France, Britain to jointly combat online terror threat

The UK and France are moving ahead with a joint plan to fight terrorism, online hate speech, and to crack encrypted data.

Speaking together in Paris on Tuesday, President Macron and UK prime minister Theresa May said the two countries were renewing their counter-terrorism cooperation.

The plan includes possibly imposing fines on social media giants for not taking down flagged online hate speech quickly enough. They also spoke about prying apart encrypted messages, which posed broader questions on civil liberty and cyber security.

But Macron said they first wanted to make sure internet operators “delete any content promoting hatred and terrorism in any way.”

May echoed Macron’s views and said that while cooperation between their intelligence agencies was strong, more should be done to tackle the online threat.

“We are launching a joint UK-French campaign to ensure that the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals,” she said.

May said the plan was to get companies to develop tools to identify and automatically remove the offending material. “Our campaign will also include exploring creating a legal liability for tech companies if they fail to take the necessary action to remove unacceptable content,” she said.

France currently has no laws for mandatory encryption backdoors, but instead allows for government hacking to access pre-encrypted data.

A 2015 Intelligence Act gives French intelligence officers blanket immunity to hack computers abroad and also enables them to break into systems at home. In 2016, the French version of a French-German joint statement on counter-terrorism also called for a ban on unbreakable encryption. The German version did not. The UK can already compel the removal of encryption via its 2016 investigatory powers act. The British government also has the power to hack anyone’s computer.

Pressure has been mounting for EU legislation on granting police forces access to encrypted data, with French and German ministers calling for an EU bill before the end of the year.

 

Inside French Prisons, A Struggle to Combat Radicalization

With 2,500 inmates, the penitentiary institution of Fresnes, about 20 miles south of Paris, is one of the largest prisons in Europe. Like most French prisons, Fresnes is overcrowded. Built in the late 19th century, its tiny cells, each meant for one prisoner, most often house three.

Inmates scream curses and catcalls from their barred windows as I visit a small, empty sports yard ensconced between cell blocks. Plastic bags and punctured soccer balls are caught in the surrounding concertina wire.

The prisoners here yelled out in just this way back in November 2015, refusing to honor a minute of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks on Paris cafes and the Bataclan concert hall.

Fresnes prison director Philippe Obligis says he began to see a radicalization problem here well before those attacks took place.

“There were some radical Muslims who were putting huge pressure on regular Muslims to adopt a certain kind of behavior,” he says. “Like taking a shower with their clothes on and not listening to music or watching TV.”

In 2014, Fresnes became the first French prison to separate radicalized inmates from the general prison population — they were put in an entirely separate wing, one person to each cell, and had different guards from the other prisoners.

After 2015, which began with the January attacks at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket, and ended with the Bataclan attack in November, some other French prisons began separating inmates too. Several of the terrorists who killed nearly 150 people that year were common criminals who had become radicalized in prison.

In 2016, the French government put money into a rehabilitation program for radicals deemed not too far gone. The prisoners in these new anti-radicalization units received visits from psychologists and historians; they had the chance to attend some workshops or receive some training.

The radical units were controversial, especially after two guards at one prison were attacked in September of last year. In November, the French interior minister announced an end to the program.

Instead, the French government boosted security around the most dangerous prisoners — both radicals and not. And intelligence collecting in prisons was beefed up. A bureau of central intelligence for prisons was created earlier this year.

Around 350 French prisoners are serving jail terms for terrorist-related offenses. And a further 1,340 inmates convicted of regular crimes are identified as radicalized.

Businessman Pierre Botton went to jail for white collar crime in the 1990s and founded Together Against Recidivism, an organization devoted to improving the lives of prisoners. He says it’s nearly impossible to think about reforming in jail because prisoners are mainly just struggling to survive.

He believes radicals should be separated in different prisons entirely, because otherwise, they’ll inevitably interact with the rest of the prison population. He notes what happened when the only surviving terrorist from the Paris Bataclan attacks landed in a French jail last year.

“When Salah Abdeslam arrived, they clapped,” says Botton. “Do you understand what I’m saying? When he arrived in the jail, they clapped. They applauded.”

