FBI probes possible ISIS-inspired threat in US, Mainly CA
By Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
The FBI is investigating a possible ISIS-inspired terrorist threat in the United States, law enforcement officials said Saturday.
The investigation originated from intercepted chatter and other intelligence information that led officials to believe a possible plot could be in the works, the officials said.
No arrests have been made. It’s not clear whether the threat is real or aspirational.
The exact nature of the threat couldn’t be learned. One official said it focused on parts of California where officials stepped up security, a U.S. official said.
The Transportation Security Administration alerted local law enforcement agencies that are responsible for external security around airports, but officials said the possible threat is not necessarily aviation-related.
Some cities around the United States have increased their security as a precaution.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson declined Saturday to talk about specifics, but spoke about security measures in general.
“Over the last few months, we have made a number of security adjustments, including enhanced screening at select overseas airports and increasing random searches of passengers and carry-on luggage on flights inbound to the U.S., reflecting an evolving threat picture,” the spokesman said.
In February, a more visible law enforcement presence was put in place at federal facilities, he said.
“The department has conducted significant outreach efforts … with state and local law enforcement partners regarding these trends and engaging in a series of meetings and events with local community leaders across the country to counter violent extremism,” he said.
New ISIS Video Calls for Attacks on the American Homeland, Promises Another 9/11
At this juncture I would note the New York Times’front page article on December 29 that described how America’s top war fighters, namely Special Operations Command, freely admit that they don’t understand the ideology driving ISIS and other Islamic terror groups:
WASHINGTON — Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, sought help this summer in solving an urgent problem for the American military: What makes the Islamic State so dangerous?
Trying to decipher this complex enemy — a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army — is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.
“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” he said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”
General Nagata’s frustration is shared by other American officials. Even as President Obama and his top civilian and military aides express growing confidence that Iraqi troops backed by allied airstrikes have blunted the Islamic State’s momentum on the ground in Iraq and undermined its base of support in Syria, other officials acknowledge they have barely made a dent in the larger, longer-term campaign to kill the ideology that animates the terrorist movement.
Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal’s account.
The emails, which were posted on the internet in 2013, also show that Blumenthal and another close Clinton associate discussed contracting with a retired Army special operations commander to put operatives on the ground near the Libya-Tunisia border while Libya’s civil war raged in 2011.
Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations. They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.
The contents of that account are now being sought by a congressional inquiry into the Benghazi attacks. Clinton has handed over more than 30,000 pages of her emails to the State Department, after unilaterally deciding which ones involved government business; the State Department has so far handed almost 900 pages of those over to the committee. A Clinton spokesman told Gawker and ProPublica (which are collaborating on this story) that she has turned over all the emails Blumenthal sent to Clinton.
The dispatches from Blumenthal to Clinton’s private email address were posted online after Blumenthal’s account was hacked in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar, who went by the name Guccifer. Lazar also broke into accounts belonging to George W. Bush’s sister, Colin Powell, and others. He’s now serving a seven-year sentence in his home country and was charged in a U.S. indictment last year.
The contents of the memos, which have recently become the subject of speculation in the right-wing media, raise new questions about how Clinton used her private email account and whether she tapped into an undisclosed back channel for information on Libya’s crisis and other foreign policy matters.
Blumenthal, a New Yorker staff writer in the 1990s, became a top aide to President Bill Clinton and worked closely with Hillary Clinton during the fallout from the Whitewater investigation into the Clinton family. She tried to hire him when she joined President Obama’s cabinet in 2009, but White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reportedly nixed the idea on the grounds Blumenthal was a divisive figure whose attacks on Obama during the Democratic primary had poisoned his relationship with the new administration.
It’s unclear who tasked Blumenthal, known for his fierce loyalty to the Clintons, with preparing detailed intelligence briefs. It’s also not known who was paying him, or where the operation got its money. The memos were marked “confidential” and relied in many cases on “sensitive” sources in the Libyan opposition and Western intelligence and security services. Other reports focused on Egypt, Germany, and Turkey.
Indeed, though they were sent under Blumenthal’s name, the reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who left the agency in 2005. Since then, he has established a consulting firm called Tyler Drumheller, LLC.
