Posted tagged ‘Prisons’

London Terrorist Followed the Jihadist’s Twisted Path From Prison to Terrorist

March 27, 2017

London Terrorist Followed the Jihadist’s Twisted Path From Prison to Terrorist, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Patrick Dunleavy, March 27, 2017

Counter terrorism authorities have an opportunity now to act decisively against this group of potential terrorist recruits before the next attack occurs. Prison is a controlled environment. Radical literature must be removed. Clergy must be better vetted. And inmate associations and communications must be better monitored. Prison officials do not need a FISA warrant to listen to an inmate’s telephone call or read his mail.

Monitoring terrorists who are about to be released from prison must be enhanced to include a registry, much like that required for sex offenders, that gives authorities the ability to know where the subject is living and working. Information regarding radicalized inmates must be shared between correctional, law enforcement and intelligence agencies seamlessly. The present system of cooperation is sporadic and often subject to turf wars.


Before he drove violently into the crowd on Westminster Bridge, before plunging the knives into the police officer’s body, Khalid Masood‘s twisted path into terrorism followed an all too familiar pattern from petty crimes to prison radicalization, to violent jihadist.

Radical Islamist terrorism once again struck innocent victims in Europe, this time killing four people in London and injuring at least 50 more.

Radical Islamist terrorist organizations like ISIS recommend the instruments of cruelty used in this attack, a motor vehicle and a knife. They have been used in the past to kill non-believers in Berlin, Nice, Woolwich, Jerusalem, Quebec, Oklahoma City and beyond.

The emerging profile of the terrorist, Khalid Masood, also paints an all too familiar image of a jihadist bent on killing as many people as possible on the path to paradise.

Masood, a 52-year-old UK native, was born on Christmas day in Kent as Adrian Elms and was raised as a Christian. He was known as an intelligent student and an excelling athlete during his time in Huntley School for Boys. He spiraled downward from there, starting with a 1983 arrest for property damage. He spent at least two periods in three different HMPS correctional facilities, including for assault.

It was there in prison where he was believed to have been radicalized. The susceptibility of an inmate in British prisons to Islamist radicalization is well documented. Extremist literature, like ISIS’s Inspire magazine, is present, as well as convicted terrorists who exert undue influence on the general prison population.

The vast majority of imprisoned terrorists refuse to attend any de-radicalization programs, leading former Scotland Yard Counter Terrorism Commander Richard Walton to tell Sky News that “very few” inmates convicted for ISIS-related crimes had reformed. Other critics go even further, noting “that many “deradicalization” programs established by Western governments have been fraught with repeated and embarrassing failures.”

Hanif Qadir, a former jihadist, believes that prison chaplains are unable to address the problem. Many of them may sympathize with a form of Islam that is both Wahhabi and Salafist in nature. This problem, unvetted Islamic clergy, was also found to exist in the U.S. prison system, according to a report done by the inspector general for the Department of Justice in 2004.

Government records show that thousands of articles by Islamist ideologues like Hasan al Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Syed Qutb, and Anwar al-Awlaki have been available in U.S. prison libraries.

My book, The Fertile Soil of Jihad, documented how ex-cons have often followed up their prison radicalization with travel to Islamist hotspots in the Middle East for further indoctrination. Masood went down that road as well.

He traveled to Saudi Arabia and worked there for several years after his release, settling upon his return into Luton, a city well known for radical Islamist elements, including the radical Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary, now serving time in prison for terrorism-related crimes. It was sometime after returning to the UK that Masood became a person of interest in an ongoing terrorism investigation, although MI-5 never connected him directly to any specific terror plot. He simply fell off the radar until Wednesday’s attack in London.

An alarming number of terror plots and attacks involve people who started out as criminals, were radicalized in prison, and then re-entered society bent on killing in the name of Allah. The 2010 New York State Police Vigilance Report found that almost 50 percent of people charted with terrorist-related crimes had prior contact with the criminal justice system. The Paris and Brussels attacks were in part carried out by former inmates. The Berlin, Copenhagen, and Toulouse attacks were similarly committed by individuals radicalized in prison.

Islamist radicalization in the prison system is a global problem that must be recognized and addressed effectively. Yet some groups, like the Anti Defamation League, choose to focus more on the threat posed by white supremacist prison gangs and appear to overlook the threat posed by radicalized Islamist ex-cons, some of whom have specifically targeted the Jewish population for attacks.

Examples include the Newburgh Four plot to bomb a New York synagogue, Mohammed Merah’s shooting attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, and Amedy Coulibaly’s massacre inside a Paris kosher grocery store.

