Posted tagged ‘national security’

IT Intrigue at the DNC

August 1, 2017

IT Intrigue at the DNC, Front Page MagazineLloyd Billingsley, August 1, 2017

Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.” 

Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.

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

Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a name for herself last year when the Democrats booted her as Democratic National Committee boss. Now she’s back with a vengeance in a tale centering on her top information technology man, Pakistani-born Imran Awan.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, not limited to issues related to Russia, had been investigating Awan for theft and abuses related to cybersecurity. Awan had been feeling the heat and attempted to flee to Pakistan last week but the FBI arrested him at Dulles airport on a charge of bank fraud.

According to Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman, there’s a bit more to the story, even though Awan and his family have indeed been involved in swindles. As McCarthy has it, “this appears to be a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.”

Awan started as an IT man for Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat, then shifted to Wasserman Schultz. The Florida Democrat empowered him to add to the payroll his wife Alfi – she attempted to flee the country in March while a criminal suspect – brother Abid, Abid’s wife Natalia Sova, and Awan’s brother Jamal. As McCarthy notes:

“Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.” The smashing tactic recalls the Clinton crew during the last election cycle.

McCarthy wonders how Awan and his family achieved access to highly sensitive government information, which requires a thorough security clearance. In his judgment, the Awan cabal could not possibly have qualified for such clearance.

As the IT intrigue unfolded, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been pushing back at investigators, and objecting strenuously to inspection of a laptop belonging to Awan. McCarthy doesn’t know what information Awan and company may have ripped off, or whether he sent it to Pakistan. But the former prosecutor is certain that “this is no run-of-the-mill bank-fraud case.”

The Daily Caller has been all over the story and according to investigative reporter Luke Rosiak Wasserman Schultz employed Awan and his wife and “refused to fire either of them even after U.S. Capitol Police said in February 2017 that they were targets of the criminal investigation.” Wasserman Schultz charged the Awans were victims of anti-Muslim profiling.

Other members of Congress had dumped Awan and Company but Wasserman kept him on board and was going to pay him, “even while he was living in Pakistan.” Rosiak also observes that Wasserman Schultz’s record on cybersecurity is shaky and the Hillary Clinton ally “was the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee when it was hacked.”

Last Thursday, President Trump reposted a Townhall tweet charging “ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Office.” That prompted a New York Times piece by Nicholas Fandos headlined, “Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest.”

Fandos wonders if the ongoing intrigue is “the stuff of a spy novel, ripe for sleuthing,” but quickly shifts gears. Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.”

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, called the security charges “laughable,” claiming that Awan was never employed by the DNC and that “the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia was behind the DNC hack.” As for the attempt to flee, with bundles of cash, Gowen said Awan received threats online and traveled to Pakistan to stay with family and save money.

As Cheryl Chumley observed in the Washington Times, Awan’s first employer, Gregory Meeks, suggested the authorities are targeting Awan because he was born in Pakistan and ethnicity “is a factor” in the attention the family is receiving. And now Democrats are rushing to defend Awan, Chumley writes, “saying he’s the target of massive federal Islamophobia. What a crock.”

True to form, with smashed computers, cybersecurity lapses and such, the idea that Awan might be some kind of spy is entirely plausible. So is the concept that, as Sean Hannity has suggested, Awan was the source of Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.

Those who dismiss it all as Islamophobia, or a simple case of bank fraud, might consider this scenario.

Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.

In the style of Andrew McCarthy, some journalist might even flag “a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.” In the ensuing investigation, government investigators would doubtless leave no stone unturned.

Meanwhile, Awan has pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud, ordered to wear a GPS monitor, and surrender his passport. More details about his activities may emerge before his preliminary hearing on August 21.

Trump and his generals

June 22, 2017

Trump and his generals, Washington TimesVictor Davis Hanson, June 21, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally, Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

[T]he three generals are beholden to Mr. Trump for a historic opportunity to shape America’s security posture in ways impossible during the last half-century.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump must recognize that such generals lend credibility to his role as commander in chief and signal that he is wise enough to value merit over politics.

