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 in Western Europe After 9/11

The principal aim of this report is to highlight the multi-layered levels of discrimination encountered by Muslims. This phenomenon cannot simply be subsumed into the term Islamophobia. Indeed, the term can be misleading, as it presupposes the pre-eminence of religious discrimination when other forms of discrimination (such as racial or class) may be more relevant. We therefore intend to use the term Islamophobia as a starting point for analyzing the different dimensions that define the political situation of Muslim minorities in Europe. We will not to take the term for granted by assigning it only one meaning, such as anti-Islamic discourse.

The report is part of WP: Securitization and Religious Divides in Europe

U.S. Entry Increasingly Being Denied

A Zimbabwe woman who arrived in San Francisco traveling on a student visa was barred from entering the United States. A Jordanian national with a valid passport and visa was denied entry in Chicago. And four University of Florida students who had gone home to China for Christmas were barred from returning for months. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, foreign visitors who may once have easily entered the United States are facing increased scrutiny at land borders, airports and seaports. Every year, more than 300,000 noncitizens are denied entry for reasons ranging from improper or fraudulent travel documents to suspected terrorist ties. Last week, Safana Jawad, an Iraqi-born Spanish citizen, said she was denied entry at Tampa International Airport because federal agents believed she was connected to someone they view as suspicious. Her case isn’t unusual. About 500 noncitizens last year were denied entry because of terrorism or national security concerns, said Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C. “Ninety-nine percent of the traveling public is absolutely legitimate,” she said. “However, we will not denigrate our antiterrorism mission in any way in order to achieve being a welcoming nation.” Klundt’s agency was formed in 2003 under the Department of Homeland Security to oversee all immigration, customs and agriculture border inspections and enforcement. The following year, its agents denied entry to more than 450,000 noncitizens. The stricter border enforcement may be needed, but it also has led to an increase in fear among visitors to the United States, said Philip Hwang, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “The danger is that there is a mind-set among some federal officers which allows immigrants to be seen as the enemy, and fails to recognize their value and contribution to this country,” he said. His San Francisco firm specializes in cases of abuse by federal immigration and border officials. Recently, Hwang represented Tsungai Tungwarara, a Zimbabwe woman who was denied entry at San Francisco International Airport in 2002. Tungwarara was traveling on a valid student visa and federal agents suspected she planned to stay in the United States to attend school. Hwang said she already had enrolled at a school overseas. Tungwarara was detained at the Oakland County jail and strip-searched. Last October, a federal district court ruled the strip search was unconstitutional. And last week, the U.S. government settled the lawsuit for $65,000, Hwang said. The settlement was filed April 12 at the federal courthouse in San Francisco, the same day Jawad, 45, sat in a maximum-security cell of the Pinellas County jail. She arrived at Tampa International Airport to visit her son, who lives in Clearwater with her ex-husband, Ahmad Maki Kubba, 49. After being denied entry, Jawad was taken to the jail, booked as a felon and strip-searched. “It’s shocking because Jawad’s case is strikingly similar to the one we just settled,” Hwang said. “You’d think Homeland Security would get its act together. But it’s a problem that’s not going away.” Jawad is now visiting family members in London before returning home to Spain. Homeland Security has launched its own investigation of Jawad’s treatment at the jail while in federal custody. “I love America, but this was wrong,” Kubba said. “She is innocent until proven guilty, but they dealt with her as a criminal.” Along with suspicions of terrorist ties, visitors may be denied entry for a variety of reasons, including lying about their planned visit and the possession of smuggled merchandise or fraudulent travel documents. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the increased scrutiny has netted some big fish, including a suicide bomber. In 2003, Ra’ed Mansour al-Banna, a Jordanian national with a genuine passport and valid visa, was denied entry at Chicago O’Hare International Airport because he presented “terrorist risk factors” during questioning, Klundt said. She wouldn’t elaborate. Al-Banna, 30, was detained overnight and sent home. In 2005, he was identified as the suicide bomber who drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into a Shiite city that February, killing 132 Iraqis. Fingerprints from his severed hand, found chained to the steering wheel, were matched with those taken by federal agents at the airport. “I’m not saying everyone we deny entry to is like al-Banna. But when we’re denying people on terrorism grounds, there’s reason for it,” Klundt said. “Our primary mission is antiterrorism. But will we deny entry because of incorrect paperwork? Absolutely.” Several Florida university officials say the stricter enforcement since Sept.11 has translated into a perception of the United States as an unwelcoming nation. The view has led to a significant drop in applicants to the University of Florida, said Debra Anderson, the international student coordinator. The four Chinese students barred entry in 2004 were eventually allowed back after additional security checks. The fear of not being able to return to school continues to worry students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “The students are very afraid to go home during their breaks because they are afraid of having problems coming back,” said Lisa Kahn, director of International Affairs at USF. Problems may arise even before students or professors reach a U.S. port of entry. In February, a prominent Indian scientist who was offered a visiting professorship at UF was denied a visa at a U.S. consulate in Madras, said Dennis Jett, dean of the International Center. Goverdhan Mehta said he was accused of potential links to chemical weapons production. Mehta refused to come even after U.S. officials granted him a visa two weeks later. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to lift a visa ban on another professor, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar who had accepted a position at Notre Dame. His visa was revoked under a provision that allows the exclusion of foreigners who endorse terrorism, said Paul Silva, an ACLU spokesman. But Silva said Ramadan has publicly condemned terrorism, and is being barred because the Muslim scholar is a vocal critic of American policy in the Middle East. Ahme d Bedier, director of the Council on American-Muslim Relations in Tampa, said Muslims like Jawad still often feel singled out by federal authorities, though reports of racial profiling at airports have dropped significantly since Sept. 11. In 2004, of the 1,522 “anti-Muslim incidents” reported to the council, nearly 6 percent, or 88 incidents, occurred at airports, he said. The reported cases represent less than 20 percent of the total number nationwide, he said. Bedier, however, believes most incidents go unreported because many people lack the sophistication of Jawad’s family. “It was beneficial that she was educated enough that she demanded to speak to lawyers and the Spanish embassy. Not everybody reacts in real time like that,” Bedier said. “When you’re in a state of shock, you’re afraid, you’re being interrogated, you can forget your rights.”

