Posted tagged ‘Islamic deradicalization’

Fox in the Hen House: Allowing Terrorists to Re-enter Prisons

June 29, 2017

Fox in the Hen House: Allowing Terrorists to Re-enter Prisons, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Patrick Dunleavy , June 28, 2017

Allowing a fox into the hen house does irreparable harm to all. Allowing a terrorist back into prison will only do the same.

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

Recent articles by the IPT and other news organizations have addressed the growing concerns regarding the upcoming release of over a hundred inmates convicted of terrorism related crimes. Experts have spoken on the lack of a bona fide strategy that will address the unique security issues presented when a terrorist is released. The need for post release specialized supervision programs is clear.

The one idea that should not be on the table is to allow them to re-enter prisons to speak with inmates as a religious volunteer. Yet this is exactly what has happened in the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) for the last two years.

Edwin Lorenzo Lemmons, also known as Asad al Salaam, is an employee of the Muslim Chaplain Services of Virginia. He is licensed in the state as an Islamic clergyman authorized to perform marriages and other religious ceremonies. He has been issued a statewide pass to enter any VADOC facility and speak with inmates. He is currently teaching a class in Arabic for inmates. He is also an ex-offender. While that in itself is not unusual, many ex-offenders, in a desire to give back and help others in similar situations, have successfully done so. This particular ex-offender, Edwin Lorenzo Lemmons, (FBI # 939113RA3), is quite unique.

Lemmons’ criminal history began in a small rural community in upstate New York. His parents had sent him there from Chicago in hopes of protecting him from the scourge of gang violence and drugs. His first arrest occurred when he was a teenager, and for the next two years he amassed charges ranging from DUI to Burglary, Assault, and finally, Robbery. The last charge resulted in his being sentenced to a term of 2-4 years in a New York State prison. Upon his entrance to a Reception and Classification facility in April of 1996, he declared his religion as Christian. A few months later, after meeting with several inmates of Middle Eastern descent, one, a former Colonel in the Yemeni army and the other, a member of Hamas, Mr. Lemmons informed his counselor that he was changing his religious affiliation to Islam. Following that development, he began to attend Arabic classes taught by another inmate in the Cayuga Correctional Facility. The inmate teacher’s name was Abdel Nasser Zaben.

Abdel Zaben, a Palestinian, was born in Jordan in 1969. He illegally entered the United States in 1990, arrested by the NYPD in 1993 for Kidnapping and Robbery, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Zaben was also the target of an investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force who had received confidential information that he had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden and was recruiting disenfranchised inmates to his group for training and to fight in the Jihad. At the time he first met with Edwin Lemmons, Zaben worked as a clerk for the prison’s Islamic Chaplain . For the next two years he tutored Lemmons in both Arabic and the Koran. When the time for Lemmons’ release from prison drew near, inmate Zaben provided him with names and contact information of individuals in the Middle East who would assist Lemmons in his travel and studies.

Following his release, in the fall of 1998, Lemmons had his parole supervision transferred to Florida, and enrolled in the Islamic Center of Gainesville. In March 2000, Lemmons made his first trip overseas to the Middle East. Upon his return from Jordan through New York’s JFK Airport and then on to Gainesville, Florida, he approached the president of the Islamic center and asked about fighting in the jihad overseas. The then-president, Mohamed Bahmaid, in an interview with members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, stated that he tried to discourage Lemmons from any future overseas travel. Lemmons did not heed his advice. Four months later Lemmons made another trip overseas, this time to Egypt. He stayed for three months and while there, according to a reliable source who knew both Lemmons and Zaben, he received “underground tactical training.”

Later, while under surveillance by the JTTF, Lemmons was observed at a firing range in Melbourne, Florida with two other individuals, firing AK 47’s and SKS assault rifles. They were practicing tactical maneuvers known as “cover & concealment.” In addition, authorities received credible information from a reliable source that described Lemmons as someone with extremist Islamic views similar to that of the Taliban. Lemmons himself admitted to extremist views in a recorded conversation with inmate Abdel Zaben. The majority of Lemmon’s conversations with Zaben were in Arabic and required the use of government translators. The translators often remarked as to the skill and scholarly approach to the language that Lemmons had acquired. That development caused concern with investigators in June 2003 when monitoring a conversation between Lemmons and Zaben. Lemmons kept saying over and over to Zaben that he needed to learn how to say “Big Truck” in Arabic. He was fluent in Arabic and knew precisely how to say those words. Why was he repeating the phrase, “Big Truck”? Investigators believed this was a coded message about a possible future attack that Lemmons was to be involved with.

