This will represent a big, juicy target for anyone that wants to make some sort of a statement
JULY 15, 2016
After what just happened in Nice, France, officials are likely even more concerned about the potential for violence and terrorism at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.
Details are still coming in as I write this article, but what we know so far is that a 31-year-old Tunisian man plowed his truck into a huge crowd that was gathered along the waterfront for a fireworks display during Bastille Day celebrations in the French city of Nice, and he reportedly shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ at the police before they shot him dead. His rampage of death reportedly lasted for two kilometers before he was finally stopped, and dozens have been killed. This comes on the heels of the massacre of five police officers in Dallas, and that came not too long after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history in Orlando. Clearly we have entered a time when the usual rules don’t apply anymore. So will the Republican National Convention be the next target to get hit?
Both the Republican and the Democratic conventions have been designated as “National Special Security Events”. What this means is that the Secret Service will be running security at those venues. It is being projected that 50,000 people will attend the Republican convention, and in addition to that there will likely be tens of thousands of protesters.
So needless to say, this will represent a big, juicy target for anyone that wants to make some sort of a statement.
We have already seen tremendous violence at Trump rallies in recent months, and there is no reason to think that the Republican convention will be any different. The radical left dislikes Donald Trump with a passion, and many leftist organizations have already stated that they plan to show up in Cleveland in force.
As emotions run high, could something go terribly wrong?
On Thursday, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey both told Congress that they are extremely concerned…
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers on Thursday that they were preparing their agencies for the possibility of violence, both from unruly demonstrators and terrorists, at the upcoming Republican and Democratic nominating conventions.
It is likely that we are going to see more security at these conventions than we have ever seen before. In fact, Johnson told Congress that DHS will be sending approximately 3,000 agents to each of the conventions…
“I am concerned about the prospect of demonstrations getting out of hand,” Johnson said. “I am concerned about the possibility of violence. We have, within DHS, some 3,000 personnel that will be dedicated to the security of the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National convention, each.”
And Comey told Congress that he is particular concerned about the potential for “domestic terrorism”…
Comey told the committee that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was monitoring the threat of violence at the conventions “very, very carefully.”
“Anytime there is a national spotlight on a political event in the United States, there is a risk that groups that aspire to do just that, engage in acts of domestic terrorism, will be attracted,” Comey said.
Of course the feds are not just sitting back and waiting for next week to roll around. As you read this article, they are actively “monitoring social media” and “tracking protest groups” in anticipation of what might happen…
Law enforcement agencies are monitoring social media posting and tracking protest groups such as Black Lives Matter, which have disrupted Trump rallies over the past several weeks. The Secret Service is even using its Twitter account to warn users about their commentary. The agency tweeted recently, “Watch what you say on Social Media!” with a link to a news story about how agents visited a man who joked about sending a bomb when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were visiting his region.
For one, I am certainly glad that I am not going to be in Cleveland next week. The security is going to be absolutely suffocating, but no level of security can stop a deranged individual that is absolutely determined to kill people and that is not afraid to die. As we have seen, it only takes a few moments for a gunman to start mowing down those around him or for a crazed lunatic to plow a truck into a crowd of people.
And one thing we do know is that there will be lots of guns in Cleveland. Some of the protesters have already announced that they plan to bring guns with them, and many of those attending the convention will be bringing guns as well…
As the Republican convention in Cleveland approaches, several delegates from Pennsylvania who support Donald Trump say they are planning on bringing their guns with them to the GOP gathering. Why? They say they are worried about possible violent protest and even an attack from ISIS.
James Klein, a pro-Trump delegate from the Harrisburg area, notes that guns won’t be needed inside the convention hall and that delegates won’t be allowed to bring in weapons. “But,” he adds, “there’s the hotels. There’s going to be dinners.”
We may get a preview of coming attractions during the nationwide “Day of Rage” protests on Friday. There are supposed to be protests in more than 30 cities, and they have been much hyped. We shall see if they amount to anything or if they just fizzle out.
Regardless, it is clear that we have entered a time of increased violence. After what just happened in France, people all over the world are going to think twice before gathering for any sort of large public event. A huge crowd is an enticing target for any aspiring terrorist, and it is inevitable that we are going to see more attacks of this nature.
