Radicalization in the West

The NYPD’s understanding of the threat from Islamic-based terrorism to New York City has evolved since September 11, 2001. While the threat from overseas remains, terrorist attacks or thwarted plots against cities in Europe, Australia and Canada since 2001 fit a different paradigm. Rather than being directed from al-Qaeda abroad, these plots have been conceptualized and planned by “unremarkable” local residents/citizens who sought to attack their country of residence, utilizing al-Qaeda as their inspiration and ideological reference point.

Some of these cases include:

  • Madrid’s March 2004 attack
  • Amsterdam’s Hofstad Group
  • London’s July 2005 attack
  • Australia’s Operation Pendennis (which thwarted an attack(s) in November 2005)
  • The Toronto 18 Case (which thwarted an attack in June 2006)

Where once we would have defined the initial indicator of the threat at the point where a terrorist or group of terrorists would actually plan an attack, we have now shifted our focus to a much earlier point-a point where we believe the potential terrorist or group of terrorists begin and progress through a process of radicalization. The culmination of this process is a terrorist attack.

Understanding this trend and the radicalization process in the West that drives “unremarkable” people to become terrorists is vital for developing effective counter- strategies and has special importance for the NYPD and the City of New York. As one of the country’s iconic symbols and the target of numerous terrorist plots since the 1990’s, New York City continues to be among the top targets of terrorists worldwide.

In order to test whether the same framework for understanding radicalization abroad applied within the United States, we analyzed three U.S. homegrown terrorism cases and two New York City based cases:

  • • Lackawana, New York
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Northern Virginia
  • New York City – Herald Square Subway
  • New York City – The Al Muhajiroun Two

The same radicalization framework was applied to a study of the origins of the Hamburg cluster of individuals, who led the September 11 hijackers. This assessment, almost six years after 2001, provides some new insights, previously not fully-grasped by the law enforcement and intelligence community, into the origins of this devastating attack.

Muslims need to take part: Palestinian dispossession is a reason to participate in Holocaust Memorial Day, not boycott it

The freedom for Muslims to express their identity in Europe is today under attack. Implicit in this attack is the view that Islam is intrinsically repressive, and embodies values alien to western values of liberty, tolerance and democracy. The memory of the Holocaust stands against such a grossly sanitised view of European history. It reminds us that in the heart of modern Europe the demonisation of a religious and cultural minority culminated in genocide – the mass, industrialised slaughter of European Jews. Why then, with European Muslims subject to attacks reminiscent of the gathering storms of anti-semitism in the first decades of the last century, has Holocaust Memorial Day become such a difficult issue for some British Muslims? One objection has been outlined by Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain. “There have been many further instances of genocide and mass killings since we vowed ‘never again’ in response to the Nazi crimes,” he has pointed out. “Do the innocent killed in those horrific episodes not equally deserve to be commemorated in a more inclusive and aptly titled Genocide Memorial Day?” However, for many Muslims, arguments about the specificity of the Holocaust are not the main reason they are uneasy about participation in memorial events. The main reason is Palestine. The way in which Zionists have abused the memory of the Holocaust to bolster support for today’s Israeli state and its racist and murderous policies towards the Palestinians repels many Muslims, as well as some anti-Zionist Jews, from participating. In fact, Palestine should not be a reason for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day, but a reason for participating. As the peace campaigner Uri Avnery, who organised a demonstration against the killing of Palestinian children on last year’s Holocaust Memorial Day in Tel Aviv, put it: one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that you must not accept an ideology telling you “that other people are inferior and subhuman” or that loyalty to your country justifies “the occupation of another country and oppression of another people”.

Thanks to American Muslims. The importance of the immigrant Muslim vote in Virginia

