Recently in Terrorism Category

Part Terrorist, Part Gangster

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Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet report in the WaPo:

BRUSSELS -- The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have brought into sharper focus the rise of a new breed of jihadists, one that blurs the line between organized crime and Islamist extremism, using skills honed in lawbreaking in the service of violent radicalism.

The Islamic State is constructing an army of loyalists from Europe that includes an increasing number of street toughs and ex-cons as the nature of radicalization evolves in the era of its self-proclaimed caliphate. Rather than leave behind lives of crime, some adherents are using their illicit talents to finance recruiting rings and travel costs for foreign fighters even as their backgrounds give them potentially easier access to cash and weapons, posing a new kind of challenge to European authorities.
For too long, the attitude has been that private citizens should be passive in the face of crime, running or hiding.  "Don't be a hero" was the mentality.  But we need heroes.  It was the heroic passengers of United Flight 93 on 9/11/01 who prevented the plane from slamming into the U.S. Capitol.  It was the heroes on the French train who prevented a massacre.

In some cases, running or hiding may be the right response.  If the professionals are on the scene, it is best to leave it to them.  Other times, though, the combined efforts of multiple people, even if unarmed, can end the killing, and more companies are now including active response in their active shooter training.  Michael Rosenwald has this story in the WaPo.

E-Threat Closes 1000+ L.A. Schools

AP reports:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- All schools in the vast Los Angeles Unified School District have been ordered closed due to a threat, a spokeswoman Ellen Morgan said Tuesday.
John Hinderaker spills the beans on an Obama Administration policy that intentionally blinded the United States to information that might have prevented the San Bernardino murders:

Today on Good Morning America, John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and now a national security consultant for ABC News, dropped a bombshell: over the objections of security-minded DHS personnel, the Obama administration secretly barred DHS from looking at postings on social media by visa applicants like Tashfeen Malik:

Fearing a civil liberties backlash and "bad public relations" for the Obama administration, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused in early 2014 to end a secret U.S. policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, a former senior department official said. ...

Former DHS under-secretary Cohen said he and others pressed hard for just such a policy change in 2014 that would allow a review of publicly-posted social media messages as terror group followers increasingly used Twitter and Facebook to show their allegiance to a variety of jihadist groups.

The 14 people who were murdered by Jihadists in California no longer have civil liberties.  Do they count?

P.S.  The idea that there is a privacy interest in what you intentionally post on social media  --  that's  S-O-C-I-A-L  M-E-D-I-A  --  is a thousand miles beyond preposterous.

P.P.S.  You gotta love the idea of the government's "secretly" adopting a policy to protect civil liberties.

A few years ago, California voters adopted the Louisiana system of elections, the one that gave us the famous campaign slogan of "Vote for the Crook.  It's Important."  (The alternative was a Klansman.)  When we cast our ballots for U.S. Senate 11 months from now, the choice won't be quite that unpalatable, but Republicans may very well have to swallow hard and choose between two Democrats:  Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.  It seems Ms. Sanchez has raised some hackles with a Politically Incorrect statement.  Christopher Cadelago reports for the SacBee:

Sanchez, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said that between 5 and 20 percent of Muslims want to form a caliphate to target Western norms.

"They are not content enough to have their way of looking at the world, they want to put their way on everybody in the world," Sanchez said on "PoliticKING with Larry King." "And again, I don't know how big that is, and depending on who you talk to, but they are certainly, they are willing to go to extremes. They are willing to use and they do use terrorism."
Saying "between 5 and 20 percent" wasn't a good idea.  Her follow-up "I don't know how big that is" is completely correct.  Nobody knows.  Islamic extremism exists, and regardless of how large the fraction is, this is a reality that cannot be ignored.  Willingness to speak uncomfortable truths places a checkmark in Ms. Sanchez's column, in my view.

On a related issue, Rudy Giuliani has an op-ed in the WSJ on calling things by their proper names.
WaPo fact checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee had this article Thursday on President Obama's various statements after mass shootings, which are not fully consistent with each other or with the facts.  The article also has a cautionary nugget about what "experts say" and what "studies show."

Mr. Obama gets the maximum Four Pinocchios (reserved for "whoppers") for his December 1 statement in Paris, "I say this every time we've got one of these mass shootings: This just doesn't happen in other countries."  Wow.