He has also been affiliated with a firm called DMC Worldwide, which he co-founded with Washington, D.C., attorney Danny Murray and former general counsel to the U.S. Capitol Police John Caulfield. DMC Worldwide’s now-defunct website describes it at as offering “innovative security and intelligence solutions to global risks in a changing world.”
In one exchange in March 2013, Blumenthal emailed Drumheller, “Thanks. Can you send Libya report.” Drumheller replied, “Here it is, pls do not share it with Cody. I don’t want moin speculating on sources. It is on the Maghreb and Libya.”
Cody is Cody Shearer, a longtime Clinton family operative—his brother was an ambassador under Bill Clinton and his now-deceased sister is married to Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott—who was in close contact with Blumenthal. While it’s not entirely clear from the documents, “Moin” may refer to the nickname of Mohamed Mansour El Kikhia, a member of the Kikhia family, a prominent Libyan clan with ties to the Libyan National Transition Council. (An email address in Blumenthal’s address book, which was also leaked, wasassociated with his Facebook page.)
There’s no indication in Blumenthal’s emails whether Clinton read or replied to them before she left State on February 1, 2013, but he was clearly part of a select group with knowledge of the private clintonemail.com address, which was unknown to the public until
Gawker published it this year. They do suggest that she interacted with Blumenthal using the account after she stepped down. “H: got your message a few days ago,” reads the subject line of one email from Blumenthal to Clinton on February 8, 2013; “H: fyi, will continue to send relevant intel,” reads another.
The memos cover a wide array of subjects in extreme detail, from German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s conversations with her finance minister about French president Francois Hollande–marked “THIS INFORMATION COMES FROM AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SOURCE”—to the composition of the newly elected South Korean president’s transition team.
At least 10 of the memos deal in whole or in part with internal Libyan politics and the government’s fight against militants, including the status of the Libyan oil industry and the prospects for Western companies to participate.
One memo was sent on August 23, 2012, less than three weeks before Islamic militants stormed the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. It cites “an extremely sensitive source” who highlighted a string of bombings and kidnappings of foreign diplomats and aid workers in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, suggesting they were the work of people loyal to late Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi.
While the memo doesn’t rise to the level of a warning about the safety of U.S. diplomats, it portrays a deteriorating security climate. Clinton noted a few days after the Benghazi attack, which left four dead and 10 people injured, that U.S. intelligence officials didn’t have advance knowledge of the threat.
On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, Blumenthal sent a memo that cited a “sensitive source” saying that the interim Libyan president, Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf, was told by a senior security officer that the assault was inspired by an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., as well as by allegations from Magariaf’s political opponents that he had CIA ties.
Blumenthal followed up the next day with an email titled “Re: More Magariaf private reax.” It said Libyan security officials believed an Islamist radical group called the Ansa al Sharia brigade had prepared the attack a month in advance and “took advantage of the cover” provided by the demonstrations against the video.
An October 25, 2012 memo says that Magariaf and the Libyan army chief of staff agree that the “situation in the country is becoming increasingly dangerous and unmanageable” and “far worse” than Western leaders realize.
Blumenthal’s email warnings, of course, followed a year of Libyan hawkishness on the part of Clinton. In February of 2011, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that “it is time for Gaddafi to go.” The next month, after having described Russian reluctance over military intervention as “despicable,” Clinton met with rebel leaders in Paris and drummed up support for a no-fly zone while in Cairo. On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council voted to back Libyan rebels against Gaddafi.
It’s this buildup, which Clinton still proudly recalled in her 2014 memoir, that Blumenthal appears to join in on 2011. In addition to the intel memos, his emails also disclose that he and his associates worked to help the Libyan opposition, and even plotted to insert operatives on the ground using a private contractor.
A May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as “Grange” and “the general” to place send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and “to the border and back.” Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria.
“Sid, you are doing great work on this,” Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal. “It is going to be around $60,000, coverting r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7–10 days for 4 guys.”
After Blumenthal forwarded that note to Shearer, he wrote back questioning the cost of the operation. “Sid, do you think the general has to send four guys. He told us three guys yesterday, a translator and two other guys. I understand the difficulty of the mission and realize that K will be repaid but I am going to need an itemized budget for these guys.”
