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U.S. bioterrorism detection program unreliable: GAO

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DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHSpursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens. A GAOreport found that DHS lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.

DHS’s BioWatch program aims to provide early indication of an aerosolized biological weapon attack. Until April 2014, DHS pursued a next-generation autonomous detection technology (Gen-3), which aimed to enable collection and analysis of air samples in less than six hours, unlike the current system (Gen-2), which requires manual intervention and can take up to thirty-six hours to detect the presence of biological pathogens.

DHS is taking steps to address the capability gap which resulted from the April 2014 cancellation of Gen-3 by exploring other technology upgrades and improvements to the Gen-2 system.

A Government Accountability office (GAO) was asked to review the technical capabilities of the currently deployed BioWatch system (Gen-2); the Gen-3 testing effort; and the characteristics of autonomous detection as a possible option to replace the current BioWatch system.

GAO says it analyzed key program documents, including test plans, test results, and modeling studies. GAO assessed Gen-3 testing against best practices, reviewed relevant literature, and discussed the BioWatch program and testing efforts with key agency officials and national laboratories staff.

BioWatch Gen-2: Unreliable information
A Government Accountability office (GAO) report found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lacks reliable information about BioWatch Gen-2’s technical capabilities to detect a biological attack, and therefore lacks the basis for informed cost-benefit decisions about upgrades to the system.

DHS commissioned several tests of the technical performance characteristics of the current BioWatch Gen-2 system, but the department has not developed performance requirements which would enable it to interpret the test results and draw conclusions about the system’s ability to detect attacks. GAO notes that although DHS officials said that the system can detect catastrophic attacks, which they define as attacks large enough to cause 10,000 casualties, they have not specified the performance requirements necessary to reliably meet this operational objective.

In the absence of performance requirements, DHS officials said computer modeling and simulation studies support their assertion, but none of these studies were designed to incorporate test results from the Gen-2 system and comprehensively assess the system against the stated operational objective. Additionally, the GAO report says, DHS has not prepared an analysis that combines the modeling and simulation studies with the specific Gen-2 test results to assess the system’s capabilities to detect attacks.

Finally, GAO found limitations and uncertainties in the four key tests of the Gen-2 system’s performance. Because it is not possible to test the BioWatch system directly by releasing live biothreat agents into the air in operational environments, DHS relied on chamber testing and the use of simulated biothreat agents, which limit the applicability of the results.

“These limitations underscore the need for a full accounting of statistical and other uncertainties, without which decision makers lack a full understanding of the Gen-2 system’s capability to detect attacks of defined types and sizes and cannot make informed decisions about the value of proposed upgrades,” the report says.

GAO notes that the actions and decisions DHS made regarding the acquisition and testing of a proposed next generation of BioWatch (Gen-3) partially aligned with best practices GAO previously identified for developmental testing of threat detection systems. For example, best practices indicate that resilience testing, or testing for vulnerabilities, can help uncover problems early. DHS took steps to help build resilience into the Gen-3 testing, but the report says that future testing could be improved by using more rigorous methods to help predict performance in different operational environments.

DHS canceled the Gen-3 acquisition in April 2014, but GAO identified lessonsDHS could learn by applying these best practices to the proposed Gen-2 upgrades.

According to experts and practitioners, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which detects genetic signatures of biothreat agents, is the most mature technology to use for an autonomous detection system. DHS is considering autonomous detection as an upgrade to Gen-2, because according to DHS, it may provide benefits such as reduction in casualties or clean-up costs. But the extent of these benefits, GAO says, is uncertain because of several assumptions, such as the speed of response after a detection, whih are largely outside of DHS’s control. As a result, the effectiveness of the response and the number of lives that could be saved is uncertain. Further, an autonomous detection system must address several likely challenges, including minimizing possible false positive readings, meeting sensitivity requirements, and securing information technology networks.

GAO recommends that DHS not pursue upgrades or enhancements for Gen-2 until DHS reliably establishes the system’s current capabilities. GAO also recommends DHS incorporate best practices for testing in conducting any system upgrades.