The President's other, more nuanced statements about the relative frequency of such incidents get the milder Two Pinocchio rating ("significant omissions and/or exaggerations").  To check the facts, Ms. Lee consults experts Adam Lankford and John Lott and gets very different answers.

Astute readers might notice how Lankford and Lott both compared the United States to grouped European countries, but their conclusions are vastly different. Lott says the rate is about the same, while Lankford says the rate is five times higher in the United States. How is this possible? The researchers are looking at different sets of years and different sets of countries. (Lott looked at Europe as a whole; Lankford at the European Union.) Lott uses a broader measure of mass shootings than Lankford does. Lankford looks at the number of shooters; Lott uses fatalities and shooting incidents. This is an example of how the data and definition can be adjusted to show different findings about mass shootings, even using a per capita rate.
Lots and lots of choices have to be made in setting up a study, many seemingly benign in themselves.  If a person wants to reach a particular result, it is easy as pie to run the numbers 16 different ways, pick the way that best supports your agenda, and throw the others in the trash.

This is why the viewpoint one-sidedness of American academia and the well-funded nonprofits is so very dangerous.  The truth comes out much more clearly when there are people on both sides doing these kinds of studies, but academic conservatives are an endangered species, and those who do "come out" are targeted by neo-McCarthyists determined to achieve ideological purity.

Be very, very skeptical about what "studies show" and "experts say."  
A neighbor of the Jihadist killers in San Bernardino noticed that something suspicious was going on next door, but said nothing about it out of fear of being labelled a "racist."  Here's the story:

Neighbors of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook told ABC Wednesday that they noticed "suspicious activity" at Farook's home recently, but did not report it for fear of being called racist....

Aaron Elswick -- a neighbor of Farook's mother in Redland -- said that another neighbor told him "they had I guess been receiving packages -- quite a few packages within a short amount of time, and they were actually doing a lot of work out in the garage."

"She was kind of suspicious and wanted to report it," Elswick explained, "but she said she didn't want to profile."

When the authorities finally searched the house, too late for the 14 murder victims, they found an arsenal of automatic weapons and what amounted to a bomb factory.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Mr. Elswick has more to fear than merely being branded a racist.  As noted, he might realistically have feared an investigation by Attorney General Lynch.

President Obama says he abhors "gun violence."  Having helped mold a culture in which people are cowed from reporting the possibility that Middle Eastern neighbors could be stockpiling AK-47's, my guess is that his abhoring has just begun. But don't count on his asking Ms. Lynch to change her watch-your-mouth priorities.

P.S.  Liberals would often tell us that, if we start to curtail our freedoms out of fear, the terrorists will have won. This turns out to be true, just not in the way they wanted us to believe.

ISIS lauds killers as "martyrs"

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To follow up on Kent's post, ISIS has now given the San Bernardino killers its highest accolade: martyr.  NBC News has the story:

A new radio message released by ISIS on Saturday calls the California couple who gunned down 14 people at a holiday party "supporters" -- but stops short of the terror group taking direct credit for the attack.

An announcer with the al-Bayan radio morning report recounts the slaughter in San Bernardino, and asks for "Allah to accept them (the shooters) among the martyrs," according to a translation provided by global security firm and NBC News analyst Flashpoint Intelligence.

Since ISIS has only compliments for the killers and their putative devotion to Allah, I think it need not worry about a "hate speech" prosecution from the Attorney General.

This is what it has come to:  What really rings this Administration's bell is not ISIS itself  --  terrorism's JV team  -- but criticism of the identifiably Islamic thought from which ISIS springs.

P.S.  As the last link shows, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said three months ago that his boss's "JV team" remark "was referring to groups that "do not have designs on attacking the West or on attacking the United States ... they certainly don't have the capability of attacking the West." Note to residents of San Bernardino, CA: You are not in the West.

The San Bernardino Massacre

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I have held off commenting on the San Bernardino massacre until more was known.  Today's WSJ has a number of articles on the emerging picture and the policy dilemmas we faced as we decide what to do to reduce the risk of such horrors.

France Kills A Murderer

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AP reports:

The Belgian extremist suspected of masterminding the deadly attacks in Paris died a day ago along with his female cousin in a police raid on a suburban apartment building, French officials said Thursday, adding it was still not clear exactly how he died.

The body of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, 27, was found in the building targeted Wednesday in the chaotic, bloody raid in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis and was identified based on skin samples, the Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday.

