Tag Archives: Jihad

#US: 66th Known Islamist Plot Reconfirms Scope of Threat

This homegrown, lone-wolf terrorist plot is the 66th known Islamist terrorist plot or attack aimed at the U.S. homeland since 9/11. It is also the third terrorist plot that has been foiled in the past 17 days, and the fourth in the past four months in which the plotter expressed support for ISIS. This surge in terrorism demonstrates yet again that the threat of terrorism continues to be very real, and that stopping terrorists before they attack is more critical than ever.

The Plot

John Booker was accepted into the Army in February 2014, but before he entered basic training the FBI became aware of multiple messages on Facebook in which he claimed to be excited to wage jihad. When interviewed, Booker “admitted that he enlisted in the United States Army with the intent to commit an insider attack against American soldiers like Major Nidal Hassan had done at Fort Hood, Texas.”[2] As a result, Booker was not allowed to join the military.

Starting in October of 2014, Booker began to communicate with an FBI confidential informant, and “repeatedly expressed to [the informant] his desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf of ISIL.”[3] Booker told the informant of his desire to go to the Middle East to join ISIS and kill Americans. As their conversations continued into November, Booker showed the informant videos of suicide bombers and spoke fondly of them. When the informant indicated that he had a cousin who could get Booker overseas, Booker excitedly accepted the offer and expressed a willingness to wage jihad in the U.S. to prove his dedication.[4]

In December 2014, Booker told the informant that he was thinking about attacking American soldiers at a nearby military base with a gun or a grenade, believing it justified by the Koran. Then in February, Booker referenced an ISIS propaganda video and expressed a desire to create a similar video. Booker thought that capturing and killing an American soldier in the U.S. would “scare this country” and warn it that “we will be coming after American soldiers in the streets…we will be picking them off one by one.”[5]

In March, the confidential informant introduced Booker to his “cousin,” another informant; the two told Booker that the cousin was a sheik planning terrorist attacks. Booker said that he had studied suicide bombing and wanted to build and detonate a truck bomb, following in the footsteps of an American called Jihad Joe, who died as a suicide bomber in Syria.[6] Booker then filmed a video threatening the U.S. and rented a storage unit for gathering bomb components.[7] By the end of March, Booker began purchasing bomb materials and gathering information on military targets, settling on Fort Riley. Booker provided the bomb components to the confidential informants, believing that they would provide the explosive material, which was actually inert. He then proclaimed that “I am going to do this Friday,” meaning April 10, and prepared a second threatening video. On April 10, the two informants drove to Fort Riley and, as Booker was arming the inert bomb, FBI agents arrested him.

Getting Serious About Terrorism

This plot is the 55th homegrown plot or attack, meaning that the terrorist was radicalized here in the U.S. It is also the 18th attack or plot aimed at U.S. military targets, the most common target of Islamist terrorists. Despite suggestions to the contrary in the media and in politics, the threat of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other Islamist terrorists striking the U.S. has not diminished.

On June 1, a subsection of the Patriot Act—section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Action, the telephone metadata collection program—is set to expire if not reauthorized. There is no way of knowing whether section 215 was used in this case. Congress is now set to debate section 215 before it expires. A healthy discussion of U.S. security and privacy is an important one that the U.S. should have. In this debate, it is important that Congress understand that intelligence programs are critical to preventing terrorists before they strike. Security alone is not enough since the U.S. cannot make every school, military base, mall, government building, or subway secure and hardened against every type of terrorist attack. Lawful intelligence, collected under proper warrants and court orders, is the best tool that the U.S. has in this battle against terrorists, who have increased the number of plots in recent months. The U.S. government has a responsibility to protect Americans from danger and respect their liberties—and it must do both well.