The era of the free and open society is ending. As the violence and terror get progressively worse, our liberties and freedoms will be increasingly restricted, and we will be told that this is for our own good.
Of course this has already been happening since 9/11, but now we have entered a time when this process is going to accelerate significantly.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey (L-R) testify before a House Homeland Security Committee hearing © Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
On Thursday, FBI Director James Comey once again faced questioning on Capitol Hill, this time in front of the House Homeland Security Committee. During this hearing, unlike the one on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server from last Thursday, he was not the only person testifying, the tone was much more cordial and the hearing was a whole lot shorter.
The hearing focused on current threats to the US homeland, especially from radical Islamist terrorists ‒ namely Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Representatives also asked Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen about the federal government’s efforts to counter emerging threats, the danger of foreign-inspired homegrown extremists, the role of global terrorist organizations in their radicalization, and efforts to prevent terrorist infiltration into the United States.
IS turns to the internet
Although the physical territory that IS controls has shrunk, its reach, especially through social media, has grown. The jihadist group has claimed responsibility for recent terror attacks in Bangladesh, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and it has inspired lone-wolf attacks by “homegrown violent extremists” that “remain an unpredictable threat” to the homeland, Rasmussen said in his opening remarks.
“While ISIL’s efforts on the ground in Syria and Iraq remain a top priority” for the National Counterterrorism Center, “we do not judge that there is a direct link between the group’s current battlefield status in Iraq and Syria and the group’s capacity to operate as a terrorist organization with global capabilities. Their external operations capability has been building and entrenching during the past two years, and we do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade completely the group’s terrorism capabilities,” he added.
The widespread reach of IS through the internet and social media “is most concerning as the group has proven dangerously competent at employing such tools in furtherance of its nefarious strategy,” Comey said in his opening statement. The threat from IS propaganda was brought home by Omar Mateen, who shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in mid-June, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others, he noted.
IS is using “high-quality, traditional media platforms,” but its main focus has been on social media, which has recently included English-language publications, Comey said. They have “constructed a narrative that touches on all facets of life from career opportunities to family life to a sense of community. The message isn’t tailored solely to those who are overtly expressing symptoms of radicalization.” Their recent messages have advocated for lone-wolf attacks against the military, law enforcement and intelligence communities in Western countries.
The FBI has arrested four people “just in this month to disrupt them, people who are moving on that path from consuming” IS propaganda to acting with violence, Comey noted.
Threats to the US are no longer just terrorist-directed, but are inspiring people to self-radicalize, Johnson said. Those attacks are difficult to detect and also occur with little or no notice, making for “a more complex homeland security challenge.” He also noted that law enforcement has different approaches when dealing with communities in which an international terrorist organization is trying to recruit versus a domestic group that is inherently anti-government, such as a white supremacist group, that has a violent approach.
Foreign fighters and access to guns
Two of the biggest concerns for the witnesses are whether IS fighters are able to enter the country and how terrorists ‒ either homegrown or foreign ‒ are able to get their weapons.
Representative John Katko (R-New York) raised concerns about the potential for foreign fighters to enter the US through Cuban airports once commercial flights become available between the two countries begin this fall. He asked Johnson what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to get the Transportation Security Administration and Air Marshals access to Cuban airports, as well as what sort of document verification and other screening tools they will be using in their ten airports of last departure to the US and the training and vetting of their employees.
“Another thing of major concern to me is that Cuban visas are showing up in the Middle East,” Katko said, citing a Washington Post article that he introduced into the hearing record.
Johnson responded that security for flights from Cuba is something he’s “personally focused on.”
He has asked the TSA for assurances that “any last point of departure airport from Cuba satisfies our US screening standards, not just international screening standards,” he said, and that the agency is working to get an agreement to put federal Air Marshals on flights from the country. “And I want to see a senior-level official from TSA headquarters personally go down to Cuba to take a look at security at last point of departure airports,” he added.
Johnson said that DHS is “very focused on last point of departure airports,” specifically in the Middle East region, noting that “we have some challenges there,” ‒ but that“we’re not going to take our eye off the rest of the world, however.”
Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-South Carolina) asked Comey about the so-called “Charleston loophole,”which allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof to purchase a gun after the FBI failed to complete his background check within three days. He then used that weapon to kill nine people at a South Carolina church.
Comey noted that current laws allow for gun dealers to complete a sale if the FBI hasn’t completed the background check within three days, which many smaller retailers choose to do for their bottom lines. He called on Congress to pass either of two bills ‒ one proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the other by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and others ‒ that would give the US attorney general the discretion to prevent sales to people who are on a law enforcement watch list, usually the no-fly list, as long as there is and adjudication process to remove themselves from such a list. Similar bills failed in the wake of the Orlando terror attack.
Johnson also called for Congress to work together in a bipartisan way to make it more difficult for terrorists to get guns through legislation that contains an adjudication process. “We have to face the fact that sensible gun control is not just about public safety, but also national security,” he added.
Cybersecurity and terrorism
Comey once again called on Congress to legislate a back door to encryption, a request he specifically focused on in the wake of San Bernardino. Such an encryption backdoor is necessary, he said, because“virtually every national security and criminal threat the FBI faces is cyber-enabled in some way,” through hacking, ransomware and other malware attacks.
“Terrorists’ exploitation of encrypted platforms presents serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to identify, investigate, and disrupt terrorist threats,” he said. “When changes in technology hinder law enforcement’s ability to exercise investigative tools and follow critical leads, those changes also hinder efforts to identify and stop terrorists who are using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack in our country.”
If the FBI can’t get access to “significant evidence” on a suspect’s digital platforms, it may make “the difference between an offender being convicted or acquitted,” Comey continued. “If we cannot access this evidence, it will have ongoing, significant impacts on our ability to identify, stop, and prosecute these offenders.”
During ISIS Hearing, When Asked “Are We Safer Now?” DHS Secretary Johnson Dodges For Two Minutes (July 14, 2016)
Justice Department sides with Republican Pat Toomey against ‘sanctuary city’ policy
A new Justice Department policy announced last week bars sanctuary cities such as Philadelphia, the host of the Democratic National Convention, from receiving millions of dollars worth of federal law enforcement grants, putting further pressure on Pennsylvania Democrats to abandon policies that impede federal immigration officials.
The Justice Department notified cities last Thursday that they would no longer receive federal law enforcement grants, which totaled $3.4 billion in the past five years, if they have laws on the books that interfere with requests for immigration information from federal authorities.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who implemented the policy that bars cooperation between city law enforcement and federal immigration agents earlier this year, has resisted pressure from the Obama administration to back down on the issue. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson even traveled to Philadelphia to personally request that Kenney change course but was rejected.
Philadelphia was slated to receive $1.68 million this year through the federal government’s Justice Assistance Grant and other programs, according to the Philly Voice. The city has received $8.6 million since 2012 through Justice Department programs.
The Justice Department announcement comes just weeks before thousands descend on Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention in late July.
Sanctuary cities have already emerged as a critical issue in Pennsylvania’s Senate election. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey criticized his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, for her support of Kenney in the fight.
In a letter to McGinty following the federal government’s announcement, Toomey aligned himself with the Obama administration.
“The Obama administration and I agree that sanctuary cities that forbid their local law enforcement officers from sharing information with federal immigration officials to apprehend violent criminals and terrorist suspects should not be rewarded with federal money,” Toomey wrote.
Toomey challenged McGinty, whose support for Kinney has softened in recent days, to do more than just call for “dialogue.”
“Last week you called for more “dialogue” between the City of Philadelphia and the Obama administration, but still refused to reject Mayor Kenney’s policy as others have done, including former Pennsylvania Governor and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell,” Toomey wrote. “I welcome your shift in position, but it is woefully inadequate.”
McGinty wrote off critics of Philadelphia’s sanctuary city law earlier this year when asked during a radio interview whether it would be good to end sanctuary city policies nationwide.
“I think sometimes these labels and buzzwords are very divisive, and unnecessarily so,” McGinty said. “‘Sanctuary cities’ would somehow suggest that local police forces and local law enforcement are somehow encouraging a violation of law, and I think nothing more to the contrary is actually happening.”
