman Sheik MOHAMUD is a 23-year-old resident of Columbus, Ohio. MOHAMUD was born in Somalia but came to the United States (U.S.) when he was approximately two years old and became a naturalized U.S. citizen on February 18, 2014.

2. An overview of MOHAMUD’s criminal conduct is as follows:

3. In September of 2013, MOHAMUD sent his brother, Abdifatah ADEN, a private message praising his brother Abdifatah ADEN, who was fighting in Syria, for being a soldier and committing himself to join ADEN as a fellow foreign fighter.

4. From approximately January through April of 2014, MOHAMUD and ADEN coordinated MOHAMUD’s travel into Syria, planned MOHAMUD’s financial support for ADEN, and discussed MOHAMUD’s plans to obtain a communication device to provide to ADEN in support of terrorist activities. MOHAMUD’s planning included obtaining a U.S. passport and airline ticket, opening a bank account, gathering $1,000 of funds on ADEN’s behalf, and purchasing an internet-accessible device.

5. On February 18, 2014, MOHAMUD became a naturalized U.S. citizen. On February 25, 2014, MOHAMUD submitted a passport application to the U.S.

6. On April 8, 2014, MOHAMUD purchased a one-way ticket to Athens, Greece via Istanbul, Turkey.

7. MOHAMUD departed the U.S. on April 18, 2014 for the purpose of fighting in Syria and providing material support to the al-Nusrah Front (“al-Nusrah”), an organization that is designated by the U.S. Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). MOHAMUD did not fly to Athens, rather, he disembarked in Istanbul, Turkey and did not board his connecting flight. Around the time MOHAMUD departed the U.S., he knew ADEN was in Syria fighting with the terrorist organization al-Nusrah.

This case is far from unique.  There have been numerous instances of foreign terrorists applying for United States citizenship as an embedding tactic and also to enable them to acquire U.S. passports which facilitate their entry into other countries as they go about preparatory functions relating to training, planning and conducing surveillance of potential targets in the United States and abroad.

“For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”  That statement appears in

Chapter 12 of the 9/11 Report under the subtitle, “What To Do?  A Global Strategy.”

For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points.

In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected.

Yet USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) a component agency of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), adjudicates hundreds of thousands of applications for United States citizenship via naturalization every year.  This only represents a small part of the more than 9 million applications filed annually for various immigration benefits.

This beleaguered agency and its employees are overwhelmed.  Immigration fraud is not a “victimless crime” as I noted in a recent paper, “Immigration Fraud: Lies That Kill – 9/11 Commission identified immigration fraud as a key embedding tactic of terrorists.”

Furthermore, when aliens apply for naturalization they are able to legally change their names and their U.S. passports only reflect their new names.  This enables criminals and terrorists to gain entry into countries that would bar them from entering under their original names but have no way of knowing that they have morphed into brand-new identities as U.S. citizens.  This not only threatens America’s security but the security of our allies.

I have raised this issue at congressional hearings and elsewhere, but to no avail.

As I noted in a previous article, Terrorists Value U.S. Citizenship More Than Our Politicians Do.

Additionally, in another article I included an excerpt from a May 19, 2015 New York Times article, In Osama bin Laden Library: Illuminati and Bob Woodward, that described what American commandos discovered when they raided bin Laden’s compound.

Here is that excerpt:

He (bin Laden) also appeared to have maintained a keen interest in what the United States government thought of Al Qaeda. A copy of ‘The 9/11 Commission Report’ was found in the compound in Abbottabad, as were three reports on Al Qaeda by the Congressional Research Service. There was also an application for American citizenship (no word on whether it was filled out).

Clearly bin Laden had an interest in our immigration system.

Numerous terror suspects, to this day, have sought U.S. citizenship as an integral part of their strategies to move freely around the world in preparation for carrying out deadly attacks.

Criminal violations of our immigration laws must not be ignored but prosecuted aggressively to protect America and its citizens especially, in cases involving terrorists.