DHS has generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

— Read more in Biosurveillance: DHS Should Not Pursue BioWatch Upgrades or Enhancements Until System Capabilities Are Established, GAO-16-99 (23 November 2015)

 

Islamophobia Works in the Islamic State’s Favor

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.

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.”

READ: I Conducted the Sun’s ‘1 in 5 Muslims’ Poll and Was Shocked By How It Was Used

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.

Eurojihad Patterns of Islamist Radicalization and Terrorism in Europe

by Angel Rabasa, Cheryl Benard
Related Topics: Europe, Religious Fundamentalism, Syria, Terrorism

Throughout history, factors of radicalization have involved social and economic conditions and issues of identity. Patterns of Islamist radicalization in Europe reflect the historical experience of European Muslim communities, particularly their links to their home countries, the prevalence of militant groups there, and the extent to which factors of radicalization in Muslim countries transfer to European Muslim diasporas. Eurojihad examines the sources of radicalization in Muslim communities in Europe and the responses of European governments and societies. In an effort to understand the scope and dynamics of Islamist extremism and terrorism in Europe, this book takes into account recent developments, in particular the emergence of Syria as a major destination of European jihadists. Angel Rabasa and Cheryl Benard describe the history, methods, and evolution of jihadist networks in Europe with particular nuance, providing a useful primer for the layperson and a sophisticated analysis for the expert.

 

Mobster’s Son Got Everyone to Repeat His Line About the Mafia Declaring War on ISIS

Everybody is talking about how Giovanni Gambino—son of noted mobster Francesco Gambino—declared that the Sicilian mafia is ready to go to war with the Islamic State.

“Mafia heir warns ISIS to stay away from New York—but slams ‘Hollywood gangsters’ De Niro and Pacino for failing to ‘stand up’ to the terrorists” is how the ever-subtle Daily Mailput it. The Russian government–funded outlet RT, in an early version of the story that got more than 56,000 Facebook likes, quoted Gambino at length: “The world is dangerous today, but people living in New York neighborhoods with Sicilian connections should feel safe,” he said. “We make sure our friends and families are protected from extremists and terrorists, especially the brutal, psychopathic organization that calls itself the Islamic State.”

Strong words. Viral words, even. But where’d they come from? RT cites (but doesn’t link to) a Reuters piece that supposedly in turn quotes an NBC News interview. But that Reuters article is actually just a November 19 press release, and the video embedded in it is a 2012 interview Gambino did to promote his book Prince of Omerta. To make matters more muddled, he was actually speaking to the hosts of Good Company, a local Cleveland talk show, and the conversation in the YouTube clip never touches on the Islamic State. (The YouTube clip is apparently mislabeled.) If Gambino appeared on NBC News recently, we couldn’t find that video.

So where did those quotes in the press release that spread far and wide come from? To clear things up, VICE called Joseph Savoy, a friend of Gambino’s who was listed as the contact on the press release. He wasn’t sure how that old 2012 video clip got involved, but confirmed that the quotes “came from Giovanni directly” and “that’s how he feels.”

Attribution issues aside, Gambino seems to be enjoying the attention. Even if that NBC News interview referenced in the first line of the press release never happened, his quotes were picked up by media outlets all over the world, to the point where he’s now being invited to expound upon his views. On Monday, Gambino was a guest on Michael Savage’s right-wing radio show, Savage Nation, where he said, “We have to stand up together to fight this monster [ISIS],” and claimed the Islamic State is scared to take action in the US because “the Sicilians would take action right away.”

Gambino also spread a version of the story—suddenly popular again in Republican circles—that American Muslims cheered after 9/11.

“When the Twin Towers went down you had everybody from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn celebrating in the streets,” Gambino told Savage. “I live in Bay Ridge, I saw it with my own eyes. The cops were protecting them.”

