Since 2008, as the founder of Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.), our activism in its current form, was driven by the perspective that the response to terrorism not only was becoming ineffective, but also was losing sight of the human rights imperative necessary for “war of ideas” with extremists of every kind. The position of R.E.A.L. has been, since our founding, that security tactics alone will not be consistently effective, and ultimately will have a counterproductive result. We developed R.E.A.L. primarily to provide a consistent voice of various human rights issues and bring them together, to contribute to a voice that the culture of human rights should be imperative in our lives, and that it is part of our social responsibility.
Our shared human rights includes security, safety, and freedom of conscience, which extremists and terrorists would deny us, not just in the United States of America, but around the world. This fundamental concept that the public is entitled to such human rights and freedoms threatened by terrorists is too often ignored by other groups, who have no compassion and concern for the victims of extremism and terrorism. R.E.A.L. and I believe that ignoring the freedoms, safety, and security of people who are threatened by extremists and terrorist – is out of touch with a consistent approach on our universal human rights. I do not believe that we can accept the short-term tactics that a commitment to human rights and a defense of human rights are mutually exclusive. Winning limited battles, just to lose the war of ideas, will guarantee no lasting justice, and certainly no lasting peace.
Terrorism is a subject that many of us don’t want to discuss; we simply wish it would stop and go away. But history has shown us that denial will not effectively address this issue. I appreciate those who take the time to read my observations and call for action on a renewed focus on “war of ideas” to provide a basis for fighting terror and extremism. The skill set that I bring in my observation is a personal experience with the history of this topic, and seeing the interrelationship on these topics. I have worked in security, in law enforcement, and worked with many of the fine people who work to protect the United States and other nations. The overwhelming majority are doing what they believe to be the “right thing” to deal with these challenges. For the United States of America (USA), to the extent that we have not seen another mass-casualty level attack of the death toll of 9/11, many will argue that the current tactics are working.
But to those who have struggled against extremists for many decades, we can recognize the fault lines in our society and security, where pressure is building against our human rights of security, freedom of conscience, and the perception of tolerance and appeasement towards anti-human rights and anti-freedom extremists will lead to new and severe problems ahead. One difficulty in building a counterterror and security establishment based on tactics, rather than on ideas, is that without such supporting values and standards, we can become stubbornly fixed on short-term tactics, instead of consistent in our support of the universal human rights that we share and MUST defend.
The world will change. Terrorist and extremist tactics will change. We must be willing to change and adjust to a dynamic world, while standing on a bedrock foundation of why we defy such terrorist and extremism: in support of our shared universal human rights for all.
In these observations, I will present my conclusions, and then some areas of detailed inductive logical basis for such observations. The primary focus of the detailed observations will be from a human rights and a security perspective, rather than military tactics. The detailed observations will further address the following challenge areas and issues: (1) understanding of extremism from a human rights perspective, (2) homeland security and terrorist haven blind spots, (3) the horror of ISIS and metamorphosis as a “terrorist movement,” (4) the limits of law enforcement and importance of trust, (5) essential nature of national security for global security, (6) tactics of “acceptable losses,” (7) counterterror establishment and the resistance to change, and (8) responsibility to defy extremism and terrorism.
The most vital components of a homeland security strategy are our minds, our conscience, and our universal human rights.
Everything else is a very distant second priority in the essential human rights objective to protect our society, our families, and each other from terrorism and extremism. But we have too often allowed our secondary priorities to become our primary priorities, and then we seek to shore up such misguided construction regarding security, by adding more and more tactics, which simply build the tower of secondary priorities, higher and higher. Such a focus only on secondary priorities gives us a misguided belief that we can simply add layers of tactics without a strategy, and we can defeat terrorist and extremist enemies of human rights without defending ideas and values. Without a priority of a set of beliefs and values, and relying only security tactics, studies, institutes, organizations, tools, watch lists, etc., we will build nothing more than a house of cards built on sand. The world changes – every day. We must be capable of change, while remaining consistent in a strategy firmly rooted in the truths of universal human rights for all human beings.
Senior members of the U.S. counterterrorist establishment, government, institutions, and media, also realize that tactics alone are a house of cards. They have already reach the conclusion that tactics, institutions, and organizations cannot keep up with the growing challenge of extremism, and violent terrorism by such extremists. So they have tried to reset the public’s expectations on the human right of public safety. Some have such denial on the priority of human rights first in challenging terrorism, that they have begun a campaign that “acceptable losses” in terrorist attacks are to be “expected.” They argue that, since no one can “defend” against every terrorist attack, we just need to accept that our families and neighbors will be killed. This flight from accountability is further complicated by their belief that we can “engage” with extremists as an effective means to prevent terrorist violence from extremists. They believe that engagement and legitimizing those in direct opposition to our shared universal human rights will help stop such extremists from killing us. Such “house of cards” tactics then seek to depend on extremist informants to sacrifice violent members, all the while providing shelter and legitimization of extremist views, in the desperate belief that if we collect enough informants, enough names on watch lists, enough “information,” that somehow we can manipulate a mountain of intelligence to keep us safe. Such tactics are dependent on the fallacy that we should be able to trust the very extremists, who are against our shared human rights, and that ultimately seek our destruction. Some establishment experts believe this “house of cards” approach will keep us ahead of violent terrorist attacks.
Just until it doesn’t. Like in Orlando, San Bernardino, and in other cities. Like we are seeing throughout Europe and the rest of the world nearly every day. As you read this, it is very likely that a terrorist is killing someone in some part of the world. The pandemic of terrorist violence has gotten that bad. The Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) Global Terrorism Index report for 2015 showed a growth of terrorist attacks from 3,329 global attacks in 2000 to 32,685 attacks in 2014, with an 80 percent increase between 2013 and 2014. In 2014 alone, 32,685 terrorist attacks over 365 days in a year would be an average of 90 terrorist attacks EVERY DAY, or nearly 4 terrorist attacks EVERY HOUR. If those were the statistics in 2014, can you imagine what the statistics will look like for this year?
An estimated 33 terrorist attacks have occurred in the United States of America in the past 15 years, since 9/11, with 2/3’s of those terrorist attacks occurring in the past 8 years, and the most deadly post-9/11 terrorist attacks occurring since the summer of 2015, with 53 Americans killed in terrorist attacks in the USA by ISIS supporters since December 2015. Terrorist attacks have been dramatically increasing, not decreasing in the United States. The reality is that in a global society, we cannot pretend the massive pandemic of global terrorism will not reach our shores, and affect our families and our communities. That is blind denial.
This week, on the 15th year after the 9/11 attacks, the West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel tells the American public not to worry about this. Their primary article by an Establishment counterterror specialist states that Americans should not be concerned about “average of six or seven jihadist-inspired murders a year in a country” with thousands of other homicides. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge told the American public this week that Americans “should just accept the inevitability” of terrorist attacks. This defeatist “acceptable loss” argument represents the hollowness of an approach dependent on tactics alone, with no real values, no real strategy, and certainly no real “war of ideas.” In essence, we have leaders who throw up their hands in defeat, and state that since we can’t find the backbone to defend our shared human rights values in a “war of ideas,” we should simply accept the losses that we receive from extremist terrorism, and not make to big a deal out of them. Such defeatist surrender is not the thinking of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave that I know as the United States of America.
The “realistic” surrender of “acceptable losses” to terrorism is not simply a craven withdrawal from the defense of our shared human rights of security and freedom, it is also an attack on those who would lead a “war of ideas” on behalf of universal human rights and freedom. We are lectured by too many “experts” and “leaders” that is wrong to demand a consistent support for human rights values by our fellow human beings. We are told that such calls for consistency in human rights is “judgmental” and disrespectful to others. Our public has been coached to believe that unquestioning relativism is the same as defending equality, and the failure to defend our most cherished human rights and dignity is a form of “tolerance.” We are lectured by those “experts” who tell us the only way to “peace” is to engage with extremists and respect diversity of extremist views as equally valid, when they reject universal human rights for all people of all identity groups and religious views and treat women as second-class human beings. We are told that we must accept the views as legitimate by those extremists whose goal is global control, not shared stewardship of our nation and our planet. We are sternly chided that we must consider our views on equality in human rights and freedom as inapplicable to our fellow human beings and other cultures, and that the only path to true peace is to accept the views of those who deny the reality of UNIVERSAL human rights for all.
But we cannot reject the standards of universal human rights and human dignity for people in the United States and around the world. We cannot just accept that, somehow, enough tactics, lists, and “information” about terrorist threats will somehow keep us safe from extremists, when we are too afraid to even challenge their ideas. We know — and our counterterror “experts” now are faced with enough facts to admit — that tactics alone will not and cannot work. Yet whereas our “experts” tell us we should just “accept” the “inevitably” of terrorist attacks killing our neighbors and families, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) offers another path, where we can stand defiantly for universal human rights on our feet, not surrender such truths on our knees in the hope that it will buy us protection from the enemies of human rights.
Counterterror tactics, engagement with extremists, and shrug-shoulder defeatism on “acceptable losses” will never work to effectively challenge terrorism, and we see the very real growth of terrorism every day around the world. But while they surrender, people of conscience must pick up the cause of universal human rights to defy its enemies.
To challenge terrorism, we must first start with a “War of Ideas,” which defiantly defends universal human rights, not just for the United States of America, and not just for some Americans, but for all Americans, and for all people around the world. It is not enough to discuss what we are against. We must be clear about the standards and values that we believe and will defend for all of our fellow Americans and human beings.
For our fellow Americans, this begins with the definition of who and what it means to be an American. We don’t have to debate or guess about this. It is written, so that we will never forget it, in our very Declaration of Independence, defining what America is all about. The definition of Americanism is as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To anti-human rights extremists and violent terrorists of every type, Americans must stand defiant with these words that define who and what we are as Americans. Our responsibility to defend equality and liberty is the most inherent and fundamental aspect of who we are, and who we must fearlessly be, as Americans to all those who believe our fellow human beings do not deserve equality and liberty. In the United States of America, this inherent definition of our identity must be used as a weapon to disarm the arguments of extremists of every kind and every ideology – and to dishonor extremist ideologies used to rationalize violent terrorism.
With this keystone of our identity, we must remember that in the “War of Ideas” against extremists and terrorists, we also have a guide, not just for a “War of Ideas” in the United States of America, but also a guide to our actions in the USA and around the world, for people of every race, every religion, every nationality, every gender, and every identity group. That guide to the “War of Ideas” was developed nearly 70 years ago by the nations of the world, in the aftermath of the savage Crimes Against Humanity by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. This guide was the world’s contribution to the stand that we should “Never Again” allow such savagery over our fellow human beings to run rampant, and genocide to rule over the Earth. It is a bitter irony that when our nation and the world needs this lantern of wisdom on human rights to fight extremists and terrorists today, our political leaders and counterterror “experts” leave this most powerful weapon for the truth on the shelf, as they engage in a tactical struggle, and leave our shared human rights values behind.
We must use this sword of human rights justice, fashioned from the strongest ideals for all human beings, to defend our fellow human beings and Americans from extremists and terrorists today. This weapon against terrorism, extremism, and genocide is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), agreed upon by the nations of the world on December 10, 1948, in the aftermath of the evil that devastated so many millions of lives. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed for the nations and the people of the world to have a guide to ensuring that the human rights, the security, the safety, and the dignity of our fellow human beings. It was designed to be used forever more, in times of peace and in times of war. But certainly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed to provide a guide, a lantern, and a sword to defend our fellow Americans and fellow human beings, in the darkest hours of injustice, violence, terrorism, and extremism.