It was like being a kid again, I was waiting for the bending of time and space so Tuesday would come instantly. All day at work I kept looking at the clock waiting and waiting for the seconds to become minutes and the minutes to become hours, all in anticipation of Tuesday’s election results. I did not care if the Republicans lost the House. I did not care if the Republicans lost the Senate. My only concern, desire and hope was for God to intervene in the course of history and produce a victory for James Webb and a defeat for George “I made up the word Maccaca” Allen. More on the historic Webb win later. I had the chance to attend the last debate between Allen and Webb (incidentally I was one of the only attendees not affiliated with either campaign.) Webb’s demeanor was not congruent with that of a former Marine and Vietnam veteran. He was soft spoken and gentle but had a commanding presence and booming voice. Contrast that with a former football jock, Allen, who passed himself off as a Virginia bred, cowboy boot wearing Southerner. Since the tightening of the race Allen let go of his attachment to the Confederate flag and the noose (the noose that he had hanging in his law office next to his Confederate flag for years.) Allen reminded me of the all those pompous, jack ass white boy athletes with whom I went to school. In my case the great equalizer was that I could lay them out on the football field so the left me alone. Allen’s true background is of a Jewish ancestry and roots in California. Webb’s narrow victory is historic not only in sending a message that Virginia is no longer the lackey of the Conservative Right, it is historic in that it signifies the importance of the Muslim vote in Virginia — by Muslim I am referring to immigrant Muslim, indigenous Muslims and second/third Generation Muslims. For those of you that are repelled by the word Muslim, it also includes Iranians (secular or not). Unfortunately, because the immigrant Muslim community (including Iranians) are highly educated and professionals they have historically voted Republican, not to mention that the thought of sitting next to a heshe at a Democratic event does not sit well with our socially conservative norms. The only reason that a minority should vote for a Republican is if he or she belongs in the Republican tax bracket and can benefit from the tax cuts that the rich so often are afforded. To such fools I say keep voting Republican to save on your taxes; however, no amount of money can save you from being charged as an enemy combatant or help you from getting out of Gitmo. The other historic message that it sends is to the spineless Democrats that had been paralyzed for five years into grabbing their ankles by the word “terrorism.” Had they stood up from the beginning then perhaps the Constitution would not have been shredder. One could put forth a convincing argument that the last five years were merely part of the Democrats agenda; let the situation get so bad that the populous has no choice but to elect them into power. At least now the Bush Administration won’t continue to receive a blank check all under the fa_ade of the war on terror. At least one would hope this to be the case. If it is not, then what choice do we have left? Nader’s Green Party? Two other defeats of magnanimous importance (in lieu of the Iranian nuclear issue) are that of the former Senator Rick Santorum and former Representative Curt Weldon. Apparently regurgitating a story about WMDs in Iraq, that was nearly three years old, was not enough to secure a victory for Santorum. Weldon, you may remember, wrote a book about the impending danger that Iran posed and that the FBI and CIA were sitting on information that Iran and/or Muslim terrorists were going to attack the US with some type of radio active material or an attack on a nuclear facility or _________ (just fill in the blank.) Weldon’s source was former Iran-Contra figure Manuchehr Ghorbanifar and his buddy “Ali” who is a Shah Loyalist currently residing in Paris. Santorum and Weldon were relying heavily on “Iranian Exiles” when they passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005. Given the power shift in Congress the “Iranian Exiles” need to start puckering up and kissing some new American koon in their hopes of restoring the Monarchy.

FBI Bid To Win Over American Muslims

The FBI will hold its first nationally televised “town hall meeting” for Muslims and Arab-Americans on Thursday in an effort to improve relations and enlist their help in fighting terrorism, an FBI official said. Paul Moskal, chief division counsel for the FBI in Buffalo, New York, who will lead the meeting and field questions, said the agency and the Arab and Muslim American communities needed to overcome misconceptions about each other and foster closer cooperation. “What we want to do is let the public know that the FBI has changed its mission after September 11, that our number one priority is the detection and prevention of another terrorist act. If someone in the public can help us accomplish that, that’s our purpose,” Moskal told Reuters on Wednesday. The meeting will be broadcast on Bridges TV, an independent, commercial US television network broadcasting lifestyle and culture programmes around the clock for a primarily Muslim American audience. FBI says its priority is to detect and prevent another terror attack The televised meeting is also part of efforts to encourage Muslim and Arab Americans to report instances of post-September 11 backlash, intimidation, racism or harassment so the agency can enforce their civil rights, Moskal said. A third reason for the town hall meeting was that “we need more Arab Americans, we need more Muslim Americans as FBI agents and as FBI employees. So we use it to recruit as well,” he said. Muslim American groups have long accused the Bush administration of neglect in the fight against terrorism, which they say undermines a potentially priceless resource that could be used to root out militants at home. Muslim groups say the government must visibly engage their community to undermine militants’ charges that Muslims are left out of American society, and to ensure that Muslims do not feel alienated and become targets for radical recruiters. Estimates of the number of Muslim Americans vary between three million and seven million. “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies” Moskal said the FBI had been conducting local town hall meetings, at which agents would make contact with citizens and answer questions about their work, in a broad range of ethnic, religious and other communities throughout the United States. But he said Thursday’s session was the first nationally televised event targeting Muslim and Arab Americans. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations which is moderating the television programme, said, “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies.” US officials acknowledge that they must do more to involve Muslim Americans in counter-terrorism efforts. But they say the administration is already actively cooperating with Muslim groups and say they enjoy greater access to the government than ever before.