The press release says that Gambino “has fostered relationships with major movie producers, and he is on his way to building a highly respected career in Hollywood.”

U.S. Marines, Gabonese Share Tactics

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.

RELATED: U.S. Marines, Tanzanian Rangers Train to Fight Trafficking

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.

Arrests Show Arrival of Barrio 18 Gang in Italy

Barrio 18 members arrested in Italy

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.

Uruguay an Important Weapons Source for LatAm Criminals?

The Santa Bernardina Air Base

The Santa Bernardina Air Base

An ammunition heist from an Air Force base in Uruguay points to corruption in the country’s security forces, and further indicates that the generally peaceful country serves as a prominent source of weapons for South America criminal groups.

Investigations by Uruguayan authorities found that roughly 18,000 pieces of ammunition stolen from the Santa Bernardina Air Base ended up in the hands of criminal groups in Brazil; including Rio de Janeiro’s notorious Red Command (Comando Vermelho), reported El Pais.

The munitions theft — believed to have occurred sometime between November 2014 and February 2015 — was made public on June 21 by Congressional delegate Jaime Trobo.

According to investigations, the stolen ammunition weighed between 650 and 750 kilograms, and was removed from the base through its main gate using a truck. During the months the robbery is believed to have taken place, security cameras, motion sensors, and electric fences guarding the base’s weapons depot were not functioning.

Around 20 soldiers are under investigation. Mid-ranking soldiers and officers are also expected be implicated as investigations progress, reported El Pais. It is also possiblemore ammo was stolen than initially believed.

In 2007, the Uruguayan Air Force experienced a similar weapons theft, which resulted in four soldiers, three civilians, and one prison inmate being charged for stealing and organizing the weapons’ sales to Brazilian criminal groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

The theft of such a large amount of ammunition from an active Air Force base could not have occurred without complicity on the part of corrupt soldiers and officers.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

While such instances of corruption are less common among Uruguay’s security forces, they are not without precedent. In 2012, around 20 police officers came under investigation for removing over 200 firearms from police stockpiles and selling them to Brazilian criminal groups. More recently, in April, three policemen and a businessman were arrested on suspicions they were trafficking guns to Brazil’s Red Command.

According to a 2009 report by the Small Arms Survey, while having the highest per capita civilian gun ownership in South America (one firearm for every three people), Uruguay has a relatively small collection of modern small arms (61,000). However, much of this inventory was found to be useless, owing to reductions in military personnel. The report also documented a surplus of around 80,000 outdated rifles, sub-machine guns, and light machine guns, which serve no function in Uruguay’s national strategy and whose status was unknown.

The existence of such surplus weapons stocks may prove too tempting an opportunity for some corrupt military officials. Neighboring Brazil offers a prime market, where evidence suggests groups like the Red Command have been seeking to obtain ever more powerful weapons. In 2013, 40 percent of weapons seized in Rio de Janeiro were listed as “category A” — including rifles, machine guns, and submachine guns — representing a 33 percent increase since 2009.

Public Health And Safety AQAP’s New Call To Lone Wolves To ‘Assassinate’ Economic Personalities, Wealthy Entrepreneurs, Workplace Employees