When we use the tool of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must distinguish this tool from those attempts to take “exception” to such human rights, or weak imitations of this Universal Declaration. We would not have a separate “universal” declaration of human rights for people of just one race, one gender, one nationality… and certainly not one religion either. In fact, one of the most fundamental aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is its commitment to real equality, not a commitment to supremacism or superiority of one identity group over all others. That would undermine the very POINT of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But some nations, uncomfortable with the concepts of equality and freedom, including the freedom of religion and conscience guaranteed in Article 18 of the UDHR, decided to create their own “exception-based” codes, which are designed to grant only some rights, as long as they met exceptions to allow one religious view to define the rights of all people.
The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) created its own Sharia-based “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights” that is in fundamental conflict and direct opposition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the “War of Ideas” in supporting universal human rights, those policy statements and “exceptions” to our shared universal human rights must be rejected. We can no more have a separate “Islamist” guide to human rights than we would have a separate human rights code exclusive to any other political or religious ideology, race, gender, or ethnicity. To date, the only human rights group that we are aware that has publicly protested the OIC’s challenge to our Universal Declaration of Human Rights is R.E.A.L. We need other human rights organizations to publicly defend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and rebuke the OIC attack on it; we need a consistent defense on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been signed by the nations of the world, as a shared guide to universal human rights on which we cannot and will not compromise.
With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have a guide to addressing racial extremists, and to addressing those who would deny freedoms based on our fellow human beings’ gender and identity group. We have both a defense for religious freedom and freedom of conscience, while providing a guide to challenging anti-human rights religious extremists. Such extremists do not seek to guarantee freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as well as the right to change one’s belief. In the United States, I saw with my own eyes, the anti-democracy Hizb ut-Tahrir extremist group call for the denial of equality of women, and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s literature distributed to Americans calls for the death penalty for those who changed their religion in Islam. We must use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to defy and reject such extremism. We must use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to challenge those extremists who justify oppression and persecution of religious minorities, to challenge racial hate groups, to challenge persecution and oppression of women, and to reject violence, persecution, and hatred of the LGBT and atheist communities. We must use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our primary weapon to defend human freedom in a “War of Ideas,” for which we cannot afford and we cannot accept SURRENDER.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides more than just a guide, it is also codified as international LAW, as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). When we use this defense of our shared universal human rights against the forces of extremism and terrorism, we are not simply asking them to follow a guide, we seek to enforce the justice of International Law. Our leaders must seek the global expansion of the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to act to stop genocide, as we continue to see in too many parts of the world today, as we have seen in Darfur, as we have seen by the ISIS terrorist movement in Syria, Iraq, and Libya against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiite Muslims, and as we see in other nations which reject our shared universal human rights. We need allegiances and coordinated efforts by the nations of the world to work to ENFORCE international law for those who face cruel injustice, extremism, and terrorism around the world, and who feel forgotten and abandoned, while extremists and terrorists seek the destruction of their lives and their freedoms.
To defeat terrorism in the United States and around the world, we must show terrorists and extremists that we do not fear and we that we will not cower before their attacks on our human rights, our freedom, and our nations. We must show the courage and responsibility for equality and liberty that is expected of us, both as Americans and as citizens of the world. When our political and tactical “experts” shy from such human rights justice, we must not fail to pick up the cause and stand defiantly against extremists as free human beings empowered by the truth of our shared universal human rights for all. We have learned too many times and in too many places, that we cannot have peace without justice, and we cannot have justice until we have an uncompromising defense of our universal human rights for all Americans and all of our fellow human beings.
To “counter violent extremism,” we don’t have to wait for a mass-casualty terrorist attack to leave our fellow human beings dead in the street. We have warning signs and to effectively challenge terrorist threats, we must be vigilant, and aware of challenging extremist views and ideologies. Terrorism does not happen in a vacuum; it is fueled by extremist ideologies and hatred of our shared universal human rights.
But some of our counterterrorist “experts” would have us believe that we have no way to forecast or predict terrorist activity, that terrorist attacks are just some wildly random events that we could not possibly foresee, and that we should simply “accept” “inevitable terrorist attacks” on society, as part of life. We have highly educated and senior experts who make such incredibly outrageous statements in public and to our press media, to the weary, confused, nodding heads of the American Establishment, without a voice rejecting such blatant defeatism.
Imagine if other aspects of our lives were like this. Imagine if our city traffic designers stated that we should just get used to the inevitably of fatal automobile accidents, so why should we need traffic signals, planning, or vigilant drivers. Imagine if our meteorologists stated that we should just get used to the inevitably of tornadoes destroying our cities, so why should they struggle to accurately forecast weather on dangerous storms and high winds. Americans and people of any nation would be understandably outraged and disgusted at such unprofessional abandonment of “expert” responsibility. When the equivalent of such comments is made in regards to terrorist threats, however, too many in the American Establishment simply go along as if to say, we really have no control over our lives. There is no question that there are aspects in everyone’s lives that we have limited control over. But in a cohesive and organized society, this does not mean that we don’t at least TRY to manage public safety.
Just as meteorologists study patterns of weather, and warn us of approaching storms, high winds, and extreme weather, so that we can find shelter, so our human rights advocates must warn us of growing extremism, so that we can protect ourselves from violent extremism or terrorist acts. But since we have tactical counterterror “experts” in charge, the human rights community has come to believe that extremism and terrorism is a law enforcement issue, not a human rights issue. They could not be further from the truth. Countering extremist views and protecting the public from terrorism must be a primary human right activist responsibility, because if human right activists do not study and warn us of growing extremist views, our government and law enforcement cannot effectively prevent violent extremists’ terrorism.
But the failure to get human right issues at the forefront of challenging extremism and preventing terrorism – has created a situation that is total backwards. In America (and other countries) today, we have some counterterror authorities who are hiring “former” terrorists to help them “understand” why people commit terrorist attacks, as if the obvious extremist views are impossible for such counterterror authorities to understand. Imagine that a weather forecasting service had to go out and hire someone who was trying to create storms and disasters, because they believed that was the only way to understand such threats to public safety. We would think they were insane. But when counterterror authorities do this, our Establishment heads nod about the sage wisdom of bringing an extremist aboard to explain why terrorists kill people, including some right now today, while you are reading this, who are “guiding” counterterror institutes, at the same time they are promoting extremist views (including ISIS flags) online.
To some extent, it is difficult for counterterror tactical experts, who are focused on law enforcement and military tactics to understand violent extremism. This is because such extremists’ views are based on IDEAS, not weapons, not targets, not tactical “intelligence.” Extremist views are based on created an organization of IDEAS that are contrary and in opposition to our shared universal human rights. But since extremists focus on IDEAS and too many counterterror experts focus on TACTICS, incredibly some counterterrorists believe the only way to understand IDEAS is to get an extremist to explain them. So the extremists urge such tacticians, if only you were more “tolerant” of extremist views, then there might be less violent terrorism. This is like a weather forecaster being told if only you ignored more storms and high winds, there would be less tornadoes and hurricanes. It is that absurd. This bizarro topsy-turvy thinking is the price that we pay for keeping human rights activists and a human rights focus out of challenging extremist and preventing terrorism.
The answer to this is found in an army of human rights activists, the IDEA people, who are largely untapped to protect our society from extremist views. They have been told that their views are not wanted and not welcome. At one conference, I distinctly recall when I told a speaker that I represented a human rights perspective, he nearly spat on me in public. The frustration with some in the counterterror comes from the incorrect conclusion that if you support human rights, then you will excuse extremist hate and activity. No, that is the view of those who do not understand our universal human rights, which include our safety and security.
Our guideline to resolve this issue must be the use of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) for consistent and documented direction on the human rights which people of all races, religions, gender, and identity groups all have. The UDHR provides guidance on freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, equality of people of all races, gender, and ethnic origin, safety, and security for all human beings. The UDHR was created in response to Nazi Germany’s Holocaust specifically to help future generations have a guideline on the areas we must be consistent on in defending human rights from extremist views and extremist organizations. When you are working with the UDHR in assessing extremist IDEAS that challenge human rights, you are not just looking at one shade of extremist hate or persecution, you are looking at the ENTIRE SPECTRUM of such challenges.
Based on a human rights perspective, it is no different to challenge a white supremacist, another racial supremacist, a religious extremist, or those promoting misogyny, for example. From a threat to our shared human rights, each of those anti-human rights issues must be challenged and rejected with the cleansing power of consistent support for human rights and dignity. Tacticians need to have vast armies and organizations of individuals specialized in every possible type of extremist view. But human rights activists understand that all extremism that rejects and denounces a threat to our Universal Human Rights is another storm that needs to be watched. Human rights activists are not “surprised” that violence from any type of anti-human rights extremism can be violent and turned toward terrorism, because any extremist view can potential lead to violent terrorism.
This does mean that we will silence every voice of dissent and every anti-human right opinion. But we must recognize that the root of violent terrorism begins, not with poverty, not with financial problems, not with education, not with all of the aspects that our tacticians want us to believe they can “quickly fix.” The root of violent terrorism begins with extremist IDEAS. If we want to challenge such terrorist activity, we need to first understand its basis, and concentrate individuals who can provide a human rights defense to anti-human rights extremism.
The U.S. Establishment’s preferred perspective on identifying potential terrorist activity is to go where they have found it before. From a practical sense, this makes general sense. But when we look at terrorism from a tactical perspective, rather than a challenge of extremist ideas, we cannot appreciate the fluidity and dynamic nature of terrorist threats and actors. To believe that terrorist threats are only in one area, creates very real and dangerous blind spots that can allow significant and deadly threats to catch us unaware. When we focus on the basis of terrorism as extremist ideas, we realize that the threat is literally everywhere, and that no one country and no one area is free from pandemic of extremist cancer that is in our society.
In January 1995, Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden began planning the “Bojinka plot” for what would turn out to be the 9/11/2001 airline terrorist attacks on the USA. By August 1996, Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden declared war on the USA. In mid 1995, however, Osama Bin Laden sought to leave Sudan and to gain asylum refugee status in the United Kingdom. Bin Laden had a number of followers in the U.K. at that time, and they worked to develop a formal application for asylum for Osama Bin Laden. The U.K. Conservative Party Home Secretary, Michael Howard, intervened on this and denied his application. But what if he hadn’t picked up on this? What if Bin Laden hadn’t been such a “famous” individual? What if his “extreme” views were simply considered “understandable geo-political frustration,” rather than the terrorism that they were?
A significant assumption made by the USA security community has been to focus on extremist recruitment in the Greater Middle East area, including tremendous commitment of armed forces to Afghanistan. But what we have known, for over 20 years, is that such an assumption of extremist havens only in the Greater Middle East area is very limited and short-sighted in terms of extremist havens. Furthermore, a focus on “foreign terrorists” can also leave the security community blind to extremist havens existing within the USA borders today, which has had opportunities to grow over the past 15 years.
In terms of jet airliner mass casualty attacks, the USA had another very near dangerous scare ten years ago in August 2006, which was readily forgotten as so many issues are. This was known as the “2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.” The dangerous foreign terrorist enemy behind this 2006 plot to attack cities across the USA was not in the Greater Middle East, but came from terrorists in the U.K. The British terrorists planned to detonate liquid explosives onboard seven transatlantic jetliners traveling from the UK to the USA and Canada. For those who don’t recall, it was this foiled 2006 terror plot, which is why American travelers have to regular separate out any liquids, shampoos, etc. from their carry-on luggage into small 3 ounce portions that can be readily inspected by the TSA. The terrorists had planned to use up to 18 suicide bombers and targeted British flights to Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, and Montreal. They also considered attacks in Denver, Boston, and Miami.