FULL MEASURE: June 25, 2017 – Fast and Furious

June 26, 2017

FULL MEASURE: June 25, 2017 – Fast and Furious via YouTube, June 26, 2017

(The Department of Justice continues to resist efforts to obtain information on the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious gunrunning program. The Trump administration presumably has no interest in concealing that information. Is this another example of the deep state in action? — DM)

 

Analysis: 2 US cases provide unique window into Iran’s global terror network

June 23, 2017

Analysis: 2 US cases provide unique window into Iran’s global terror network, Long War Journal, June 23, 2017

On June 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) made an announcement that deserves more attention. Two alleged Hizballah operatives had been arrested inside the United States after carrying out various missions on behalf of the Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization. The plots took the men around the globe, from Thailand to Panama and even into the heart of New York City.

Both men are naturalized U.S. citizens. And they are both accused of performing surveillance on prospective targets for Hizballah’s highly secretive external operations wing, known as the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO).

Ali Kourani, a 32-year-old who was living in the Bronx, New York (pictured on the right*), allegedly gathered “information regarding operations and security at airports in the U.S. and elsewhere,” while also “surveilling U.S. military and law enforcement facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn.” Hizballah asked Kourani to identify “individuals affiliated with the Israeli Defense Force” inside the U.S. and locate “weapons suppliers in the U.S. who could provide firearms to support IJO operations” as well. Kourani allegedly conducted all of these missions on behalf of his IJO “handler,” who was safely ensconced back home in Lebanon.

Samer el Debek, a 37-year-old resident of Dearborn, Michigan, is charged with “casing security procedures at the Panama Canal and the Israeli Embassy” in Panama, identifying “areas of weakness and construction at the Panama Canal,” and determining for Hizballah “how close someone could get to a ship passing through the Canal.” His “IJO handlers” also “asked him for photographs of the U.S. Embassy” in Panama, as well as “details” concerning its “security procedures.” (El Debek told authorities he did not provide Hizballah with the information requested on the American embassy.)

The charges brought against Kourani and El Debek have not been proven in a court of law. They remain allegations that have yet to be weighed by the criminal justice system. Still, the legal filings in both cases provide a unique window into how the FBI and the U.S. government are tracking Hizballah’s international terror network, including inside America.

Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization first gained infamy in the 1980s, when it orchestrated various attacks on Americans and Europeans in Lebanon and elsewhere. In some ways, the IJO could be credited with launching the modern jihadist war against the U.S., pioneering the use of near-simultaneous suicide bombings. Such tactics would later be adopted by Sunni jihadists, including al Qaeda, with devastating effects.

The IJO has avoided public scrutiny at times. The public’s attention has been mainly focused on the Islamic State of late. This is understandable as the so-called caliphate inspires, directs and guides terrorist operations around the globe.

But the U.S. government’s recent filings, including the sworn affidavits of two FBI agents responsible for tracking Hizballah, make it clear that the IJO continues to manage a sophisticated, clandestine web of operatives who are trained to carry out Iran’s bidding.

The IJO uses multiple aliases, including “External Security Organization” and “910.” The government describes it as a “component of Hizballah responsible for the planning and coordination of intelligence, counterintelligence, and terrorist activities on behalf of” the terror group “outside of Lebanon.” The IJO’s “operatives” are usually “assigned a Lebanon-based ‘handler,’ sometimes referred to as a mentor,” and this person is “responsible for providing taskings, debriefing operatives, and arranging training.”

The IJO often compartmentalizes its operations, conducting them “in stages” and “sending waves of one or more operatives with separate taskings such as surveillance, obtaining and storing necessary components and equipment, and attack execution.” Indeed, the government explains that the IJO’s handlers keep the procurement of ammonium nitrate-based products used for bomb-making separate from other terror-related tasks so as to avoid generating additional scrutiny.

Neither Kourani, nor El Debek is accused of conspiring to commit an imminent attack. But US officials think their work was part of longer-term planning.

“Pre-operational surveillance is one of the hallmarks of [Hizballah] in planning for future attacks,” Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the New York Police Department (NYPD) explained in a statement.

The surveillance performed in New York City was done “in support of anticipated IJO terrorist attacks,” according to the complaint against Kourani.

Reading through the extensive legal paperwork, totaling dozens of pages, one is left to wonder who else Hizballah may have stationed here inside the U.S. as part of its patient plotting.

