With as many as 1,000 active cases, Fox News has learned at least 48 ISIS suspects are considered so high-risk that the FBI is using its elite tracking squads, known as the mobile surveillance teams or MSTs, to track them domestically.
“There is a very significant number of people that are on suspicious watch lists, under surveillance,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana).
Coats, who sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence, would not comment on specifics, but said the around-the-clock surveillance is a major commitment for the bureau. “The FBI together with law enforcement agencies across the country are engaged in this. It takes enormous amount of manpower to do this on a 24/7 basis. It takes enormous amount of money to do this,” Coats explained.
These elite FBI teams are reserved for espionage, mob violence and high-priority terrorism cases, like a joint terrorism task force case last June, where a 26-year-old suspect, Usaama Rahim, was killed outside a Massachusetts CVS. When a police officer and FBI agent tried to question him, the Boston police commissioner said, Rahim threatened them with a knife, and was shot dead.
On June 2, law enforcement officials lift the knife Usaama Rahim brandished toward a police officer and an FBI agent.Photo: AP
With at least a dozen agents assigned to each case, providing 24/7 coverage, this high level of surveillance reflects the severe risk associated with suspects most likely to attempt copycat attacks after Paris.
“It is a big resource drain. Yes it is. Almost overwhelming,” Coats said when asked about the demand placed on the FBI. “There will be a lot of people over the Thanksgiving weekend that will not be enjoying turkey with their family. They’ll be out there providing security for the American people and the threat is particularly high during this holiday period.”
One of the lessons of Paris is that the radicalization process can be swift. According to published reports, friends of the female suspect who was killed in the siege of Saint-Denis, Hasna Ait Boulahcen, abandoned her party life only a month before joining her cousin, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the commander of the plot on the ground. He was also killed in the siege.
On June 30, 2014, ISIS fighters parade through Raqqa, Syria, the nominal capital of the Islamic State’s caliphate.Photo: Reuters
FBI Director James Comey has consistently drawn attention to this phenomenon, calling it the “flash to bang,” that the time between radicalization and crossing the threshold to violent action can be very short. Last week, in a rare public appearance with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Comey would only say that “dozens” of suspected radicals have been under “tight surveillance.”
“Together we are watching people of concern using all of our lawful tools. We will keep watching them and if we see something, we will work to disrupt it,” Comey said.
Contacted by Fox News, an FBI spokesman had no comment on the high-risk cases, nor the use of elite surveillance teams.
Islamic State fighters in Iraq. Photo:Medyan Dairieh / VICE News
Four days after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, my team and I asked the audience of my BBC Asian Network phone-in show a question, as we do every day. This time, it was: “Will the Paris attacks make life more difficult for British Muslims?”
It had been less than a week since the terrorists of Daesh, or the so-called Islamic State, had gone on their murderous rampage. So, to some, it may have seemed insensitive to be asking so soon how British Muslims were feeling when French hearts from all backgrounds were broken and a manhunt to catch the surviving perpetrators was still ongoing.
Our reasoning was that what IS wanted was for discord to fester—for Islamophobia in the West to become deeply embedded, with the subsequent hatred and mistrust leading to more eager recruits being seduced into their death cult. So it was important for us to gauge whether or not they were succeeding in their aim. We also wanted to discover what it felt like on the ground for the average law-abiding, tax-paying, house-tending, car-driving, life-living British Muslim—or indeed British Asian, being that the average Islamophobe isn’t going to ask a potential victim to fill in a questionnaire clarifying their religious viewpoint before attacking them.
The calls, emails, and texts largely portrayed a depressing picture. I remember a British Muslim caller talking about how his sister had told their mother to not go to the bank that morning because “white people may attack you.” And this was not an isolated case of fear.
There are those who are in utter denial over the issue of increased (or indeed the very concept of) Islamophobia, and yet the statistics seem to challenge the belief some hold that we live in a tolerant, multicultural society. In the week following the Paris attacks, according to the government’s working group on anti-Muslim hatred, Islamophobic hate crime rose by 300 percent. Women having their headscarves ripped off, people being called terrorists, and facing aggressive behavior from strangers, being spat on and abused in front of their children. This is a reality for many British Muslims who have communicated with me on my phone-in show.