That is why on September 6, 2003, members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Lemmons in the Orlando airport as he returned from yet another trip to the Middle East. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. But this was no ordinary gun case. This was the result of a joint investigation dubbed “Operation Hades” which included investigators from my Office, the NYPD, the NYSP, and the JTTF. The goal of the investigation was to determine the level of Islamic radicalization in the prison system both here and abroad and also to identify and neutralize any radicalizing influences.

Lemmons was only one of the many radicals we uncovered.

As a result of his plea arrangement, he received a sentence of twenty seven months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was released from prison on May 12, 2006. He continued to have contact with Abdel Zaben and other individuals in the Middle East whom he met during his travels. He has never recanted his extremist views.

The question arises as to why the Muslim Chaplains Services of Virginia would hire someone holding such extremist views. Perhaps they were unaware of Lemmons’ background, or perhaps they share the same beliefs as Mr. Lemmons. The MCSVA is a non-profit organization incorporated in 2003 whose stated mission is “to serve incarcerated individuals, ex-offenders, and their families.” To accomplish that goal, MCSVA has received funding from various organizations including the Islamic Relief (IRUSA), an organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Its former global affiliate and current partner organization Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) was banned from operating in Israel on allegations the charity funneled funds to Hamas. Later the same year, the United Arab Emirates declared IRW to be a terrorist group.

One of the MCSVA board members, Sa’ad El-Amin, pled guilty to Tax Fraud and sentenced to 37 months in a federal prison. Adding to this, MCSVA is now employing an individual who was radicalized in prison and has spoken of fighting and dying for jihad, namely Edwin Lorenzo Lemmons, also known as Asad al Salaam

Allowing an individual with such radical Islamic views to meet, teach, and influence a particularly vulnerable group of society, incarcerated men and women, is in direct opposition to the FBI’s Correctional Intelligence Initiative which seeks to detect, deter, and disrupt the level of violent extremism and radicalization in correctional institutions. It specifically speaks of preventing un-vetted religious clergy and volunteers with extremist views from any interaction with inmates. The DOJ Inspector General’s Office has also spoken of this security concern. That inmates could be radicalized while incarcerated and then carry out terrorist attacks after release is a very real concern both here and in abroad.

It seems incredulous to me that, in light of the recent terrorist attacks in the UK and other European countries, carried out in part by individuals radicalized in prison, someone with Mr. Lemmons’ background would be allowed to reenter a prison, let alone teach inmates.

When notified of Lemmons’ well documented criminal activity since his release from a New York State prison, Melissa Welch, the Operations Support Manager for VADOC, whose office oversees religious volunteers, stated that the approval to allow Mr. Lemmons to visit and teach inmates in Virginia was granted by her predecessor in 2015. She went on to say that the agency is in the process of reviewing how Edwin Lemmons slipped through the cracks and what action VADOC will need to take to correct the security error.

Three crucial steps will be necessary to effectively neutralize this egregious security breach. First, Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke should immediately suspend Mr. Lemmons’ authorization to enter any correctional facility. Second, an audit/investigation into how religious volunteers are vetted should be conducted, and changes made, to prevent individuals with prior convictions for terror related crimes to gain access to any correctional facility. And thirdly, a list of the names of all the inmates, both in custody or released, who attended any classes or services conducted by Mr. Lemmons should be forwarded to the National Joint Terrorism Task Force that has oversight for the Correctional Intelligence Initiative Program.

Failing to implement these steps will only increase the level of radicalizing influences in the U.S. prison system.

Allowing a fox into the hen house does irreparable harm to all. Allowing a terrorist back into prison will only do the same.

IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School.

Saudi Jihadi Rehab Actually Encourages Jihad

November 29, 2016

Saudi Jihadi Rehab Actually Encourages Jihad, Front Page Magazine (The Point, Daniel Greenfield, November 28, 2016

four_lions_menus_3_2

You wouldn’t let Guinness or Budweiser run AA. Having the Saudis run a Jihadi rehab program is just as much of a joke. And yet our leaders went along with the joke by pretending that the Saudis were helping transform bad misunderstanders of Islam into good Muslims through Koran lessons and some R&R. The notion that Islam is best fought with Islam came to characterize CVE.

And it’s a bad joke.

Counterterrorism experts have long suspected Saudi Arabia’s “rehabilitation” center for terrorists does a poor job of de-radicalizing jihadists. But a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay now reveals it’s actually a recruiting and training factory for jihad.

According to recently declassified documents, senior al Qaeda operative Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi told a Gitmo parole board that the Saudi government has been encouraging previously released prisoners to rejoin the jihad at its terrorist reform school, officially known as the Prince Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center.

The Obama administration has praised the effectiveness of the Saudi rehab program — which uses “art therapy,” swimming, ping-pong, PlayStation and soccer to de-radicalize terrorists — and conditioned the release of dozens of Gitmo prisoners, including former Osama bin Laden bodyguards, on their entry in the controversial program.