U.S. Says It Didn’t Target Muslims Mosques Among Sites Monitored For Radiation

By Mary Beth Sheridan Faced with angry complaints, U.S. officials defended an anti-terrorism program yesterday that secretly tested radiation levels around the country — including at more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington area — and insisted that no one was targeted because of his or her faith. One official knowledgeable about the program explained that Muslim sites were included because al Qaeda terrorists were considered likely to gravitate to Muslim neighborhoods or mosques while in the United States. “If you were looking [for] the needle in a haystack, that’s the haystack you would look at,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. “You’d look at the [likely] targets and the places the operators were.” No indications of radiation were found at the businesses, homes, warehouses or mosques that were included in the program. The official said that radiation monitoring of the Muslim sites started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and lasted through 2003. The focus on the Muslim sites, which was first reported last week by U.S. News & World Report, has stunned and angered officials at mosques and Muslim and Arab-American organizations. Two such groups have filed Freedom of Information requests, known as FOIAs, in recent days to try to learn which sites were monitored. They also have requested meetings with the FBI, which ran the program along with the Energy Department. “The problem [is] . . . it further gives the Muslim community a sense they are suspect, they are under the gun,” said Ahmed Younis, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Michael A. Mason, who oversees the Washington Field Office of the FBI, said in an interview that he hoped to meet next week with the groups. “We have not violated the law; we have not violated the Constitution; we have not gone on private property,” Mason said. He said that he could provide few details because the program remains classified but added that the monitoring devices involved were “passive,” roughly akin to holding a thermometer out the window of a moving car to measure the temperature. “It’s not like thermal-imaging a house, where you’re trying to figure out if they’re trying to grow marijuana,” he said. Officials emphasized that Washington wasn’t the only place where the program operated. Nor were Muslim sites the only focus: The program included airports, buildings and monuments that were considered possible targets for a terrorist attack, said the official familiar with the program who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There was no more intensive focus on D.C. than there was on several other cities,” he said. The testing began several months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when a series of events had convinced U.S. officials that another terrorist attack was imminent, the official said. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in May 2002 on suspicion of planning an attack with a radiological dirty bomb; Osama bin Laden was threatening to strike again. In addition, documents discovered in Afghanistan indicated that terrorists could possibly use a U.S. mosque to hide radioactive material, said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI counterterrorism agent. Cloonan, who earlier was interviewed by ABC News about the program, said it was not clear which mosques might have been considered. The official familiar with the program acknowledged that “now it sounds like a crazy thing. But at the time it didn’t sound like a very crazy thing. . . . All the intel was saying, ‘An attack is coming, it’s likely to be al Qaeda, likely to be launched in a U.S. city, likely to involve a dirty device’. . . . Where would you go looking for that?” Authorities determined that in the past, al Qaeda terrorists or people close to them tended to live in Muslim neighborhoods or attend local mosques, the official said. That’s how some sites became included in a program, he said. Other sites were chosen because of specific intelligence information. Most of the testing was apparently done from nearby streets. But, according to U.S. News & World Report, in as much as 15 percent of the cases, officials had to go onto private property, such as mosque parking lots and private driveways, to get accurate readings. Officials involved with the program said no warrants were needed because they were in public access areas. But some Muslim activists said they were concerned. “We’d like our federal law enforcement agencies to know the American Muslim community stands firmly behind protecting our nation’s borders,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the groups that are seeking the addresses of the sites involved. “But, at the same time, we are not willing to give up our guaranteed constitutional and legal rights in order to do that.” He said his group constantly received phone calls from Muslims who believed they were under surveillance. But none had specifically mentioned possible radiation testing. U.S. News & World Report said that some officials believed the program, which involved property occupied or owned by U.S. citizens, was legally questionable. It quoted one unidentified source as saying that participants who complained “nearly lost their jobs.” Mason said that did not occur in the local FBI office. “No one in the Washington Field Office would ever be so threatened,” he said. “Never.”