The key terrorists arrested in the 2006 plot were BORN in Britain. They were guided by terrorists linked to Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and reportedly funded by phony charities intended to help victims of a Kashmir earthquake. The alleged ringleader, Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent was never prosecuted for terrorism in Pakistan. The reaction, rather than one of shame and shock, was of denial. Major UK media published articles that the terrorist arrests were phony allegations, and even former British Intelligence Officer called it a “fiction.” This was despite “martyrdom” videotapes discovered for 7 of the planned suicide bombers. While 24 were arrested, the UK only prosecuted 8 terrorists, who did not begin their trial for nearly two years. In the first UK trial, the British jurors found NONE of the terrorists guilty of conspiracy to blow up the aircraft. In a second later trial in September 2009, 3 of the terrorists were found guilty of conspiracy to murder, and in yet a third later trial in July 2010, three additional terrorists were found guilty. It took four years for the UK to punish a fraction of the terrorists who planned mass-casualty terrorism on American cities.
This is the reaction that USA had to a mass-casualty terrorist plot on U.S. cities from citizens of its “closest ally,” the U.K., with a very close “near miss” of terrorists’ whose plot got to an advanced stage, only some of which were actually prosecuted, and those that were prosecuted took years to receive punishment. In this specific case, the other U.S. “ally” of Pakistan could not find a way to convict ringleader Briton Rashid Rauf of terrorism, who eventually died in a drone strike. If this is where the USA was 10 years ago with our allies, where should Americans think they are today, with the growing infiltration of extremists throughout institutions and government agencies, and the numbers of ISIS terrorists who are increasingly appearing in U.K., European, and American cities?
As Americans have seen in the past year, case of case of ISIS terrorist activity and supporters have been uncovered throughout Europe and the U.K. The approach by U.S. institutions and Establishment media to suppress such reports for political partisan goals will further have an inevitable blowback of undermining trust by many Americans in the credibility of such institutions on this problem. But we have seen in cities throughout Europe, ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks using guns, knives, axes, bombs, throughout France, Germany, and Belgium, with other attacks thwarted in other parts of Europe and the U.K. When the narrative has been that restricting access to guns would stop such “lone wolf” terrorism, we have seen ISIS terrorists use knives, axes, and now, as in Nice, even trucks to commit terrorist attacks. Many of these attacks, as we have seen with other ISIS attacks around the world, have been in low security areas: public concerts, restaurants, trains, public street gatherings, as well as airport terminals. We have also now seen apparent plots for car bombs near Christian churches in Europe. Furthermore, we have seen ISIS individuals traveling easily throughout countries in Europe to evade law enforcement authorities.
The obvious question should be: if such extremists are willing to commit terrorist acts in the Europe and U.K., why will keep them from committing such terrorist acts in the United States? Our primary assumption is that we will stop all of such terrorist using watchlists provided to airlines for transatlantic travel. But what about those that are not on such “watchlists”? We know that terrorists involved in the Brussels airport terrorist attack, including individuals with airline security clearances. One bomber worked at the Zaventem airport for five years. We also know that a number of extremists and ISIS supporters have worked at other European airports.
While in the past, the American security focus has been on the Greater Middle East, a coherent strategy to protect the American homeland from extremist threats from “allied countries” depends largely on watch lists and intelligence. As we have seen from a number of attacks in Europe, not all of those associated with these attacks are part of some “list” of extremists, and the assumption that these tactics alone will address this issue is a false hope, dependent largely on luck.
We have had no serious reassessment of our security relationships with the U.K. and Europe, and USA continues a relationship with Pakistan as if Osama Bin Laden didn’t find haven there for nearly 10 years. Our foreign policy and counterterrorism experts continue to tell us not to “worry” about these relationships, and we regularly share counterterrorism intelligence with these allied nations. Our experts believe this approach will continue to work based on tactics to combat terrorism developed 15 years ago, as if the world has remained static. (It hasn’t.)
Hopefully, the experiences of the past several years in the U.K. and Europe will create a new environment for such allied nations to reconsider weakness on extremist threats. However, when it comes to security issues, each nation will have to recognize, until there is a more common understanding on a coherent “war of ideas” regarding extremists and terrorists that every nation needs to prioritize its own national security interests. For example, a more robust security position will have to consider visa requirements for countries not previously requiring visas, during periods of security threats, and it would imprudent not to have such contingent policies and positions in place for rapid implementation.
In the case of ISIS, UK, and Europe, between 5,000 and 7,000 of ISIS terrorists in Syria arrived from Europe, and about 800 from the United Kingdom. A number have been returning to the UK and Europe, and Europol is expecting thousands of ISIS terrorist recruits to be in Europe. Currently, there are least 30 to 40 known active ISIS terrorist at large in Europe, and as the numbers show, that is a small fraction of the number that will be there.
Let us hope that it will NOT take new tragedies for the American people to recognize that there is a need for a new relationship with other countries, based on their ability to manage extremist and terrorist threats in their country, a shared willingness to use our shared human rights to defy the extremist roots of terrorism, and their ability to keep terrorists from being exported to the United States or other countries. We have not really begun a serious discussion on this issue yet. In the meantime, extremists from nations around the world have funneled into Syria and Iraq for terrorist training with ISIS, and many are returning back to U.K., Europe, the United States, and other countries.
However, as too many find out the hard way, the worst blind spots are usually those that are too close for you to see. For the United States, the worst blind spots on terror are not in the Greater Middle East, not in U.K. or Europe, but right here now in cities in the United States. Outside of very limited law enforcement-centric tactics, there really is no overall strategy to deal with American extremists and terrorists, other than vague and general calls for outreach and rejection of violent extremism.
The U.S. terrorist problem in challenging blind spots is even more complex than Europe, with a growing number of anti-human rights extremists in a number of areas. We have no real human rights-based approach to challenging extremists and terrorists in the United States yet. With a human rights-based approach, you are not just looking for “one tactic” or “one group” of potential terrorists, but you are challenging anti-human rights extremists across the board. The guideline for a human rights-based approach to challenging terrorism is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which rejects anti-human rights extremist by race, gender, religion, and other identity group.
Regarding American “blind spots” on “unpredictable” terrorist attacks, mature human rights activists and groups like R.E.A.L. have been documenting and challenging anti-human rights group and extremism. We simply do not have the support for such efforts as part of a coordinated anti-terrorist effort, because Establishment counterterror experts view that terrorism is about tactics, not ideas. But this failure to challenge anti-human rights extremists prevents the U.S. authorities from consistency in challenging such extremism as:
— White supremacist terrorism, such as the Dylann Roof terrorism attacking a Charleston Church, and killing black Christians. We have warned and provide detailed cases, lists of organizations, and other groups on R.E.A.L.’s website regarding such group, and documented details of threats. We have challenged such extremist groups, including in-person protests in defense of human rights.
— Sovereign Citizen and anti-government terrorism, including the attacks in Oregon and elsewhere around the country. We have identified the extremist views and challenged their anti-human rights views that they believe gives them the right to attack our human rights of safety and security based on their extremist violent ideology.
— ISIS style and Islamist extremist terrorism, as we have been warning about since 2001. We have provided a human rights-based approach to challenge extremist groups and individuals. When the Foot Hood terrorist appeared at a university conference where we spoke, we defied the views that extremist terror can be justified and defended our human rights for against extremists over and over again, across the nation, challenging Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other groups. Our consistent challenge has been to the human rights aspects of the extremist views, and calling for consistency on human rights.
— Nation of Islam and black supremacist terrorism, such as the recent police shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Tennessee. R.E.A.L. has also uncovered extremist links and inspiration to by statements from hate group Louis Farrakhan. R.E.A.L. has pointed to the anti-human rights extremist views of Farrakhan since 2009, and documented links to Farrakhan’s extremist anti-white hate group views, and how such extremist incite terrorism among others. In the most recent Baton Rouge terrorist attack, we documented how calls by the NOI and Farrakhan to use violence against police, including symbols of guns and weapons, predated that attack. We also have pointed to the violence by the Black Panther extremist organization in seeking to disrupt public events.
The U.S. cannot continue to afford such “blind spots” when it comes to growing extremist and terrorist threats. While our blindness on threats from “ally” nations remains an issue, the even greater issue remains the challenge to dealing with such extremist threats in the United States.
For example, in an analysis of the Twitter traffic in support of ISIS, the top countries have been our ally Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and number four…. is the United States of America.
FBI Director James Comey told national media in December 2015 that the FBI has identified ISIS terrorist cells or people in the process of “radicalizing” in all 50 states. R.E.A.L.’s own public source research has confirmed known ISIS terrorist presence in the following 24 U.S. states and 1 territory: Washington DC, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington State, Wisconsin. There is no doubt to R.E.A.L. that this public documentation of ISIS infiltration throughout half of the states in United States — is merely a fraction of the depth of real infiltration.
Conservative estimates are that approximately 250 Americans have successfully gone to join the ISIS terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq, and the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee states that “several dozen” Americans have successfully returned from ISIS to the United States. This committee also states that there have been 177 arrests of terrorist supporters since 9/11/2001. In 2016 alone, there have 26 people arrested in 13 states for a combination of terrorist charges including: plots to attack USA, overseas travel, financial support, weapons charges, ad lying to authorities. What this demonstrates is the tip of the iceberg as to how the level of terrorist and extremist infiltration in the United States. While we can focus on the Greater Middle East in assuming that threats come from that area of the world, we must not lose sight of the current terrorist threat inside the United States today.
Most of the U.S. counterterror tactics are dependent on an army of “informants” (reportedly a network of 15,000 according to the National Public Radio),” electronic surveillance, and the ever-reliable public sources on the Internet where stupid extremists baldly self-incriminate themselves on Twitter and other social media. The problem with this dependence on tactics is that the counterterrorism community genuinely believes these tactics are “working.” Certainly, the tactics have captured a number of poorly educated and slow-witted extremists, who are have the stupidity to self-incriminate themselves on the Internet, or who are readily entrapped by informants, or “Confidential Human Sources” (CHS).
In 2016, R.E.A.L. has attempted to catalog some of these cases of Americans arrested and convicted of support for the ISIS terrorist movement, with R.E.A.L. posts on Twitter and Facebook using the tracking hashtag of “#AmericanISIS.” Most of these have been arrested, based on informants and stupidity on the Internet.
Over the past year, if they had been disciplined and successful, such American ISIS terrorist movement supporters would present a very different picture of the terrorist threat in the United States today:
— Washington DC – Nicholas Young – who was a Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) police officer, responsible for the safety of thousands of daily passengers whose lives were in daily jeopardy, while a 6 year investigation was conducted on him. Despite his plots for murder and kidnapping, Young was only prosecuted for providing material support in buying gift cards for ISIS
— Hollywood, Florida – James Gonzalo Medina – plot to attack a synagogue
— Rochester, New York – Emanuel L. Lutchman – plot to attack restaurant
— Houston, Texas – Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan – ISIS material support
— Minneapolis, Minnesota: Khaalid Adam Abdulkadir, threatening to kill an FBI agent (Minneapolis has been a source for 15 ISIS supporters)
— Minneapolis, Minnesota – Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame – plot to shoot down planes at Minneapolis airport, worked at airport as baggage handler
— Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Jalil Ibn Ameer Azi – plot to assassinate the prisdient
— Rochester, New York – Mufid A. Elfgeeh – plot to provide ISIS material support
— Baltimore, Maryland – Mohamed Yousef Elshinawy – material support to ISIS and plot to attack USA
— Rutherford, New Jersey – Nader Saadeh – support to ISIS
— Akron, Ohio – Terrence J. McNeil – soliciting the murder of U.S. military personnel
— Aurora, Illinois – Jonas Edmonds – plot to attack U.S. base supported by cousin Hasan Edmonds
— Bolingbrook, Illinois – Mohammed Hamzah Khan – plot to join ISIS
R.E.A.L. recognizes that this is but a small fraction of the total ISIS threat currently in the United States today, and typically the less intelligent and easily arrested figures.