Botton says criminals like Abdeslam are icons in jails in the Paris region, where up to 70 percent of inmates identify as Muslim. Keeping records on the religion and ethnicity of French citizens is illegal, so there are no official statistics. But Botton says about 70 percent of prisoners in the Paris region observe the Muslim festival of Ramadan.

“So when you put guys like this who represent a certain ideology in the heart of a prison, surrounded by 4,000 inmates, there’s a huge risk they’ll contaminate the others,” he says.

Yannis Warrach, a Muslim cleric who works in his spare time at a top-security prison in Normandy, says prison is so brutal, inmates can only survive if they’re part of a gang. He has seen how the radicals recruit newcomers.

Imam Yannis Warrach helps prisoners resist radicalization at a top-security prison in Normandy. He says radicals recruit newcomers by “brainwash[ing]” them “little by little.”

“The ones who preach and proselytize will at first be nice to a detainee. They see his desperation,” he says. “They’ll befriend him, give him what he needs. Then they’ll say it’s destiny. They’ll say that God has a mission for him. And little by little, they brainwash him, telling him French society has rejected him, he can’t get a job because of his Arab last name, and he was always put in the worst classes at school.

“The problem is,” says Warrach, “it’s often true.”

Warrach says these young men must have hope for a different future to break out of the spiral of failure. He says French leaders have failed to change the socioeconomic factors that keep many French people of Muslim descent on the bottom rungs of the ladder.

Another big problem, he says, is the prevalence of hard-line, Salafist reading material in jails — often French translations of Saudi, Wahhabist tracts that advocate literal, strict interpretation of religious doctrine.

“I work to debunk this stuff,” says Warrach. “I give inmates under pressure a historical context of the faith and another narrative of Islam.”

He says that because of the pressure from radicals, who consider him an agent of the French government, he has to meet secretly with inmates who desperately want his help. Instead of meeting in rooms designated for religious worship, which are open, they meet in special prison visiting rooms for inmates’ lawyers, where no one can observe them.

Because of its strict separation of religion and state, Warrach says France is the only country in Europe where being a prison cleric is not considered a profession. He says he only receives a small stipend, but that he can’t build a life around it — there are no retirement plans or other benefits. Because of this, there can’t be an imam at the prison every day, which creates a huge void, he says. And it leaves plenty of room for uninformed, extremist interpretations of Islam in French prisons.

Trump’s statement on Ramadan is almost entirely about terrorism

The Washington Post reports that President Trump issued a statement on Ramadan — a holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims around the world — that focused primarily on violence and terrorism. In his statement, Trump called recent terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and in Egypt, “acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan. Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology.”

Read the entire article here

 

Fillon wants French Muslims to express their ‘anger’

François Fillon wants to see a “cry of anger against extremists” he said during a visit to the Saint-Denis mosque in Reunion.

He wants to see “the same French citizens of the Muslim faith give a cry of anger and protest against extremists, not only against terrorists,” but “against those who have deformed Islam’s message and who call for division from within the Muslim community.”

“I will not allow those who contradict the values of the Republic…the Republic has the right to defend itself against those who call for its destruction,” he insisted.

“If coexistence between religions is exemplary in Reunion, it’s not the same case throughout the country,” he said during the visit.

He also wished that “we had a CFCM that would be more of a religious authority. I don’t think that we need an organization for the Muslim faith in France that is political.”

 

 

 

Travel Ban Drives Wedge Between Iraqi Soldiers and Americans

President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order has driven a wedge between many Iraqi soldiers and their American allies. Officers and enlisted men interviewed on the front lines in Mosul said they interpreted the order as an affront — not only to them but also to fellow soldiers who have died in the battle for Mosul.

“An insult to their dignity,” said Capt. Abdul Saami al-Azzi, an officer with the counterterrorism force in Mosul. He said he was hurt and disappointed by a nation he had considered a respectful partner. “It is really embarrassing.”

“If America doesn’t want Iraqis because we are all terrorists, then America should send its sons back to Iraq to fight the terrorists themselves,” Capt. Ahmed Adnan al-Musawe told a New York Times reporter who was with him this week at his barricaded position inside Mosul.

Col. John L. Dorrian, the spokesman in Baghdad for the American-led operation against the Islamic State, emphasized that the president’s order was temporary, calling it “a pause.”