By: Anthony Kimery, Editor-in-Chief

09/09/15 

Only days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, “Assassination Operations” is the focus of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) latest issue of its English-language magazine Inspire, which targets Muslims and those newly converted to radical Islam.
Among the articles is a military analysis of the January 2015 attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo; instructions for making a home-made grenade; and “Assassinations Field Tactics,” which lists 10 well-known Americans as targets of jihad.
All Western targets on AQAP’s hit list are divided into “economic personalities” and “wealthy entrepreneurs and company owners,” among whom is former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Robert James Shiller, Charlie and David Koch, Sam Walton, Sheldon Adelson, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison and Michael Bloomberg.
Previous issues of Inspire had already suggested Bernanke and Gates as targets for jihadi assassination.
Homeland Security Today also is one of five media quoted in a two-page spread in the latest Inspire titled,Inspire Reactions: Government & Media Responses.
Among the articles in the latest Inspire are, Some Things Are Too Beautiful to be Forgotten: Will We Ever Experience Such a Sight Once More? (the headline that opens a two-page spread photo of a collapsing World Trade Center building); Remembering BostonDid You Know that a TSA Security Officer is More Likely to Confiscate a Water Bottle than a Bomb; and, Assassination Operations.
“We present to you, a model to follow, and an assassination list which will help us achieve strategic goals,” AQAP said. “We believe that placing this feasible program to Lone Mujahideen will allow us to achieve great goals in this war. Whoever understands the components of the American economy knows the importance these personalities play in the revival of the America Economy. The assassination of these economic personalities or their migration from America or the mere fact that they live in insecurity, will later on bring instability to the American economy.”
“One central theme from all Inspire magazines which are directed to Al Qaeda sympathizers in the West has been for calls to do lone wolf attacks,” Homeland Security Today was told by Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors jihadi social media.
“In fact,” Stalinsky said,” this can be traced to the June 3, 2011 seminal Al Sahab video staring Adam Gadahn, ‘Do Not Rely on Others, Take [the Task] Upon Yourself.’ The video was devoted to the topic of Al Jihad Al Fardi (‘individual jihad’), namely jihad operations performed by a single individual or by a small group.”
“From that point on,” Stalinsky told Homeland Security Today, “Al Qaeda called on Muslim communities in the West to attack from home.”
Gadahn was an American from California who joined AQAP and became an operative, cultural interpreter, spokesman and media advisor who’d been placed on the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Rewards for Justice Program list of wanted criminals killed in a 2008 US drone strike.
Gadahn had proselytized that, “Muslims in the West have to remember that they are perfectly placed to play an important and decisive part in the jihad against the Zionists and the Crusaders, and to do major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on the religion, sacred places and things, and brethren. This is a golden opportunity and a blessing from Allah. The way to show one’s appreciation and thanks for this blessing is to rush to discharge one’s duty to his ummah, and fight on its behalf, with everything at his disposal.”
“And in the West,” Gadahn exhorted the willing, “you’ve got a lot at your disposal … Anyone who is thinking of going forth to the arenas of jihad today has to be aware of the difficulties and dangers that he might face, and that in the end, things might not turn out as he had wished. But by the grace of Allah, the enemies’ interests are today spread all over the place and are easily accessible, as the leaked American State Department cable on critical foreign dependencies makes crystal-clear.”
“So, the opportunity to carry out the divine obligation of fighting the enemies of Allah is available to anyone who has the will and determination, regardless of where he might be,” Gadahn continued.
Stalinsky noted that, “Since this video, and especially with the advent of ISIS and the explosion of social media usage by jihadis, there have been numerous successful and failed attacks in the West. Fourteen years after 9/11, this has become part of life in the West, and proves the calls by Al Qaeda have been heard.”
And that’s what keeps the US Intelligence Community (IC) awake at night, IC counterterrorism officials told Homeland Security Today. With more US-based jihadist terror cases in 2015 than in any full year since 9/11, and the number of US terrorist cases involving homegrown violent jihadists having escalated from 38 in July 2010, to 124 today — more than a three-fold increase in just five years — officials said the “persistent” calls for lone wolf jihadists to kill individuals on jihadi assassination lists “will likely provoke” new lone wolf or small cadre attacks.
“The cumulative call to jihad against specific persons, and instructions on how to try to do it, seems to parallel the increase in assassinations and attempts, and jihad attacks in general suggested by AQAP,” one of the officials stated.
US counterterrorism intelligence officials have told Homeland Security Today they “have every reason to believe” Islamist jihadists – all Muslims or individuals and small cells of individuals who’ve recently converted to the Muslim faith and radicalized by online jihadist propaganda — or recruiters at the Mosques they attend — are believed to be planning “far more spectacular attacks in the US” than the attempted attack in Texas, at which time officials acknowledged there may be hundreds, if not thousands of radicalized individuals in the US — some undoubtedly in direct contact with jihadists overseas.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense — not just a few of whose senior leaders are named in a recent ISIS “hit list” — ordered all military installations to “Force Protection Condition (FPCON) Bravo,” which means “an increased and more Predictable Terrorist Threat Activity exists. Specific information suggests probable violence,” and that “extra precaution is appropriate to deter terrorist planning.”
“We have a general concern, obviously, that ISI[S] is focusing on the uniformed military and law enforcement,” Comey told reporters.
US Northern Command Commander (NORTHCOM) Admiral William Gortney, who oversees all US military installations in the United States, ordered the FPCON.
NORTHCOM spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said, “We have the same concern about the potential threat posed by violent homegrown extremists.”
Last March, Homeland Security Today reported that as 80 percent of Americans being polled were saying ISIS poses a serious threat to the United States, ISIS supporters were finalizing an English language hit-list of 100 US military personnel, including their photos and addresses. The list — which Homeland Security Today reviewed — began to be circulated on jihadi forums and social media on March 21.
The hit list was much like the hit list Al Qaeda supporters circulated on jihadist social media sites in June 2011 which Homeland Security Today first reported. The difference is the current list provides the home addresses of most of the service members on the new list, including top officers in very important command positions.
Eleven of the nation’s top military leaders were among 58 past and present military, corporate and civilian officials identified by members of the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Al Mujahedeen jihadist forum as infidels who should be murdered, according to a jihadist “hit list” that accompanied a June 6, 2011 Florida fusion center bulletin.
“As in previous issues, this issue [of Inspire] contains an ‘Open Source Jihad’ section which contains specific instructions on how to carry out attacks in the West so that Muslims can ‘train at home instead of risking a dangerous travel abroad,” MEMRI said. “This feature in this issue of the magazine focuses on lone wolf operations, because, it says, they are less expensive to carry out. It also reveals that there are future plans for further articles dedicated to ‘a complete comprehensive assassination program appropriate for a Lone Mujahid operations in upcoming issues of the magazine.’”
“Explaining in depth about choosing a target, the article states that military or security personnel targets inside the US would require multiple operations on a larger scale,” MEMRI stated in an analysis of the current issue of Inspire. “Instead, it suggests smaller targets such as economic magnates, since this could help achieve the group’s goals over a shorter period of time. It states:”
“Selecting a target for assassination is divided into two categories; assassinating a target in order to achieve either strategic or tactical goals. As for us, we will be concentrating on operations that will yield strategic goals, directly affecting our war. As for tactical targets, such as assassinating military or security personnel inside America, its resulting effects do not surface unless after executing many operations of the like. And this cannot be realized except with the existence of a Jihadi organization inside America. And it requires a long period of time to execute these operations and requires other independent elements e.g. the masses and population to back you up in order to achieve success. That is why it is necessary for us to concentrate on targeting prominent personalities in order to achieve great goals in a short period.”
The magazine provides detailed instructions on how to select a target and carry out an attack.
In the new Inspire article, Assassination Operations, jihadists are provided instructions on how to collect information on a target, generate a plan, prepare for an operation and how to execute an operation. It also provides step-by-step instructions on how to make a deadly timed hand grenade.
Another article, Charlie Hebdo Military Analysis, analyzed the stages involved in the operation. The first method listed is lone jihad, and explained that Inspire was instrumental in the attack on Charlie Hebdothat killed Stephane Charbonnier — the editor and cartoonist among the 10 journalists killed in the attack on the satirical newspaper’s Paris offices. Charbonnier had been listed as a target.
 