Muslim Students Link British Foreign Policy To London Bombings

LONDON – Ninety-five percent of Muslim students are unhappy with British foreign policy, particularly on Iraq, and 66 percent feel it contributed to the London bombings, an opinion poll released on Wednesday said. Half of respondents to the poll for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies said they had experienced Islamophobia, and nine out of 10 objected to the way Muslims were portrayed in the media. The figures were based on feedback from 250 students, with 500 responses expected by next week. Federation president Wakkas Khan said the results undermined Prime Minister Tony Blair’s assertion that the London bombings were unrelated to his decision to take Britain into the Iraq conflict. It is important now for Mr Blair to accept that foreign policy is a serious concern and to start to do something about it rather than being seen to brush it aside, he said. Fifty-six people were killed, including four apparent suicide bombers, when three Underground trains and a double-decker bus were targeted on July 7 in the worst terrorist attack ever on British soil. Three people have been charged with attempted murder, and a fourth is awaiting extradition from Italy, in connection with a failed attempt on July 21 to repeat the attack.

UK May Charge Clerics With Treason

LONDON, England (AP) — British prosecutors say they are considering treason charges against any Islamic extremists who express support for terrorism. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s office said the Crown Prosecution Service’s head of anti-terrorism would meet with senior Metropolitan Police officers to discuss possible charges against three prominent clerics as part of a crackdown on those the government believes are inciting terrorism. Clerics Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Izzaden and Abu Uzair, have appeared on British television in recent days. Goldsmith’s office said prosecutors and police would look at remarks made by the three and consider whether they could face charges of treason, incitement to treason, solicitation of murder, or incitement to withhold information known to be of use to police. Bakri Mohammed has reportedly said since the July 7 attacks that he would not inform police if he knew Muslims were planning another attack and he supports insurgents who attack troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. “No decision on charges has been made yet,” the attorney general’s office spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously because British civil servants cannot be named. The spokeswoman said prosecutors may also seek access to taped recordings made by an undercover Sunday Times reporter who reportedly recorded members of a radical group praising the suicide bombers as “The Fantastic Four.” The newspaper’s story said its reporter spent two months as a “recruit” of the group, the Savior Sect, and described the organization as inciting young British Muslims to become terrorists.

Dutch Government Passes New Terror Bill

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch government passed a new terrorism bill Friday, granting law-enforcement authorities far-reaching powers of investigation and allowing them to hold suspects for up to two weeks without charges. Intelligence agents will be able to use currently banned techniques such as infiltrating terror cells for undercover operations and telephone taps, a Justice Ministry statement said. They will also be allowed to use entrapment tactics, such as bogus sales transactions. The law must be approved by parliament. “There also will be more possibilities to gather information, detain suspects and conduct preventive public searches,” it said. “The events in Amsterdam and The Hague have made clear that wider powers to prevent terrorism are desirable.” The ministry was referring to the Nov. 2 killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose throat was slit allegedly by a young Muslim radical who associated with a suspected terrorist cell. In The Hague a few days after the murder, terrorist suspects wounded several policemen during a botched arrest attempt. Two young men holed up in a residential neighborhood for a day before surrendering. The new law also lowers the level of proof needed to hold a suspect believed to be plotting terrorist activity, said Justice Ministry spokesman Wibbe Alkema. The problem in the past, Alkema said, has been insufficient grounds to detain someone who could be preparing an attack. If the law is passed, authorities will have more time – up to two weeks – to build a case and bring charges. “In the initial stage of custody, there will no longer need to be serious suspicion, but only a reasonable doubt,” he said. “That could be someone who is believed to be involved with a network that has been under observation for some time.” One such case is that of Samir Azzouz, an 18-year-old Dutch Muslim on trial for allegedly plotting bombings of prominent Dutch landmarks. Prosecutors will be able to approve the use of spot searches of people and cars in public places that could be potential targets, such as an airport or a sports stadium, if there is suspicion of an attack plot.

More Moroccans Arrested In Spain; Jewish center may have been a target

MADRID Terrorists believed to be responsible for the Madrid train bombings last month were targeting a Jewish community center and cemetery outside of Madrid for a possible future attack, a senior Spanish investigator said on Tuesday. A map showing the two sites was discovered in the ruins of an apartment destroyed 10 days ago when at least six of the alleged bombers blew themselves up to avoid capture by the police, the official added.