As to which is the greater threat, prison gangs or Islamist radicalization, Kevin Smith, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney who successfully prosecuted a group of inmates who formed a terrorism cell within the California Department of Corrections known as Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS), articulated it most succinctly when he testified before the House Committee for Homeland Security looking into the threat posed by Islamist radicalization in the prison system. Smith said, “It is my professional opinion that this particular group of radicalized inmates presents an exponentially greater danger to innocent individuals and civilians out on the outside.”

Members of most prison gangs do not blow up themselves (and others) to gain 70 virgins.

Counter terrorism authorities have an opportunity now to act decisively against this group of potential terrorist recruits before the next attack occurs. Prison is a controlled environment. Radical literature must be removed. Clergy must be better vetted. And inmate associations and communications must be better monitored. Prison officials do not need a FISA warrant to listen to an inmate’s telephone call or read his mail.

Monitoring terrorists who are about to be released from prison must be enhanced to include a registry, much like that required for sex offenders, that gives authorities the ability to know where the subject is living and working. Information regarding radicalized inmates must be shared between correctional, law enforcement and intelligence agencies seamlessly. The present system of cooperation is sporadic and often subject to turf wars.

Without these tools, we again will be forced to watch the familiar story of the common criminal turned violent terrorist unfold.

The Choudary Quandary – The Fox in The Hen House Redux

August 20, 2016

The Choudary Quandary – The Fox in The Hen House Redux, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Patrick Dunleavy, August 19, 2016

(Please see also, Islamist Preacher Convicted in Britain. — DM)


With the United Kingdom’s successful prosecution of noted radical Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary for providing material support to ISIS, British officials are now faced with the dilemma of what to with him when he is sentenced Sept. 6.

While he is sure to receive a lengthy period of incarceration, that may create even more problems for counter terrorism officials. In going to prison, he is not actually moving from the frying pan to the fire. A more appropriate analogy is akin to the fox in the hen house. Anjem Choudary has spent the better part of 20 years preaching, proselytizing, and recruiting individuals to a radical form of Islam that encourages jihad as a necessary tenet of the faith. He has done it on street corners, mosques, and in front of television cameras. And like a sly fox, he avoided prosecution in the past because no direct contact between him and a terrorist organization could be proven until now. British authorities uncovered a video of Choudary pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

When he goes into prison, Choudary will have the opportunity to continue his evil work in an environment that guarantees him a captive audience of people who already have a disdain for government and a predisposition for violence. It is fertile soil.

How successful will he be? We already know of his effectiveness with ex-cons such as shoe bomber Richard Reid, who attended the Finsbury Mosque after his release from prison. Finsbury was one of the places that Choudary was allowed to preach his message of hatred and intolerance to all things non-Muslim. Many of his converts are already in prison for committing terrorist acts.

One of them is Michael Adebolajo, convicted in the brutal murder of 25-year-old Lee Rigby, a Fusilier in the British Army as he was returning to barracks. Since his incarceration, prison officials have had to transfer Adebolajo from the general prison population in Belmarsh because of his attempts to influence and radicalize other inmates. Another Choudary protégé, Richard Dart, was sentenced to six years in prison in 2013 for his part in a plot to bomb a memorial service for British soldiers at Royal Wooten Basset. Also in prison is Junead Khan, convicted last spring for conspiring to kill U.S. servicemen stationed at the RAF Lakenheath Base.

Authorities believe Khan was radicalized by Choudary and inspired to act in similar fashion as the Lee Rigby killing.

Prison walls are porous and it is virtually impossible to completely isolate one inmate from others. It remains to be seen whether Choudary will have direct contact or will communicate through kited letters or other illicit prison communication methods. But he will continue to get the radical Islamic message out unless authorities stay one step ahead of him.

The effects of Islamic radicalization in the prison system have been well documented both in the United States and Europe. The threat has been acknowledged by counter terrorism officials around the globe, although effective ways to combat it have not been clearly defined. We know that one catalyst in the radicalization process is the presence of unvetted Islamic clergy in prison mosques. We have also seen what can happen when a convicted Islamic terrorist is allowed to work in the chaplain’s office or the prison mosque as in the case of El Sayyid Nosair, who was the chaplain’s clerk in Attica State prison when he plotted with others to bomb the World Trade Center and other New York City landmarks in 1993.

This poses serious questions as to what Choudary will be allowed to do while incarcerated. Will he be allowed to attend religious services, or be allowed to participate in congregational prayer with other Muslim inmates? Before you think that could never happen, we should remember the case of convicted Islamic terrorist John Walker Lindh. Lindh was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 fighting against the United States alongside members of al-Qaida and the Taliban. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison under special administrative measures, including solitary confinement, for his treasonous crimes.

He sued the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in 2010 for the right to gather openly five times a day with other Muslim inmates in the maximum security prison at Terre Haute, Ind. In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled in his favor.

