War on Terrorism

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

NATO, Partner Defense Chiefs Discuss Afghanistan, Iraq, Command Structures

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

BRUSSELS, Jan. 16, 2018 — NATO chiefs of defense are meeting here today to examine the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and on the alliance border with Russia.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is participating in the NATO Military Committee meeting at the alliance headquarters here today.

Chairman of the Military Committee Czech Gen. Petr Pavel opened the meeting this morning, saying the chiefs of defense will also make recommendations to alliance defense ministers on NATO’s command structure, which will keep the organization flexible and more responsive.

‘Robust, Agile Command Structure’

“A key component to NATO’s adaptation is a robust and agile command structure,” Pavel said. “We will focus on NATO Command Structure adaptation. We will receive briefings from [the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation] on the recommended options for implementation and provide guidance ahead of the February defense ministerial.”

Changes to NATO’s command structure mean day-to-day organizations and common funding from the alliance, Pavel said. Then, there are NATO force structure changes, which are capabilities that nations provide in time of war or for exercises to prepare for war.

“I think any of these capabilities are going to be a balance between force structure and command structure,” Dunford said in an interview with reporters traveling with him.

The chiefs of defense will debate the plans put forward by U.S. European Command’s commander and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force Gen. Denis Mercier. The chiefs will refine the plan to get to the right mix of force structure and command structure.

Dunford believes some portion of this capability has to be permanent to allow a “warm start” to build on the force in time of war.

“We’ll try to make sure that, as military leaders, we recommend the most effective way to do it,” he said. “And then our political leadership will have a chance to make a decision.”

Protecting the Euro-Atlantic Link

Discussions will also seek to strengthen the Euro-Atlantic link. “This is about making sure that we have credibility in meeting our alliance commitments,” Dunford said. “And the Euro-Atlantic link must be protected in order for [NATO] to meet our alliance commitments.”

The NATO leaders will invite partner nations in to speak about progress in Afghanistan, Pavel said. They will receive a briefing from Scaparrotti and Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of the alliance’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

“The effectiveness of the Afghan national defense and security forces is essential to the stability of Afghanistan, and to the assurance of the Afghan society,” Pavel said. “And the positive message about their progress and confidence to fight and win needs to be more widely heard.”

The partners will remain as the chiefs discuss NATO’s projecting stability efforts. These are aimed at countries in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Central Asia, Pavel said.

Enhancing Stability

“We will deliberate how allies’ and partners’ efforts can enhance stability in the area, and in turn support national plans for individual partners,” Pavel said. “Military cooperation is important, but only when combined with a range of other elements, such as the political, economic, judicial and social, can a sustained and lasting effect be achieved.”

NATO is a member of the coalition to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the organization’s chiefs of defense will discuss current efforts, now that the campaign in Iraq and Syria has reached an inflection point, Pavel said

“The [defeat-ISIS] campaign is not over -- it now moves to a different phase which is less about combat operations and more about security and stabilization,” the general said. “We will therefore discuss the transformation of the global coalition and, in particular, NATO’s role in Iraq.”

The chiefs will also dedicate time to the situation in Georgia and Ukraine and the progress in training Ukrainian defense forces and assistance to the Georgian military.

“Our final meeting will focus on NATO’s modernization,” Pavel said. “Since the Wales summit, and reinforced with the decisions taken at Warsaw summit, the alliance has adapted -- politically, militarily, and institutionally. As we move forward, it is paramount importance that we provide an overall coherence to all our military activities. This is to ensure that all the resources at our disposal are used to the utmost effect.”

DOJ, DHS Report: Three Out of Four Individuals Convicted of International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Offenses were Foreign-Born

Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data for the First Time on Terrorism-Related Activity

Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report, revealing that three out of every four, or 402, individuals convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016 were foreign-born. Over the same period, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed approximately 1,716 aliens with national security concerns. Further, in 2017 alone DHS had 2,554 encounters with individuals on the terrorist watch list (also known as the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database) traveling to the United States.

This report was required by Section 11 of President Trump’s Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which declared that “it is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals,” directed a series of actions to enhance the security and safety of the American people. The actions directed by Executive Order have raised the baseline for the vetting and screening of foreign nationals, prevented the entry of malicious actors, and enhanced the safety and security of the American people.

“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality—our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “And the information in this report is only the tip of the iceberg: we currently have terrorism-related investigations against thousands of people in the United States, including hundreds of people who came here as refugees.  Our law enforcement professionals do amazing work, but it is simply not reasonable to keep asking them to risk their lives to enforce the law while we admit thousands every year without sufficient knowledge about their backgrounds.  The pillars of President Trump’s immigration policy—securing our porous borders, moving to a merit-based immigration system that ends the use of diversity visas and chain migration, and enforcing our nation’s laws—will make their jobs easier and make the United States a safer place.”

“My top priority as Secretary of Homeland Security is to ensure the safety and security of the American people,” said Secretary Nielsen. “This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists, and why we must examine our visa laws and continue to intensify screening and vetting of individuals traveling to the United States to prevent terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our country. Without legislative change, DHS will continue to see thousands of terrorists a year attempt to enter the United States, and while we must be right every time, the terrorists only need to be lucky once.  Therefore, DHS has personnel deployed around the world and along our borders working with our global and domestic law enforcement partners to stop terrorists before they enter the homeland.”  