In November 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee stated that the “vast majority of the 900 active homegrown extremist investigations involve links to ISIS.” Most Americans don’t even have any concept that there ARE 900 active “homegrown extremist infestations,” let alone that many involve the ISIS terrorist movement.
Due to the blind spot in counterterror tactics by “experts,” the belief is that we can solve this problem with informants, surveillance, and intelligence. If we know of 900 active homegrown extremist investigations, mostly regarding KNOWN ISIS terrorist supporters, most of whom are likely to be publicly incriminating themselves on the Internet, the question that Americans should really be asking themselves on this blind spot is “how many thousands of actual ISIS terrorist supporters are in the United States today?”
Our counterterror establishment does not want to answer that question, just like it does not want the Establishment media to use the word “terrorism” or report on “terrorism.” But denial won’t make this issue go away. The problem of terrorism in the United States is so much bigger than what the political and counterterrorist establishment wants the public to realize, we simply cannot be dependent only on the blind spots of limited tactics, without a strategy for a human rights challenge to extremism. Dithering and appeasement of extremism over 10+ years has simply allowed the extremist problem to grow too large to use the tactics of 10-15 years ago, and simply hope for the best.
Other than informants, stupid terrorists self-incriminating themselves on the Internet, the primary U.S. counterterrorist tactic for identifying and stopping homegrown terrorism is largely based on cliche slogans “If you see something, say something,” and simple luck. As anyone in any area of security knows, luck is not a strategy. Yet when it comes to stopping extremists, reliance on luck and dependence on the incompetence of terrorists are major component of the U.S. tactics today.
Furthermore, the U.S. counterterrorism and security policies are based primarily on recognizing a flow of “foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).” To the extent that homegrown terrorists in the United States provide a documented link to the ISIS terrorist movement (for example), which can be proven in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt, then there is a partial method to deal with homegrown U.S. extremists and terrorists. The FBI has benefited from the ISIS terrorist movement’s use of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), which allows U.S. homegrown, native extremists to create a documented case to prove such links. To the extent law enforcement can prove such links to FTOs, they have a way to document such cases and to move forward.
Yet in the most recent terrorist attacks in the United States, San Bernardino, Philadelphia, and Orlando, such documented links to specific FTOs were not available to readily predict and stop such terrorist attacks. For all of our informants, surveillance, and tactical maneuvers, these had no impact on the most recent and deadly ISIS terrorist attacks in the United States.
In the December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, the U.S. Government and even federal law enforcement was reluctant to even use the word “terrorism” in describing the attack, until days later, when ISIS proudly took responsibility the terrorists supporting its movement. The San Bernardino killers from the ISIS terrorist movement waited until the last minute, after the attack, to publicly declare their allegiance to ISIS, and managed to find time to destroy their links and contacts.
In January 2016, a Philadelphia police officer, was shot by a man in the street approaching his police vehicle with a gun. The man who repeatedly shot this police officer stated he was doing so on behalf of the ISIS terrorist movement. After the attack, initial government response was to deny any such linkages. When another witness publicly came forward with more details on this aspect of the case, an initial federal investigation into the reported ISIS link was started a week after the attack. The investigation on that aspect became very quiet on this issue, as soon as media interest on the topic was diverted.
In the Orlando terrorist attack in March 2016, which resulted in the death of nearly 50 Americans, the ISIS terrorist had been under watch for some time, but since there was no proof of a specific criminal link to a FTO (which could stand up in a criminal court), there was nothing that law enforcement felt it could do. Even after the attack, a combination of a government and law enforcement in denial, as well as an Establishment media as co-conspirators of denial, there was a concentrated effort to rationalize any possible motive to the ISIS movement terrorist, other than his stated, recorded motive to a 911 caller that he was committing this act on behalf of ISIS. Once again, the ISIS movement managed to humiliate the U.S. government by taking credit for the terrorists attack, and despite a concentrated effort of denial, the government as eventually forced to recognize they had another “homegrown” ISIS terrorist attack. But the effort to deny and obfuscate the facts on this case was so strong, the Department of Justice tried to redact all references to ISIS in the published 9/11 call transcript on this case.
In none of these cases were documented links to FTOs readily discernible, or an ongoing effective link to traditional, known “terrorist cells” or groups apparent to law enforcement. While there were some reports on the Orlando ISIS terrorists links to extremist movements, the federal law enforcement felt they were insufficient to warrant any further investigation and action.
Just like we have blind spots about parts of the world that we don’t want to believe are a threat, we have an even more determined blind spot about an unwillingness to recognize our blind spot about terrorists native to the United States. While the USA has dithered without a “war of ideas” strategy and limited law-enforcement centric tactics in the USA for the past 15 years, a new generation of extremists and terrorists have been raised and are growing up in the United States around us. While we have been vigilantly watching the terrorist havens from the Greater Middle East, we have been oblivious to terrorist havens being built in our own nation.
Among the most significant challenges in countering terrorism today has been the dynamic nature and fluidity of ISIS, which has evolved from a more traditional terrorist branch of Al Qaeda, to a merged organization with other terrorist groups, to a terrorist force controlling territory in multiple nations, to an international terrorist movement, now with even de-centralized terrorist supporters willing to commit terror attacks around the world – independently. In every stage of the ISIS evolution, however, it continued to remain constant in supporting extremist ideas, while those countering it have struggled to wage any type of real offensive “war of ideas” against it.
While the Establishment governments, institutions, and media are only interested in reporting about the activities of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, where they actively control territory at this time, the reality is the the ISIS terrorist movement is much more of a global challenge to the security of the nations of the world.
The number of estimated ISIS supporters varies wildly, depending on the source, anywhere from nearly 50,000 to 250,000. The most recent estimate of ISIS supporters inside Syria and Iraq has been recently estimated at 20,000 by U.S. officials in late 2016. Others major concentrations of ISIS terrorist supporters are located in West Africa (7,000-10,000), Libya (6,500), Jordan (several thousand), Turkey (1,000), Yemen (300), Afghanistan and Pakistan (between 300 – 2,000), Saudi Arabia (1,600), Russia, India, Algeria, and the United States (where in November 2015 there were a reported 900 active ISIS investigations ongoing). Around 27,000 supporters are believed to have joined the ISIS terrorist movement since the start of Syria’s civil war five years ago, with between 5,000 and 7,000 of them arriving from Europe, 800 from United Kingdom, and an estimated 250 from the United States of America.
For the American readers, let me repeat, this includes (nearly a year ago) nearly NINE HUNDRED active terrorist cases involving ISIS terrorist suspect in the United States of America. The FBI has reported that ISIS terrorists have been radicalized among Americans in every one of the 50 states of the United States.
In Europe, as ISIS has lost to military forces in retaining some areas in Iraq and Syria, some of the European recruits have returned back to Europe, with European security sources expecting thousand of ISIS trained terrorists to return to Europe. As of this week, European security is currently aware of 30 to 40 ISIS terrorist suspects at large across Europe – this is clearly just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ISIS terrorist threat to both Europe and the United States.
Any institution would be challenged to keep up with the rapid metamorphosis of such a terrorist movement like ISIS, but a tactics-based counterterrorist establishment, focused on military, law enforcement, and intelligence tactics has certainly been ill-equipped to “fight” ISIS. Even as a military-centric approach to ISIS has been haltingly pursued by the U.S. and other countries, ISIS has evolved with ideological propaganda and nimble global recruitment methods to gain new supporters literally around the world.
As each military “success” is trumpeted to be “defeating” ISIS, its evolution as a global terrorist movement has allowed ISIS to expand the theater of warfare to any and every street, town, and city across the world. To find a solution to effectively challenge ISIS, we need to recognize the seriousness of this threat and employ new human rights-based measures which challenge the very extremist ideas that ISIS seeks to promote, and why such anti-human rights ideologies are destructive to both its supporters and the rest of humanity.
Using counterterrorism offensive measures from 15 years ago, the American and Western nations leaders thus far would prefer to fight the sources of terrorism through military means (where possible), with a focus on threats in the Greater Middle East. These tactics provide several benefits to such leaders: (a) they provide a tangible demonstration of such governments “doing something” offensively against terrorist camps, (b) they transfer the focus of such terrorist and extremist views to those in other “foreign” countries (not in their own or “ally” countries), and (c) they, in fact, do stop some structured terrorist groups and disrupt some leadership.
The challenge has remained that, other than a limited law enforcement-centric approach in the actual United States homeland, a very significant portion of resources and emphasis has been put in tactics to fight the “last war” in the Greater Middle East for the past 15 years. But instead of gaining more security for the American nation, over time, we are actually seeing a diminishing security position from such military intervention. It has come to the public’s realization, and there is a sense of frustration both among the general public, as well as within the military, who feel they have been saddled with “go slow” tactics specific to the ISIS movement that don’t allow them to “do the job” and get out of there.
The military tactics involved with the ISIS movement are uniquely complicated for the United States leadership due to the multiple countries involved, changing alliances, and a previous commitment to expedite disengagement of the USA from Greater Middle East wars, the U.S. leadership has been confused and frustrated on what tactics are appropriate when dealing with ISIS. The initial tactics by the U.S. government leadership were to diminish the perception of the threat of ISIS, with the now notorious statement by President Obama, that ISIS was a “Jay Vee” (a slang for “junior varsity” sports teams in high school) level of terrorist group, with the obviously mistaken perception that ISIS posed no real terrorist threat.
The primary focus on terrorist threats to the USA homeland have migrated from the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda terrorist group (given haven by the Taliban) to the ISIS terrorist movement. The ISIS terrorist attacks have been less focused on mass-casualties, and more focused on frequency and low security targets, making their threats less “predictable” and “structured,” but more random and diverse, including threats and killings in small town and areas, which previously would have considered themselves outside a threat to “terrorism.”
The fundamental roots of the ISIS terrorist movement come from a branch of the Al Qaeda terrorist; Al Qaeda was behind the largest mass casualty terrorist attack in history on the United States on 9/11/2001. Its success spawned Al Qaeda branches in different parts of the world to continue such terror activities. This process of global terrorist expansion has now been taken over by the ISIS terrorist movement on a truly world-wide scale.
In the course of seeking to end the war in Iraq, the U.S. government signaled its intentions, and the Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) organization was able to leverage the military pullout to gain territorial gains. In 2006, Al Qaeda in Iraq re-formed itself as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) merging with other groups, and it used pullouts and military weakness between 2006 to 2013 to develop strongholds in Mosul, Baghdad, Al Anbar, Diyala, and Baqubah. ISI then sent terrorists to Syria in 2011 to fight against the Syrian government. Through its its success in capturing cities, ISI then proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate in June 2014, and it gained further control of parts of Libya as well as parts of Syria and Iraq, becoming the multi-national terrorist force we know today as “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”, “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or simply “ISIS.”
ISIS has used this concept of building a global Islamic “caliphate” out of a series of nation-states in the Greater Middle East as a vision of the future for Islamist extremists, who are drawn to this message. Many others have spoke about and called for this idea for the past 20 years, from Al Qaeda to Hizb ut-Tahrir (who has appeared with the U.S. DHS and a White House adviser) and have promoted this view of a global caliphate to develop a major new “Islamic” territory with the land, funds, and resources to truly challenge other parts of the world. This vision of a caliphate of Islam not only to defy, but also to someday defeat and conquer the “non-Islamic” world is a tangible vision to encourage Islamist extremists to join and support the ISIS terrorist movement.