France claims Islamic State links to ‘imminent’ terror plot uncovered

French authorities claimed Friday the Islamic State had a direct hand in helping five suspected militants plot “imminent attacks” against possible targets including Paris police hubs and Euro Disney.

French police had earlier said they believed they had foiled attacks planned for Dec. 1 against the Paris headquarters of police and intelligence officers and the Disney theme park, which is especially popular during the holiday season.

But the latest details, made public by a senior prosecutor, draw alleged links to the Islamic State and a core network of suspects — four French citizens who were longtime friends. The suspected fifth plotter, a homeless Moroccan man, was arrested in the southern port of Marseille.

A raid Sunday in Strasbourg uncovered firearms and instructions from “the Iraqi-Syrian region” to acquire more weapons, said Paris prosecutor François Molins. Also found were documents professing allegiance to the Islamic State, he said.

“The state of the threat is and remains particularly high,” Molins said.

The names of the Strasbourg suspects were given only as Yassin B., Hicham M., Samy B. and Zakaria M. Icham E., the suspect arrested in Marseille, was homeless, Molins said.

The revelation of the foiled plot comes before the second and final round of France’s conservative presidential primaries on Sunday. Throughout the campaign, the issue of national security has dominated.

“Obviously, these terrorist have chosen a specific moment: the elections,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, director of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, a Paris-based think tank. “It means the terrorists have a clear political strategy, because, of course, their actions would have an affect in benefiting the extremists.”

 

Turkish citizens’ applications for asylum in Germany on the rise, aggravating diplomatic strain

 

Growing numbers of Turkish requests for asylum

During the first nine months of the year 2016, German authorities have registered a considerable rise in demands for asylum made by Turkish nationals. Between January and September, 3,973 Turkish citizens filed their requests with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). This compares with an overall number of 1,767 demands for asylum filed in all of 2015.(( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/asylantraege-tuerkischer-staatsbuerger-101.html, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/tuerkei-zahl-der-asylbewerber-steigt-laut-medienbericht-a-1106227.html ))

A spokesman of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) asserted that authorities had not observed any increase in Turkish asylum applications since the failed coup attempt in July. ((http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/asylantraege-tuerkischer-staatsbuerger-101.html )) Yet it is questionable whether this assertion stands up to empirical scrutiny: by the end of June 2016, the number of applicants had stood at 1,719; only to skyrocket to the abovementioned number of 3,972 by the end of September. This implies that in the third quarter of 2016 alone, the number of Turkish asylum seekers more than doubled.

Kurds dominant among applicants

During the first six months of the year, 1,510 applicants were of Kurdish origin. Kurds had already constituted a large majority of Turkish asylum-seekers in 2015. Whilst this reflects the continued and indeed escalating violence in Turkey’s Kurdish regions, the acceptance rate of Kurds has actually fallen: only 5.2 per cent of Turkish Kurds received a positive decision from the BAMF. This compares to an almost equally low acceptance rate of 6.7 per cent for Turkish applicants in general.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2016-08/bamf-asyl-tuerken ))

Over the course of recent months, German Kurds have increasingly mobilised, staging street protests against developments in Turkey. They have also sought to pressure the German government to relinquish what they deem to be a stance of appeasement towards Erdoğan.(( https://kurdische-gemeinde.de/bundesregierung-hat-keinen-plan-b-fuer-das-eu-tuerkei-fluechtlingsabkommen/ )) Following the arrests of Kurdish HDP leaders Selahattin Demirtaş und Figen Yüksekdağ, Kurdish associations organised a large demonstration with up to 15,000 participants in Cologne.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/kurden-demonstration-in-koeln-erdoan-laesst-einem-keine-luft-zum-atmen-1.3236375 ))

Weak position of the German government

Chancellor Merkel seemed to step up her criticism of the Erdoğan administration after the latest spate of arrests. Yet while she referred to the situation in the country as “alarming” and intimated that there would be detrimental consequences for Turkey’s attempts to accede to the EU, Merkel stopped short of any more thoroughgoing redefinition of Germany’s relations with the country.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/angela-merkel-verschaerft-kritik-an-verhaftungen-in-tuerkei-14509228.html))