The sections that follow below are based on the U.S. government’s complaints and affidavits. In many cases, these same filings say the details cited were originally provided, in whole or in part, by Kourani and El Debek themselves during interviews with the FBI.

Kourani allegedly admitted he was an IJO “sleeper” operative

Ali Kourani (also known as “Jacob Lewis” and “Daniel”) was born near Bint Jbeil, Lebanon in 1984 and relocated to the U.S. as a young man in 2003. He went on to receive “a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering in 2009” and a MBA in 2013.

Kourani sat for “multiple voluntary interviews” with the FBI in 2016 and 2017, and much of the evidence cited in the complaint against him is sourced to his own admissions during these sessions. At one point, he apparently said he hoped to exchange information for “financial support and immigration benefits for certain” relatives, but the FBI says it didn’t agree to this quid pro quo proposal.

Kourani allegedly compared his family to the “Bin Ladens of Lebanon,” describing one brother as the “face of Hizballah” in one area of Lebanon. He was first trained at a 45-day Hizballah “boot camp” in the year 2000. He was just 16 years old at the time, but claimed that his “family’s connections to a high-ranking Hizballah official named Haider Kourani” allowed him to attend the camp. Kourani was allegedly “taught to fire AK-47 assault rifles and rocket launchers, as well as basic military tactics.”

His “family’s home was destroyed by an Israeli bombing” during the 2006 Lebanon War. Approximately two years later, according to Kourani, he was “recruited by” Hizballah’s Sheikh Hussein Kourani to serve in the IJO.

Kourani described the IJO as being responsible for “black ops” carried out by Hizballah and “the Iranians.” Kourani also explained that the IJO is “operated” by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who reports “directly to Ali Khamenei,” the Iranian Supreme Leader.

Kourani told the FBI that he was “recruited to join the IJO in light of his education and residence in the United States.” But there was another sinister motive for Hizballah’s interest in him. The IJO was developing a network of “sleepers” who “maintained ostensibly normal lies but could be activated and tasked with conducting IJO operations,” Kourani purportedly said.

Indeed, Kourani “identified himself” as one of these IJO “sleeper” operatives, “working undercover in the United States” and covertly “conducting IJO intelligence-gathering and surveillance missions” given to him by his handlers in Lebanon.

Kourani identified one IJO handler as “Fadi” (also known as “Hajj”) and explained the elaborate security protocols Hizballah took. In addition to be questioned about his own background, Kourani was trained on “conducting interrogations, resisting interrogations, and surveillance techniques.”

Fadi “typically wore a mask during their meetings,” explaining that the IJO’s “golden rule” is “the less you know the better it is.” Fadi “acted as” Kourani’s handler until about Sept. 2015, when Kourani claims he “was deactivated by the IJO.”

Fadi told Kourani to obtain a U.S. citizenship, a passport and related documents, thereby making it easier for him to travel around the world on behalf of Hizballah. The IJO’s man also instructed Kourani on how they could communicate securely, using code words and other basic tradecraft.

IJO surveillance in New York City, including at John F. Kennedy International Airport

The most striking allegations against Kourani involve his surveillance of potential targets in New York City on behalf of Hizballah.

Fadi “directed” Kourani to “surveil and collect information regarding military and intelligence targets in the New York City area,” the FBI found. Kourani then “conducted physical surveillance” on three locations in Manhattan and another in Brooklyn. The buildings he surveilled include: “a U.S. government facility, which includes FBI offices”; a “U.S. Army National Guard facility”; a “U.S. Secret Service facility”; and a “U.S. Army Armory facility.” Kourani transferred his video surveillance on “at least one” of these targets to “Fadi and other IJO personnel in Lebanon.”

According to the complaint, Fadi had Kourani surveil airports in the New York area. “In response,” Kourani “provided detailed information to Fadi regarding specific security protocols; baggage-screening and collection practices; and the locations of surveillance cameras, security personnel, law enforcement officers, and magnetometers at JFK and an international airport in another country.”