Congratulations, France.  Well done.

Now stop criticizing us when we kill our murderers.

The Latest in Customer Service

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You cannot make this up.  From NBC News reports:

NBC News has learned that ISIS is using a web-savvy new tactic to expand its global operational footprint -- a 24-hour Jihadi Help Desk to help its foot soldiers spread its message worldwide, recruit followers and launch more attacks on foreign soil.

Counterterrorism analysts affiliated with the U.S. Army tell NBC News that the ISIS help desk, manned by a half-dozen senior operatives around the clock, was established with the express purpose of helping would-be jihadists use encryption and other secure communications in order to evade detection by law enforcement and intelligence authorities.

The relatively new development -- which law enforcement and intel officials say has ramped up over the past year -- is alarming because it allows potentially thousands of ISIS followers to move about and plan operations without any hint of activity showing up in their massive collection of signals intelligence.

I wish the Help Desk at Georgetown Law were as good at sending me the class roster. 

The title of this post is the position taken by (pick one):

A.  Secretary of State John Kerry.
B.  The Ayatollah.
C.  Osama Bin Laden.
D.  The head of ISIS.
E.  Timothy McVeigh.

The correct answer is A, Secretary of State John Kerry.  The Weekly Standard published the full quotation (emphasis in the Standard):

"In the last days, obviously, that has been particularly put to the test," Kerry said, according to a State Department transcript. "There's something different [from the Paris massacre] about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of - not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they're really angry because of this and that.

Impeachment is still in the Constitution, isn't it?

Some might believe that the darkest outcome of the Paris attacks is the choking grief and irremediable loss of the families of the dead. Others would say the lifelong disfigurement of survivors.  Some would say the end of the notion that civilized life is safe.  Still others will say the stain of sadness that has settled into one of the world's greatest and (formerly) most festive cities.

You read that right.  The story begins:

In a civil rights suit over the New York City Police Department's surveillance of New Jersey Muslims, the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris could make it harder for the plaintiffs to get a fair trial, according to some involved in the case, as well as some outside observers.

For those who need translation (probably not that many given how far "journalism" has decayed), let me help.  

"A fair trial" = "A trial at which reality is excluded." 

"Some involved in the suit" = "Plaintiffs' lawyers and their hired consultants."

"Outside observers" = "Pro-Muslim consultants who weren't hired this time but hope to be for the next case."

Are Libertarians Knowingly Abetting Terror?

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It's becoming increasingly clear that the Paris terrorists were using "dark channels" to plan their attacks.  A "dark channel" is a means of encrypted communication protected by methods so sophisticated the FBI and other agencies cannot decode them.

In the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations, libertarians were up in arms about protecting "privacy," as if little Susie's diary were what intelligence agencies are interested in.  FBI Director Jim Comey has warned about this, but to no avail.

As Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution now writes, however:

Evidence that terrorists were, in fact, using strong end-to-end encryption to kill people could be game-changing in a debate that has heretofore been defined by anxieties about NSA. The tech companies won the first round of the current encryption battles in large measure because the concerns the intelligence and law enforcement community have about "going dark," while acutely real to them, are pretty hypothetical on public evidence. All that could change in an instant were it to emerge that the Paris attackers were using technology specifically chosen to secure their communications from those charged with stopping terrorist attacks.

Libertarians do a lot of chest-thumping about how much they're trying to protect the Constitution (that they alone care about, apparently).  In an age of a politicized Justice Department, who can much blame them?  But here's a question they need to consider:  If we are blinded to grotesque terrorist plans because of libertarian breast-beating about "privacy," will it be the libertarians who pay the price  --  or little Susie, out with her mother for a celebration at a restaurant in Paris?

Multiple Terror Attacks in Paris

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The face of pure evil showed itself again in Paris today.  Stacy Meichtry, Inti Landauro and Thomas Varela report for the WSJ:

PARIS--Terror swept the French capital late Friday as a series of attacks--in a bustling nightlife district and outside a soccer stadium--left more than 100 people dead in one of the bloodiest assaults in the country's history.

The sheer scale of the mayhem--six separate attacks--left authorities reeling. The government declared a state of emergency, sending military forces onto the streets of Paris, sealing off roads and reinstating border controls. Sirens blared across the city as police and emergency workers rushed to respond.

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