The report reveals that at least 549 individuals were convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016.  An analysis conducted by DHS determined that approximately 73 percent (402 of these 549 individuals) were foreign-born.  Breaking down the 549 individuals by citizenship status at the time of their respective convictions reveals that: 

    254 were not U.S. citizens;
    148 were foreign-born, naturalized and received U.S. citizenship; and,
    147 were U.S. citizens by birth.

According to information available to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), since September 11, 2001, there were approximately 1,716 removals of aliens with national security concerns.

As mentioned above, in FY 2017, DHS encountered 2,554 individuals on the terrorist watchlist (also known as the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database) traveling to the United States. Of those individuals, 335 were attempting to enter by land, 2,170 were attempting to enter by air, and 49 were attempting to enter by sea. Where consistent with the law, such individuals are denied entry into the United States, while in some cases law enforcement authorities are notified and can take appropriate action.

From October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2017, a total of 355,345 non-U.S. citizen offenders, were administratively arrested after previously being convicted of an aggravated felony, as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), or two or more crimes each punishable by more than one year (felony offenses).  During that same period, a total of 372,098 non-U.S. citizen offenders were removed from the United States after conviction of an aggravated felony or two or more felonies.

Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate shows that between 2007 and 2017, USCIS referred 45,858 foreign nationals who applied for immigration benefits to ICE for criminal or civil enforcement action, based on information indicating that such foreign nationals had committed egregious public safety-related offenses within the United States.

Between FY 2010 and FY 2016, CBP identified and prevented the boarding of 73,261 foreign travelers on flights destined for the United States, who may have presented an immigration or security risk.

In October, the Trump Administration sent to Congress a list of legislative priorities that would enhance our national security—such as eliminating the diversity visa lottery and extended family chain migration, funding the wall, closing loopholes in our asylum system, combatting visa overstays, and closing other loopholes in existing law that potentially benefit aliens who pose threats to our national security.

Background on the Executive Order

Section 11 of Executive Order requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to collect and make publicly available the following information:

  1. Information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation with or provision of material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national-security-related reasons;
  2. Information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and who have engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States;
  3. Information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called “honor killings,” in the United States by foreign nationals; and,
  4. Any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Brother of San Diego Man Killed Fighting for ISIS Sentenced to 10 Years for Terrorism Related Charges and Illegal Firearms Possession

In Related Case, Canadian National Faces Extradition to the U.S. for Conspiring to Provide Foreign Fighters and Money in Support of Violent Terrorist Acts in Syria

Marchello Dsaun McCain, a convicted violent felon and the brother of Douglas McCain, the first known American who died fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), was sentenced in federal court today to 10 years in prison for his illegal possession of a cache of firearms and body armor and making false statements to federal agents involving international terrorism.

In a related case, the United States unsealed a two-count indictment charging Canadian national and former San Diego resident Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi with providing, and conspiring with Douglas and other individuals in the United States and Canada to provide, material support to terrorists engaged in violent activities in Syria, that is, a conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country.

On March 9, 2014, Douglas McCain departed the U.S. and traveled to Syria where he joined and fought for ISIS.  Approximately five months later, on or about Aug. 25, 2014, Douglas McCain was killed in Syria fighting a battle against the Free Syrian Army. Following Douglas McCain’s death, Federal Bureau of Investigation Joint Terrorism Task Force (FBI-JTTF) agents interviewed Marchello McCain on several occasions from Aug. 26, 2014 through Jan. 23, 2015, when agents arrested him on federal firearms charges.

In January 2016, Marchello McCain, who was previously convicted of two felony crimes of violence in Minnesota involving assault with a firearm, pleaded guilty to five counts of possession of firearms and ammunition by a felon and one count of possession of body armor by a violent felon.  Eight months later, in September 2016, he pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI-JTTF agents concerning his assistance to and knowledge of individuals providing material support (personnel and money) to individuals engaged in violent terrorist activities abroad and ISIS, including Douglas McCain and Abdullahi.

As part of his guilty pleas, McCain admitted that he made material false statements to the agents about his knowledge of the purpose of his brothers’ travel abroad and the methods of payment and source of monies to fund such travel. McCain acknowledged that he possessed over nine firearms, which included a stolen firearm and several semi-automatic 9 mm pistols, an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and an M1 Carbine .30 caliber semi-automatic rifle with a large capacity magazine. Marchello McCain also admitted that on Feb. 13, 2014, approximately three weeks prior to Douglas McCain’s departure to fight in Syria, Marchello McCain went to a San Diego gun range with his brother and shot firearms, including an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.

In imposing sentence, the court found that defendant’s obstructive conduct frustrated, delayed and thwarted the United States’ efforts to uncover the scope and membership of conspiracies to provide material support to terrorists and a foreign terrorist organization, ISIS.