Fadi tasked Kourani with other missions as well. He told Kourani to “obtain surveillance equipment in the United States” – including “drones, night-vision goggles, and high-powered cameras” – “so that the underlying technology could be studied and replicated by the IJO.” He also had Kourani “cultivate contacts” who “could provide firearms for use in potential future IJO operations in the United States” (Fadi allegedly deemed these contacts unsuitable for arms purchases), while also collecting “intelligence regarding individuals…affiliated with the” Israeli Defense Forces.

El Debek’s alleged admissions during interviews with the FBI

As with Kourani, the FBI’s case against Samer el Debek is based in no small part on his interviews with the Bureau. El Debek was interviewed “in person a total of five times between” Sept. 8, 2016 and May 23, 2017, as well as “by phone on a number of occasions.” His testimony was supplemented with evidence culled from his social media, emails and travel documents.

According to the complaint in his case, El Debek allegedly admitted that: he was “first recruited by Hizballah in late 2007 or 2008” and eventually received a salary of $1,000 per month plus “medical expenses”; he “received military training from Hizballah in Lebanon,” including how to use assault rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and other weapons; he “was trained on at least four occasions between 2009 and 2013 in surveillance and counter-surveillance techniques”; he “attended Hizballah religious training,” during which “a sheikh taught religious rules and topics including martyrdom ideology”; he was trained on the “handling of explosives and the creation of explosive devices,” including landmines, improvised explosive devices and how to remotely detonate such bombs; and he was “taught how specifically to target people and buildings.”

An FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician discussed the “bomb-making techniques” Hizballah imparted to El Debek and found that he “had a high degree of technical sophistication in this area.”

Indirect ties to Iran’s worldwide terror campaign in 2012

Several of the allegations against Kourani and El Debek connect them – albeit indirectly – to an IJO network responsible for orchestrating a wave of terrorist plots on behalf of the Iranian regime in 2012.

That year witnessed a “marked resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and Tehran’s ally” Hizballah, the State Department said in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012. Iran and Hizballah’s “terrorist activity…reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.”

Foggy Bottom went on to cite plots and attacks in Cyprus, Georgia, India, Kenya, and Thailand as evidence of Iran’s worldwide campaign of terror in 2012. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, State Department highlights Iran’s ‘marked resurgence’ of state-sponsored terrorism.]

Some of these same plots – all carried out under the direction of Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) – are referenced in the complaints filed against Kourani and El Debek.

On July 18, 2012, Hizballah bombed a tour bus carrying Israelis at the Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. Five Israelis and one Bulgarian were killed. The Bulgarian government publicly fingered Hizballah as the culprit.

The FBI discussed the Burgas attack with El Debek, who explained that the bomber, Mohamad Husseini, “was connected to his family.” Husseini was the nephew of El Debek’s aunt. El Debek also “identified a photograph of Husseini,” explaining that “he knew of Husseini’s membership in Hizballah’s ‘External Security’ unit” – meaning the IJO, El Debek’s own parent organization.

The complaint does not cite any evidence directly tying El Debek to the Burgas bombing. But the FBI assessed that El Debek’s training would allow him to build an explosive device similar to the one that killed several Israelis.

The “techniques and methods in which Hizballah trained” El Debek to build an improvised explosive device “are substantially similar to those used to construct the IED used in the” Burgas bombing, FBI Special Agent Daniel M. Ganci wrote in an affidavit. Ganci relied on his conversations with another FBI bomb expert in formulating his assessment.

The complaints cite the IJO’s activities in Thailand, pointing to the Jan. 2012 arrest of Hussein Atris, who was detained as “he tried to board a flight at Bangkok airport.” Atris “subsequently led law enforcement personnel to a commercial building near Bangkok that housed a cache of nearly 10,000 pounds of urea-based fertilizer and 10 gallons of ammonium nitrate,” which “can be used to construct explosives.”

Atris wasn’t the only Iranian-sponsored operative in Thailand at the time. In Feb. 2012, two Iranian men were arrested by Thai police and a third by Malaysian authorities after the group “accidentally set off explosives that were allegedly intended to target Israeli diplomats,” according to the State Department. The explosives “were similar to bombs targeting Israeli diplomats in Georgia and India” during that same timeframe. Still other Iranian agents “successfully fled” Thailand. All of the operatives traveled “through Malaysia” to Bangkok.