While ISIS was recruiting global members for a vision of ultimate world-wide domination, our Establishment was dismissing their threat as a “Jay Vee team” terrorist. Once again, this demonstrates the danger of a tactical approach to counterterrorism that measures by manpower, weapons, control of cities, rather than understands the power of IDEAS in influencing how people think and believe. It demonstrates the impotence of such tactics that do not understand without a “war of ideas” against those building a global movement based on “ideas,” we have not even begun to fight.
Much has and will be written about the endless activities, campaigns, and permutations of the detailed military campaigns regarding ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. This is very important, but has been extensively addressed elsewhere. That is not the point of what I write about regarding ISIS here, because the greater global threat of ISIS has not been in its terrorist activities in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, but the real global threat has been the metamorphosis of ISIS from a “caliphate” and “terrorist army” to an international “movement.”
At the same time as ISIS promoted this vision of a global caliphate to its supporters, it also demonstrated a new low in human rights atrocities and genocide against Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims, and others, the likes of which we have not seen since Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust. The amount of genocidal mass murder by the ISIS terrorist movement is unknown, but the 72 mass graves that have been found thus far in former ISIS territories in Iraq and Syria indicate that in 17 of these 72 mass graves, there may readily be 15,000 who were mass murdered. In these mass graves alone, if the estimated mass murders are comparable in the other graves out of these 72 graves, we could see 60,000 mass murders just here.
Not only has ISIS introduced multi-national genocide of religious minorities, it has also aggressively introduced mass slavery of women, and it has sold women slaves on Facebook for sexual slavery, rape, and worse. The depravity of ISIS has publicized and even “normalized” such crimes against humanity as genocide, mass murder, slavery, rape, and every possible form of human butchery to mass audiences eager for such horrors around the world. ISIS has not only “televised” its Islamist extremist terrorist revolution, it has used the global video power of the Internet to televise mass murder, rape, torture, and butchery of every kind. Not a week goes by without ISIS “televising” some new video of crimes against humanity: burning people alive, sawing people into pieces, beheadings, boiling people in tar, throwing homosexuals off of the top of building, stonings, and more. With each new step of depravity, ISIS has managed to dehumanize those who oppose them more and more, and normalized the worst forms of barbaric evil in the hearts of its supporters around the world, including in the United States.
But our Establishment political and counterterror tactician do not see that as an “existential” threat to our societies.
Despite all of these barbaric horror, atrocities, and crimes against humanity, our leaders and our human rights organizations have not developed a comprehensive, consistent, and determined human rights campaign against the ISIS terrorist movement. This, more than anything else, demonstrates the total failure of a tactical approach to fighting the ISIS anti-human rights horror.
While the U.S. foreign policy, military, and security forces were working to fight using the tactics of the last war to defeat ISIS, ISIS made a dramatic transnational leap in terrorist tactics, which coincided with a new form of social media that allowed more instant communication anywhere in the world, using any language, called “Twitter.” While “Twitter” was formed in 2006, the widespread use of Twitter significantly accelerated around 2012, about the same time that ISIS was aggressively recruiting for members to help its terrorist army in Iraq and Syria.
During most of this same timeline, another technology advancement occurred, the creation by Apple of a combined mobile phone/computer appliance called the iPhone. The iPhone gained increasing capabilities of Internet usage, integration with the Twitter application for mobile utilization, and quick and ready integration with a built-in camera for still and video purposes. While the iPhone was first announced in 2007, the year after the initial formation of ISIS, it became a global phenomenon in late 2008-2009, and by the time more advanced features were added to the iPhone in 2012, potential ISIS supporters could be recruited on a mobile basis around the world using the Twitter application.
The extensive use of ISIS in infiltrating Twitter has allowed it to use the instant, worldwide, and multiple language sources of Twitter to promote ISIS calls for terrorism, to plot specific terrorist plots, and to recruit followers all over the world. The introduction of the iPhone also allowed for ISIS terrorists to use this tool on mobile basis, literally anywhere in the world with mobile Internet connectivity. While iPhone internal GPS tools have allowed this same technology to track the physical location of some ISIS followers, many, especially those in Syria and Iraq, simply don’t care if counterterror tacticians are gathering such information, and baldly announce there whereabouts and plans in open defiance of counterterror and military authorities – daring them to stop their terrorist actions.
Other ISIS iPhone users have disabled such GPS tracking and also have deployed encryption tools for their messaging, as well as Apple’s iPhone built-in encryption. As we saw in the aftermath of the San Bernardino ISIS terrorist attack, Apple was unwilling to help in disabling such iPhone encryption to allow the FBI to gain information after the terrorist attack, and while the FBI eventually found a way to access the phone, weeks were lost in assessing any potential information. Apple has indicated that its newer iPhone tools will have an even greater and sophisticated encryption tools — this is in addition to other ISIS custom encryption application s and other encryption such terrorist can now use.
In February 2016, Twitter reported that it had deleted 125,000 ISIS Twitter accounts. But for every account that Twitter takes down 50 to 100 new accounts get created by ISIS and ISIS supporters. In addition to the global reach and multiple languages in Twitter, it also provides an immediate and ready way for people to find and share information they are interested in using the keyboard hashtag (“#”) in front of a term, name, word, or phrase – in any language, including Arabic. The ISIS use of Twitter has been a key aspect of its recruitment activities around the world, and especially in Europe, the United Kingdom, and especially the United States. Of the top four countries in the world, where computer computer users are promoting ISIS propaganda – Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq – and then the United States.
While such public use of ISIS social media recruitment helps American counterterrorism tactical groups to help document suspects involvement with ISIS, the greater challenge is that non-criminal sharing of ISIS propaganda has reached untold millions and millions of individuals, from which to find those who are interested in following its terrorist cause.
In the United States of America, with ISIS followers in every state of the United States, this ability to recruit and promote ISIS propaganda — with virtually NO human rights counter-message to untold thousands, perhaps millions, of viewers — is a serious and dangerous terrorist threat to U.S. homeland security.
For every ISIS terrorist supporter that such ISIS Twitter propaganda may allow our FBI to document criminal cases, how many more are impacted and recruited to support the ISIS cause without such consequences?
In addition to such open source Internet tools such as Twitter, ISIS has moved on to use many other social media, information sharing, and messaging tools, including JustPaste.it,Telegram and other mobile messaging applications (“app”s). The ISIS terrorist movement’s propaganda machine includes its Amaq media arm, its own private Internet spaces on the “dark web,” and those regularly promoting their propaganda, such as pro-ISIS media arm, Wafa Media Foundation, as well as video posted on YouTube around the world. There global Internet presence is certainly not their only method of recruitment, as ISIS now has an in-place worldwide recruiting force, meeting and gaining members in person throughout the Greater Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia, Australia, China, Europe, the United States, and we have recently learned even in South and Central America.
ISIS has grown from a limited terrorist group to a global terrorist movement. While our Establishment political leaders and counterterror experts are confident once they militarily defeat ISIS in its Greater Middle East strongholds of Iraq, Syria, and Libya, these tactician have failed to grasp the danger that it has allowed by letting ISIS provide a vision of a “caliphate” to its supporters. Whether or not ISIS is defeated militarily for now, the ISIS vision and ideas will continue, until we START to fight ISIS in the “war of ideas” on human rights and human dignity. Even if allied military forces destroy every ISIS physical outpost today, they deadly failure was allowing ISIS to build a structure of a caliphate to inspire new ISIS terrorist supporter not just in the near future, but also for years to come.
While President Barack Obama waves away the potential threat of ISIS as certainly not an “existential” threat to the United States, his inability to understand the need for a human rights war of ideas to challenge the ISIS anti-human rights and pro-caliphate vision, demonstrates his inability to understand ISIS’s threat – not only to the United States, but also to the world.
America and the world need new leadership which understands the gravity of the threat of the ISIS terrorist movement, and which will also put in place a human rights offensive to spread a counter-message to the ISIS propaganda around the world. If we do not work to regain the hearts and minds of the untold thousand, perhaps millions of ISIS terrorist movement supporters, to recognize the imperative need for human rights and human dignity, the short term military and terrorist struggles we see today will end up as a generational battle to come.
Is trust in our law enforcement ever an “acceptable loss” when it comes to terrorist threats against our public?
Washington DC, formally the District of Columbia, is the capital of the United States of America, and it has about a total of only 60 square land miles, which includes not only government buildings, but also universities, parks, businesses, residential areas, etc. It was designed around a very small physical area for easily over 1.5 million U.S. Government employees centrally located there, and even more thousands of those who work in the same area in associated jobs and support roles. Given the small geographic area, the amount of parking area is extremely limited and the roads are highly congested, in both Washington DC proper and the surrounding suburbs in what is known as Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland.
The nation’s capital, Washington DC, is about roughly the same physical land size of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with possibly half of the actual usable land space for offices and residences, double the population in the city, vastly more working employees traveling around the city, and a fraction of the available parking spaces. In the American national capital, there is a really significant challenge in getting from one place to another, quickly, and for many – just to get to work. Not everyone is the president and gets chauffeured around in a limousine. There are then the rest of the 1.5 to 2 million workers, who need to get from one place to another.
To accommodate these otherwise unmanageable travel logistics in America’s national capital, in 1976, the local area governments and the federal government worked together to build an area subway system administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) called the “Metro” subway. The Metro subway now has 1,126 railcars and 91 stations in the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The Metro subway system stretches across 117 miles, nearly double the entire land miles of Washington DC itself.
Every day, there are an average of 836,800 riders on the Metro subway system. It is the second busiest subway in the United States, second only to New York City (which has 300+ land miles.) The DC Metro has an annual usage of 261,435,200 riders. Outside of the White House, the Pentagon, and the Capitol Building, it is probably the highest profile security threat in the nation’s capital, and unquestionable a threat to the Metro would have the highest threat to human life and safety. It is a massive choke point for the nation’s capital public and certainly for the nation’s homeland security. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government regularly had tactical police with sub-machine gun rifles traveling on trains and around Metro stations. I know – I rode with them on the subways. Many residents had been trained in evacuation processes. But all of that was many years ago. The perceived need for security has greatly diminished.
To accommodate these nearly 1 million riders every day, WMATA has about 500 Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) officers. That sounds like a lot, until you realize they have divide those police in multiple shifts, since the Metro runs from 5 AM to 12 PM Midnight. So for illustrative purposes, let’s divide that number in half – now there about 250 MTPD officers – over about 90 stations – that is about 2 to 3 MTPD officers on average per station – some stations will have more, some will have less. And every stop is carrying hundreds of thousands of people every day, whose safety is dependent on MTPD alertness.
Not so many police officers now, is it?
Could you imagine if one of those average of 2 or 3 MTPD officers per station, was working for the ISIS terrorist movement?
You know, the insane ISIS terrorist movement, which has launched terrorist attacks on trains, airports, restaurants, public places, houses of worship around the world, that has killed nearly 75 in America this year, who burn people alive, boil them in tar, poison with chemical gas, mutilate their bodies, etc? Yes, THAT ISIS. One could only imagine the massive of life if such a terrorist infiltrator to the Metro police acted on the vulnerable thousands of people traveling on the Metro subway.
But, that is exactly what was happening, one of the Metro Police was working for the ISIS terrorist movement, and our federal law enforcement knew about it – for years.
