New screening rules

The Obama Administration has replaced the extra screening procedures at the airports. Instead of focusing on passengers from 14 specific countries, the new regulations are intended to engage all intelligence available to law-enforcement agencies to identify potential threats. This new set of regulation replaced the emergency order that was put in place after the unsuccessful terrorist attack on Christmas day. According to officials, the new system treats all passengers flying into the US in the same manner regardless of their countries of origin.

Attack on flight from Dutch airport raises security questions

Dutch coverage of the December 25 attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to set off an explosion on the Northwest Air flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has centered largely on security issues. As Dutch News reports, national papers devote much attention to reconstructing what happened on board flight 253, the actions of the passenger who overpowered the alleged terrorist, and the implications regarding security screening at Schipol airport.

Articles in Elsevier and Telegraaf question the level of experience among security employees at Schipol, also questioning whether some security personnel may have had “sympathy for Muslim terrorists”, citing a source who claims there was “rejoicing among Muslim security workers” during the attacks of September 11 2001. The security issue continues to frame Dutch discussion of the attack, and the Netherlands has announced plans to use full body scans for flights bound for the United States.

Reviving the Islamic spirits attracts 17 thousand in Toronto

Approximately 17,000 Muslims came to Metro Toronto’s Convention Centre over three days to learn about their religion and being a Muslim in a modern world. They heard from Islamic scholars, prayed, visited with family and friends and shopped in a bazaar that offered up a variety of wares, including hand-embroidered shawls, books, T-shirts, hijabs for both women and children, jewellery and hijab pins. It will feature Yusuf Islam, the name Mr. Stevens – one of the best-known folk singers from the 1970s – now goes by.

It was all part of a three-day convention “Reviving the Islamic Spirit,” an annual conference with its roots in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. It is designed, organizers say, as a way to help young Muslims understand their faith in a North American context.

At the bazaar, about 150 stalls were open. A prayer area was sectioned off behind the stalls. The message conference organizers wanted participants to take home was that they must find a way to practise their religion in a broader, secular, democratic society.

Attacks Imminent? German Islamist Appears in New Jihad Vide

Two short films have appeared on the Internet featuring the German Islamist Eric B. in which he calls his “brothers” to join the jihad. The authorities have been hunting him for weeks, fearful that he could be preparing a terrorist attack in Kabul. The video messages are fanning those fears. The news spread like wildfire through the offices of Germany’s intelligence agencies. Two new terrorist videos had turned up on the Turkish-language Web site “Time for Martyrdom,” which has become an important mouthpiece for Islamist propaganda. And once again there were was a clear connection to Germany. German terrorist investigators are alarmed at the new videos. After an initial assessment, it was clear that the two short films feature the German Islamist Eric B. from Neuenkirchen in Saarland. For the past few weeks, a publicity campaign in Kabul (more…) has focused on finding him and his presumed accomplice Houssain al-M. Matthias Gebauer and Yassin Musharbash report.

Samir A. convicted again for terrorism

THE HAGUE (AFP) – A Dutch Muslim radical was sentenced to four years in jail by an Amsterdam appeals court on Monday for planning a terrorist attack in 2004. Samir Azzouz had already been acquitted on the same charges twice by a lower court and an appeals court which said his plans were “so clumsy and primitive” that they were not a threat. But the case was referred for re-trial by the Dutch supreme court earlier this year, and the Amsterdam appeals court ruled Monday that the Azzouz was indeed planning an attack. Police found floor plans of government buildings, chemicals and night vision goggles and a silencer for a gun at his home.

Europe needs single terrorism warning system

European counties must improve communication when it comes to the threat of terrorist attacks and introduce a single warning system to indicate threat levels, says the Dutch national anti-terrorism coordinator Tibbe Joustra in today’s Trouw newspaper. At present countries all have their own way to determine and communicate how serious the threat of a terrorist attack is. This makes the situation complicated and it is the job of the next European Union anti-terrorism coordinator to tackle this problem, says Joutstra. The EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries, a Dutchman, stepped down from the job in March and there is as yet no successor

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.”