Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Navy To Resume Role In SOUTHCOM Anti-Drug Mission

Geoff Ziezulewicz at the Navy Times offers a piece on the Navy getting back into anti-drug operations in the Southern Command.

The Navy is set to get back into U.S. Southern Command’s growing and “vital” anti-drug mission, dedicating at least four ships to the effort in 2018, according to a Navy secretary letter obtained by Navy Times.

The Navy stopped providing surface combatants for the anti-drug effort in 2015, when the service retired its last Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, although patrol coastal ships have operated in the command’s waters since then.

Secretary Richard Spencer’s Dec. 5 memo to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson states that SOUTHCOM’s joint task force “is a very important element in the control of illegal drug transportation.”al Security Division.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: The above photo is of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Akayed Ullah Charged With Terrorism And Explosives Charges In Connection With The Detonation Of A Bomb In New York City

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, New York, and a lawful permanent resident from Bangladesh, has been charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with Ullah’s attempted detonation of a bomb in a subway terminal near the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on Dec. 11.  At least three people were injured as a result of the detonation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr., of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD made the announcement.  Ullah will be presented before the Honorable Katharine H. Parker.

"The Department of Justice is relentless in taking on the terrorist threat," said Attorney General Sessions.  "In my time back at the Department, nothing has impressed me more.  Since 9/11, the Department has convicted more than 500 criminals of terrorism-related offenses, and the FBI has open terrorism investigations in every state.  To make law enforcement’s job easier, however, Congress must finally fix our broken immigration system so that we admit to this country those who are likely to succeed, not violent criminals, gang members, terrorists, or their sympathizers. The fact that somebody won a lottery or is someone’s relative tells us nothing about their ability to assimilate.  Nevertheless, the Department of Justice will prosecute this case and every other case to the fullest extent of the law, and we will bring those who threaten America to justice."

“Yesterday, in the heart of rush hour, as thousands came into New York City through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Akayed Ullah allegedly came with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose: to murder as many innocent people as he could and blow himself up in the process, all in support of the vicious terrorist cause of ISIS,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim.  “Although yesterday he allegedly stood in the tunnels under Port Authority plotting to kill, today he stands charged with federal crimes of terrorism.  Those alleged terrorists who target New York City do so because they feel threatened by the strength of our spirit, the height of our ambition and the breadth of our freedom.  They come seeking to sow hate, fear and terror.  But in New York City, they find instead strength, resilience and hope.  Like many before him, Akayed Ullah will also find another great American virtue: justice.  That justice will be tough, it will be fair and it will be swift.”

“Akayed Ullah let loose his plan to conduct a mass casualty attack, setting off a pipe bomb, strapped to his body, inside a New York City subway terminal, as we allege today,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney.  Like many others before him, we believe Ullah was inspired by a group that exploits technology in an effort to spread a violent ideology, effectively convincing sympathizers to commit terrorist acts worldwide.  The nature of this particular strain of the terrorism threat can often mean evaluating behavior that doesn’t mean anything until you combine it with other pieces of intelligence.  We rely heavily upon the community’s assistance to accomplish that task.”

“The act of terror committed in New York City yesterday accomplished nothing,” said Commissioner O’Neill.  “It has not changed our way of life. It was a cowardly act, fueled by a false sense of purpose — motivated by propaganda in the shadows of the internet.  What is clear is the resolve of New Yorkers to live in a free society, devoid of fear.  I want to commend the work of the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the prosecutors in the Southern District for bringing today’s charges.  Finally, our security requires every single member of the public’s help.  It requires their vigilance.  And it requires their care.  If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact law enforcement.”

As alleged in the Complaint:

Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS)

ISIS is a foreign terrorist organization based in the Middle East and Africa whose publicly stated purpose is the establishment of an Islamic state or caliphate based in the Middle East and Africa that encompasses all Muslims worldwide.  ISIS has pursued the objective of an Islamic state through, among other things, killing and deliberate targeting of civilians, mass executions, persecution of individuals and communities on the basis of their religion, nationality, or ethnicity, kidnapping of civilians, forced displacement of Shia communities and minority groups, killing and maiming of children, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.  ISIS has recruited thousands of foreign fighters from across the globe to assist with its efforts to expand its so-called caliphate in Iraq, Syria, and other locations in Africa and the Middle East, and has leveraged technology to spread its violent extremist ideology and for incitement to commit terrorist acts.  