“The general” and “Grange” appear to refer to David L. Grange, a major general in the Army who ran a secret Pentagon special operations unit before retiring in 1999. Grange subsequently founded Osprey Global Solutions, a consulting firm and government contractor that offers logistics, intelligence, security training, armament sales, and other services. The Osprey Foundation, which is a nonprofit arm of Osprey Global Solutions, is listed as one of the State Department’s “global partners” in a 2014 report from the Office of Global Partnerships.’
Among the documents in the cache released by Lazar is an August 24, 2011, memorandum of understanding between Osprey Global Solutions and the Libyan National Transition Council—the entity that took control in the wake of Qadaffi’s execution—agreeing that Osprey will contract with the NTC to “assist in the resumption of access to its assets and operations in country” and train Libyan forces in intelligence, weaponry, and “rule-of-land warfare.” The document refers to meetings held in Amman, Jordan between representatives of Osprey and a Mohammad Kikhia, who represented the National Transition Council.
Five months later, according to a document in the leak, Grange wrote on Osprey Global letterhead to Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, introducing Osprey as a contractor eager to provide humanitarian and other assistance in Libya. “We are keen to support the people of Libya under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Finance and the Libyan Stock Exchange,” Grange wrote. Shapiro is a longtime Clinton loyalist; he served on her Senate staff as foreign policy advisor.
Another document in the cache, titled “Letter_for_Moin,” is an appeal from Drumheller to then-Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan offering the services of Tyler Drumheller LLC, “to develop a program that will provide discreet confidential information allowing the appropriate entities in Libya to address any regional and international challenges.”
The “K” who was, according to Shearer’s email, to be “repaid” for his role in the Tunisia operation appears to be someone named Khalifa al Sherif, who sent Blumenthal several emails containing up-to-the-minute information on the civil war in Libya, and appears to have been cited as a source in several of the reports.
Contacted by ProPublica and Gawker, Drumheller’s attorney and business partner Danny Murray confirmed that Drumheller “worked” with Blumenthal and was aware of the hacked emails, but declined to comment further.
Shearer said only that “the FBI is involved and told me not to talk. There is a massive investigation of the hack and all the resulting information.” The FBI declined to comment.
Blumenthal, Grange, and Kikhia all did not respond to repeated attempts to reach them. Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton had no comment on Blumenthal’s activities with Drumheller.
Whatever Blumenthal, Shearer, Drumheller, and Grange were up to in 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Clinton’s behalf, it appears that she could have used the help: According to State Department personnel directories, in 2011 and 2012—the height of the Libya crisis—State didn’t have a Libyan desk officer, and the entire Near Eastern Magreb Bureau, which which covers Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, had just two staffers. Today, State has three Libyan desk officers and 11 people in the Near Eastern Magreb Bureau. A State Department official wouldn’t say how many officers were on the desk in 2011, but said there was always “at least one” officer and “sometimes many more, working on Libya.”
Reached for comment, a State Department public affairs official who would only speak on background declined to address questions about Blumenthal’s relationship to Clinton, whether she was aware of the intelligence network, and who if anyone was paying Blumenthal. Asked about the Tunisia-Libya mission, the official replied, “There was a trip with the secretary in October of 2011, but there was also a congressional delegation in April, 2011. There were media reports about both of these at the time.” Neither trip involved travelling via Tunis.
Seoul, South Korea (CNN)A man opposed to the joint South Korea-U.S. military drills attacked the American ambassador in Seoul, slashing his face and arms as he was about to give a speech Thursday morning.
North Korea quickly called the stabbing a “knife attack of justice,” and said it reflected “anti-U.S. sentiment” in South Korea.
The U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was in stable condition after undergoing more than two hours of surgery and 80 stitches to his face. He will likely remain hospitalized for three to four days, Dr. Jung Nam-shik at Yonsei Severance Hospital said.
Police identified the suspect as Kim Ki-Jong, a 55-year-old man with a history of unpredictable behavior.
In 2010, he received a suspended two-year prison sentence for throwing a piece of concrete at a Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The motive for his attack Thursday? He wanted to an end to the South Korea-U.S. military drills to better North-South relations, police said. The drills are held annually and are met with harsh criticism from North Korea.
Pyongyang called the attack “just punishment for U.S. warmongers,” according to its official news agency, KCNA.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, on the other hand, condemned the incident.
“This incident is not only a physical attack on the U.S. ambassador, but an attack on the South Korea-U.S. alliance and it can never be tolerated.”
Lippert attended the event organized by the Korea Council For Reconciliation and Cooperation, and the suspect in the attack was a member of the council, said local police chief Yoon Myung-seon.
The organization advocates peaceful reunification between the two Koreas. Kim was one of its 181 members, all of whom were invited to the event.
There was no request from the U.S. Embassy for security at the event, Seoul police said. There were three police officers on duty at the entrance and 15 more on standby, police said during a news conference.
The attacker, who was seated at another table, ran to the ambassador’s right side yelling something that sounded like anti-U.S. sentiments.
“When the man jumped on the ambassador, I stood up and jumped on the man and they both fell on the ground,” a witness, Jang Yoon Seok told CNN affiliate YTN. “Luckily I got on top of the man’s back and could press him to the floor. Then others came to hold him on the floor.”
Jang said he later saw the knife on the table, which had a wooden handle and did not look like a sophisticated weapon. Seoul police said a knife, about 10 inches long, was used in the assault and the suspect brought it from home.
Videos showed the suspect pinned on the floor, rolled into a blanket and carried out of the building.
He was heard shouting, “The South Korea-U.S. military drills must stop.”
The joint South Korea-U.S. military drills began earlier this week.
After the attack, Lippert — clutching his right cheek and holding a bloodied arm — was photographed hurrying out of the Sejong Cultural Institute in central Seoul.
The cut to his face runs from his right cheekbone to his lower jaw and is about 4 inches long and about an inch deep, Dr. Jung said. Fortunately, there were no damages on his facial nerve.
Lippert also suffered five gashes in his left arm and hand, but is not likely have permanent damage on his arm function.
“The ambassador was very calm. People around him were taken back but he was very calm,” said Dr. John Linton. “He was speaking with his doctor on what to do. It was surprising.”
Lippert is a longtime friend and confidant of President Barack Obama, and has been a member of Obama’s inner circle since the President’s time as senator.
Obama called Lippert “to tell him that he and his wife Robyn are in his thoughts and prayers, and to wish him the very best for a speedy recovery,” according to National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
Lippert has been close to Obama ever since he arrived in the Senate in 2005. Lippert worked with Obama on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and traveled the world with the then-senator as he garnered the foreign policy experience that helped pave the way for his presidential campaign.
When Obama declared he would run for president in the 2008 race, Lippert was by his side again, and was on the road with the candidate and ultimately served as the chief foreign policy adviser for the Obama campaign.
Obama nominated Lippert to serve as ambassador to South Korea last year.
Thursday afternoon, Lippert tweeted that he was recuperating.
“Doing well & in great spirits! Robyn, Sejun, Grigsby & I – deeply moved by the support!,” he tweeted, referring to his wife, his son and his dog. “Will be back ASAP to advance US-ROK alliance.” He then added in Korean, “Let’s work together.”
“I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” –Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier (1967 – 2015), publisher, Charlie Hebdo.
On Wednesday morning, the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo was once again targeted by violent jihadists for the crime of depicting in print the image of the Prophet Mohammed.
According to initial reports, three gunmen killed 10 magazine staffers and two police officers who responded to the shooting.
The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it initially published cartoons depicting Mohammed, one of a string of attacks retaliating against predominately European publications that dared to “blaspheme.”
Those attacks, like today’s shooting, were brutal and savage attempts to silence speech that their fanatical perpetrators find offensive to their seventh-century worldview and conception of their religion.
The Washington Free Beacon extends its deepest condolences to the staff of Charlie Hebdo, their families, and all of the people of France rocked by this morning’s shooting. We pray the shooters are found and brought to justice.
We also stand in solidarity with all journalists, cartoonists, and social commentators threatened with violence or attacked by censorious fanatics. We feel a fitting tribute to Charb and his publication would be to republish the cartoons for which he gave his life.
Just minutes before gunmen broke into the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, the magazine tweeted this mockery of “Islamic State” leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:
“It’s very wise that you have made a decision to cancel the release of the interview. it will be very useful for you,” the e-mail to Sony executives read. “We ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”
Stelter said the group claimed to still be in possession of “private and sensitive data.”