At least for now, it is a win-win-win solution for Mr. Trump, the generals — and the country.

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

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump earned respect from the Washington establishment for appointing three of the nation’s most accomplished generals to direct his national security policy: James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national security adviser) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security).

In the first five months of the Trump administration, the three generals — along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO — have already recalibrated America’s defenses.

At home, illegal immigration is down by some 70 percent. Abroad, a new policy of principled realism seeks to re-establish deterrence through credible threats of retaliation. The generals are repairing old friendships with allies and neutrals while warning traditional enemies not to press their luck.

President Trump has turned over most of the details of military operations to his generals. According to his critics, Mr. Trump is improperly outsourcing to his generals both strategic decision-making and its tactical implementation.

But is Mr. Trump really doing that?

In his campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to avoid new ground wars while not losing those he inherited. He pledged to wipe out ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism without invading Middle Eastern countries to turn them into democracies.

Those are wide but nonetheless unmistakable parameters.

Within them, the U.S. military can drop a huge bomb on the Taliban, strike the chemical weapons depots of Syria’s Bashar Assad, or choose the sort of ships it will use to deter North Korean aggression — without Mr. Trump poring over a map, or hectoring Gen. Mattis or Gen. McMaster about what particular move is politically appropriate or might poll well.

Other presidents have done the same.

A wartime President Lincoln — up for re-election in 1864 — wanted the tottering Confederacy invaded and humiliated. But he had no idea that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman would interpret that vague wish as nearly destroying Atlanta, and then cutting his supply lines to march across Georgia to the sea at Savannah.

When Sherman pulled off the March to the Sea, Lincoln confessed that he had been wrongly skeptical of, totally surprised and utterly delighted with Sherman’s victories. He then left it to Sherman and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to plan the final campaign of the war.

Had Sherman lost his army in the wilds of Georgia, no doubt Lincoln would have relieved him, as he did so many of his other failed generals.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanded a cross-channel invasion of France by mid-1944. He did not worry much about how it was to be implemented.

The generals and admirals of his Joint Chiefs handled Roosevelt’s wish by delegating the job to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Anglo-American staff.

Had Eisenhower failed on the Normandy beaches, Roosevelt likely would have fired him and others.

Other critics complain that decorated heroes such as Gens. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly should not stoop to work for a firebrand like Mr. Trump.

The very opposite is true.

Anti-New Dealers such as Republicans Henry Stimson and Frank Knox served in the Roosevelt administration to ensure national unity and expertise during World War II — in much the same manner that old George W. Bush hand Robert Gates stayed on as secretary of defense to advise foreign policy novice Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump entered office with no formal political or military experience. That does not mean his business skills and innate cunning are not critical in setting national security policy — only that he benefits from the wise counsel of veterans.

The patriotic duty for men the caliber of these three generals was to step forward and serve their commander in chief — and thereby ensure that the country would have proven professionals carrying out the president’s recalibrations.

Of course, there must be tensions between the Trump administration, its Democratic opponents and the largely apolitical Gens. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, who have enjoyed high commands under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Liberals want the generals to leak to the press and hint that Mr. Trump is a dunce whose blunders force wise men like themselves to clean up the mess.

Republicans prefer the three to get on board the Trump team and appoint only conservatives who will resonate administration values.

In truth, Mr. Trump and his generals share a quid pro quo relationship that so far has worked.

Gens. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly must know that few other presidents would have taken the heat to entrust three military men to guide national security policy. And even if another president did, he might not empower them with anything like their president latitude.

In that regard, the three generals are beholden to Mr. Trump for a historic opportunity to shape America’s security posture in ways impossible during the last half-century.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump must recognize that such generals lend credibility to his role as commander in chief and signal that he is wise enough to value merit over politics.