“Look, federal government should not be handing off its own responsibilities to local police forces that are already stretched,” McGinty said.
During a congressional hearing, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson singled out Philadelphia as “particularly resistant to working with federal officials as they try and locate immigrants who should be deported.”
Legislation by Toomey that would have barred sanctuary cities from receiving some federal grantsfailed in the Senate last week, though it received support from some Democrats in the Senate. McGinty opposed the legislation.
The threat of terrorist smuggling at U.S. ports appears to be increasing, says the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), who wants mechanisms to prevent cyber terrorism and illegal nuclear materials from being trafficked through ports intensified.
Nuclear smuggling can involve small quantities of highly enriched uranium or plutonium that could be used to build an improvised nuclear device. Additionally, radiological materials, such as cesium-137, cobalt-60, and strontium-90, can be combined with conventional explosives to build a radiological dispersal device, often referred to as a dirty bomb.
According to a nuclear and radiological material trafficking database managed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), approximately 2,700 cases of illicit trafficking of such material have been confirmed as of December 31, 2014. These cases were reported by more than 100 countries that voluntarily contribute to IAEA’s database.
Many confirmed cases involving the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, including weapons-usable material, have been traced to material that originated in countries of the former Soviet Union and had fallen outside of those governments’ control.
Maryland Port Administration Security Director Dave Espie, a retired FBI agent and former National Security Agency Special Agent, will testify on July 7 on behalf of the AAPA at a joint hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, and the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
Espie says in his testimony that the threat of maritime terrorist smuggling appears to be increasing, possibly in correlation with the flight of Syrian refugees to Europe. Recently, a stowaway on a roll-on rolloff vessel destined for Baltimore was located by the ship’s crew and taken into custody by Homeland Security Investigations. The stowaway admitted that he boarded the vessel while it was docked at a German port.
Approximately one week prior to this event, a shipping lines manager in Baltimore advised that his lines had experienced several stowaway attempts by Syrian nationals in Germany as well. Directors of port security in the United States are not routinely granted a security clearance with the federal government and hence, are not provided classified briefings regarding threats to their ports, says Espie.
The suspects of maritime nuclear smuggling efforts are numerous, says Espie. “The actions and aggressiveness of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are challenging all aspects of our port security procedures. The threat from ISIL emerges on several fronts. First, the size of ISIL’s force is substantial. Second, ISIL is not a congruent entity. Its leadership remains in a fractured state and subsequently, sub-factions form that are very difficult to identify or trace. Third, ISIL’s use of the internet and related systems to recruit both actual soldiers and lone wolves has proven to be extremely successful.”
Maritime nuclear smuggling “could ultimately impact the safety and security of the United States if not addressed in a cohesive and expedited manner,” says Espie in his testimony.
Espie believes there is a need for sound diplomatic relationships with nations that cooperate with the U.S. to secure their own nuclear materials, and the need for them to assist in countering ambitions of nuclear countries intent on inflicting harm with their fissionable materials.
In his prepared statement, Espie says that the U.S. strategy to prevent maritime nuclear smuggling should use a holistic approach that incorporates diplomatic engagement, utilizes intelligence community assets (human, cyber and technical), focuses on port security protocols (both federally mandated and those imposed by port operators), increases Port Security Grant funding to ensure ports are brought up to and remain in federal compliance, and appropriately invest in federal agencies like Customs and Border Patrol to ensure current and future legislative mandates are properly executed.
His testimony encourages Members of Congress to continue funding ports and that Customs and Border Patrol assign more than one percent of its new hires to seaports, which was the approximate staffing ratio of Customs and Border Patrol new hires to ports in fiscal year 2015.
In June, the United States Government Accountability Office submitted a report to the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate on U.S. actions combatting nuclear smuggling. The report confirms that international nuclear and radiological smuggling threatens the security of the United States.
The report highlights the global nature of the issues, and states that, according to officials from the Department of Homeland Security, detecting and interdicting such materials as close to the original source – and as far away from the United States – as possible, increases the probability of successfully deterring nuclear smuggling into the United States and strengthens national security.
The testimony is available here.
The report is available here.