AQAP said the successful attack on Charlie Hebdo was because it had placed targeted persons on a wanted list that was distributed to Lone Mujahideen, adding, “This had no direct connection with the jihadi organization except by means of inspiring and guiding Lone Mujahideen. Inspire magazine was used as the medium to distribute this list. One of the wanted criminals on the list was Stephane Charbonnier.”
AQAP takes credit for the operation and explained the group selected and trained Said Koachi, one of the radicalized Islamist jihadists who attacked Charlie Hebdo.
With Islamist jihadi attacks rising, counterterrorism officials who spoke to Homeland Security Today on background because they’re not authorized to discuss classified information, said they believe AQAP strategically timed release of the latest issue of Inspire “while the iron is hot, so to speak,” as one stated.
Perhaps coincidentally, the Islamic State (ISIS) simultaneously released the latest issue of their magazine,Dabiq, which largely deals with the ideology and practices of jihad and sharia law.
Interestingly, just like Inspire did in quoting coverage of AQAP and Inspire by five media — includingHomeland Security Today — the latest Dabiq reprints the article, Islamic State is Winning, America Must Soon Use its One Remaining Option, by Michael Scheuer, the CIA’s former head of its Usama Bin Laden unit. Through the magazine, ISIS also offers a Norwegian and Chinese prisoner for sale in “a limited time offer.”