At least for now, it is a win-win-win solution for Mr. Trump, the generals — and the country.

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces

June 15, 2017

Congress Seeks Embargo on Iran Airline Linked to Terrorism as Tehran Targets U.S. Forces, Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2017

An airplane of Mahan Air sits at the tarmac / Getty Images

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

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

Congress is seeking new authorities that would enable it to expose and crack down on an Iranian state-controlled commercial airline known for transporting weapons and terrorist fighters to hotspots such as Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have begun launching direct attacks on U.S. forces in the country, according to new legislation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Congressional efforts to expose Iran’s illicit terror networks more forcefully come as U.S. and European air carriers such as Boeing and AirBus move forward with multi-billion dollar deals to provide the Islamic Republic with a fleet of new airplanes, which lawmakers suspect Iran will use to amplify its terror operations.

The new sanction legislation targets Iran’s Mahan Airlines, which operates commercial flights across the globe while transporting militants and weapons to fighters in Syria, Yemen, and other regional hotspots.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) is spearheading an amendment to a larger Iran sanctions bill that would increase security at U.S. airports and help expose Mahan’s use of commercial flights to ferry weapons abroad, according to a copy of the measure obtained by the Free Beacon.

The legislation would grant the Department of Homeland Security increased power to boost security at U.S. airports that host flights arriving from countries where Mahan operates. It also instructs the Trump administration to prepare reports outlining every airport where a Mahan-operated flight has landed.

Mahan’s “very presence is a security risk to Americans flying in and out of airports where a Mahan aircraft may land,” Cornyn said earlier this week on the Senate floor.

The amendment, if passed, could complicate efforts by Boeing and others to move forward with multi-billion dollar deals with Iran, a portion of which would likely benefit Mahan.

The State and Homeland Security departments declined to comment on the new sanctions when asked by the Free Beacon, citing a policy of not discussing pending legislation.

The renewed focus on Mahan and Iran’s use of commercial airlines to support terror activities comes as the Islamic Republic amps up operations in Syria directly targeting U.S. forces, a new front that has cast a spotlight on the growing proxy war between Iran and the United States in the region.

An Iranian drone recently attacked U.S. forces in Syria, and Hezbollah—an Iranian-backed terror organization—also has taken steps to counter American forces in the region.

A crackdown on Mahan could indicate that Congress is more seriously eyeing ways to thwart Iran’s mainly unchecked terror pipeline in the region.

Iranian officials have separately expressed anger over Congress’s efforts to impose new sanctions, threatening to walk away from the landmark nuclear deal if the United States does not uphold its end of the bargain.

At this point, the deal between Boeing and Iran remains on track, though that could change if the Trump administration decides to block licenses that would permit the U.S. company to engage in business with Tehran.

Iran has already threatened to take action against the United States if Congress approves the new package of sanctions. This includes leveling its own sanctions on American entities.

“Today, 23 American people and firms are in the list of our sanctions as a reciprocal move and we will take such measures in the future too,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted as saying this week in comments that also took aim at Trump.

Iranian officials have also accused the United States under Trump of breaching its end of the nuclear deal, though officials did not outline what the specific violations are.

“Implementation of the nuclear deal undertakings by the U.S. has not been acceptable to Iran so far and the U.S. should comply with its undertakings,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Organization, or IAEA, said this week during a meeting with the group in Vienna.

North Korea Could Soon Launch Attack on Hawaii

March 8, 2017

North Korea Could Soon Launch Attack on Hawaii, Washington Free Beacon, March 8, 2017

This undated photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 11, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) during a combat drill of the service personnel of the special operation battalion of the Korean People’s Army Unit 525. (Photo credit KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea could soon have the capacity to launch an attack on Hawaii that would devastate America’s Pacific military bases, accelerating the need for the United States to upgrade missile defenses in the area.