Another question surrounding Choudary’s sentence involves rehabilitation. What efforts should be afforded to inmates prior to their release to lower the risk of recidivism? Does the U.K. have an effective or successful de-radicalization program designed specifically to address Islamic radicalization? Recent attacks in Paris and Brussels by radicalized ex-cons show whatever they have now isn’t working. We know that the United States does not have any program aimed at de-radicalizing inmates.

Our latest endeavor in dealing with incarcerated Islamic terrorists has been to send 15 of them from Guantanamo Bay to Montenegro.

Hopefully the United Kingdom would not seriously consider sending Anjem Choudary to the newest member of NATO for any type of alternative to prison supervision.

Sadly it seems that what will probably happen is that another fox will be let loose in the hen house. And nobody wins with that except the fox.

UK Prison Course on Islam Teaches Violent Jihad, Says Cleric

June 5, 2016

UK Prison Course on Islam Teaches Violent Jihad, Says Cleric, Clarion Project, June 5, 2016

PrisonMuslimHP_0_0Illustrative picture (Photo: Screenshot from Clarion Project’s Film The Third Jihad)

Sheikh Musa Admani, who has extensive experience with counter-radicalization programs, raised objections to a section of the “Tarbiyah program” which has been used in British prisons since 2011. He told the BBC he felt the section on “The Principle of Jihad” placed undue emphasis on the “external jihad,” i.e., religious war, as opposed to the “internal jihad,” understood as an internal struggle.

“There may necessitate a time to pick up arms and physical [sic] fight such evil” the course says. “It is one of the noblest acts.”

Although the document sets out the different kinds of jihad, Sheikh Admani argues that undue emphasis is placed on violent jihad.

“This document sets out the steps and then addresses various forms of jihad and then goes on to emphasize a particular type, i.e. the killing and the fighting,” he says.

“It incites people to take up arms… It prepares people for violence. It could turn people when they come out of prison, supposedly rehabilitated, back into violence.”

Just war traditions exist in a number of different ethical systems, not just Islam. The problem is an overemphasis on violent jihad. There are Islamic theories of non-violence which could also be taught.

A former inmate at Belmarsh prison also attested to the spread of radical ideas in prison.

“People convicted of terrorism, people in the public domain that are very well known, are roaming around freely and being able to manipulate young minds,” he told the BBC.

“The fact they’re able to learn the Tarbiyah programme and Arabic, coupled with the fact that inmates [convicted of terrorism] have access to extremist literature and narrations that aren’t related to the prophet but they relate it to the prophet — coming from them it seems so realistic, you start believing this is the true Islam, the true Islam is [the militant group Islamic State] IS.”


Watch a clip from the Clarion Project’s film, The ThirdJihad about radicalization in U.S. prisons:

Where Have All the “Good Boys” Gone?: Effective Handling of Captured Terrorists

April 28, 2016

Where Have All the “Good Boys” Gone?: Effective Handling of Captured Terrorists, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Patrick Dunleavy, April 28, 2016


Captured terror suspect Salah Abdeslam now sits in an isolated cell inside a French maximum security prison. Before his extradition from Belgium this week, the individual responsible for the recent terror attacks in both Paris and Brussels that killed over 150 people was known to prison officials as a model inmate and is being called “a very good boy.”

This is not the first time a captured Islamist terrorist received this type of description. In 2013, Indiana U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson lauded the prison behavior of John Walker Lindh. Lindh, also known as the “American Taliban,” is serving a 20-year sentence after he was captured by American forces in 2001 fighting alongside the jihadists in Afghanistan. He also carried an explosive device and was believed by many to be partly responsible in the death of a CIA Operations Officer named Johnny Micheal Spann. Spann was killed in 2001 when inmates in the Qali-Jangi prison at Mazar-e Sharif started a riot at the fortress in Afghanistan.

The riot occurred the same day Lindh was interviewed by Spann and another CIA officer. Some felt strongly that Lindh purposely withheld information he had regarding the pending prison revolt.

Appearing before Judge Magnus-Stinson, Lindh requested lightening some conditions of his confinement. The Bureau of Prisons opposed the changes, saying it believed Lindh remained a security risk.

The judge saw it differently, finding that although Lindh was convicted of the terrorist acts, “His scant, nonviolent disciplinary history during his incarceration has merited him a classification of low security.”

In other words becoming “jail wise” can make you less of a threat to the United States. The term has become synonymous with inmates who have learned to work the system to their advantage by outwardly appearing to be compliant to prison rules without ever changing their criminal nature.

They don’t call them “cons for nothing.

We know that Lindh did not attend any de-radicalization program specifically designed to treat radical Islamists because there is none in the United States prison system. What then of the terrorists incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay? As the administration pursues a policy of closing the prison at any cost, we find ex-detainees being sent to dubious locations.