Security Programs Strain Relationship Between U.S., Muslims

WASHINGTON (AP) – Nabil Amen wrote it off as mistaken identity the first time U.S. border agents handcuffed him as he returned home from Canada. When he had border-crossing troubles a third time, he decided to never leave the United States again. Amen, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Lebanon, is among a growing number of Muslim-and Arab-Americans who say they feel singled out by federal security practices that have chilled that community’s carefully nurtured relationship with the government. Federal authorities insist they do not target Muslims or Arabs because of their religion or race, and stress their commitment to building ties with those groups, partly to help with terrorism investigations. Yet recent disclosures of Bush administration domestic surveillance programs have put new strains on those communities’ ties with the federal government. “There are several incidents and policies that are unfairly targeting Muslims because of who they are – not because of what they did,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Washington. Awad said the rapport built up with the government since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “is at its lowest point because of these programs.” Federal authorities say their tactics are vital to preventing further attacks. “All investigations conducted by the FBI are based either in intelligence or criminal information,” FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said. “We do this in our efforts to prevent or detect an act of terrorism on the country, which is the FBI’s No. 1 priority.” Security experts say the government has to walk a fine line between protecting against terrorism and respecting people’s rights. Community leaders estimate that up to eight million Muslims live in the United States, two-thirds of whom are U.S. citizens. “The 9/11 hijackers were from the Middle East, they were Muslim, they were between 20 and 40 years old,” said David Heyman, homeland security director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Law enforcement can’t ignore this – they’ve got an obligation to protect the public. But they must do so with care.” Amen said he was told to step out of his car and was handcuffed the first time he was stopped, in December 2004, as he returned to his Dearborn, Mich., home after visiting relatives in Windsor, Ont. “The looks on my kids’ faces and my wife’s face – it was unbelievable,” said Amen, 47. “It’s changed my whole concept of life in this country.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials would not comment on the specifics of Amen’s case. “To take that type of action, we have got to have good reason,” said Kristi Clemens, the agency’s assistant commissioner. After detaining and deporting hundreds of Muslims and Arabs immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, federal officials have tried to repair the relationship through dialogues with community leaders and sensitivity training for investigators. But the rapport has been badly strained, the leaders say, by recent revelations of surveillance programs that target Muslim homes, businesses and mosques for terrorist links. The monitoring is in addition to policies that Muslim-and Arab-Americans believe target them for extra scrutiny at airports and border crossings. Another irritant was the FBI’s cancelling a program for helping agents relate better with the groups by teaching the investigators about their culture. Since Sept. 11, 417 people have been charged in federal terrorism-related cases, resulting in 228 convictions or guilty pleas, according to the most recent Justice Department data. Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra said the department does not categorize arrests by ethnicity or religion. Immigration data underscores the extra attention the government has paid to immigrants from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries since the attacks. Between October 1, 2000, and September 30, 2001, the U.S. deported 589 immigrants to 20 countries around the Middle East and Central Asia. In the next 12-month period, beginning weeks after Sept. 11, deportations to those nations rose to 1,674 and peaked at 1,759 in 2003. By last year, the number of deported immigrants to those countries had fallen to 1,167, according to Homeland Security Department data. Still, counterterrorism officials say they try to alleviate Muslim and Arab community concerns by meeting regularly with local leaders. “Over time, you get to know the people that you meet with,” said Brian Moskowitz, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement top agent in Detroit, which has one of the largest Muslim and Arab communities in the United States. “It’s helped, in some cases, reduce the level of anxiety and fear in the community so that people will talk to us.” Added Dan Sutherland, the department’s civil rights and liberties officer: “I know that there are peaks and valleys in the government’s relationship with these particular communities, but I really am convinced that we’re seeing a level of engagement that is going to grow over time.” But a fresh chill has taken hold. “We thought we had established a constructive working relationship with them,” said Kareem Shora, legal adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “We definitely took a couple of steps back.”