The United States today relies on ground-based ballistic missile interceptors deployed in California and Alaska to protect Hawaii, but these defenses would do little to guard U.S. territory in the Pacific against a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which officials believe is nearing completion.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency in February test fired a new SM-3 Block IIA missile from Hawaii that successfully intercepted an incoming ballistic missile, but the Pentagon does not maintain a permanent missile defense installation or detection capabilities on the Hawaiian Islands.

The Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii hosts an experimental, land-based ballistic missile defense system called Aegis Ashore. The facility served as a prototype for the U.S. missile defense facility in Romania, which was declared operational last year, and another in Poland that will be completed in 2018.

Ariel Cohen, director of the Center for Energy, Natural Resources, and Geopolitics at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday that the Defense Department needs to immediately upgrade the Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii from experimental to operational to guard against North Korean aggression.

“Senior national security leaders have stated that the U.S. needs to work off the assumption that North Korea will have ICBM capabilities soon, and in this business ‘soon’ could mean five to 10 years, or earlier,” Cohen said.

“This question is, do we need to wait until North Korea successfully launches a test ICBM to know that they have that capacity? The answer is no … The [Aegis Ashore] is a proven system. Why would we protect our European allies before we protect the homeland?”

Aegis, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp to be used on U.S. Navy destroyers, is one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world. Deploying the land version of that technology to Hawaii, coupled with Aegis-equipped Navy destroyers, would establish a permanent missile defense installation in the U.S. Pacific that could protect the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast from a North Korean missile launch.

Converting the Aegis Ashore site from an experimental facility to a combat-ready platform would cost an estimated $41 million, which Cohen described as “inexpensive” compared to typical Defense Department expenditures.

The proposal to improve Hawaii’s missile defense capabilities gained support among defense officials on Monday after North Korea launched four missiles that coincided with joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the region.

The U.S. joint chiefs initially believed that at least one of the projectiles launched by North Korea was an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking America’s West Coast, but ultimately concluded the projectiles did not have the range of an ICBM.

Defense officials have warned that North Korea is on the brink of producing an ICBM that could target the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced in January during his New Year’s address that Pyongyang had “entered the final stage of preparations to test-launch” an ICBM that could reach parts of the United States.

President Donald Trump rejected Kim’s assessment, tweeting after the statement: “It won’t happen!” The administration has not yet established a missile defense plan that would protect the United States from a North Korean ICBM, though it is in the process of reviewing U.S. policy toward North Korea.

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, told the Washington Free Beacon that the administration will likely look at defense and deterrence tactics to use against Pyongyang, rather than diplomatic engagement.

“Our intelligence has been surprised again and again by technology developments by adversaries or attacks the U.S. didn’t foresee,” Cohen said. “Hawaii has a particularly symbolic history of this given the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Let’s not be surprised this time, let’s be prepared.”

Pyongyang has worked for years to improve its missile capabilities, launching an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles in 2016 while conducting its fifth nuclear test in September 2016.

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.

For White House Counterterror Adviser, Media Attacks Are Latest Theater of Battle

February 27, 2017

For White House Counterterror Adviser, Media Attacks Are Latest Theater of Battle, Washinton Free Beacon, February 27, 2017

Sean Hannity, Sebastian Gorka during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 23, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland. Hosted by the American Conservative Union, CPAC is an annual gathering of right wing politicians, commentators and their supporters. (Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto) *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***(Sipa via AP Images)Sebastian Gorka / AP

Today, Gorka sits at the apex of power in the White House as an aide to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. As deputy assistant to the president, Gorka is the key national security figure on the Strategic Initiatives Group, currently led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and made up of mainly business experts.

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

World War II bomber pilots liked to say if you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target. By any measure, Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism adviser to President Donald Trump, is in the eye of an unprecedented flak storm from liberal press outlets. The enemy fire proves he must be doing something right thing.

“Look, these attacks are just too predictable,” Gorka said in an interview. “As they say in the military, ‘you’re only taking flak if you’re over the target.'”