We discovered this on August 2, 2016 in the afternoon, when the local news media announced that Nicholas Young, one of the Metro Police had been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). We discovered that the FBI had arrested Nicholas Young for providing material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist group, who turned out to be ISIS. We also learned that the FBI had been investigating Nicholas Young for SIX YEARS. He was originally investigated in September 2010 for his involvement with Zachary Chesser who had been arrested in 2010 for supporting the brutal terrorist organization Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Over the next 6 years, Nicholas Young continued on the Metro Police. MTPD’s Nicholas Young talked plenty over the intervening 6 years – he talked about attacking the FBI, about beheading people, about bringing guns into a courtroom. He planned kidnaps and torture, he met with terrorists in the Washington DC area, he went to Libya and met with terrorists there in 2011, brought body armor and military items on his flight to Libya to go help terrorists. In 2014, he traveled to Turkey to meet up and join with the ISIS terrorist movement. He then regularly communicated with those who he knew in the ISIS terrorist movement as well as FBI informants, cheering about terrorist attacks killing people in France. He then planned to provide funds to support ISIS. The terrorist supporter Nicholas Young brought his AK-47 to Metro Police training events. But he was still working as an MTPD police officer all this time. Over the course of the year in 2016, he finally was persuaded to purchase gift cards for ISIS to pay for mobile messaging accounts, and it was only that which then was the basis on which the FBI arrested him in August 2016.
For context, hundreds of thousands of passengers Metro traveled under the watchful eye of MTPD officer and ISIS terrorist Nicholas Young, every day, for over the 6 years while he was under active investigation for association with terrorist organizations.
The WMATA chairman, who stated that he also knew about this ISIS terrorist on the MTPD police, is still there running the Metro subway. No one was else was fired and no one resigned – other than MTPD officer Nicholas Young – after he was actually arrested for terrorist support, 6 years later. No one complained to the FBI or whether the agents investigating could have acted sooner. There have absolutely no consequences for this reckless approach to the safety of untold thousands of people at any time, on any day of the week. God only knows who else this ISIS terrorist has been working with in Washington DC or even within the MTPD police force. Our FBI has ensured us that there was no risk to the public, and that ISIS terrorist Nicholas Young, who planned kidnapping, murder, and who actively worked with ISIS terrorists overseas – was no real threat to the American public.
I want to believe that the agent in charge of the investigation, struggled with his conscience, had sleepless nights, wondering if they were doing the right thing, if today was the day that this insane terrorist Nicholas Young would snap, and kill thousands of unsuspecting people who looked at him and trusted him as “the police.” I want to believe that someone in an investigative review looked at this, and shouted in exasperation, “Are you crazy?”, when told that they were keeping this terrorist suspect on the MTPD police force. But these federal cases don’t take place in a vacuum. They are reviewed, regularly, and by multiple senior people in law enforcement. This wasn’t the judgment of one or two people. I would like to believe the chairman of WMATA would plead with the FBI, “how can I keep an ISIS terrorist on my police force?,” and would demand that there just had to be another way to do this investigation.
Official U.S. government will essentially shrug its shoulders over this, since after all “no one got killed,” and the Washington Post conveniently swept the story under the rug after a brief report on this. But the risk in ineffective handling of terrorist threats is not only to our lives. The risk is also to our TRUST. We have to be able to TRUST our police. We cannot be wondering – is that police officer really an ISIS terrorist? We cannot be wondering, if our police are infiltrated by the ISIS terrorist movement, will our FBI do anything about it? These are staggering questions of trust that we can not simply let floating in the air, while we shrug, and go back to our routine lives.
Of all of the so-called “acceptable losses” that we cannot afford, we cannot afford to lose TRUST in law enforcement. This is where ISIS terrorist Nicholas Young succeeded without firing a shot, without exploding a bomb, simply by being allowed by our law enforcement authorities to endanger the lives of thousands of Americans, without a second thought. Without killing anyone, Nicholas Young has still achieved his goal. This is precisely how terrorists win. It is not just the people they kill or the property damage they do. While those are the obvious and horrible crimes in our society, the very worst crime to social cohesion is the damage terrorists due to TRUST. They get us to question whether we can trust one another, and worst of all whether we can even trust those who are supposed to protect us. That is the greatest damage that terrorism achieves.
We cannot simply forget that thousands and thousands of American lives were endangered for YEARS every day by this investigation. If MTBD police officer and ISIS terrorist Nicholas Young had committed a successful attack or attacks on the Washington Metro, the death toll could have easily staggered the 9/11 attacks by many times. How can we trust the people who thought this risk was acceptable? But official Washington not only is not “outraged” over this, they really don’t see it as much of a concern at all. What more do you really need to know?
That is the state of our law enforcement’s ability to protect us from terrorist threats. Our law enforcement really believes that they are doing the right thing. They are handicapped by an obscenely outdated and ineffective criminal code, based mostly on criminal conduct and life in the last century, and dependent on laws written largely by people who long passed on from this life. Our law enforcement is working with “horse and buggy” level laws, while terrorists and criminals are running rings around them with state-of-the-art global behavior. The terrorist enemy has foreign support, 24 x 7, 365 days a week, while our federal law enforcement has forms to complete, antiquated statutes to follow, and a nation that expects them to act like real-life is an action movie. When you really think about it, it is a miracle that they catch any terrorists at all.
When it comes down to it, however, our mostly last-century laws are not designed for the world today. There is no real federal crime for terrorism other than for designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Even if we know someone is planning a terrorist attack, our federal law enforcement need to find a charge and build a case to a specific federal weapons violation, providing specific support, or material support to a designated FTO group. If the terrorist does not have detailed proof of a case to a specific FTO terrorist group, then there really is no other terrorist crime to charge then on. Furthermore, for extremist groups not listed as FTOs, especially any “domestic” groups, there really is very little to charge them on, as we have no real legally binding “domestic” terrorist organizations defined, that we can use in criminal prosecution. This forces the federal (or local) law enforcement to try to find a prosecutable charge in a specific weapons crime, some illegal financial transaction, or other prosecutable offense, otherwise we really don’t have laws designed to STOP terrorism.
Unlike the United Kingdom and other nations, we also have a very limited domestic intelligence gathering capability. While our headlines scream about fears of privacy invasions from the National Security Agency (NSA), the reality is that and the very finite FBI Counterterrorism Division (CTD), which does perform operations analysis and significant financial analysis, we really do not have have a separate domestic intelligence organization. Combining what America has in terms of a limited “domestic intelligence agency” into one body the FBI has positives and negatives. The positive is that it provides both intelligence and ability to perform law enforcement functions, unlike the U.K.’s MI-5 which can only perform intelligence functions. This eliminates “handoffs,” but on the other hand it also makes American “domestic intelligence” highly sensitive to only collecting information which can be used in a specific case for a criminal prosecution. Based on our outdated laws on terrorism, while this provides a maximum protection for American Civil Rights and judicial oversight, the ability of law enforcement to actually protect us from known terrorist threats (such as the ISIS terrorist working on the MTPD police) is dependent only on what they can currently prosecute such terrorists on. While our intelligence community and law enforcement rightly does claim that the goal to prevent such attacks, the incredible risk and damage to the public trust that the current laws present is a disaster waiting to happen.
Furthermore, our federal law enforcement is highly dependent on informants to address terrorist threats, and the very convenient Internet-based operations by ISIS terrorists publicly and boldly declaring their goals and plots on the public Internet through social media. This is where social media works against such terrorists and extremists, to the extent that they are stupid enough (and many are) to provide specific and prosecutable information in public sight, which federal law enforcement are able to use to build and document a case using the existing outdated laws. This is mostly dependent on such terrorists being stupid, and thankfully for law-abiding citizens, many of them are, which gives our otherwise-handicapped law enforcement ready documentation to make arrests. In addition, our federal law enforcement depends on a reported cadre of 15,000 informants, some of whom are paid, and who provide information on some cases and sometimes serve as “Confidential Human Source” or a “CHS” to talk to extremists, including to help set up “sting cases” where extremists are enticed to say enough that they can provide a prosecutable offense.
But migrating a police organization into having semi-domestic intelligence functions is a complex endeavor.
There is a sense of detachment which inevitably occurs, and various informants and open intelligence sources (e.g., public Internet postings) become pieces in an intelligence chess game. Rather than being outraged at the willingness of terrorists to plan and plot to kill Americans, as I have read in one federal law enforcement affidavit after another a sense that, we need to go on, and see if we can get some more information, and get them to incriminate themselves more and more and more.
For example, in a recent FBI affidavit that I read about the case of James Gonzalo Medina, who was arrested on May 2, 2016, after a long and extensive plot in a terrorist attack on a synagogue in Hollywood, Florida, planning to a mass-casualty terrorist attack. The FBI became aware of this in March 2016, and over two months, they had repeated undercover police meetings with James Gonzalo Medina, discussing different ways to commit the mass-casualty terrorist attack against Jewish worshipers using guns, bombs, and finally getting Medina to agree to use a fake bomb, which is how they were finally able to arrest him. During all of this time, Medina could have decided on his own, that he had gotten tired of waiting and committed the terrorist attack. All this time, the people of the local Jewish synagogue were oblivious to the threat, and regularly worshiping with their families and children, unknown to them that their federal law enforcement was having regular meetings talking to a terrorist about the most effective way to mass murder them.
But the FBI and federal law enforcement apparently have such antiquated laws and such confused priorities in domestic intelligence gathering on terrorist attacks that even when a person comes up and tells you, a federal police officer, that they plan to commit a terrorist attack on a house of worship, that is not enough to get you arrested and taken off the street. Once again, federal law enforcement got “lucky” and they managed to dissuade Medina from using an automatic weapon, so that they could substitute a fake bomb in time, and arrested in the course of committing what he thought would be a terrorist act.
But how many times is our federal law enforcement going to get “lucky” on such cases?
And what is the cost to our TRUST in allowing such an ineffective criminal code that allows people to go free after telling our police about their plans to commit terrorism against us?
Our next U.S. federal government administration needs to re-assess the laws that we need and the law enforcement and domestic intelligence resources we need to stop and arrest terrorists. Eventually our outdated laws and approach are going to end up in more than an attack on our trust, but will end up in an attack that will cost many American lives.
In the United States of America, or in any other nation, a representative government which does not view the public safety of the people it represents as its top priority, and is willing to prioritize the interests of other nations or other geopolitical views above the safety of its public, is going to face serious challenges of credibility and authority. The long-term reality that U.S. government and institutional leaders will learn is that without a priority to national security in the U.S. homeland, efforts to expand global security will ultimately become undermined by a public frustrated by terrorist threats at home. The argument of 2001 that we need to “defeat the terrorists over there” has been wearing out its welcome with the public over 15 years, and if additional terrorist threats occur in the United States, the public is going to be demanding a significant emphasis of the “war on terror” first in the U.S. homeland.
Despite the efforts by some in Establishment circles to minimize the issue of terrorism to being less important than any other risk to public safety, the reality will remain in the United States that a very significant percentage of the public will view this as a top public safety issue. A large segment of the current American public will not tolerate “acceptable loss” tactics, which would argue that the loss of the relatively small amount of the total population killed in terrorist attacks outweighs the investment and geopolitical global issues that would need to be addressed for such public safety.
Public safety is a standard expectation as a priority of any nation from its elected representatives, whether it is the United States of America, or any country. Without public safety, we cannot expect to effectively exercise our other human rights, and in the case of the United States, its citizens’ Constitutional rights. For an individual nation-state, like the USA, its public has a right to expect its representatives will prioritize the national security of the actual United States itself, before that of its allies, “interests,” and other global geo-political goals. This should seem to be an obvious expectation of an elected representative government. However, when it comes to the issue of terrorism, this is clear-cut national priority is muddled by a very significant investment in an globalist military to pursue an “offensive” regarding the “sources” of terrorism in foreign countries (ignoring the “blind spots” previously mentioned).