Stopping Terrorists Before They Strike

As the U.S. faces an apparently growing wave of terrorism, Congress should:

  • Maintain essential counterterrorism tools. Support for important investigative tools is essential to maintaining the security of the U.S. and combating terrorist threats. Legitimate government surveillance programs are also a vital component of U.S. national security and should be allowed to continue. The need for effective counterterrorism operations, however, does not relieve the government of its obligation to follow the law and respect individual privacy and liberty. In the American system, the government must do both equally well.
  • Emphasize community outreach. Federal grant funds should be used to create robust community outreach capabilities in higher-risk urban areas. These funds must not be used for political pork or so broadly that they no longer target those communities at greatest risk. Such capabilities are key to building trust within these communities, and if the United States is to be successful in thwarting lone-wolf terrorist attacks, it must place effective community outreach operations at the tip of the spear.
  • Prioritize local cyber capabilities. Building cyber-investigation capabilities in the higher-risk urban areas must become a primary focus of Department of Homeland Security grants. With so much terrorism-related activity occurring on the Internet, local law enforcement must have the constitutional ability to monitor and track violent extremist activity on the Web when reasonable suspicion exists to do so.

Keeping the Homeland Safe

Vigilance is necessary to combat terrorism. With three terror plots disrupted in 17 days, the idea of vigilance should take on new meaning for Americans. The U.S. must have the strategies and tools it needs to stop terrorists before they attack again.

—David Inserra is a Research Associate for Homeland Security and Cyber Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation. Charles D. Stimson is Manager of the National Security Law Program and Senior Legal Fellow in the Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs (2006–2007) and was a local, state, federal, and military prosecutor, defense attorney, and military judge in the United States Navy JAG Corps.

Next 9/11 will be caused by hackers, not suicide bombers

An Israeli cyber expert warned Wednesday that “the next 9/11″ will be carried out by computer hackers infiltrating air traffic controls, rather than suicide bombers.

Col. (res.) Dr. Gabi Siboni said the US and Israel must increase cyber-defense cooperation in preparation of future terror attacks, and said distrust is preventing greater collaboration between the two allies.

“Computer hackers have begun targeting electric and nuclear power plants and other critical operations around the world in audacious and continuous efforts to take control of them,” Siboni, the director of the Cyber Security Program at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies said. Siboni spoke ahead of a bilateral cybersecurity conference, set to take place in Washington, DC later this month.

According to Siboni, in the worst case scenario, terror groups could disrupt and possibly infiltrate critical air control infrastructure, causing deadly accidents and bringing flight systems to a standstill.

Although only developed states currently possess the capabilities needed to carry out such large-scale attacks, Siboni warned this may soon change.

“The next 9/11 will happen without suicide bombers aboard the plane with box-cutters but will occur because of a cyber incident perpetrated by a terror organization,” he said.

“Cyber aggression is widely utilized and has become a basic weapon used in international conflicts. Countries are responsible for attacks on most national infrastructure, and governments across the Western world have understood that they must allocate resources not only to purchase new tanks and aerial defense systems but also in defensive cyber infrastructure,” he added.

Despite the magnitude of these threats, Siboni said the strategic partnership between Israel and the US in the cybersecurity field has yet to be fully utilized.

“Establishing a bilateral apparatus that combines the technological capabilities of civil and military intelligence is currently one of the most pressing issues of the day,” he said.

He pointed to security projects such as Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow as examples of successful security cooperation between the two nations, while stressing that very little cooperation exists on cyber issues.

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“Cooperation in the field of cybersecurity has yet to overcome obstacles of suspicion mainly that countries will use newly acquired technology against them,” Siboni said.

Israel has become a center of cybersecurity research and development, with multinationals from the US, Europe and Asia setting up R&D labs to develop better and more effective cyber-defense strategies and technologies.

Israeli cybersecurity firms are said to export $3 billion in knowledge, services and solutions each year, developing many of the technologies the world will need in the coming years to protect banks, infrastructure and government servers.

But while private companies worldwide have been eager to acquire Israeli technologies, the US government has been far more hesitant, according to Siboni.

“Israeli technology and businesses are struggling to gain foothold in the American federal defense market and are left to operate mainly in the private sector,” he noted.

These issues will be addressed in the upcoming Defensive Cyberspace Operations & Intelligence (DCOI) Conference, an Israeli-American partnership that will explore ways to join forces against the cyber threat High-ranking officials from Israel and the US will attend the gathering in Washington, DC on April 27-28, where Israeli firms will attempt to grab American attention to their cutting-edge technologies.