It is against this backdrop that The Sun newspaper printed its recent front page headline, “1 in 5 Brit Muslims have sympathy for Jihadis”—a conclusion the journalist responsible made after seeing the results of a poll that never mentioned the word jihadis. The survey’s 1,003 respondents were asked if they had any sympathy for young British Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria. Did that include members of the British Kurdish community going to Syria to fight IS, or joining the Free Syrian Army who are battling Assad and IS?
On the Sunday night before the print copy of the paper hit the newsstands, some had already seen the front page online and tweeted about how irresponsible and inflammatory they felt it was. A British Muslim member of the public, who also happens to follows me on Twitter, tweeted “All 5 Muslims in our household despise extremists. Either me or @TheSun is lying. Only one of us lies habitually.”
On Monday morning as people awoke to this headline, my debate show team knew that our listeners would want to discuss the impact it would have. We asked “Is today’s Sunheadline a wake up call to British Muslims or irresponsible journalism?” Many sided with the latter part of the question, as did others in the media. That same day there were articles in other newspapers questioning the methodology and the very basic journalistic shortcomings of the piece, and it was beginning to look like a blatant piece of hate-mongering to some of my listeners.
The Sun replied to the criticism by stating that they had “published the poll’s findings clearly and accurately, including the questions in full.” A non-Muslim emailer called Karamjeet wrote, “The reporting in The Sun certainly doesn’t surprise me, but the way it is reported is totally irresponsible and inflammatory.” Another listener texted, “The Sun is very conniving… they were asking very leading questions, the answers of which could be easily manipulated.” With more than a hint of frustration in her tone, another listener said, “Like those three monkeys, the media by and large chooses to stay blind, deaf, and dumb to those voices who speak out against extremists and terrorists. What do they want? That I renounce my faith? That I take up non-Islamic practices? Will that then assuage them?”
The fact that British Muslim callers have described how their work colleagues no longer treat them with the courtesy they once experienced, or that they are fearful for the futures of their kids, should act as a wake-up call to politicians and journalists that ill-conceived headlines have repercussions for people who just wish to practice their faith and go about their business. We all have a responsibility to confront hatred and bigotry wherever it exists, and at the very least do nothing to unnecessarily exacerbate the situation.
You only have to see the ridicule and backlash that The Sun has faced this week to realize that we are a tolerant nation. But for some of my British Muslim listeners, the fear is that those headlines will be read by some as gospel, tainting the way some of their fellow Brits view them. Instead, we must all unite and show solidarity, for that will only infuriate IS and help to quell the number of Europeans making the journey to Syria to join the terrorists.
It’s hard to argue against the ergonomics of the AR. Few rifles are as easy to handle or operate. The safety’s location with this design is excellent, making it easy to access from either side while maintaining control at all times. Collapsible stocks make it possible for a wide variety of people to shoot an AR comfortably. The triggers are simple, with dozens of choices ranging from super-fast competition triggers to those built for tactical applications. Upper receivers of various calibers, barrel lengths and configurations can be easily changed to meet any need. There are lots of things to like, and the design has been refined and improved over the decades.
For many, the weakest point of the AR system is the buffer and the spring located in the buffer tube. Changing barrel lengths or calibers often requires these to be changed. Having that spring “boinging” in your ear can be distracting, if not outright annoying.
It can create issues with carrier tilt and other factors that effect reliability. Maybe the most limiting factor is that it makes folding stocks all but impossible without significant expense and alteration. Operating systems have improved over the years, but most long for the reliability, simplicity and robust construction of the AR’s strongest competitor, the AK-47. This has resulted in several attempts to meld the two designs. In the last few years we’ve witnessed what looks to be the best solution—an upper assembly built with AK-type internals that drops on an AR lower receiver, providing the best of both worlds.
PONGARA, Gabon — U.S. Marines and Gabon’s Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, or ANPN, worked together Sept. 14-25, at the Pongara National Forest to help the nation’s fight against wildlife trafficking.
At the request of the Gabonese government and through coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, the Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, trained with ANPN park rangers in infantry tactics to help build the nation’s capacity to counter trafficking of ivory and other animal-related products.