In his column for the Die Zeit weekly, Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the recently raided Cumhuriyet newspaper had repeatedly criticised Merkel for her stance. The journalist, now living in German exile after his conviction for treason in Turkey, accused her of doing too little too late to penalise the human rights violations committed by the Turkish government.((http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-07/can-duendar-eu-tuerkei-angela-merkel-kritik))

However, Germany continues to be in a weak position vis-à-vis Erdoğan’s policies: Merkel has staked her political survival on the ‘refugee pact’ with the AKP administration. This agreement is the cornerstone of Merkel’s steps to stem the influx of refugees into Germany and therefore a crucial aspect in Merkel’s widely expected attempt to seek a fourth term in office at the federal elections in September 2017. After a string of electoral defeats attributed to Merkel’s initial ‘open door policy’, lower immigration figures are a key ingredient for calming the political climate to Merkel’s benefit.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/regional-elections-germany-deliver-gains-afd-weakening-merkel/))

Mutual recriminations and ‘terrorism’ charges

However, the ability of Merkel and her government to keep the boat steady and retain the status quo in its relations with Turkey seems to grow more limited by the day. Verbal mudslinging between the two administrations has returned to fever pitch after a German court refused to consider the defamation lawsuit Erdoğan had sought to bring against a German comedian, a case that had caused international uproar and profound embarrassment to the German government. ((http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/gesellschaft/jan-boehmermann-erdogan-scheitert-mit-beschwerde-a-1116635.html))

Subsequently, in early November the Turkish President accused Germany of harbouring and supporting the terrorists of the Kurdish PKK, the left-wing DHKP-C and of the Islamist Gülen movement. At a public speech, he asserted that German support for terrorism would be eternally remembered. Erdoğan claimed that he had requested the extradition of 4,000 suspects linked to the July coup attempt without receiving an answer from the German government.((http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-11/recep-tayyip-erdogan-deutschland-terrorismus))

These allegations come after the publication of a German government memo in August in which Turkey had been accused of supporting terrorism. The memo asserted that Turkey had become a central actor in the networks of Islamist parties and radical movements across the Middle East. The memo thus made public the at least implicit accusation of the German government that President Erdogan actively supports the armed jihadist forces in Syria.((http://www.zeit.de/2016/36/terrorismus-tuerkei-islamisten-unterstutzung-vorwuerfe))

Demands for asylum of high-ranking anti-government figures

Moreover, antagonism will not cease any time soon: as German news sources revealed, following the July 15 coup attempt, a growing number of high-ranking Turkish diplomats have asked for asylum in Germany. By late October, there were 35 ongoing requests for asylum of Turks holding a diplomatic passport. Asylum-seekers appear to include the former military attaché at Turkey’s Berlin embassy.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/asylantraege-tuerkischer-diplomaten-101.html, https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/diplomaten-tuerkei-schutz-101.html))

Reportedly, the Turkish embassy itself had been the site of significant confrontations during and after the failed putsch: allegedly, pro-military forces had planned to seize control of the embassy on the night of the coup, leading pro-government staff members to barricade themselves in one of the building’s floors. Subsequent days seem to have witnessed significant altercations taking place in the embassy’s interior, as well as the recall of a number of staff members to Turkey.((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/diplomaten-tuerkei-schutz-101.html))

Unsurprisingly, Turkish authorities have already begun to pressure their German counterparts to extradite the 35 diplomats.((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/diplomaten-tuerkei-schutz-101.html)) Some German politicians demanded that their requests for asylum be approved quickly, given the prevailing climate of persecution in Turkey.((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/diplomaten-tuerkei-schutz-101.html)) So far, however, the BAMF has not taken any decisions. Such limbo is, in fact, the most desirable state of affairs for German authorities, since there is no appetite for an unpalatable choice between upholding legal principles and further antagonising a vital political partner.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/asylantraege-tuerkischer-diplomaten-101.html)) For how long this balancing act is sustainable remains to be seen.

Pope Francis invites French Muslim leaders to meet at Vatican

Pope Francis will receive a delegation from the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in the Vatican on November 3.

