Recently in Terrorism Category

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.

Do Not Forget. Do Not Repeat.

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Fourteen years ago today, the worst crime in American history was committed.  For a time, we came together and realized that business as usual would not do.  Some people have very short memories, and many people have slipped back into the casual attitude toward national security that enabled Al Qaeda to perpetrate this crime.  Some contend that the Constitution requires us to dismantle the measures we put in place that successfully prevented a repeat of this crime.  It does not.

The great Justice Robert Jackson nailed it in 1949:  "The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."

Add to this the famous saying of George Santayana:  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

We must not forget.  We must not repeat.

Homeless, Therefore Start Shooting

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While decent people are outraged by prosecutorial lying, no one even bats an eyelash when defense counsel spin their yarns.  It's what they do.  The basics are easy:  The client is almost always guilty; telling the truth is thus the fast road to jail; therefore make something up.  That's how it works.  Whether it should work that way is another matter, but that is for a different entry.

This is by way of introducing today's AP story about the Jihadist who attempted, but was foiled at, mass murder on a French train. Kent wrote about it here and here.  The would-be killer, Ayoub El-Khazzani, has now lawyered up.  Counsel's name is Sophie David, and this is what she has to say:

"He is dumbfounded that his action is being characterized as terrorism," said [Ms.] David, a lawyer in Arras, where the train was rerouted to arrest El-Khazzani -- now being questioned outside Paris by anti-terrorism police.
He described himself as homeless and David said she had "no doubt" this was true, saying he was "very, very thin" as if suffering from malnutrition and "with a very wild look in his eyes."

For sure.  When you're homeless, the thing to do is grab an assault rifle and go to town.  Why would anyone think otherwise?

But wait, there's more.

Update On French Train Story

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As often happens, the initial report on the attack on the French train was incorrect in a few particulars.  It looks like four people heroically stopped this apparently terrorist attack:  two American servicemen, one American civilian, and one Frenchman. Sam Schechner and Julian E. Barnes report for the WSJ:

Authorities praised two U.S. military members and their friend who tackled and subdued a man armed with guns and a box cutter on a Paris-bound train Friday as it sped through Belgium, breaking up what could have been a deadly terrorist attack.

The three Americans were seated on the train when they heard a gunshot and breaking glass, according to accounts from one of the men and a U.S. official briefed on the attack.

Crouching behind their seats, the Americans, who are childhood friends, decided they had to act. Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23 years old, ran toward the gunman and tackled him.

"I told him to go, and he went," Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan, said Saturday.

Darren Boyle has this story, with the above headline, in the Daily Mail of London.

Two unarmed US Marines on board a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris foiled a terrorist attack after a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle, wounding three people.

The 26-year-old Moroccan national, who was known to security services, came out of the toilet brandishing the gun and opened fire. Fortunately, two US Marines were nearby and overpowered him before he could massacre passengers.

The suspected terrorist had at least nine full magazines of ammunition holding almost 300 rounds. He was also carrying a knife.

Unfortunately, one of the Marines was shot and is believed to be in a critical condition. It is feared that he was shot in the neck by the gunman.
Two unarmed Marines took down a guy with a Kalashnikov, saving God knows how many lives.  Now there is a profile in courage.  Let us pray for the wounded hero.

Update:   The headline now reads, "Unarmed US Marines foil suspected terrorist attack onboard high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris after they take down Kalashnikov-wielding Moroccan gunman known to intelligence services"

Update 2:  Turns out they aren't Marines, but the essential parts of the story are correct.  See next post.

Church Bombings in New Mexico

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Walter Rubel reports for the Las Cruces Sun-News:

Explosions about a half hour apart shattered the serenity of morning services at two Las Cruces churches Sunday, but caused no injuries and only minor damage, police said.

The explosions happened at Calvary Baptist Church, 1800 S. Locust, shortly after 8 a.m. and Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1327 N. Miranda, about a half hour later. The explosion at Holy Cross took place in a trash can just outside the entrance of the church as services for the 8 a.m. Mass were taking place.

*                                              *                                           *

At a press conference Sunday night, Gov. Susana Martinez said that only a "coward" would place an explosive device in a church. She vowed that the person responsible would be caught, and urged people to continue to attend church services.

"Whoever did this will feel the full pressure of the law," she said. "If your intention was to bring fear to those who worship, you have failed."

French Surveillance Law Upheld

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Sam Schechner and Matthew Dalton report in the WSJ:

PARIS--France's top constitutional court mostly upheld a new French surveillance law that would give intelligence services broad new powers to spy in France and abroad.

The court-backed provisions of the law allow a wide range of new surveillance techniques meant for the Internet age, including the collection of "metadata" about online traffic and the use of software that can monitor every keystroke on a computer. The court said intelligence services can use these tools without approval of a judge, though the government must still seek permission from an independent body created to oversee surveillance activities.

The court, known as the Constitutional Council, did strike down a provision of the law that would allow emergency surveillance without the approval of the prime minister or another minister in the government.
Congress is presently debating whether and to what extent to re-authorize bulk collection of telephone records, a key provision set forth in Section 215 of the Patriot Act.  My friend Rachel Brand, a former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, writes an informative piece about it in the Christian Science Monitor. She notes, among other things:

[T]he question before Congress is not whether to reauthorize or prohibit the bulk telephone records program that has garnered so much attention. It is whether to reauthorize Section 215 itself. This authority was enacted after 9/11 to remedy the problem that officers conducting foreign intelligence investigations of international terrorism and espionage did not have a basic investigative tool available even in ordinary criminal investigations. The telephone records program conducted by the NSA is only one application of that authority. If Congress allows Section 215 to expire, it will not just eliminate that program; it will do away entirely with an essential investigative tool.
Punishment for crime involves both judicial and executive discretion.  The sentence in years (or life) is imposed by the trial court, but where the convict actually is in those years is typically an executive decision.  That may involve which prison he is sent to, whether he is inside or outside prison (i.e., parole), or even which country he is in.

Khalid Al Fawwaz was sentenced today for his part in the 1998 Embassy Bombing plot.  He received three life sentences and a ten-year sentence, concurrent.  And Judge Kaplan added this:

The Court makes the following recommendation to the Department of Justice: The Court is mindful of the fact that defendant may have the ability to apply to the U.S. Department of Justice under the international prisoner transfer program to be allowed to serve some or all of his sentence in another nation. Although a decision on any such application, if one is made, would be up to the Department of Justice, the Court strongly recommends that any such application be denied. The defendant has been convicted of very serious crimes against American citizens. His punishment ought to be served in, and more particularly, always remain under the control of the United States of America.
Now that's refreshing to hear from a federal judge.
Denise Lavoie reports for Associated Press:

[Defense attorney David] Bruck urged the jury to sentence the defendant [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] to life in prison without the possibility of ever being released.

"His legal case will be over for good, and no martyrdom, just years and years of punishment," the lawyer said. "All the while, society is protected."

I am reluctant to call anyone a liar based on a press report, as I have been quoted out of context a time or three myself, but if this report is accurate and in context then Bruck told the jury a bald-faced lie in open court.

Bruck knows, I know, and everyone knowledgeable in the field knows that if the jury returns a life verdict then Tsarnaev will have a right to appeal and then a right to file a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. ยง2255.  By no stretch of the imagination will "his legal case be over for good."  That is absolutely false.

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