The Dec. 11, Attack

On Dec. 11, at approximately 7:20 a.m., an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated inside a subway terminal (the Subway Terminal) in or around the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal located at West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York, New York (the December 11 Attack).  Shortly after the blast, members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department located an individual later identified as Akayed Ullah lying on the ground in the vicinity of the explosion. Surveillance footage captured Ullah walking through the Subway Terminal immediately prior to the explosion, and then falling to the ground after the explosion.

Ullah was subsequently taken into custody by law enforcement.  During the course of Ullah’s arrest, law enforcement officers located on his person and in the surrounding area what appeared to be the components of an exploded pipe bomb (the Pipe Bomb).  Specifically, law enforcement located, among other items, (i) a nine-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket; (ii) wires connected to the battery and running underneath Ullah’s jacket;  (iii) two plastic zip ties underneath Ullah’s jacket; (iv) several fragments of a metal pipe, including pieces of a metal end cap, on the ground; (v) the remnants of what appeared to be a Christmas tree lightbulb attached to wires; and (vi) pieces of what appear to be plastic zip-ties, among other items. 

After Ullah was taken into custody, he was transferred to Bellevue Hospital, where he made statements to law enforcement officers after waiving his Miranda rights.  During that interview, Ullah stated, among other things, the following:

Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb and carried out the Dec. 11 Attack. Ullah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the Dec. 11 Attack, and stated, among other things, “I did it for the Islamic State.”
Ullah constructed the Pipe Bomb at his residence in Brooklyn (the Residence);

The Pipe Bomb was comprised of a metal pipe, which Ullah filled with explosive material that he created.  Ullah used Christmas tree lights, wires, and a nine-volt battery as a trigger to detonate the Pipe Bomb.  Ullah filled the Pipe Bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage.  Ullah used zip ties to secure the Pipe Bomb to his body.

Ullah carried out the Dec. 11 Attack in part because of the United States Government’s policies in, among other places, the Middle East.  One of Ullah’s goals in carrying out the Dec. 11 Attack was to terrorize as many people as possible.  He chose to carry out the attack on a work day because he believed that there would be more people.

Ullah’s radicalization began in at least approximately 2014.  Ullah viewed pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands.  He began researching how to build IEDs on the Internet approximately one year ago.

On the morning of Dec. 11, shortly before carrying out the attack, Ullah posted a statement on his Facebook account referring to the President of the U.S., stating, in substance, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”  Ullah also posted a statement that he believed would be understood by members and supporters of ISIS to convey that Ullah carried out the attack in the name of ISIS.

Items Recovered from Ullah’s Residence

On Dec. 11, law enforcement agents conducted a search of the Residence pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant.  Law enforcement agents recovered, among other items, (i) multiple pieces of metal pipes; (ii) pieces of wire and fragments of what appear to be Christmas tree lights; (iii) multiple screws consistent with the screws recovered at the scene of the December 11 Attack; and (iv) a passport in Ullah’s name with multiple handwritten notations, including:  “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”

Three individuals were injured as a result of the Dec. 11 Attack.

 *                     *                      *

Ullah is charged in a Complaint with one count of provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment; one count of using and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; one count of bombing and attempting to bomb a place of public use which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; one count of destruction of property by means of fire or explosives, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a potential maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment; and use of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence, namely, the use and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction which carries a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment and potential maximum of life, all in connection with Ullah’s alleged detonation of an explosive device in New York City.

Mr. Sessions, Mr. Boente and Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI; the NYPD; the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Police Department.  Ullah’s arrest is the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force – which consists of law enforcement officers of the FBI, NYPD, HSI and other agencies – and the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn G. Crowley, Rebekah Donaleski and George D. Turner of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. 

Port Authority Bomber Brought Down By Officers With Military Training

Greg Norman at offers a piece on the military backgrounds of three of the four police officers who responded to the scene and took down the Port Authority bomber. 

Three of the four hero police officers credited with taking down the Port Authority terrorist are former members of the military who ran toward the scene of the pipe bomb blast as panicked commuters fled in the other direction, their union spokesperson says.

Sean Gallagher, a former Marine, Drew Preston, who served three tours with the Army in Iraq, Anthony Manferdini, a former Marine bomb technician and Jack Collins were identified by the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association on Monday as the men who restrained attempted suicide bomber Akayed Ullah.

“You couldn’t have had better people on the scene,” spokesperson Bobby Egbert told 1010 WINS.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks On The Administration's Efforts To Combat Ms-13 And Carry Out Its Immigration Priorities

The Justice Department released Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s remarks on combating the violent, transnational drug gang MS-13 and the department's efforts to carry out the administration's immigration priorities:  

Thank you, Steve for that kind introduction and for nearly a quarter century of service to the Department of Justice.  You’ve had some big shoes to fill, following Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but you’re doing the difficult work to keep your hometown safe.