The challenge with current tactics of an American “offensive” towards terrorism is that they are based on a U.S. military response (in other countries) and therefore they become dependent on a globalist position for national security decisions, rather than a priority on actual national security. Such tactics are driven by the assumption that without ensuring such security in other parts of the world, the U.S. cannot gain security in its national homeland. In the United States, this is further complicated by the Posse Comitatus court decisions which had the well-meaning goal of preventing the misuse of U.S. armed forces to suppress American people, but therefore also results in a limited role for U.S. armed forces in the actual protection of U.S. homeland from terrorists.
Therefore, outside of finite roles for U.S. National Guard forces, the extensive expenditure and resources of the U.S. armed forces are largely for threats OUTSIDE of the United States. This defense model makes sense in dealing with standing armies from foreign nations, but when it comes to the more complex and nimble irregular warfare by non-uniformed terrorists, this structured defense model drives a response to terrorist threats to a military response only for “hostile” foreign countries or countries with major areas that are occupied by “hostile” forces.
Such an operations model in the extensive U.S. military investment of 1.7 million men and women drives decision-making to prioritize how U.S. national security decisions regarding national homeland, as to how they will also impact overseas decisions in foreign countries. This model prioritizes global security first, with the U.S. national security as a component of such global security.
Recently, on September 7, 2016, the Secretary of Defense felt the need to issue a public message via the Twitter online messaging tool which stated: “#SecDef: some like Russia & #ISIL are intent on challenging global principled order. We will counter attempts 2 threaten collective security.”
But without a “war of ideas” against extremists and terrorists, we really don’t have a clear and shared definition of such a “global principled order,” nor do we have a correlation as to what such “global principled order” means in terms of U.S. national security regarding terrorism. The U.S. Secretary of Defense singled out Russia in “challenging global principled order,” but the reality remains that the cause of extremist terrorism is largely coming from other parts of the world, including threats within the United States.
So going forward, whether it is the United States or another nation (e.g., France), while we all seek support for global human rights (not what the Secretary of Defense’s message states), we must also prioritize safety of individual nation-states by those representative elected leaders to the population they serve. But that prioritization will not come from the leaders of the existing military establishment, because it would openly contradict with the way its resources and perceived global mission is being pursued to date.
However, the actual stated mission of the Department of Defense is as follows: “The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.” The current Secretary of Defense defines this as protecting a “global principled order,” but to do so, we need to have definition of what global principles we are defending, and how this relates to an effective defense of U.S. national security. To do this, we must clearly define a “War of Ideas” with extremists.
In the September 2016, 100th issue of the West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel, Brian Michael Jenkins seeks to describe the American government’s success on terrorism. In this description, he goes on to summarize the type of thinking by some counterterror “experts” on what are in essence “acceptable losses” of the American public. RAND Corporation’s Mr. Jenkins writes: “jihadist terrorists since 9/11 have managed to kill fewer than 100 people in the United States—all needless tragedies to be sure, but an average of six or seven jihadist-inspired murders a year in a country with an annual average of 14,000 to 15,000 homicides is a far better outcome than many people had feared in 2001.” This is from the headline article of the foremost American counterterror expert publication distributed the most esteemed U.S. military educational institution, West Point, in an issue headlined “15 Years Since 9/11.”
Few Establishment “experts” are quite so brazen about such “acceptable loss” tactics, but as the years go on, such defeatist views, which believe they cannot address or challenge extremist thinking other than distant military tactics, have become more and more prevalent. Mr. Jenkins goes on in his CTC Sentinel article, “Fifteen Years On, Where Are We in the ‘War on Terror’?” to speak of the deaths of our fellow Americans in terms of “balance sheets,” “goalposts,” how “rising totals of terror events are misleading,” and how the “risk of death at the hands of terrorists in the United States approaches lottery-winning odds.”
The Establishment “acceptable losses” argument on terrorism was also echoed by the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, whose comments in a forum hosted by The Atlantic was reported by Establishment news media. According to such reports, Tom Ridge stated that Americans should “should just accept the inevitability” of terrorist attacks. The report stated that he said: “What I really think the country needs to do is accept the reality that it is a global scourge, accept the reality that it will probably happen again here — we have no idea how many times.” “And I’m not trying to say that the pain or suffering of a terrorist attack isn’t significant, isn’t real. It is. But I want America to dial down some of the hyperbole and the hyperventilation.”
This is the underpinning of an Establishment argument, which basically seeks to retain existing security measures, employment of “experts,” limited military “engagements” overseas, and to try to manage “acceptable losses” of the American public, while not taking any measures which might be deemed controversial or objectionable to any of the U.S. global partners in a “global principled order.” But are such tactics of “acceptable losses” respectful of the priority for public safety, which the American people should expect from its representatives?
Some in the Establishment media even call for a rollback on existing security measures as no longer necessary, such as The Atlantic’s Katherine Mangu-Ward stating “America Cannot Stop Every Terror Attack. The U.S. government has spent a lot of money on national security since 9/11. It could use those funds in better ways to improve and save lives.” So from both the left and the right, there is consensus among Establishment counterterror experts, military, and media, that when it comes to terrorism, the American public has a right to die, and if they do, well, that may be a “tragedy” but it is “inevitable.”
Could you imagine if this was our Federal Government, institutions, and media’s response to White Supremacy terrorism in the 1960s? That blowing up African-American churches, shooting, lynchings, and burning down their houses was a “tragedy,” but it was “inevitable”? Or that in the overall statistical scheme of things, such killings were a statistical small portion of deaths? Yet, people make this same argument regarding terrorism today, without anyone raising an eyebrow.
To Mr. Jenkins’ point, can one imagine if, 15 years ago, we were told that our official representatives, institutions, and media, would have so little backbone and resolve that they would consider terrorist attacks on our nation as “acceptable losses” compared to other violence – would we have made different choices? And under the circumstances, can the American public accept a policy of “acceptable losses” on terrorism today?
The U.S. struggle with too many counterterrorism experts is this: we value their detailed knowledge on individuals, groups, history, and tactics — but while such experts continue to seek to gather more “information” — their stubborn resistance to any approach other than what we have done in the past handicaps the USA from being able to effectively respond to a changing terrorist threat.
As we have seen with the ISIS terrorist movement, terror suspects can easily come and go, appear and attack without warning, terror tactics and targets can change at random, and the removal of terrorist movement “leaders” have a very limited impact on a decentralized terrorist movement’s activities. But while the highly dynamic terrorist threat has evolved and continues to change, the U.S. counterterrorism establishment remains stubbornly fixed mostly on tactics of the past.
This challenge is compounded by the expansion of a “counterterrorism industry” over 15 years, with well-funded institutions, organizations, and centers that have a mission and focus to largely continue to do what we have already been doing, and a primary emphasis on collecting “information.” Such an industry must consciously ignore that the U.S. government is overwhelmed by “information” at this point, ignore the challenge that the U.S. Government can’t and sometimes won’t act on such information, and ignore the growing realization that the terrorist threat has become so dynamic and unpredictable. Such an Establishment denial on these issues also is driven by preserving existing funding and financial stability for this industry to continue along its current path. The real priority of the Establishment counterterrorism industry has now become a defense of existing tactics to preserve the establishment institutions and resources.
The typical answer remains a retreat to more and new tactics, often counting on: informants, technology, and military tools. Ideas beyond these Establishment counterterrorist tactical areas are met with arrogant derision and scorn, by those who “know better” than the rest of the public. They correlate the concept of “knowing more details” with “having better judgment.” In most areas of specialty research, this is not an uncommon position. When it comes to shared public safety issues, however, the idea that the public should not have a say and a voice in such issues, is an affront to the basic principles of representative democracy itself, especially when such expertise becomes modeled around political, rather than public safety priorities. Part of this challenge with the Establishment counterterrorism community is a “Not Invented Here” (“NIH”) type of thinking on addressing counterterrorism, and basic protectionism of careers and establishment institutions built around such tactics of the past. In general, such focus on self-preservation is natural, normal, and worthy for those institutions that seek to provide protection against terrorist threats.
But the larger question remains what is the cost in ideas on public safety of allowing an entrenched establishment counterterror community to “guide” policy on terrorism, while ignoring the voice of the American public?
Another complication with this establishment community is the potential for corruption in some areas, especially due to a tactical over-dependence on foreign sources, and willingness to “engage” with enemies of human rights, in hopes to gain tactical advantage over “violent extremists.” It is this aspect of the Establishment counterterrorism community which R.E.A.L. will focus on here.
Ignoring the U.S. history of 150 years in the “war of ideas” against white supremacy and white supremacist terrorism, the Establishment counterterrorism community has focused tactics on religious extremist terrorism, with an emphasis of “engagement” with religious communities, and predominantly the Muslim Sunni and some Shia communities. But unlike the U.S. “war of ideas” on white supremacy, the engagement is not in seeking change, but rather mostly in ensuring that such communities are not offended by counterterror activities. To that end, the counterterror community has actively sought to portray itself as partners with the Muslim community, even among extremist groups.
The argument that the Establishment counterterror community makes is that by such engagement, they will build relationships to prevent violence and also to gain informants on such violence to stop future attacks. In addition, the second major argument on such engagement that the Establishment counterterror community makes is that by demonstrating itself as partners with such Muslim communities, it counteracts the argument that counterterror activities are “anti-Muslim” groups with goals to alienate and conflict with Muslims.
On the surface, the argument of the Establishment counterterror community provides an argument which gives the appearance of fairness. But in the implementation of such tactics of engagement, it is another matter altogether. As I have previously written, and will expand on below, the American history on the “war of ideas” in challenging White Supremacy is not incidental, but is vital in understanding the need to change how extremists think, and most of all, the “legitimacy” that supremacist views have about another identity group.
So it is with such religious extremists as well. For the past 15 years and especially the past decade, the Establishment counterterrorism community not only has actively engaged with the Muslim community, but also has engaged with those elements of the community which others would view as supporting extreme views. At least a decade ago, those challenging engagement with extreme views sought to distinguish engagement with the Muslim community versus engagement with those supporting what was then called “political Islam,” “Islamism,” or “Islamist extremism,” as was referenced in the U.S. Commission on the 9/11 Attack Report in 2004.
The 9/11 Report found that the 9/11 attacks were inspired by such extremist versions of such a political ideology. However, these finding (among many others) were expeditiously ignored by too many in the Establishment counterterrorist community who believed that bridges to such political groups offered an ability to “engage” with them and to leverage such relationships to prevent violent attacks.
A fundamental basis for such political outreach, which began aggressively in 2006, included the Muslim Brotherhood, banned by the Egyptian government as “terrorists,” and which provides a political extremist history in support of so-called “Jihad” and calls for transnational infiltration of other countries to change and control their governments. This was documented in May 22, 1991 by a member of the Board of Directors for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America and senior Hamas leader named Mohammed Akram. The linkage of the Muslim Brotherhood to extremism has been literally known for decades, and was documented in a 2008 U.S. federal court case of U.S. v Holy Land Foundation, et al., with a specific court exhibit titled: “An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” Government Exhibit 003-0085 3:04-CR-240-G. The trial against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was in regards to financial support for the Hamas terrorist (FTO) group. While the first HLF trial ended in a mistrial, a second trial in 2008 jurors found all the defendants guilty on all counts of helping to finance terrorism. In December 2011, a fifth circuit judicial panel upheld the convictions against HLF and its senior leaders.
But before this trial and while it was ongoing, a bipartisan Establishment group in Congress sought to promote outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood extremist group (whose slogan is “Jihad is our way”). This approach to outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood became a part of Establishment foreign policy within Establishment figures in Congress, the executive branch, and the counterterrorism community in 2008, as what was then known as the U.S. Muslim Engagement Project. This project actually began in 2006, but was officially recognized as a bi-partisan project by Congressional representatives in 2008.