In 2009, years before the high-profile arrests, El Debek himself traveled to Bangkok, apparently slipping in and out of Thailand unnoticed. According to the complaint, it was El Debek’s “first mission abroad” on behalf Hizballah. El Debek allegedly told the FBI that he was supposed “to clean up the explosive precursors” left behind at a house in Bangkok by other Hizballah members who were forced to flee “because they were under surveillance.”

Like his Hizballah compatriots who followed him, El Debek traveled through Malaysia en route to Thailand. While in Malaysia, “he met his IJO handler,” who “provided him with a cover story” to use in Bangkok.

El Debek was to hire a sex worker “to draw out any surveillance on the house.” El Debek told the FBI that he did as his handler instructed him, hiring a “female escort” to probe for any suspicious activity around the home. While El Debek watched, she entered the home without any problems. Now confident that authorities weren’t watching the home, El Debek later returned “and found approximately 50 boxes containing materials sealed in plastic.” He told the FBI that “the majority, if not all” of the boxes contained ammonium nitrate. He removed as many as he could in “his rented vehicle” and dumped the rest. Curiously, however, he was instructed a “day or two later” to “return the explosive precursors to the house and pay rent to the landlord.” He complied before returning to Lebanon via Malaysia.

The complaint does not explicitly connect the “explosive precursors” El Debek handled in 2009 to Hizballah’s plots three years later. But the charges, assuming they are true, confirm that the Iranian proxy was laying the groundwork for operations in Thailand years in advance.

In May 2009, Kourani made his own suspicious trip, which also may be tied to the events that unfolded in 2012. Kourani traveled to Guangzhou, China, where the manufacturer of “ammonium nitrate-based First Aid ice packs” was located. The FBI found that these same types of ice packs, from the same manufacturer, were “seized in connection with” the thwarted IJO plot in Thailand in 2012, as well as a separate foiled operation in Cyprus.

In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a number of Hizballah “front companies” and “agents” used for procurement around the world. One of these, Stars International, Ltd., has a subsidiary in Guangzhou.

El Debek’s surveillance in Panama

Another one of El Debek’s alleged missions for Hizballah took him to Panama. He visited the tiny Central American nation twice, with his first trip coming in 2011. El Debek explained that “his operational taskings included learning to drive in Panama, determining the cost of opening a business, locating the U.S. and Israeli Embassies, and determining how to get to the Panama Canal.” He was “instructed to case and identify security procedures at the Canal and the Israeli Embassy,” but said “his purpose for locating the U.S. Embassy was simply to know its location.” According to the complaint, the IJO operative also “located hardware stores” and other places where “acetone and battery acid,” both “explosive precursors,” could be acquired.

El Debek’s second alleged mission to Panama came in 2012. This time it “was more focused on the Panama Canal,” he explained. Hizballah “asked him to identify areas of weakness and construction at the Canal, and provide information about Canal security and how close someone could get to a ship.” He “took a lot of photographs of the Canal, which he later provided to the IJO.”

His “IJO handlers” were keenly interested in the U.S. Embassy, including “details about its security procedures,” as well as “periods of heavy traffic into and out of the U.S. Embassy, and the locations of houses and apartments in close vicinity to” it. El Debek claimed he didn’t go into the embassy, nor did he take photographs of it, so he “did not have a significant understanding of” the Americans’ “security procedures.” He claimed that he merely informed his “IJO handlers” that “people waiting for a visa appointment entered the Embassy and then waited for their appointment inside.”

After returning from Panama to Lebanon, he “met with his IJO handler and the handler’s superior,” providing them “with maps, notes, pictures, and the camera he used in Panama.”

El Debek said that after performing these missions, however, Hizballah turned on him, accusing him of “spying for the United States.” He allegedly offered a “false confession after repeated interrogations,” telling Hizballah “that he worked for the FBI, CIA, and police.” He supposedly named his American handlers as “Jeff and Michael” (names he made up) and said he was “paid $500,000” for his services to the U.S. government.

It is not clear why Hizballah would think that El Debek had doubled-crossed them.