Arab American, Muslim Groups Disturbed By Ports Security Rhetoric

By DEEPTI HAJELA NEW YORK — The political piling-on over a state-owned Arab business’ plan to run some American ports is causing concern among Arab American and Muslim American groups, which say the furor is fueled by racism and bigotry. “We’re very concerned about the level of rhetoric and the way that there seems to be the assumption that because a company is Arab it can’t be trusted with our security,” said Katherine Abbadi, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New York.

Denmark Decides Free Speech Has Limits In World With Terror; Many In Europe Debate The Balance Of Security And Personal Freedom

By Kevin Sullivan Said Mansour, a slightly built man with a bushy beard, believes Muslims have a right to kill Americans in Iraq because, he said, “This is war; it’s not a picnic.” So, he explained in an interview last week, he had no qualms about downloading and making CDs of Internet videos depicting beheadings in Iraq and speeches by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist mastermind behind much of the Iraqi insurgency. Now, Danish police intend to make Mansour, 45, a Moroccan-born Danish citizen, the first person ever charged under an antiterrorism law enacted in 2002 that forbids instigation of terrorism or offering advice to terrorists. Police sources said Mansour would probably be charged for distributing CDs that contained the inflammatory jihadist speeches and gruesome images. The law contains curbs on free speech that are remarkable in a country famous for tolerating all points of view. It illustrates how democracies across Europe are adopting tougher measures in an era of rising extremist violence, despite protests that civil liberties are being sacrificed in the process. The 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people, and the London bombings in July, which killed 56 people, including the four bombers, have added new urgency to the issue. “We have to look at reality,” Rikke Hvilshoj, Denmark’s minister of refugee, immigration and integration affairs, said, noting that some have abused Denmark’s free speech guarantees to encourage violence and killing. “The day we don’t have freedom of speech, the fundamentalists have won,” she said. “On the other hand, we can’t be naive.” Experts said the debate about how to balance antiterrorism protections with individual freedoms is at the top of the agenda for European nations. The issue is particularly acute in Denmark, Italy and Poland – which have troops in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led military coalition and fear they could be the next target – and in Spain, following the train attacks there. “The mood has shifted in Europe more toward security than it was before the London bombings,” said Daniel Keohane, senior research fellow at the Center for European Reform in London. France, with Europe’s largest Muslim community – 6 million people – recently announced plans to strengthen its anti-terror laws, already among Europe’s strongest. Britain now plans to ban or deport those who incite terrorism, close bookshops or places of worship used by radical groups and criminalize speech that “foments, justifies or glorifies” terrorism. Human rights groups and Muslim civic leaders called those measures too broad. “What may be seen as a glorification of terrorism by one person might be seen as an explanation of the causes of terrorism by another person,” said Azzam Tamimi, a senior leader of the Muslim Association of Britain. A recent survey found that 80 percent of Danes supported the new laws to battle terrorism and control immigration. In Britain, 73 percent polled by the Guardian newspaper in mid-August said that they were willing to give up some civil liberties to improve security.