For Gorka, the most revealing aspect of the many column inches devoted to the criticism is that “it’s never truly about our policies or the issues that matter most.”

“It’s always personal, always ad hominem,” he said in an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “That tells you all you need to know about the other side’s true weakness. They can’t win on the merits of their case, so they ‘play the man, not the ball.'”

For the new president, Gorka is an antidote to the politically correct counterterrorism policies of the past eight years under Barack Obama.

The shift has set off controversy. Several news articles about Gorka in recent weeks were laced with personnel attacks, innuendo, and caustic comments from critics. The media assault came from the upper levels of the mainstream press including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Other lesser publications such as Politico piled on. Vanity Fair labeled him Trump’s “jihad whisperer.”

All promoted a common—and to many observers false—narrative asserting that Gorka, deputy assistant to the president and member of the new Strategic Initiatives Group, is unqualified, anti-Islam, racist, fascist, or worse.

“I would be very concerned if the likes of Politico, the New York Times, and Washington Post were not attacking me. And Trump voters would be too,” Gorka said.

Gorka said the goals for the new Trump administration’s counterterrorism program and policies are simple. “As the president said [Friday] we will ‘obliterate’ groups like ISIS and wipe the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth,” he said.

The media attacks prompted friends and supporters of Gorka on Capitol Hill and in the military and special operations community to voice their support.

“The bottom line is Sebastian Gorka’s work is a necessary tool for all special operations forces in developing critical thinking,” said an Army special operations officer familiar with Gorka’s counterterrorism lectures in Tampa, Florida, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The officer said Gorka has been most valuable in helping hundreds of commandos properly identify and understand the nature of the threat posed by Islamist terrorists.

“Our biggest threat we face is tied to radical Islam,” the officer said. “We teach our Special Forces how to think, not what to think. [Gorka’s] speeches have been 100 percent factual and the reason he has spoken so often is that he has been able to connect with warrant officer candidates.”

“We’ve lived the last decade and a half of war and this is our lives. Having someone like Mr. Gorka who connects with our groups, gives us a solid foundation.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. John M. Mulholland, a career Special Forces officer, said he has known Gorka from his counterterrorism lectures.

“Seb has always been first and foremost a patriot, dedicated to this country,” Mulholland said in an interview. “He has been very supportive to us in helping us understand the threat so we can apply our capabilities to support the nation against the unconventional warfare threat, in this case, the terrorism threat.”

Mulholland, former deputy commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said Gorka has helped special operations commandos to better understand the terrorism threat environment.

“Seb is one of those guys we always turn to to help us understand the threat, and he’s a great friend and supporter of our community and our mission and in helping us in our own endeavor to master the environment,” he added.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, former commander of the Army Special Operations Command, also praised Gorka.

“What distinguished [Gorka] was the time he took to understand how the special operations soldiers, many who had multiple tours in the fight, saw the challenges and were dealing with them,” Cleveland said. “As a result, his instruction was crisp, relevant, and a useful part of their education on how to think about today’s threats, especially terrorism.”

Gorka also took part on some occasions on the commander’s advisory group sessions that included former senior civilian and military officials and academic experts.

“These events provided outside opinion on command doctrine and organizational proposals, and I greatly appreciated Dr. Gorka’s participation,” Cleveland said.

Retired Marine Corps. Col. Raymond C. Damm, a professor at Marine Corps University, said recent news stories attacking Gorka harkened back to a period “yellow journalism.”

“They were a hatchet job based on innuendo and painting a story a way you want it to be received,” Damm said.

Damm said Gorka taught at the Marine Corps University and “he made us better because he made us think.”

“Dr. Gorka can be polarizing because he does not follow the party line,” Damm said. However, Gorka helped Marines to better understand what motivates the terrorist threat. “And I am sorry, but being nice to them is not the answer,” Damm said. “They are scary and hate us because they have been taught to hate us their entire lives.  Iron sharpens iron. Dr. Gorka made us better while he was here.”