Thank you also to Secretary Nielsen.  I also want to congratulate you on your confirmation by the Senate last week in a strong, bipartisan vote.

I think that’s a sign of the confidence that you have inspired in your leadership at the Department and at the White House.

I appreciated our briefing earlier today, and I’m looking forward to working with you to protect the American people and implement the President’s ambitious agenda.

I want to recognize our FBI, DEA, and ATF Special Agents in Charge who are here.

You all do terrific work to protect the American people and I’m proud to stand with you.

But we know too well, violent crime is up in many places across the country.  Last week, the Department released its annual National Crime Victimization Survey.  It shows that the rate of Americans victimized by violent crime is up more than 13 percent.

Over the last two years, this city in particular has experienced violence like we haven’t seen in nearly a quarter of a century.  The violent crime rate is up nearly one-third.  Rape is up by 22 percent.  Murder is up by half.  Baltimore has a higher murder rate and a higher violent crime rate than Chicago with less than a quarter of the population, if you can believe it.

The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump ordered me to reduce crime in America and to take on transnational criminal organizations, cartels, and gangs.

We embrace that agenda, and we are carrying it out aggressively.

This year alone, the Department has secured convictions against more than 1,000 gang members and targeted MS-13.

With more than 10,000 members across 40 U.S. states, MS-13 is one of the most dangerous gangs in America.  And make no mistake: this is a transnational organization based in El Salvador, and it is the most violent in our country.

The people of this community have seen it firsthand.

In January, a 15-year old girl from near here in Gaithersburg was stabbed 13 times with knives and a wooden stake by MS-13 members.  Her killers filmed the murder so they could show their leaders back in El Salvador.

First, our goal with the Department of Homeland Security is to end the illegality rampant in our immigration system.

As Attorney General, I have ordered our prosecutors to renew their focus on immigration offenses—specifically where those criminals have a gang nexus, cartel, or violent crime offense.

We have sent additional prosecutorial resources to the Southwest Border and created Border Security Coordinators in each of our U.S. Attorney’s Offices—to enforce immigration laws with a special emphasis on criminals, like MS-13, that have a nexus to the Southern Border.

I have designated MS-13 as a priority for our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.  These task forces bring together a broad coalition of federal law enforcement—from DEA, FBI, and ATF to ICE, the Coast Guard, Secret Service, and the IRS.  I want to thank Secretary Nielsen and Department of Homeland Security personnel for making an incredible contribution to these task forces.

These are important steps, and we’ve already delivered results for the American people.  Together with our partners in Central America, we have filed criminal charges against more than 4,000 MS-13 members and seized many of their firearms, vehicles, and other assets.

But we must also recognize that transnational gangs like MS-13 have taken advantage of our porous Southern Border and previously lax immigration law enforcement.

If we accept lawlessness, then we encourage lawlessness.

When people break our laws without consequences, we shouldn’t be surprised when they continue breaking our laws.

In recent years, our immigration system has been overwhelmed.  The caseload has tripled since fiscal 2009 and doubled since fiscal 2012.

As the backlog of immigration cases grew out of control, the previous administration simply closed nearly 200,000 pending immigration court cases without a final decision in just five years—more than were closed in the previous 22 years combined.

But under President Trump, we have already taken steps to bring down the backlog in cases.

We are completing, not closing, immigration cases.  Under President Trump, our immigration judges completed 20,000 more cases this last fiscal year than in the previous one.

We have hired 50 immigration judges since January, and we plan to hire another 60 over the next six months.

Last week, I issued a memo to our Executive Office for Immigration Review. Which makes clear that cases are to be resolved either with a removal order or a grant of relief.  Appeals that are frivolous ought to be resolved quickly, and fraud ought to be documented and prosecuted.

And finally, we will implement objective performance measures to ensure that our judges are working efficiently and fairly.

The American people—as well as those who would come here and disrespect our laws—can be certain about this: we are enforcing our laws again.

Since President Trump took office, border crossings are now at their lowest level in 45 years. That is a big achievement.  But that number can be zero.  We can do it.

But it is also up to Congress to improve our laws. We cannot wait any longer. As yesterday’s events showed us in the starkest terms: the failures of our immigration system are a national security issue.

Since 9/11, we have prosecuted more than 500 people for terrorism-related offenses, and preliminary figures suggest that nearly 75 percent of those defendants were foreign born.