Al-Sharbi dropped a bombshell on the Gitmo parole board at his hearing earlier this year, when he informed members that the Saudi kingdom was playing them for suckers. “You guys want to send me back to Saudi Arabia because you believe there is a de-radicalization program on the surface.

True. You are 100% right, there is a strong — externally, a strong — de-radicalization program,” al-Sharbi testified. “But make no mistake, underneath there is a hidden radicalization program,” he added. “There is a very hidden strong — way stronger in magnitude — broader in financing, in all that.”

Al-Sharbi is one of the longest serving, and most unrepentant, prisoners at Gitmo. A Saudi national with an electrical engineering degree from King Fahd University, he attended a US flight school associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers. He traveled to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 and trained at an al Qaeda camp, building IEDs to use against allied forces.

Al-Sharbi was captured March 28, 2002, at an al Qaeda safehouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan, with senior al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. According to his US intel dossier, he told interrogators that “the US got what it deserved from the terrorist attacks on 9/11.”

Given a chance at parole after 14 years, however, Al-Sharbi was surprisingly frank with the board.

He explained that Riyadh is actively recruiting and training fighters to battle Iranian elements in neighboring Yemen and Syria. Saudi views Shiite-controlled Iran as a regional threat to its security.

“They’re launching more wars and the [United] States is backing off from the region,” he said. “They’re poking their nose here and here and there and they’re recruiting more jihadists, and they’ll tell you, ‘Okay, go fight in Yemen. Go fight in Syria.’ ”

Al-Sharbi said the Saudis also are “encouraging” former detainees “to fight their jihad in the States.”

This isn’t a mystery to anyone. We simply insist on pretending that the Saudis aren’t involved in terror.

Developing an Effective Counter Radicalization Strategy

August 30, 2016

Developing an Effective Counter Radicalization Strategy, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Scott Newark, August 29, 2016

Western governments appear to have finally accepted the reality that a new front on the Islamist war has opened up and it’s in our own backyards. It is all too easy for al-Qaida, or ISIS, or whatever new Islamist group, to publish propaganda to incite radicalized or radically prone young Muslims living in the West, and to hand them chillingly accurate information to “build bombs in your mother’s kitchen.”

These young recruits are being recruited to kill soldiers, police and civilians in their own countries rather than attempting to travel to join the Islamist slaughter abroad. And while there has been some success in suppressing the capabilities of international Islamist networks and in military action against the ISIS “caliphate,” domestic terrorist attacks throughout the West show that the threat has not gone away or even been diminished. And that means our approach must also evolve.

We must acknowledge that this threat comes from people and groups who have an unyielding belief that their version of Islam calls for the submission of the world to its dictates, and that killing those who oppose or resist this is not only permissible but obligatory..

Equally, while the Islamist ideology may prey on and exploit persons with mental illness, they are yelling Allahu Ahkbar and not “Sigmund Freud” when they detonate the suicide bombs or murder innocent civilians with knives, guns or trucks. The extremist religious motivation is the key to understanding their actions and in developing a strategy to help prevent the radicalization that leads to it.

Second, this “religious” motivation must be acknowledged by our official entities and the larger Muslim community within Western societies who want nothing to do with it and who reject its goals. For them, Islam may be a religion of peace that forbids killing of innocent civilians, but for others, their version of Islam commands it. There are clearly different conclusions being reached, but the good guys and the bad guys are reading from the same book, and acknowledging this fact is essential if we’re going to be successful. Candor, however uncomfortable, is a better long-term strategy than forcing security and law enforcement agencies to twist themselves into pretzels at each new incident to avoid offending anyone.

It is also critical to recognize that the domestic terrorist pool is comprised of people who, through different processes, have been indoctrinated into the Islamist extremist ideology that includes committing murderous acts of terrorism. This must be the starting point of the counter-radicalization strategy. Simply focusing on “de-radicalizing” extremists does nothing to stop someone from heading down that path in the first place. Similarly, limiting intervention to those espousing extremist beliefs and violent intentions assumes an ability to foretell actions that is simply unrealistic. While not all Islamic extremists are terrorists, all Islamist terrorists ascribe to the extremist version of Islam. It only makes sense to start where the terrorism motivation originates.

We also must acknowledge that the Islamist strategy includes establishing a “global Caliphate.” This vision is not limited to the overt savagery wrought on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but also includes the murky Islamist political efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood and its spidery network of seemingly benign organizations. Their intent, in their own words, is “destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” One other quote worth keeping in mind is the official motto of the Muslim Brotherhood which says it all:

“God is our goal, Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle [jihad] is our way, and death in the service of God is the loftiest of our wishes.”