With such government and institutional organizations compromised by engagement with extremist groups, the idea of challenging “extremism” itself evolved into countering only “violent extremism.” As such tactics became officially adopted policy, the idea of challenging “extremism” per se became no longer acceptable, when we could engage with political “extremists” like the Muslim Brotherhood (and of course we couldn’t call them that) to help us combat “violent extremists.” As one senior former high-profile CIA official Evan McMullin recently told a political pundit, we shouldn’t object to the Muslim Brotherhood, because the MB was in favor of a form of “democracy.” This same basic message promoting engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood extremist organization has been published in the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel, and is a fundamental part of Establishment counterterrorism and foreign policy tactics at this point. To challenge such extremist views in today’s Establishment climate, would be to be labeled as an “extremist” yourself.
As early as 2007, the U.S. Government was appearing at Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conferences typically held on Labor Day. This included attendance at such conferences with booths by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In 2007, the DHS booth was next to the booth for the anti-democracy, pro “violent jihad” group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. Hizb ut-Tahrir is an extremist group that has been linking to terrorist plots in the U.K., Southeast Asia, and the Greater Middle East. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s U.S. organization seeks to undermine democracy, develop a global Islamic caliphate, and calls for the death of those who leave Islam, as they have documented in pamphlets distributed at their events in the United States. R.E.A.L. has protested Hizb ut-Tahrir events in different parts of the United States, rejecting the extremist group’s attacks on democracy, equality, and freedom, and the extremist group’s threats to those who seek religious freedom (as defined by the UDHR, Article 18). The black flag used by Hizb ut-Tahrir at its anti-freedom events in the United States (protested by R.E.A.L.) is the same flag used by the ISIS terrorist movement.
During the 2008 HLF trial involving funding for the Hamas terrorist organization, ISNA (which has held the conferences attended by both U.S. Government officials and Hizb ut-Tahrir) was named as unindicted co-conspirator, and ISNA was founded by American-based members of the Muslim Brotherhood. ISNA’s history has included a number of links to extremist groups and leaders with support for the FTO Hamas. Based on this linkage of ISNA to such an FTO in the 2008 HLF trial, U.S. Government officials then decided to maintain a lower profile attendance at ISNA annual conferences.
This changed on September 4, 2016, when DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson was a featured speaker at the 2016 ISNA conference. DHS Secretary Johnson stated that he knew about the decision after the 2008 trial to maintain a “low profile” at ISNA conferences, but felt it was time to change this, and hoped that the DHS Secretary would be a part of such conferences in the future. At the 2016 ISNA conference, Jeh Johnson also appeared with Dalia Mogahed, who has presently represented the U.S. White House on Muslim Affairs. As R.E.A.L. has previously reported, while Dalia Mogahed was working for the White House, she appeared on a U.K. television program with the anti-democracy, anti-freedom Hizb ut-Tahrir organization. Dalia Mogahed did not challenge the views of this extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir organization, which flies same flag as ISIS at its events.
We have seen this position of engagement with extremism for over a decade, in numerous reports, as well as many in-person sessions at events throughout official federal government sponsored events, and those on Capitol Hill, which R.E.A.L. has attended in person.
Also in the past week, a reknowned university counterterrorist organization hired a “former” terrorist who was convicted and served a partial sentence in prison. This individual continues to maintain online posts in support of the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist views, as well as a Facebook site which has flies the flag of ISIS as part of “Islam Policy.” This same individual was reportedly paid thousands of dollars by federal law enforcement.
Over a century ago, Theodore Roosevelt wrote: “No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community.” It gives R.E.A.L. no pleasure or satisfaction to point out these challenges in terms of official and institutions, which we have seen (for many, many years) seek engagement with extremists. But if we are to address a dynamic terrorist threat in the future, we need look beyond short-term tactics and legitimization of extremists in hopes that they can somehow defuse “violent extremism” by tolerance and appeasement of “non-violent extremism.”
It is not enough to plead with extremists not to use violent tactics, but if we want to change minds in the long-run, we also need to make it clear exactly what values and standards we will defend. We cannot defend values and standards of human rights, while we excuse and defend ideologies of extremism that attack and denounce such human rights.
If you have ever watched the failure of law and order in public, after a while, you will see a frequent pattern. When enough lawbreakers are allowed to break the law with impunity, after awhile, people question whether the law is enforceable and whether the law even makes sense anymore. The social challenge to authority not only applies to law and order, but also to any other out-of-touch and inattentive representative government, institution, or media. Those in denial or disinterest may choose to ignore or misdirect on public concerns to avoid conflict or avoid public pressure. But often times, the more you avoid dealing with social problems, the bigger they become, until you start to lose control of the situation.
“Whatever will be, will be” is a pleasant song, and nice philosophy for conflict avoidance. But when it comes to public safety, such avoidance and denial is a strategy for disaster. The other challenge with the failure to act on public safety is that when public governments, institutions, and media are associated with such failure to act and failure to inform, inevitably they are held accountable by the public.
In societies, the greatest damage that terrorist acts and terrorist movement accomplish is the damage to TRUST. We mourn the loss of all life and all property damage, but a tear in the public’s trust continues after the mourning of lost lives, after funerals, after buildings are torn down, and even after they are built back up. Time may heal many wounds, and the public has an infinite capacity for forgiveness. But despite the confidence of many public and media leaders to the contrary, the public does not really FORGET everything. Each crack in the trust within a society undermines in the infrastructure of social cohesion. When the fissures in societal trust become wide enough, frustrated people not only start to question the efficacy of the law, but also the institutions and governments that represent them.
Those leaders, government, institutions, and media, who choose to go down a path of jeopardizing the public’s safety and recklessly showing contempt for the necessary bonds of trust between the public and its representatives, endanger not only themselves, but also democracy itself. The path of reckless disregard and contempt for public safety, with leaders openly telling its public that they need to “accept” periodic terrorist attacks as a “new normal,” is a risky and dangerous path for all. R.E.A.L. urges those who believe that they can maneuver such treacherous ethical chasms to think long and hard about the long-term consequences of such comments to the public. Furthermore, those in authority who would abuse such public trust and willfully allow the public to be endangered must realize that the authority given by the public can always be taken back. A cohesive society does not want its public wondering if it can trust those responsible for its safety, and responsible individuals in authority do not want to drive desperate and frustrated people to have to find ways to defend themselves.
At the same time, as the insane killers of the ISIS terrorist movement are working to normalize genocide and every form of crimes against humanity imaginable, we certainly need leadership that respect and listens to its public, their concerns, and makes their public safety its first and most important priority. Both in America and around the world, when faced with the scourge of extremists and terrorists, the public needs to have confidence and trust that its leaders will do everything possible to protect them.
For the United States of America, with the ISIS terrorist movement currently in every state, a growing rise of terrorist supporters from numerous extremist paths, and growing number of deadly terrorist attacks, certainly there needs to be more attention and more concern given to this threat to public safety.
However, the change we really need will not come from our government leaders, our institutions, or our media. Certainly, we can and we must expect them to their jobs and to protect the public and work to undermine such threats against our shared human rights.
But let us not forget, these handful of authorities, governments, institutions, and media, are nothing compared to the power of the people themselves. They may be our representatives, but the true responsibility to set our nation and world right does not rest with them, it depends on us. In the United States of America, we did not push back the millions in the Ku Klux Klan, the public institutional scourge of white supremacy, and the terrorist evil which regularly plagued parts of our nation, exclusively due to the actions of our government, our institutions, or our media. I lived through that social upheaval myself, and I know better. Our young people who read history books written by those who seek to simplify national movements into a few pages, perhaps a few paragraphs, cannot possibly capture the power and determination of the spirit of the American people, when we are determined to stop wrong in our nation.
While we may honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the brave Civil Rights workers, President Kennedy, President Johnson, and others, let us not forget that the change that America needed really did not come from these great leaders. It did not come from our media, it did come from our institutions, it did not come from those who take all the credit.
No, the change in America came from the average man and woman. The change in America came from our children. The change in America came from our teachers, religious leaders, the cooks, the barbers, the cab drivers, the engineers, the janitors, the cashiers, the lawyers, the nurses, the cleaning crews, the grocery clerks, the butchers, the bakers, and everyone and everything in between.
When people talk about the great leaders who fought against white supremacy and white supremacist terrorists, I know they talk about the people who posed for the photographs. But as one who was there, I know who the real heroes of America are. The real heroes of America are the AMERICAN PEOPLE, the ones who never posed for a photograph, who never got any awards, who never got any thanks, but who did what they did in standing for justice and in defiance of hatred, violence, and terrorism — when it was dangerous to do so — for ONE REASON: it was the right thing to do – it was the AMERICAN thing to do.
People look at great photographs of that noble leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing a crowd of thousands and thousands of people as far as the eye can see — on JUSTICE — on defying and rejecting terrorism — and they say what a great man, and of course he was. But I see that photo, and I see the real heroes there, the thousands and thousands of average Americans who stood with him and in support of the truths that we hold self evident as one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
So when we look for the heroes that need to rescue our great nation from the dangers of extremists and threat of the terrorist scourge, we do expect our authorities and our government leaders to do their jobs. But the people who we must expect to truly protect this nation and our shared human right are not such representatives, but ourselves. The heroes that we need to help us defeat such extremism and terrorism again are the American people. We have done it before, and we will do it again.
If there are consequences for denial and inaction on terrorism, we also know who to blame. Don’t look to the White House, to Congress, to the Pentagon, or anywhere else. We need to hold them accountable for their actions, but we also need to hold ourselves accountable for what we allow our representatives to do on our behalf. If you want to look for someone to blame, you need to look in the mirror. We are better and stronger than this as a nation. We must not slip into the pattern of expecting these relative handful of representatives to lead our nation, when this is not just their country, it is every bit as much OURS. America is OUR responsibility.
To our human rights organizations, activists, and all those that care about our shared universal human rights, this is mostly a Clarion Call for YOU. The leadership in fighting the enemies of human rights cannot be left to professional politicians, soldiers, and police, who too often are focused so much on the details of their tasks or other distractions, that they lose sight of the ideas that we fighting for – and the fundamentals of equality and liberty for all.
It is time for our human rights activists to WAKE UP and realize that yes, you are in the counterterrorism movement. If the terrorist and extremist enemies of human rights can find the determination, the resources, and creativity to form a global movement, then certainly the defenders of human rights and human dignity can do the same. Most of all, this is our fight and our struggle on behalf of our fellow Americans and fellow human beings.
On September 11, 2001, when our nation’s capital was at its greatest peril, with terrorists who hijacked Flight 93 headed to destroy the White House or the Capitol, let us never forget who the HEROES were that defended America were. They were not our brave military. They were not law enforcement. They were not our president or any of our government leaders. They were not our media and their endless stream of stories about the nation. No, it was none of them. The heroes that defended our nation’s capital on September 11, 2001 on Flight 93, were the average men and women who were on that flight and who determined that they would NOT go down without a fight. They were the brave Americans who decided that they would not let the terrorists who sought to destroy this nation go without them doing everything they could, even if it meant their lives, to protect the United States of America. When the call came for them to defend their nation in its hour of need, they had but two words: “Let’s Roll.”
So it is with the next generation of American heroes in this great nation. As our terrorist threats continue to grow around this nation, as those who seek to promote extremist views go without being challenged, it is past time for the American PEOPLE to say enough is enough. Our nation, our universal human rights, our freedom, never is and never has been free. It comes at the cost of our constant vigilance, and our constant determination, as a people and as individuals to be….
…. Responsible for Equality And Liberty