The cult of martyrdom has become a prominent feature of Sunni jihadism, but El Debek’s case includes important reminders that it is still a powerful concept within Iranian-sponsored Shiite jihadism as well. According to the complaint, he performed multiple searches on Facebook using terms such as “martyrs of the holy defense,” “martyrs of Islamic resistance,” “Hizballah martyrs,” and “martyrs of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.”

Background on Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO)

The world first heard of Hizballah’s “Islamic Jihad Organization” (IJO) in the early 1980s, when Iran’s terrorist proxy struck American and European targets in Lebanon. The IJO was poorly understood at the time. So when the group claimed responsibility for several operations, and threatened to execute more, there was confusion over which party was the real culprit. Some reporting still reflects the initial uncertainty to this day.

In reality, the IJO was one of Iran’s and Hizballah’s early fronts for waging jihad against the West. Western forces were deployed to Lebanon as peacekeepers in the wake of Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982. The Iranian regime and its surrogates went to work. The CIA found that hundreds of members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were deployed to Lebanon, where they built terror networks and began spreading Ayatollah Khomeini’s radical ideology. The IRGC was based in Baalbek and Iran coordinated the IRGC’s activities via its embassy in Damascus, often with the support of Assad regime. The IJO was a key part of these early Iranian plans.

The IJO claimed responsibility for the Apr. 18, 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. According to Langley, the bombing was the “deadliest attack in CIA history,” as some of the Americans killed were Agency personnel.

After the Embassy bombing, the CIA’s William F. Buckley volunteered to serve as Station Chief in Lebanon. In March 1984, the IJO kidnapped Buckley. He died in the terrorists’ custody in June 1985. The IJO claimed that it executed Buckley in Oct. 1985, months after US officials say he perished.

US officials also identified the IJO as the Iranian arm behind the Oct. 23, 1983 suicide bombs targeting peacekeepers in the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF). Twin vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices rocked the barracks for U.S. Marines and French peacekeepers, killing 241 Americans and 58 French service members. The fingerprints of Hizballah’s IJO and its terror master, Imad Mughniyah (pictured on the right), were all over the attacks.

A Sept. 27, 1984 analysis by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence found that the IJO “almost certainly carried out” the Apr. 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing, as well as the Oct. 1983 attacks on the Marines and French paratroopers. The CIA referred to “Islamic Jihad” (or the IJO) as Hizballah’s “terrorist component,” explaining that it operated with “Iranian assistance” and was “determined to drive the US and Israel out of Lebanon and to establish an Islamic state there.”

That same CIA analysis pointed to an “overwhelming body of circumstantial evidence” showing that Hizballah operated “with Iranian support under the cover name of Islamic Jihad.” Another now declassified CIA assessment concluded that the IJO was not “a distinct organization with identifiable leaders,” but instead “an umbrella name used by a number of Iranian-dominated Shia extremist groups” in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.

An observation in the CIA’s Sept. 1984 assessment proved to be a harbinger of things to come. “Radical leaders almost certainly viewed the withdrawal of the Marine contingent from Beirut last winter as proof of the effectiveness of terrorist tactics,” the Agency’s analysts wrote in reference to the aftermath of the IJO’s Oct. 1983 bombing.

Iranian-backed Shiite jihadists were not the only ones who held this view. At the time, a certain young extremist named Osama bin Laden was watching as events unfolded in Lebanon. Bin Laden believed that the American withdrawal signaled weakness. While stationed in Sudan in the early 1990s, bin Laden and al Qaeda even turned to Hizballah, Mughniyah and Iran for assistance in learning how to conduct simultaneous suicide attacks. “Bin Laden reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983,” the 9/11 Commission later found. Al Qaeda cadres were trained by Hizballah in Lebanon, as well as in Iran.

Hizballah’s terrorist innovation would become al Qaeda’s modus operandi. Bin Laden’s men directly modeled the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania after Hizballah’s 1983 attacks. As a U.S. court later found, Iran and Hizballah provided al Qaeda with the “technical expertise” necessary to carry out the 1998 Embassy bombings. Bin Laden believed he could drive the U.S. out of the Middle East if his men replicated Mughniyah’s early operations. However, the al Qaeda founder was proven wrong on that score.