Lest there be anyone who still doubts the existence and clear purpose of this long-term strategy, let me suggest you read the materials in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing case or the compelling 2011 book, The Grand Jihad by former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.

It is also important to understand that for the Muslim Brotherhood network of groups, “war is deception.” Lying to the kuffar (non-believers) is fully authorized by the Quran through the doctrine known as taqiyya.

Domestic Islamist inspired terrorism incidents in the West (and elsewhere) are getting worse. What’s more, there is clear evidence that significant numbers of their Western citizens have travelled to the Middle East to pursue murderous Islamist jihad, and increasing numbers of them are finding ways to return “home.”

While some cases have involved people who received training abroad, most of these cases involve radicalization that took place in Western societies including Canada and the United States. That’s a chilling reality that must be acknowledged including determining how it took place and who was involved. That hard truth was summed up by a parent of one of the young Toronto 18 would-be terrorists when he warned, “They’re stealing our kids.” It’s time we started focusing on who “they” are.

While there has been significant work done on analyzing the general psychological profile of persons vulnerable to such radicalization, very few concrete measures have been taken to identify and then proactively target the means by which such radicalization occurs.

What follows, therefore, are specific action item suggestions to confront and defeat this newest security threat.

Counter-radicalization actions

1/ Ensure there is a clear and official awareness of the threat of extremist Islamism and domestic radicalization, and an understanding of the supportive Muslim Brotherhood’s long-term goals.

2/ Identify all Muslim Brotherhood links in Islamic groups including mosques and Islamic learning centers.

3/ Identify all Wahabbi/Saudi/Salafist linked funding of mosques and learning centers and Islamic organizations with a consideration of prohibiting it.

This issue has already been the subject of some media reporting and given the charitable or non-profit status of such organizations, the required information should be available. What’s required is personified by the mission statement of the Investigative Project on Terrorism: Investigate, Analyze, Expose.

4/ Improve “community outreach” efforts

Outreach to the Islamic community is a critical component of preventing radicalization, but it must be conducted on an informed basis so that the people included are not pursuing a contrary agenda. Authorities engaging in outreach activities must conduct sufficient background analysis to ensure that liaisons are established with persons genuinely seeking to prevent Islamist radicalization rather than with self-appointed “leaders” of the community whose views (public and private) are not representative of the communities they claim to represent. The goal is to both detect and assist people at risk of radicalization (and their families) and to help rehabilitate people who have been radicalized.

5/ Promote integration and identify segregation efforts

Successful integration into Western multicultural society is likely the best protection against radicalization, and thus efforts to promote it should be recognized and supported. Conversely, deliberate efforts by mosques, learning centers or Islamic organizations to promote segregation of Muslims away from the larger community should be recognized as cause for concern.

6/ Use existing legal tools

Use existing hate speech laws, which prohibit promoting hatred against groups based on religion, gender or other defined factors, for unlawful conduct that is part of Islamist radicalization. Also, use the full spectrum of civil regulatory tools to try to prevent publicly regulated facilities from being used to promote radicalization or activities which are contrary to defined Western societal values. This strategy of “using all the tools in the toolbox” will be controversial but will also likely expose such anti-social practices to the light of day, which is a good thing.

7/ Amend Immigration and Citizenship Legislation

These statutes could be amended to modernize inadmissibility or acquired citizenship revocation criteria to people who actively advocate or promote cultural, religious or racial intolerance, gender inequality or the elimination of any of secular democracy, individual liberty or the rule of secular law. It’s time we recognize that we do have a “culture” and it’s worth protecting and preserving.

8/ Proactive cyber efforts against recruitment/radicalization sites

Self-radicalization, aided by jihadi websites, is a reality facing intelligence and law enforcement personnel. While monitoring such sites is obviously a useful tactic, at some point the harm in allowing the glorification and recruitment outweighs the benefit of monitoring this activity. Deploying a proactive offensive cyber attack strategy to melt down the bad guys’ cyber and social media capabilities is worth considering.

9./ Protect children from radicalized parents

Children living in Western societies should receive the full benefit of our laws that are explicitly designed to protect them from harm, including anti-social indoctrination or abuse from their parents in the name of extremist Islam. This could provide refuge for victims of “honor violence,” like the murdered Aqsa Parvez and the Shafia sisters in Canada. These kids deserved better and we should ensure that such abuse does not continue because of a politically correct aversion to confronting the truth.

Western countries face an unprecedented threat to domestic security through the radicalization of persons to a nihilistic Islamist ideology, where death is a preferred tactic to discussion. These suggestions will legitimately generate controversy precisely because they go to the core of the threat, which is violence predicated on religious beliefs. It is clearly a difficult challenge, but one that must be undertaken with truth and candor as our guides.