The training comes at a time when the elephant population has been dramatically decreasing across central Africa – faster than the elephants can reproduce, according to multiple news sources.
An Aug. 20 BBC news article reported the forest elephant population is down to 15,000 from 22,000 in Gabon’s Minkebe National Park, which is approximately the size of Delaware, due to high demand for the elephants’ ivory tusks.
Gabon contains almost half of all the elephant population in central Africa estimated to be nearly 100,000. This “presents an enticing target for traffickers, especially as wildlife populations fall elsewhere” according to a June 28 National Geographic article.
In February 2014, President Barack Obama outlined initiatives in the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking that calls for combined efforts to reduce the demand for these products while simultaneously curbing the illegal trade industry.
The strategy calls for “combined efforts from nonprofits, corporations, individuals, and foreign government partners, to make that happen.”
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is determined to rid the country of this problem and recently requested outside assistance to counter the activities that are destroying elephant populations in the central African region.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Nikzad, the SPMAGTF-CR-AF Gabon team leader, and his team of five Marines and sailors were in Pongara’s National Forest training 14 park ranger supervisors using the “train the trainer” model.
“Before the training started, the ANPN leadership took all of us out to areas where elephants and other wildlife roam and the tour goes to show their dedication to preserve the wildlife here,” said Nikzad. “Most of these guys have taken part in this type of training in past rotations. They are fighting criminals who have military-type skills and the tactical training we teach them, coupled with the train-the-trainer approach, will ultimately assist them in their fight.”
SPMAGTF-CR-AF Det. A is based out of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, where they stage and prepare for theater security cooperation missions into various countries in Africa. This specific iteration is manned by Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, permanently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Coast Guardsmen from various stations across the United States.
RyPul Threat Assessments has partnered with national bullet proof companies, glass protection experts and weapons manufactures to help devise bullet resistant products that can assist in the protection of life on US school campuses, in residential properties and workplaces around the country.
Warren Pulley is the owner of RyPul Threat Assessments LLC, which specializes in assisting clients in learning how to defend and protect themselves on their campuses, workplaces or residences. Pulley believes this is much a needed service in Southern California, the United States and around the world. As a Certified Worldwide Protection Specialist, trained by the U.S. State Department, Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Military, Pulley has worked in high threat environments around the world. Through RyPul Threat Assessments Pulley has now brought his skills home from the war zone and other high threat areas into our schools, residences and businesses near you. Pulley stated “as our country continues to experience the pains of school shootings, take-over robberies and work place violence involving guns, I decided that I needed to share my experience, training and expertise with anyone ready to take defense of themselves, their students, their homes, their businesses and employees to the next level”.
RyPul Threat Assessments motto is “Detect, Design, and Defend”
RyPul Threat Assessments has taken on several clients in the United States since opening for business, RyPul has also partnered with bulletproof fabrication companies to help provide cost effective bulletproof products for clients at all levels and financial means. As the owner of RyPul Threat and Site Assessments, Pulley has also appeared on network television, been interviewed by several regional media newspapers and visited local area schools to speak with students, teachers and administrators about the importance of being aware of security threats that may affect their environment. “
RyPul specializes in conducting School Threat Assessments, Residential Security Planning, Personal Protection Assessments, Site Security Planning, Asset Tagging and Tracking as well as providing physical Risk Mitigation Options. RyPul Threat and Site Assessments can be found at http://www.rypulassessments.com.
- Written by Arron Daugherty and James Bargent
- Thursday, 24 September 2015
Italian police arrested 15 suspected Barrio 18 members in Milan and other nearby cities in northern Italy, reported AFP.
The group — which was mostly comprised of Salvadorans but also reportedly included two Italians — is accused of crimes including extortion, drug trafficking, armed robbery and the attempted murder of a rival from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang.
An Italian judge ordered the arrests following an investigation that began in January 2014 after a female Salvadoran accused one of the group’s members of sexually assaulting her, according to AFP.
SEE ALSO: Barrio 18 News and Profile
Central American gangs like Barrio 18 and MS13, which are known as “maras,” have been operating in Italy for years, particularly in northern immigrant communities, the report added.