Stephen Sloan, professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma, said he has known Gorka since the 1990s.

“Over the years, I have served as an informal adviser on his dissertation and was one of his mentors as he pursued his career,” Sloan said. “Sebastian has always impressed me as a man of integrity who has strong feelings and is willing to state them. I believe his concerns about the threat of terrorism as to what he regards to be the new totalitarianism, in part, reflects his family history. His father was imprisoned and almost killed as a result of his opposition to Soviet occupation in Hungary.”

Sloan said Gorka has strong loyalties to America and is proud of his work with the U.S. military and “is concerned about meeting threats to U.S. national security. I appreciate and respect his dedication.”

Sloan said he does not agree with some of Trump’s policies and is concerned about Gorka’s views on how to respond to terrorism. “However, even though we may disagree during this time of intense political debate, I support his right to state his opinions without being condemned,” he said.

The unusual political attacks were not confined to newspapers. On social media, a little-known counterterrorism expert, Michael S. Smith, has launched verbal broadsides against Gorka on Twitter. Smith also tape recorded a call from the White House adviser questioning why Smith was criticizing Gorka so loudly when he had never met him.

The criticism prompted Rep. Robert Pittenger (R., N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism, an advisory group Smith said he worked for, to issue a statement of support.

“Dr. Sebastian Gorka is a friend and trusted adviser on efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism and increase the safety and security of American families,” Pittenger said in a statement.

Pittenger said Gorka has spoken to more than 600 parliamentarians from 60 nations on how to combat terrorism financing, money laundering, and other national security topics.

“Dr. Gorka has provided expert testimony at these forums and I applaud President Trump for bringing him to the White House,” he said.

Clark Fonda, an aide to Pittenger, said he knew Smith from the caucus. “We used to reject his input regularly,” he said. “I always found him to be unprofessional and a burden to work with, but I was absolutely stunned to see he would record a phone call and distribute it to Newsweek.”

Fonda said Smith also falsely billed himself as a current adviser to the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare headed by Pittenger.

“He never ever contributes to what we do,” he said. “I haven’t even spoken to him in the two years I’ve been here.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) also backed Gorka. “I have followed the recent press and social media attacks against Dr. Sebastian Gorka and am compelled to respond with disgust at the attempt to libel this American patriot,” Franks said in a statement.

Franks criticized media attacks falsely labeling Gorka as anti-Semitic. “Having called upon his expertise on counterterrorism repeatedly in Congress and used his analysis to inform our work, I can attest that Dr. Gorka is the staunchest friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.

“Sebastian Gorka’s service to the nation, his reputation, and his national security credentials are all unimpeachable and I am thrilled he is now serving in the White House as deputy assistant to President Donald J. Trump.”

Gorka has emerged in recent years as one of America’s most outspoken counterterrorism experts. He has been a professor of military theory at the Marine Corps University as well as a vice president of the Institute of World Politics.

His military consulting work has included frequent lectures at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in North Carolina and at the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida.

He also was a national security editor at Breitbart.com and is a frequent Fox News Channel contributor.

Today, Gorka sits at the apex of power in the White House as an aide to White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. As deputy assistant to the president, Gorka is the key national security figure on the Strategic Initiatives Group, currently led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and made up of mainly business experts.

The mission of the SIG, as it is called, is to provide the White House with greater long-term strategic options in coordination with the National Security Council that normally is focused on dealing with day-to-day issues and crises. It also brings in outside experts.

Gorka came to the attention of Donald Trump in 2015 and worked with the campaign. It was Gorka who is said to have helped Trump criticize the politically correct counterterrorism formulations of the Obama administration.

Obama demanded that government abandon the use of the term radical Islam. Instead, politically correct terms were ordered in describing terrorism, including “workplace violence” for domestic attacks, and “violent extremism”—all in an effort to avoid using the word, Islam.