U.S. Muslims Feel Sidelined In Terrorism Fight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration is neglecting American Muslims in the fight against terrorism, undermining a potentially priceless resource that could be used to root out militants at home, major Muslim groups say. Community leaders such as Salam al-Marayati, who heads the Muslim Public Affairs Council advocacy group, say that to isolate terrorists political leaders from President George W. Bush on down must embrace the U.S. Muslim mainstream, rather than exclude them from serious debates on security. “For some reason, it’s very difficult to get the high-level officials to come down to the community at this point. I think a decision has to be made: are we going to be partners or are we going to be suspects?” Marayati said. Muslim American groups say that only by visibly engaging the community can officials undermine militants’ charges that Muslims are left out of American society, and ensure Muslims do not feel alienated and become targets for recruiters. Concern about increased suspicions and alienation of the Muslim American community has grown since the July 7 attacks by home-grown Muslim militants in London in which suicide bombers killed 52 people on underground trains and buses. “It’s the position of just about every Muslim leader in the United States that the way you isolate extremists is to engage the mainstream. Unfortunately we haven’t seen much of that occurring in this administration,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations. Community leaders and some experts say the country’s estimated 3 million to 7 million Muslims are best placed to fight domestic extremists because only insiders can hope to challenge their radical ideologies or spot budding militants. “The jihadist threat in this country will come from within, not from outside,” said veteran terrorism expert Dennis Pluchinsky, who retired from the State Department this year and now works for security information firm TranSecur. The Muslim community is “the front line for detection,” he said. Outreach Underway Muslim groups would like to play a greater role in policy discussions for the war on terrorism declared by Bush, have more visible government endorsement of the community’s anti-terrorism efforts and see more senior officials attending Muslim American events, conferences and community meetings. The Islamic Society of North America has called on Bush to attend its Sept. 2-6 convention — the largest annual gathering of Muslim Americans. The administration’s public diplomacy chief, Karen Hughes, is attending the opening session instead. U.S. officials agree they must do more to involve Muslim Americans in the fight against terrorism. But they say the administration is already actively cooperating with Muslim groups and say they enjoy greater access to the government than ever before. This year alone, Muslim community leaders have met with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI chief Robert Mueller, said Dan Sutherland, who heads the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights and civil liberties office. “The momentum will accelerate. I think that over the upcoming year, or two or five, you will see the connections between the Arab American and Muslim American communities and the government really deepen,” he said. “We are at the beginning stages. We’re like in the third inning of the (nine-inning) game, but we’re in the game.” Many community leaders praised Bush’s initial outreach to America’s Muslims after Sept. 11, 2001, but said such high-profile efforts had waned in the years since the Islamic militant attacks. They say cooperation is good with local law enforcement and other community groups, but say visible engagement from top-level leaders is needed to counter the terrorist threat. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, said Muslim Americans had a unique infrastructure in place through their mosques, community programs and conferences to counter that threat. Within the community, “people who may have doubts, who may have some kind of tendencies towards extremism, get diluted, and they are confronted with the right arguments and teachings,” he said.