InSight Crime Analysis
Over the last two years, security forces in both Italy and Spain have noted the expansion of the MS13 in Europe, and these latest report confirms they are not alone — their great rivals in Barrio 18 have also crossed the ocean.
The key question surrounding this development is whether the spread is a result of Central American migrants bringing mara street gang culture with them and setting up autonomous networks, or whether these new European based factions are running criminal operations with maras in Central America, suggesting the gangs have made the leap into transnational organizations.
Both gangs are also well established in parts of the United States and the US government has already designated the MS13 a transnational criminal organization, ranking them alongside criminal groups such as the Mexican cartels. However, despite evidence of cross-border collaboration in criminal activities, the decentralized nature and highly localized and territorial focus of the maras has always cast doubts on this classification.
There have also been reports of the Spanish maras coordinating with their counterparts in the Americas, but even if this level of cooperation were to expand, it is unlikely they would have the capacity to coordinate serious transatlantic criminal operations. If they were to seek to establish control over transnational activities such as drug trafficking in Europe, they also would likely encounter formidable opposition; in Spain drug trafficking and associated activities such as contract killing is largely controlled by offshoots of Colombian cartels, while Italy is the domain of powerful and well-connected mafias such as the ‘Ndrangheta.
Authorities in Costa Rica are expecting “pandemic” levels of violence this year, even as battles between local criminal groups for control of the country’s drug trade intensify.
According to Costa Rica‘s Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ by its Spanish initials), the country is on track to reach 533 homicides by December, reported Diario Extra. This would be a significant increase from the 471 homicides Costa Rican authorities registered in 2014 and more than a 30 percent jump from the 407 murders in 2012 and 2013.
Costa Rica’s 2015 homicide forecast pales in comparison to the skyrocketing violence facing Central America’s Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Guatemala,Honduras). But the uptick in violence has reportedly pushed Costa Rica‘s murder rate past 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, a level the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified as reaching a “pandemic.”
Authorities estimate that 45 percent of the roughly 400 murders so far this year are related to drugs and organized crime. OIJ Deputy Director Luis Avila identified four neighborhoods within capital San Jose where some 77 murders have been registered this year as a result of score-settling between drug gangs, reported Diario Extra.
InSight Crime Analysis
The possibility that Costa Rica — once considered the “Switzerland of Central America” — might reach “pandemic” levels of violence is a reflection of the country’s changing criminal dynamics.
There are indications that Costa Rica has become an increasingly important transshipment point for cocaine heading northward, to such an extent that authorities say the country has been “colonized” by Mexican drug cartels. Officials also warn Mexican cartels have begun arming local drug gangs with high-powered weapons like AK-47s. This increased firepower and contact with transnational drug trafficking organizations has likely facilitated the rise of drug-related violence in Costa Rica.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica
However, authorities in Costa Rica have so far opted against the militarized policing strategies that governments in the Northern Triangle have turned to in order to combat rising violence. According to Diario Extra, former Costa Rica Security Minister Celso Gamboa prioritizes drug education and treatment over an increased police presence. Meanwhile current Security Minister Gustavo Mata has focused on improving the country’s judicial system by calling for a special unit to investigate drug and organized crime-related murders.
Written by Jesus PerezThursday, 24 September 2015
The weak sentence handed out to Rodrigo Vallejo, son of the former governor of the state of Michoacan who held office during the height of the reign of the Knights Templar, is yet another example of the impotence ofMexico‘s judicial system.
A federal judge sentenced Vallejo on September 11 on charges of concealment. The appearance of a video showing Vallejo conversing with Servando Gomez, alias “La Tuta,” former head of the region’s dominant criminal group the Knights Templar, had already brought about hisfather’s resignation. Despite the controversial conversation captured in the video, the sentence, according to Vallejo’s lawyer, might not lead to actual prison time.
Nevertheless, an analysis of the case helps to show the problems and challenges that Mexican judicial and law enforcement systems face when trying to unravel criminal-political networks that have co-opted state institutions in parts of the country.