Trump loudly proclaimed during the presidential campaign that the threat and enemy to be countered under his counterterrorism policies and programs would be radical Islamic terrorism.

Along with his wife, Katherine Gorka, who is an adviser at the Department of Homeland Security, the Gorkas are now one of the most important power couples in Washington.

Gorka is said to have been a key advocate for the Trump executive order banning travelers from seven states linked to terrorism.

For Gorka, the current state of international terrorism, including both al Qaeda and the Islamic State, are all part of what he has termed the “global jihadist movement” a totalitarian movement not unlike the Cold War ideological foe of Soviet communism.

The 2012 book, Fighting the Ideological War, co-edited by Katherine Gorka, includes a chapter by Gorka that seeks to identify radical Islamic terror’s threat doctrine and how to attack it.

“Although we have proven our capacity in the last 10 years kinetically to engage our enemy at the operational and tactical level with unsurpassed effectiveness, we have not even begun to take the war to al Qaeda at the strategic level of counter-ideology—to attack it at its heart—the ideology of global jihad,” he wrote.

Defeating global jihadism requires clearly understanding the enemy and then attacking its ideology, he argues, something that has been lacking in U.S. government efforts.

Gorka’s bestselling book, Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, concludes that despite differences among the Islamic terror groups they all share a vision of an Islamic supremacist worldview that poses a danger to western civilization.

At a recent Heritage Foundation event, “iWar: Waging Warfare in the Information Age,” Gorka said U.S. operations against terrorism for the past 16 years have been “whack-a-mole”—finding and killing terrorist leaders that are replaced by others.

Gorka said critics who call his style of aggressive counterterrorism programs and their advocates “Islamophobes” are absolutely wrong.

“Half of my students were Muslim and are on the front line and paying a heavy price, more than we are in America,” he said. “This is a war inside Islam, a war for the heart of Islam—which version will be preeminent.”

The United States needs to help western-oriented Muslim states, like Jordan and Egypt, to help defeat the radical jihadists, Gorka says.

Gorka, 46, grew up in England and was part of an intelligence unit of the British Army Reserve. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Corvinus University in Budapest. He spent four years as a member of the faculty at the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall Center in Germany.

At the White House, Gorka is working to establish new strategies and policies he hopes will shift the focus to both military and intelligence to the counter-ideological realm.

One of the first steps said to be under consideration is declaring the Muslim Brotherhood, a key element of the global jihadist movement, to be a terrorist organization.

Under Obama, the U.S. government formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood as the U.S. government’s key alternative to be supported in the war against al Qaeda and later the Islamic State. A secret directive outlining the pro-Muslim Brotherhood policy, known as Presidential Study Directive-11, could be declassified in the future as a first step in the designation of the group as a terrorist organization.

Gorka’s outspoken views on terrorism and Islam and his high profile media appearances have made him a lightning rod for liberal left news outlets.

The New York Times falsely suggested Gorka, the British-born immigrant of Hungarian émigré parents, had Nazi sympathies—despite that fact that Gorka’s father fought against both the Nazis and the Communists in Hungary.

The Post sought to portray Gorka as a minor counterterrorism specialist on the “fringes” of Washington and sought out obscure critics to denounce him. One former CIA analyst told the newspaper he was “nuts” while knowing little about Gorka.

Politico‘s profile of Gorka quoted “puzzled” security experts who criticized him for his outspoken views on Islam, jihad, and the counterterrorism views that closely align with the new president.

The Wall Street Journal quoted numerous think tank terrorism experts who said they did not believe Gorka was part of the “mainstream” of experts.

Gorka said in the interview that victory needs to be defined in the war on terrorism.

“Personally, I want the black flag of jihad to become as despised around the globe as the black, red and white swastika flag of the Nazis is today,” he said. “Then we will have won.”