Earlier this month, nine inmates were transferred from GITMO to Saudi Arabia. What awaits them there? The Saudis have a de-radicalization program that would be the envy of most captured jihadists.

Located at the al-Ha’ir prison outside of Riyadh, inmates can look forward to lavender walls, red carpet, queen size beds, a refrigerator, television and private showers. There is even an ATM so inmates can draw from their commissary accounts which the government replenishes every month. Married inmates are entitled to monthly conjugal visits with fresh linens, tea, and sweets provided on the nightstand.

The Wahhabi/Salafist teachings prominent in Saudi Arabia allow men to have up to four legitimate wives, so inmates can actually get a wife to visit once a week. The de-radicalization philosophy there is to see the terrorists as misguided, or simply suffering from an ideological sickness which can be easily corrected with the proper treatment. Sounds simple and extravagant.

No wonder terrorists are calling for the closing of the Guantanamo prison. They want to go to the Islamic version of Disneyland.

Yet even with all these perks, a very real threat of recidivism remains which the Saudis have had to face. Several graduates of the program have gone on to become suicide bombers right there in Saudi Arabia. Others returned to the battlefield in countries outside the kingdom.

Recent events both in Europe and the United States raise legitimate questions as to how best to handle terrorists once they are captured and incarcerated. Several terrorists in both the Brussels and Paris attacks had spent time in prison where they were radicalized by other jihadists. Authorities neglected to have an adequate post-release program in place to monitor those getting out of prison. After all, as far back as 10 years ago, French intelligence officials knew they had a serious problem with Islamic radicalization in the prison system. They also knew that the main radicalizing influence was by those already incarcerated for terrorist acts or providing material support for terrorists.

Officials in the United Kingdom have known for years that they had a problem, not only with radicalized inmates, but also with clergy who made things worse. Some Islamic prison clergy provided literature to inmates that espoused a strict Wahhabi-Salafist form of the religion. This not only led to more inmates being exposed to radical Islamist ideology, but it also created a form of extortion and intimidation, as shariah law was imposed on whole cell blocks.

Again, no effective post-release program was created so authorities could gauge whether released inmates were de-radicalized or continuing down the path of a committed jihadist.

The United States faces a similar problem with the pending release of a large number of convicted terrorists after years of incarceration. The Justice Department acknowledges we are not prepared to release them. No established de-radicalization or rehabilitation program is in place to deal with those individuals. The DOJ identifies three distinct groups of incarcerated international terrorists: those convicted of actual terrorism like 1993 World Trade Center bombers El Sayyid Nosair, Ramzi Yousef, etc.; those whose convictions included a nexus to terrorism like financing and support; and perhaps the most enigmatic, are those inmates whose conduct during their time in prison was connected to terrorism.

A recent example involves David Wright and Nicholas Rovinski, who were arrested in Boston last June and charged with providing material support for ISIS. Roviniski was still able to communicate with Wright through letters sent from the jail. Rovinski wrote to Wright last August, describing ways to continue their plans to take “down the United States government and decapitate non-believers,” prosecutors allege in a superseding indictment. This is not the first time a terrorist in prison was able to send letters out to other terrorists.

Mohammed Salameh, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and incarcerated in the maximum security federal prison in Florence, Col. managed to smuggle letters out to Mohamed Acraf. Acraf was one of the individuals responsible for the 2004 train bombing in Madrid, Spain that killed 200 people. This glaring security leak was outlined in a report by the Inspector General’s Office which stated the Bureau of Prisons “is unable to effectively monitor the mail of terrorist and other high-risk inmates in order to detect and prevent terrorism and criminal activities.”

This would be the same IG office that also stated the BOP was unable to effectively vet Islamic clergy or religious volunteers entering the prisons.

Something has to be done to stop the leaks. Yes, terrorists go into prison, yet they are not rendered harmless. Terrorists also eventually complete their sentences and get out of prison. A study by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics (CRG), found that 65 percent of Islamic terrorists spent time in prison during their careers.

It is therefore incumbent that there be a comprehensive strategy that deals not only with capturing radical Islamic terrorists but also effective confinement and post release monitoring. U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., has sponsored H.R. 4285, which would tighten some of the security lapses now occurring in regard to terrorists in prison. For example, federal prison volunteers would be screened for connections to terrorism. This would be an effective first step in initiating the strategy. Legislating prison reform is nothing new.

Prison officials nationally routinely face federal mandates on how to operate. Failure to comply often leads to funding cuts. Perhaps it is time to tighten the purse strings until an effective counter-terrorism program for corrections is in place nationwide. The ultimate motivation should come from a steadfast desire to keep us safe from those committed to do us harm.