One notable example is the difficulty that the Attorney General’s Office in Mexico (PGR by its Spanish initials) has had securing a solid accusation against Vallejo. According to some sources, the PGR has numerous videos of Knights Templar members with state and municipal officials, from which it should be possible to draw out a hypothetical organizational structure showing the links between Michoacan politicians and the Knights Templar. Within this network, Vallejo is assuredly not a minor figure, as evidenced by his contact with high-level members of the criminal organization. To strengthen the case against Vallejo, it would have been helpful if investigators had used La Tuta as a witnessto explain how the support of the ex-governor’s son came about.
Vallejo’s sentence only corresponds to the concealment charges brought against him for not supplying authorities with information about La Tuta’s whereabouts, that is to say, the sentence is not for his association with La Tuta as depicted in the video, but for a crime committed after the video was shot. And even then, the charges were brought only after Vallejo made a statement in front of the PGR. This shows that even under the most charitable analysis, Mexican authorities do not have a clear image of the level of criminal penetration into the institutions they are investigating, which is only further compounded by the PGR’s poor use of witnesses.
However, this type of shoddy investigation of sophisticated criminal structures has become a habit, as clearly shown in the year-old Ayotzinapa case, where 43 students disappeared in the tumultuous state of Guerrero.
For example, the Group of Independent Interdisciplinary Experts (GIEI), which was asked by Mexican authorities to help support the Ayotzinapa investigation, called for all related parts of the investigation to be brought before a single tribunal. The petition exemplified the various problems with Mexico‘s spider web of a legal system, such as the dispersion of related investigations among several tribunals, which contributes to the type of impunity seen in the Vallejo case.
Furthermore, although the PGR has detained hundreds of people who have shed light on the disappearance of the students, the prosecution of municipal representatives and members of Guerreros Unidos — the criminal group responsible for the disappearances — has been done exclusively from a municipal perspective. There has been a lack of focus on exposing the connections between those who have been accused in the case and networks that operate on a scale that goes far beyond the local level.
Faced with the failed strategies described above, Mexico can learn from the policies of other countries. The para-politics scandal of Colombia, which exposed links between politicians and the paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), took place in a different context but the case provides examples of tools that could be used to take on complex criminal structures like the Knights Templar. For example, there are lessons to be learned from the charges brought against those implicated in the para-politics scandal regarding how meetings between politicians and criminal groups can be used to infer certain roles and relationships. Such meetings make clear the shared criminal purpose of both parties and emphasize how important support from political circles can be for those criminal purposes.
More specifically, Colombia has made advances with respect to its judicial culture thatMexico could also implement, provided that the government shows an interest in adapting policies and the law to the actual challenges presented by organized crime. One option is to focus on investigating the larger contextual framework of organized crime. In this type of process, Colombian prosecutors prioritize certain aspects of the investigation that can shed light on the leadership structures of criminal organizations. In exposing the dynamics of organized crime and its relationships to distinct elements of the public sector, the prosecution’s efforts can also serve a larger educational purpose for society at large, something that is essential for a country in the midst of a security crisis like Mexico is experiencing. This type of contextual nuance gets lost with case-by-case investigations.
Along a similar line, the Public Ministry in Guatemala has a team of 120 analysts whose job is to study and compare multiple cases at once to see if there are any connections between them. Using this strategy, prosecutors can save effort and resources. Instead of prosecuting every case at an individual level, they end up taking down entire criminal networks, as they did in a historic case against gang members in 2014.
Returning to the Vallejo case, even though the general public has long assumed it to be true, it is difficult to understand how certain members of Michoacan’s political elites and the Knights Templar are linked — something most citizens see as self-evident — and to understand the ways they co-opted much of the state government without connecting the dots between seemingly isolated cases that share characteristics and a general pattern. In this sense, it would be natural to link the Vallejo case to that of Jesus Reyna, the former interim governor of Michoacan, who is still under investigation for his alleged involvement in the Knights Templar’s political network.
Whether the case ends here or if prosecutors bring new charges, a case like Vallejo’s reveals a larger lesson about what happens when the judicial system introduces a narrative that supplants official propaganda and the conspiracy theories that feed public opinion inMexico on matters regarding security. In other words, a narrative that emphasizes how the country’s legal institutions understand the nature of organized crime and what image they are sharing with the public. In this case, the focus has been narrow and the image the legal system has projected has been one of impotence.