The President is exactly right to call attention to these issues and to how they affect our security. In just the last two months, we’ve seen two terrorist attacks in New York City carried out by men who were here as a result of failed immigration policies—the diversity lottery and chain migration.

Between 2005 and 2016, we admitted 9.3 million people under this chain migration policy. And each of those people may be able to sponsor their relatives as well. It’s not sustainable.

The President has also proposed ending chain migration and switching to a merit-based system like they have in Canada and Australia.  That means welcoming the best and the brightest and turning away not only terrorists, but gang members and criminals.

We should give priority to those who are likely to thrive here—such as those who speak English or are highly skilled—not someone chosen at random or who happens to be somebody’s relative.

In short, it means looking at factors that indicate the applicant’s likelihood of assimilation and success in the United States.

Let me be clear: ending illegal immigration is not hopeless.  Having a legal immigration that serves the national interest is not hopeless. We can do it.  The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security are partners in this effort.

If we follow the policies laid out by President Trump, I believe that we will finally have the immigration system the American people have asked for—and the system we deserve.

Thank you.

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Justice Department’s campaign against MS-13 via the below link:

Monday, December 11, 2017

How John Gotti Whacked The American Mafia

Sean Cunningham interviewed veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia (seen in the bottom photo) on the decline of Cosa Nostra in America at

Even in death, John Gotti (seen in the above FBI mugshot) suffers indignities. A Gotti biopic starring John Travolta and directed by Kevin Connolly (“E” from HBO’s Entourage) was scheduled to hit theaters on Dec. 15… only suddenly to be not only yanked from release but reportedly dumped by Lionsgate completely.

Travolta has since pushed back, insisting that it was actually a buyback that will allow for a wider release in 2018. Indeed, they now want the film to compete at Cannes. (It still needs to be submitted, much less accepted.)

This all feels oddly consistent with the Gotti story. By the time he died of throat cancer in 2002 at age 61, his nicknames seemed to mock rather than flatter him. The “Dapper Don” who bragged about wearing $1,800 suits gave up control of his wardrobe in 1992. That was the year he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as the “Teflon Don” turned stickum. His conviction was particularly bitter since fellow defendant Sammy “The Bull” Gravano flipped on him. Thus Gotti, whose public flamboyance just dared the government to take him down… was taken down. And he remained down until his death.

Which was par for the course during an era when the mob was bold, aggressive, loud, treacherous, and often staggeringly inept, as if watching a season of The Sopranos in which every single character was Paulie Walnuts.

“It’s a dark comedy,” said George Anastasia. Anastasia spent decades documenting the mob in Philadelphia for the Inquirer, but also explored the “big stage” of New York with Gotti’s Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia. (Alite was a friend, enforcer and self-professed “babysitter” for Gotti Jr.)

… Anastasia noted that a Gotti associate turned informant summed it up pretty well: “Mikey Scars—Michael DiLeonardo—once said to me, ‘Cosa Nostra was this thing of ours. Johnny made it this thing of mine.’ That was the difference. He talked about Cosa Nostra but it was very egocentric.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a trailer from the film Gotti via the below link:

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of George Anastasia's Gotti Rules below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Attorney General Sessions Issues Statement On The Attempted Terrorist Attack In New York City

The U.S. Justice Department released Attorney General Jeff Sessions’statement on the attempted terrorist attack in New York City:

“The President is exactly correct about the changes we need to our immigration system. We have now seen two terrorist attacks in New York City in less than two months that were carried out by people who came here as the result of our failed immigration policies that do not serve the national interest—the diversity lottery and chain migration. The 20-year-old son of the sister of a U.S. citizen should not get priority to come to this country ahead of someone who is high-skilled, well educated, has learned English, and is likely to assimilate and flourish here.

“It is a failure of logic and sound policy not to adopt a merit-based immigration system. The President has asked Congress to work with him on ending the diversity lottery and chain migration. He has proposed switching to a merit-based system of immigration similar to the Canadian and Australian systems.  That means welcoming the best and the brightest and turning away not only terrorists but gang members, fraudsters, drunk drivers, and child abusers.  Such a merit-based system would make us safer and welcome individuals who would be best able to assimilate and flourish in our country.”

U.S. Navy: Forged By The Sea

The U.S. Navy released a photo of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson with the team behind the Navy's new tagline, "Forged by the Sea", at a mobile Navy recruiting display at the 2017 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

The photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird.

Note: You can click on the above and below photos to enlarge.