Newly Installed NSA McMaster Reassures National Security Staff: No Witch Hunts Coming

February 24, 2017

Newly Installed NSA McMaster Reassures National Security Staff: No Witch Hunts Coming, Washington Free Beacon, February 24, 2017

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as President Donald Trump makes the announcement at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. McMaster will be the new national security adviser. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as President Donald Trump makes the announcement at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. McMaster will be the new national security adviser. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

To help with this effort, McMaster recommended several books meant to help current White House officials understand his own foreign policy vision.

One senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon described the reading list as pleasantly surprising and a vast departure from the former Obama administration’s own national security vision.

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

Incoming White House National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster sought to reassure senior Trump administration officials during his first “all hands” staff meeting Thursday, according to those who attended the get together and told the Washington Free Beacon that McMaster informed staffers he does not intend to pursue a major shakeup of President Donald Trump’s national security team.

McMaster, who replaced Michael Flynn following his resignation last week, plans to navigate a vast departure from the Obama administration’s foreign policy vision, according to senior White House officials who described the meeting as “reassuring.” McMaster emphasized that he will not dismantle the team that Flynn had built.

As part of his discussion with White House national security staff, McMaster recommended a comprehensive reading list that included President Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” and several other tomes by leading historians about how to get the upper hand on America’s enemies. White House staff are said to have been mostly “thrilled” when hearing about the book list.

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about McMaster’s vision, as laid out in the Thursday meeting, expressed optimism about his appointment and pushed back on what they described as false media narratives centered around White House disarray following Flynn’s departure.

“It’s no secret we’ve had a few more all-hands meetings than we intended in our first month—but General McMaster used this event to both reassure the NSC staff and to give us the tools to continue the mission,” said one senior White House National Security Council official who requested anonymity while discussing internal White House meetings.

McMaster explicitly told White House officials that he does not aim to dismantle Trump’s foreign policy team or push out those perceived as still loyal to Flynn. These comments run counter to a recent New York Times report claiming that McMaster is pursuing a massive reorganization of the president’s national security team.

“He made it clear he wasn’t there to grind a political axe or engage in a witch hunt,” the senior White House official said. “He was there to provide leadership, including direction on how to think about the task in front of us.”

To help with this effort, McMaster recommended several books meant to help current White House officials understand his own foreign policy vision.

One senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon described the reading list as pleasantly surprising and a vast departure from the former Obama administration’s own national security vision.

In addition to Trump’s “Art of the Deal,” McMaster recommended reading his own book, “Dereliction of Duty,” which catalogues the mistakes that led the United States into a quagmire in Vietnam.

He also requested that White House staffers read Peter Rodman’s “Presidential Command,” which McMaster reportedly referred to as the “gold standard” in foreign policy history. Rodman was an top official in the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bush administrations.

Senior White House staff are said to have found the mention of the book “very reassuring.”

“It’s certainly encouraging to see General McMaster highlighting his legacy,” one source said.

McMaster went on to further recommend two books by Zachary Shore, a historian and international conflict expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School.

One Shore book, “Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions,” was described as “a cautionary tale for the staff” at the White House. The other, “A Sense of the Enemy,” examines methods to overtake rival forces.

Lastly, McMaster recommended staff read an essay by Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan titled, “The Rhyme of History,” which tackles lessons from World War I.

Senior White House officials who took part in the meeting described the reading list as encouraging and part of an effort to restore conservative principals focused primarily on defending the U.S.’s best interests.

The mention of MacMillan’s essay in particular “suggests General McMaster does not consider the 21st century a sort of post-historical bubble, but rather that there is a great deal to be learned from history as we chart our path forward,” said one official who described McMaster as advocating a wholesale reversal from the Obama administration’s vision.

Several historians currently serve on the White House’s national security team, including Col. Derek Harvey, a former advisor to Gen. David Petraeus; Michael Anton, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and Victoria Coates, a former top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and art historian.