The five members representing the CFCM include President Anwar Kbibech, the three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General of the organization, Abdallah Zekri. They will meet with the Pope in a private audience after meeting with the prelate in charge of relations with Islam, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

“I am very happy to meet the Pope because he is a man of dialogue and a man of peace,” Adballah Zekri said.

This meeting was reportedly organized on behalf of the Vatican by the French cardinals to strengthen interreligious dialogue between the two faiths, especially in the aftermath of a number of terror attacks. The French cardinals told the CFCM that the Pope had particularly appreciated the institution’s firm positions following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel on July 26 in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two terrorists belonging to the Islamic State.

The CFCM delegation will travel to Rome on November 2 for a reception at France’s embassy in Rome. On November 3, they will meet with the Vatican Cardinal in charge of relations with Islam, followed by the private audience with Pope Francis.

France has been particularly hard hit by attacks from Islamic terrorists. Besides the execution of Father Hamel, militants of the Islamic State have carried out two major attacks in Paris, as well as the slaughter of 84 civilians in the south of France as they celebrated Bastille Day.

 

Valls considers ban on foreign funding for mosques

The French government is considering banning the foreign financing of mosques as it reshapes its counter-extremism strategy following a fresh wave of terror attacks.

Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister, told Le Monde the prohibition would be for an indefinite period but gave no further detail on the policy.

“There needs to be a thorough review to form a new relationship with French Islam,” he added. “We live in a changed era and we must change our behaviour. This is a revolution in our security culture…the fight against radicalisation will be the task of a generation.”

Following the murder of a priest by teenage ISIS supporters at a church in Normandy and the Nice attack, Valls said France was “at war” and predicted further atrocities.

“This war, which does not only concern France, will be long and we will see more attacks,” he added.

“But we will win, because France has a strategy to win this war. First we must crush the external enemy.”

The French government has come under increasing criticism for failing to prevent atrocities, including the latest attack in Normandy.

Security services were tipped off that Abdel Malik Petitjean, 19, was planning an attack but police were reportedly unable to identify him from photos and a video showing him declaring allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

He was already on country’s “fiche S” terror watchlist for attempting to travel to Syria in June but slipped through the net to re-enter France after being stopped by Turkish authorities. Petitjean and 19-year-old Adel Kermiche took six people hostage at a church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and slit the throat of its priest, Father Jacques Hamel, before being shot dead by police.

Kermiche was also known to security services and was wearing an electronic surveillance tag while on bail as he awaited trial for membership of a terror organisation at the time.

It came less than a fortnight after the Nice attack, when a Tunisian man killed 84 people and injured 300 more when he ploughed a lorry into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was not among the 10,000 names on the “fiche S” but the inclusion of terrorists including several of the Paris attackers, the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen and their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly, as well as a lorry driver who beheaded his manager and attempted to blow up a chemical plant has shown the system to be ineffective.

Intelligence officials have admitted that they are under-resourced to deal with the potential threat from each individual, who would need up to 20 people monitoring them every day.

France’s continuing state of emergency has drastically expanded detention powers, sparking a wave of controversial house arrests since November.

Responding to criticism, Mr Valls said his government would not create a “French Guantanamo” or be swayed by populism.

First State Terrorist Registry In The Nation

NYS Senator Tom Croci Passes Legislation To Create Historic First-Ever State Terrorist Registry Proposed to Protect the Number One Terrorist Target in the United States – New York
The New York State Senate is the first legislative body in the United States to consecutively pass legislation creating a Terrorist Registry, sponsored by Senator Thomas D. Croci (R-Sayville), Chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Veterans and Military Affairs, and Assemblyman Michael Den Dekker (D-Jackson Heights).  The Senate approved the measure for the second year in a bipartisan vote (Senate bill S3464C;/Assembly bill A6129C).
“The deterioration of the security situation overseas and the growing number of attacks at home, including the barbaric attack this week in Orlando, it is clear we are under attack.   Law enforcement and New Yorkers are not being unreasonable in demanding convicted terrorists be registered,” said Senator Croci. “CNN reported last year that FBI Director James Comey asked state and local law enforcement to help the FBI keep tabs on hundreds of individuals.  We must give our police and law enforcement agencies every tool we can.  We should know if the person living next door is a convicted terrorist.