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

File - A police officer looks on at a voting station during the Lesotho national election in Magkhoakhoeng village outside the capital Maseru, Feb. 28, 2015.

File – A police officer looks on at a voting station during the Lesotho national election in Magkhoakhoeng village outside the capital Maseru, Feb. 28, 2015.

Anita Powell
The tiny nation of Lesotho is threatening to erupt into violence again, less than a year after one of its former leaders fled into exile in South Africa. Now, the brutal killing of a top military officer has sent former leaders back into South Africa – where they are watching anxiously as regional officials head into Lesotho to try to restore peace.

Lesotho has had a disproportionate share of troubles in the last year – from a reported coup attempt in August to a recent spate of violence and reports of a growing political crisis.

The landlocked nation surrounded by South Africa has seen years of political feuding and tension between the police and army.

Lesotho mapLesotho map

The trigger for the most recent tension was the brutal slaying of the former army chief in front of his children last month.

That, said opposition leader Thesele Maseribane, spurred him and two top leaders – including the former prime minister and a top female leader – to flee to South Africa.

Maseribane, who heads the opposition Basotho National Party, spoke to VOA News from Johannesburg, where he said he plans to apply for political asylum.

Maseribane said reliable sources told him that he was on the list of targets of controversial army commander Tlali Kamoli, who Maseribane said is the man who orchestrated the killing of former Lesotho Defense Force commander Maaparankoe Mahao. The two men were bitter rivals.

“We are running away from the Lt. Gen Kamoli’s orders that we must be arrested and must be assassinated.  We flee for our lives. That’s how simply I can put it,” said Maseribane.

South Africa involvement

South Africa has sent its deputy president into Lesotho in an attempt to reduce tensions. Regional leaders from the Southern African Development Community handled last year’s crisis by bringing elections forward, a move that temporarily brought calm; but, Maseribane says mediators have consistently failed to address a major issue in Lesotho.

One of the issues is Kamoli himself, whose firing last August led to the attempted coup. He then was reinstated by the new leader, against mediators’ recommendations.

“The security issue has been an outstanding issue that was never addressed by the facilitators or by the SADC,” said Maseribane. “The issue of the defense force succession, the issue of the arrest of those special forces members that killed people, the issues of the 29th of August, has not been addressed.”

The United States has urged Lesotho to investigate Mahao’s death and to conduct “urgent” security sector reform.

Maseribane said the Lesotho government also needs to clean up its affairs.

“I think that the most important thing that has to happen is that we need a special independent investigation into the matters. We need arrests, we need to see arrests, we need to see justice being outlined in Lesotho,” said Maseribane.

“We need to see those people going behind bars, who have killed people. Nobody can just go on hurting people on any day in front of his children,” he said. “Nobody has the right to kill people and refusing to go to justice because he is a soldier. This is something that the world has to support.”

This is an issue that affects South Africa directly — as Lesotho’s only neighbor, violence in the mountainous enclave could spill over into South Africa.

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