Hizballah’s IJO was the spearhead for a series of other Iranian-backed, anti-Western operations in Lebanon and elsewhere. Bombings, kidnappings, assassinations – all were tied to the IJO in the 1980s. A car bombing outside of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait in 1983 and the assassination of a Saudi government official in Spain were both claimed by the IJO, according to the CIA.
The 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 was another instance of IJO-orchestrated terror.

Callers claiming to be affiliated with the group phoned in additional threats around the globe, promising more terror if all Western and Israeli forces didn’t evacuate Lebanon.

In 1987, on the fourth anniversary of the Marine barracks and French paratroopers bombings, a statement attributed to the IJO was sent to the press. “America failed to do anything. It just collected the limbs of its dead and fled from the Muslims’ fists in Lebanon,” the statement read, according to an account in UPI at the time. The group threatened more attacks against American interests. “And this, with God’s backing, will occur in other Muslim countries soon at the hands of the students of our blessed martyrs.” Photos of two men held hostage by the IJO — American journalist Terry Anderson and French journalist Jean-Paul Kauffman – were attached to the message, along with images the buildings bombed in Oct. 1983. Luckily, both Anderson and Kauffman were subsequently released.

This early campaign of Iranian terror has had lasting effects throughout the region. Some of its participants have continued to push the regime’s agenda decades after the fact.

One such figure is commonly known as Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis (also identified as Jamal Jafaar Mohammed Ali Ebrahimi), the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is currently fighting the Islamic State inside Iraq. Muhandis, a close confidant of IRGC-Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, was designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist in 2009. The Treasury Department noted that he had “participated in the bombing of Western embassies in Kuwait and the attempted assassination of the Emir of Kuwait in the early 1980s.” Muhandis “was subsequently convicted in absentia by the Kuwaiti government for his role in the bombing and attempted assassination.”

Like so many plots during this timeframe, some sources identified Imad Mughniyah as the chief architect of the 1983 embassy bombings in Kuwait — the same attacks Muhandis was later convicted of participating in. One of Mughniyah’s family members, Mustafa Youssef Badreddin, was among the 17 people arrested in Kuwait and convicted of carrying out the attacks on the U.S. and French embassies, among other targets. In the years that followed, Iran’s terrorist proxies repeatedly demanded that members of this group (dubbed the “Dawa 17”) be released from custody in exchange for Western hostages.

Hizballah’s IJO wasn’t finished in the 1980s. And its operational reach extended into Central and South America. For instance, the IJO claimed responsibility for the Mar. 17, 1992 suicide truck bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A little over two years later, on July 18, 1994, another Hizballah suicide terrorist drove a bomb-laden vehicle into a Jewish community center (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, or AMIA) in Buenos Aires. INTERPOL subsequently issued Red Notices for Mughiyah and several others for their role in the devastating explosions.

Hizballah’s IJO allegedly wanted revenge for the death of Mughniyah

In Feb. 2008, Mughniyah was assassinated in a highly professional operation in Damascus, Syria. The hit was likely carried out by the Israelis, possibly with the assistance of their American allies. The recently released court filings indicate that Hizballah has been seeking revenge, including inside the U.S., since then. Those same documents identify Mughniyah as the IJO’s “leader” until his death.

Fadi, the IJO handler, allegedly “directed” Ali Kourani “to identify and collect intelligence regarding individuals in the United States affiliated with the” Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). According to the complaint, Kourani “believed that the IJO gave this tasking to facilitate, among other things, assassinations of IDF personnel in retaliation for” Mughniyah’s death. Kourani “used a social media account to identify members or associates [of the IDF] in the New York City area, and he described his search methodology to Fadi.”

The cases against Kourani and El Debek suggest that the U.S. government will be forced to contend with Hizballah’s international network for the foreseeable future. Just this past week, in fact, the State Department amended its terrorist designation of Hizballah to include additional aliases for the group.

Hizballah’s IJO arguably began the current jihadists’ war against the West in the early 1980s. And it is still plotting more than three decades later.

*The photo of Ali Kourani was first used during a segment broadcast by NY1. A similar image was also used by NBC New York.