Immigration Law Used In Antiterror Fight: Us Sees Easy Route To Detain Suspects

By Mary Beth Sheridan WASHINGTON — The federal government is waging part of the war against terrorism with a seemingly innocuous weapon: immigration law. In the past two years, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 suspects who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations, according to previously undisclosed government figures. Whereas terrorism charges can be difficult to prosecute, Department of Homeland Security officials say immigration laws can provide a quick, easy way to detain people who could be planning attacks. Authorities have used routine charges such as overstaying a visa to deport suspected supporters of terrorist groups. ”It’s an incredibly important piece of the terrorism response,” said Michael J. Garcia, who heads Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. And although immigration violations might seem humdrum, he said, ”They’re legitimate charges.” Muslim and civil liberties activists disagree. They argue that authorities are enforcing minor violations by Muslims and Arabs, while ignoring millions of other immigrants who flout the same laws. They note that many of those charged are not shown to be involved in terrorism. ”The approach is basically to target the Muslim and Arab community with a kind of zerotolerance immigration policy. No other community in the United States is treated to zero-tolerance enforcement,” said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and critic of the government’s antiterrorism policies. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, immigration agents were minor players in the world of counterterrorism. That changed during the investigation of the hijackings, when 768 suspects were secretly processed on immigration charges. Most were deported after being cleared of connections to terrorism. Unlike that controversial roundup, most of the recent arrests have not involved secret proceedings. Still, they can be hard to track. A few cases have turned into high-profile criminal trials, but others have centered on little-known individuals processed in obscure immigration courts, with no mention of a terrorism investigation. In some cases, the government ultimately concludes a suspect, while guilty of an immigration violation, has no terrorism ties. Authorities are often reluctant to disclose why an immigrant’s name emerged in a national security investigation, because the information is classified or part of a continuing inquiry. Homeland Security officials turned down a request for the names of all those charged in the past two years, making it difficult to assess how effective their strategy has been at thwarting terrorism.

Us Muslims Sue Gov’t Over Border Detentions

US Muslims sued the US Department of Homeland Security, accusing the US border agents of rights violation and racial profiling. The suit, filed in US District Court on Wednesday, April 20, named Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff among four defendants in what the New York Civil Liberties Union called a case of profiling, according to Reuters on Thursday, April 21. The three men and two women said the agents who detained them as they returned from an Islamic conference in Canada violated their rights, held them, along with dozens of other US Muslims. They added that they were interrogated, photographed and fingerprinted against their will in December 2004. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs, who were later released without charge, were singled out after telling customs officials they had attended a “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” conference in Toronto. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but asks for a declaration that the government action was unlawful, an injunction against further enforcement of such policies and practices and erasing from all federal databases of information obtained from the plaintiffs, Reuters reported. The annual conference draws thousands of Muslims from Canada, the United States and overseas, AFP said. A May 2004 report released by the US Senate Office Of Research concluded that Arab Americans and the Muslim community in the US have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Amnesty International said that racial profiling by US law enforcement agencies had grown over the past years to cover one in nine Americans, mostly targeting Muslims. ‘Most Humiliating’ Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union which is helping represent the plaintiffs, condemned what she described as the “over-zealous and counter-productive ethnic and religious profiling” encouraged by government security policies in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “They are engaging in profiling,” said Lieberman, adding that “the government detained people because they attended a conference that was perfectly legal, exercising their basic rights.” None of the citizens who were detained had done anything unlawful, nor were they charged with any unlawful act,” Lieberman told reporters. “You don’t lose your rights when you’re a Muslim. You don’t lose your rights when you cross a border, and you certainly don’t lose your rights by attending a religious conference,” she added. One of the plaintiffs, Sawsaan Tabbaa, an orthodontist from Buffalo in New York, said the experience at the border crossing “was the most humiliating I have ever gone through.” “It was unbelievable. I am proud of being American but I couldn’t believe my eyes something like this could happen.” Tabbaa said she had refused to be digitally fingerprinted on the grounds that she had done nothing wrong, but was physically forced into compliance. “I started sobbing like a kid,” she said. At the time of the incident, numerous press reports quoted Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman Kristie Clemens as claiming the government had “credible information” that Islamic conferences were being used to promote and fund terrorist activities. On Wednesday, Clemens said she was unable to comment on a specific case that was the subject of a lawsuit, but added that the “priority mission” of the CBP was to “prevent terrorists” and their weapons entering the country. “As we continue to pursue this mission, we will continue to work with all communities to protect the freedoms of all Americans,” she said. Islamic Leaders Vehemently Deny The Charges. Tabbaa’s son, Hassan Shibley, 18, said the border guards had initially insisted they were picked “at random”, but when he entered the processing room he saw that all the occupants were Muslim. “It was like I was walking into my local mosque,” Shibley said. Lieberman, whose organization filed the suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there was nothing about the RIS conference to raise suspicions. “If the government has suspicions about criminal activities they have every right and indeed the obligation to go after those suspicions,” Lieberman said. “This is a case of rounding up the usual suspects in derogation of their rights and in derogation of all of our liberties.” A recent nation-wide poll, conducted by the Cornell University, showed that at least 44 percent of the Americans backs curbing Muslims’ civil rights and monitoring their places of worship.