“That is an intent of terrorism, right? To instill fear,” Stelter said. “And certainly fear was instilled this week.”
Black Teens Yelling “Hey White Boy!” Pummel White Lifeguard With Rocks
A Maryland neighborhood has been terrorized by violent attacks on white residents at the hands of a black man who has now been caught – but not charged with hate crimes.
Three attacks in under a week have resulted in injuries so severe that it will take plastic surgery to properly fix the wounds caused to the face of one 25-year-old male victim, according to Baltimore’s CBS affiliate WJZ.
While walking home from his lifeguard job at Otterbein Swim Club Thursday evening in the Federal Hill neighborhood, the victim was attacked by three African-American teenagers who allegedly yelled “Hey, white boy!” before they threw a large rock at his face. After the rock hit the white victim, suspect Sidney Joyner, 19, tried to stab him with a pocket knife, but the man dodged the blade.
Joyner was found later by police after the attack and was charged with armed robbery, robbery and two counts of assault. Officers also charged Joyner in another robbery and assault not related to this attack. The victim’s family is outraged Joyner was not charged with a hate crime, according to the report.
“I feel like this was attempted murder,” said the lifeguard’s father. “An injury that severe definitely wasn’t an intent to injure—it was an intent to kill.”
The victim’s father question’s police’s motive in not addressing the racial aspect of the attack. “If roles were reversed, it definitely would be no question whether it was a hate crime or not,” he said.
Joyner is a suspect in a separate attack on another swim club employee that took place the night before in the same area. He was punched in the face but was able to outrun his attackers. Another attack of the same nature occurred earlier that week in the same area when 24-year-old Sal Schittino Jr. was robbed and stabbed in the heart, liver and lungs. He was released from the hospital; no arrests have been made in his case.
When we asked why no charges were filed for attempted murder or a hate crime, police referred us to the city state’s attorney’s office, who said police are responsible for the initial charges immediately after the arrest but said the state’s attorney’s office can modify and add more charges once the full investigation is complete.
Police say they have no evidence to connect Joyner—the suspect in Wednesday and Thursday’s attacks—with the stabbing attack on another man in Federal Hill Sunday night.
TEL AVIV – In the last 24 hours, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group reopened an operational room with Hamas to coordinate regional militant developments, including attacks against Israel, informed Middle Eastern defense officials told WND.
The operational room, commissioned at the direction of Iran, is located in Lebanon and is coordinating with the Hamas command and control in the Gaza Strip, the defense officials said.
Further, the defense officials said they are aware of Hezbollah plans to bring more weapons into the Gaza Strip in the coming days.
In another alarming development, the defense officials said the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terrorist organization is not answering to Hamas and is shooting rockets into Israel at times without the approval of Hamas leaders. The move could complicate any cease-fire achieved between Israel and Hamas, and it gives Iran more discretion over the Gazan Palestinian arena.
The reopening of an operational room between Hezbollah and Hamas signifies the rapprochement of cooperation between Iran and Hamas under the current crisis in Gaza. In the last two years, Iran tempered its relationship with Hamas because the Islamist group failed to aid in any significant way the regime of Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has been facing a Sunni-led militant insurgency.
On the ground, the strengthening of Hamas-Iran ties could have two major implications for Israel.
First, Israel could face coordinated rocket attacks from both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, although that scenario is not likely. On Friday, one Katyusha rocket was fired into northern Israel, prompting fears of the opening of a second front against the Israeli homefront.
Second, Hamas may be more hardened in its truce talks with Israel.
On Thursday, WND reported Iran opposes a truce at this time and has even been attempting to use jihadist surrogates in the Gaza Strip to cause a mass casualty event in Israel that would provoke an Israeli ground operation, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The report of renewed Iran-Hamas ties comes as Hamas on Saturday stepped up its rocketing offensive at Tel Aviv. For the first time, Gazan groups fired a barrage of 10 rockets nearly simultaneously at Tel Aviv and other central Israeli cities. Hamas had announced beforehand it would launch a large rocket barrage at Tel Aviv starting at 9 p.m. local Jerusalem time on Saturday.