“ISIS has brought the war on terror closer to home by directing and inspiring attacks in the U.S. and other countries, thereby putting Americans lives in danger,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “By lying to federal agents, Marchello McCain delayed, frustrated and thwarted an investigation into a group that supplied U.S. and Canadian fighters to ISIS. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to protect American lives here and abroad.”

“Counterterrorism investigations are the highest priority investigations conducted by FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces,” commented FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “When someone misleads or obstructs counterterrorism investigations, this can adversely affect investigative activity in these important cases. Today's sentence will hold Mr. McCain accountable for his actions and dissuade others from lying to law enforcement agents concerning international terrorism matters.”

The defendant’s lies, including his false statements regarding the source and means of the financing of Douglas’ travel were not only intended to prevent the United States from finding out about the involvement of Abdullahi and others, but were also intended to prevent the discovery of his own involvement.

As detailed in the United States’ pleadings, the defendant’s involvement included: agreeing to travel to Syria and join his brother in violent jihadist activities; assisting Douglas and others in traveling to Syria to engage in violent jihadist activities by taking Douglas to a gun range to target shoot semi-automatic weapons; depositing cash into his wife’s bank account and letting Douglas use his wife’s credit card to purchase plane tickets to Turkey, a known entry point for foreign fighters seeking to enter Syria, and to make hotel reservations; regularly communicating with Douglas and other individuals regarding the financial and logistical needs of foreign fighters in Syria; wiring $800 to an ISIS operative in Turkey to support Douglas and/or others engaged in violent jihadist activities; and engaging in obstructive conduct to conceal the material support conspiracies.

Notwithstanding the obstructive conduct of McCain, the United States continued its investigation of the terrorist activities of Douglas McCain, Abdullahi and others. On March 10, 2017, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of California returned a two-count sealed indictment charging Abdullahi with conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to terrorists.

On Sept. 15, 2017, pursuant to an extradition request by the United States, Canadian authorities arrested Abdullahi. Abdullahi is currently detained in Canadian custody without bail, pending an extradition hearing scheduled for May 31, 2018.  On January 3, 2018, the Abdullahi indictment was unsealed.  Abdullahi is also facing charges in Canada for a Jan. 9, 2014 armed robbery of an Edmonton jewelry store.

The Abdullahi indictment alleges that from in or about August 2013 through in or about November 2014, Abdullahi conspired with Douglas and other individuals to provide personnel and money to individuals engaged in terrorist activities in Syria, including the killing, kidnapping and maiming of persons. The charged conspiracy alleges the participation and/or assistance of Abdullahi and approximately 14 other individuals and spans four countries, the United States, Canada, Turkey and Syria.

In preparation for their travels, Douglas and other members of the conspiracy practiced with firearms in San Diego and Canada. According to the indictment, Abdullahi, Douglas and others agreed to travel to Syria to support and join terrorist fighters engaged in terrorist activity, including the killing, kidnapping and maiming of persons.

In order to raise funds to support their efforts to support and join terrorist fighters in Syria, members of the conspiracy encouraged others to commit crimes against the “kuffar” (an Arabic term meaning infidels or non-believers), such as theft. In furtherance of this material support conspiracy, the indictment alleges that on Jan. 9, 2014, prior to the travel of Douglas and another co-conspirator, Abdullahi committed an armed robbery of a jewelry store in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in order to finance the travel of Douglas and other members of the conspiracy to Syria.  Thereafter, Abdullahi wired and caused others to wire money to other members of the conspiracy in the United States -- including approximately $3,100 to Douglas – in order to finance the travel of foreign fighters from North America to support and join terrorist fighters engaged in terrorist activities in Syria.

Additionally, members of the conspiracy, including Abdullahi, wired and caused money to be wired to third-party intermediaries in Gaziantep, Turkey (located approximately 40 miles from the Syrian border) for the purpose of supporting members of the conspiracy fighting and engaging in terrorist activity in Syria, including the killing, kidnapping, an maiming of persons.

The government alleges that because of the efforts of Abdullahi and other co-conspirators, beginning in November 2013 through November 2014, five co-conspirators, including Douglas McCain, traveled from North America to Syria, via Turkey, and acted as foreign fighters in Syria engaging in terrorist activity in Syria, including the murder of persons.  Douglas McCain was killed in battle fighting for ISIS in August 2014.  The remaining four co-conspirators were all killed in Syria in mid-November 2014.

DEFENDANT                                               Criminal Case No. 15CR0174-W
Marchello Dsaun McCain                              Age 35            San Diego, California      

False Statements Involving International Terrorism – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 1001(a)(2)
Maximum penalty: 8 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine (per count)
Felon in Possession of Firearms and Ammunition – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 922(g)(1)
Maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine.
Felon in Possession of Body Armor by a Violent Felon – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 931
 Maximum penalty: 3 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine.

DEFENDANT                                               Criminal Case No. 17CR0622-W
Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi                          Age 33            Edmonton, Alberta, Canada        

Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to Terrorists – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 2339A(a)
Maximum penalty: 8 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine (per count)
Providing Material Support to Terrorists – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 2339A(a)
Maximum penalty: 15 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine.

San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Air Marshal Service
Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations
Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol