Tag Archives: ISIS

Trump: U.S. must ‘greatly strengthen’ nuclear capability

President-elect Donald Trump this week abruptly called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons.

The statement was made on Trump’s Twitter account and did not expand on the actions he wants the United States to take or on the issues he sees around the world.

The comments came one day after meeting with incoming White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump’s transition website says he “recognizes the uniquely catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons and cyberattacks,” adding that he will modernize the nuclear arsenal “to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent.”

Beyond that, he has offered few specifics, either as a candidate or during the transition.

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast the Republican as too erratic and unpredictable to have control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Ten former nuclear missile launch operators also wrote that Trump lacks the temperament, judgment and diplomatic skill to avoid nuclear war.

Trump was at his private estate in South Florida, where he was meeting with advisers and interviewing potential Cabinet nominees.

He is also building out his White House staff, announcing that campaign manager Kellyanne Conway would join him in the West Wing as a counselor.

Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, is widely credited with helping guide Trump to his electoral college victory. She also is a frequent guest on television “news” programs.

The president-elect had spent part of the week discussing national security issues, including the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Germany. He called the violence an “attack on humanity” and appeared to suggest a willingness to move ahead with his campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States.

Trump proposed the Muslim ban during the GOP primary campaign, drawing sharp criticism from both parties.

During the general election, he shifted his rhetoric to focus on temporarily halting immigration from an unspecified list of countries with ties to terrorism, though he did not disavow the Muslim ban, which is still prominently displayed on his campaign website.

The president-elect, when asked this week if the attack in Berlin would cause him to evaluate the proposed ban or a possible registry of Muslims in the United States, said, “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”

A transition spokesman said later that Trump’s plans “might upset those with their heads stuck in the politically correct sand.”

“President-elect Trump has been clear that we will suspend admission of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives,” spokesman Jason Miller said.

But transition officials did not comment on whether Trump could also push for the overarching ban on Muslims.

Trump, who addressed journalists Wednesday for less than two minutes outside his palatial South Florida estate, said he had not spoken to President Barack Obama since the attack.

Orlando to buy Pulse nightclub to create a memorial

The city of Orlando, Florida, has announced plans to purchase the Pulse nightclub and eventually convert the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history into a memorial.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel this week that the city has reached a deal to buy the LGBT nightclub for $2.25 million.

Dyer says the site should probably remain as-is for the next 12 to 18 months, as it has become a gathering place for mourners.

He says the city will reach out to the community for advice on how plans for the memorial should proceed.

The purchase price is $600,000 more than its appraised value.

The June 12 attack left 49 people dead and 53 wounded.

Gunman Omar Mateen was killed by SWAT team members.

Justice Dept: 2 Milwaukee men charged with support for ISIL

Jason Michael Ludke, 35, of Milwaukee, has been charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Yosvany Padylla-Conde, 30, also of Milwaukee, was charged in the same complaint with aiding and abetting Ludke’s attempt to provide material support to ISIL.

The announcement was made by assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Ludke and Padylla-Conde were arrested near San Angelo, Texas. The complaint alleges they were traveling from Wisconsin to Mexico, where they intended to acquire travel documents necessary to travel overseas to join ISIL.

“The United States is committed to identifying and arresting persons intent on providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations. Those organizations pose a threat to United States’ interests at home and abroad.” said Haanstad.

Special Agent in Charge Justin Tolomeo of the FBI’s Milwaukee Division stated in a news release, “The arrest of these two individuals from Wisconsin, underscores how the real threat of terrorism can occur anywhere, at anytime.”

If convicted both men face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.00.

A criminal complaint is an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.

Authorities investigating whether Pulse gunman had any help

Authorities on June 13 were investigating whether a gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando and declared his allegiance to Islamic State militants had received any help in carrying out the massacre.

The FBI and other agencies were looking at evidence inside and in the closed-off streets around the Pulse nightclub, where New York-born Omar Mateen perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, and the worst attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001.

Mateen, the 29-year-old son of Afghan immigrants, was shot and killed by police who stormed the club early June 12 with armored cars after a three-hour siege.

Law enforcement officials were looking for clues as to whether anyone had worked with Mateen on the attack, said Lee Bentley, the U.S. attorney for the middle district of Florida.

“There is an investigation of other persons. We are working as diligently as we can on that,” Bentley said at a news conference. “If anyone else was involved in this crime, they will be prosecuted.”

Officials stressed they believed there had been no other attackers and had no evidence of a threat to the public.

Mateen’s rampage began about 2 a.m. June 12, when the club was packed with some 350 revelers. Many fled as the gunman raked the crowd with bullets from an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and a pistol.

An initial wave of officers charged into the club and trapped Mateen in a bathroom, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters. That action allowed many patrons to flee, although others were trapped in the restroom with Mateen, leading to the standoff.

“We were able to save and rescue dozens and dozens of people,” Mina said. Police negotiated with Mateen for about three hours before breaking a hole in the wall, which allowed hostages to escape.

Mateen also emerged from the hole and was shot dead by officers, police said.

Officials said on June 12 the death toll was 50. On June 13, they clarified that the figure included Mateen. Some 53 people were wounded and 29 remain hospitalized at Orlando Regional Medical Center, the hospital said on Twitter.

‘HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING’

By the morning of June 13, all but one of those killed had been identified and about half the families of the dead had been notified, officials said.

Other family members were desperate for news about their missing loved ones.

Julissa Leal, 18, and her mother drove to the Florida city from Lafayette, Louisiana, in search of her brother, 27-year-old Frank Hernandez. They knew he was at the club with his boyfriend, who lost him in the chaos.

“We haven’t heard anything, don’t know anything,” Leal said, fighting back tears. “I’m going to see him again. I’m going to see him again.”

Mateen called emergency services during the shooting and pledged allegiance to the leader of the militant Islamic State group, officials said.

Mateen’s father said his son was not radicalized but indicated the gunman had strong anti-gay feelings.

Mateen’s ex-wife described him as mentally unstable and violent toward her.

Islamic State reiterated on June 13 a claim of responsibility. “One of the Caliphate’s soldiers in America carried out a security invasion where he was able to enter a crusader gathering at a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando,” the group said in a broadcast on its Albayan Radio.

The group’s claim of responsibility does not mean it directed the attack, as it offered nothing to indicate coordination with the gunman.

CANDIDATES DEBATE RESPONSE

President Barack Obama denounced the attack as an act of terror and hate and said on June 13 that the gunman seemed to have been inspired by extremist ideas.

“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State), but there is no direct evidence so far that he was directed.”

The attack reignited the debate over how best to confront violent Islamist militancy, and immediately became a sharp point of disagreement in the campaign for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, speaking on MSNBC, said the United States should walk a fine line in bolstering security without demonizing Muslims, and also called for tougher gun safety measures.

Wealthy businessman and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, in interviews with CNN and Fox News, criticized the U.S. Muslim population for not reporting suspicions to authorities, and reiterated his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

The carnage early on June 12 occurred in the heart of Orlando, about 15 miles northeast of the Walt Disney World Resort. The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, drawing some 62 million visitors a year.

FATHER: ‘I DON’T FORGIVE HIM’

Mateen was an armed guard at a gated retirement community and had worked for a global security firm for nine years. He had cleared two company background screenings, the latest in 2013, according to G4S, the firm.

Mateen’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, said in an interview at his home in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, that he was angered by his son’s actions.

“Even though he is my son I admit this is terrorist act. This is terrorizing. I don’t forgive him,” the father said. “If you see his wife, what she is going through his poor wife and his son 3-1/12 years old, such a nice son, he should’ve thought about that.”

Mateen’s former wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told reporters near Boulder, Colorado, that she had been beaten by Mateen during angry outbursts in which he would “express hatred towards everything.”

Authorities said on June 12 that Mateen had been twice questioned by FBI agents in 2013 and 2014 after making comments to co-workers about supporting militant groups, but neither interview led to evidence of criminal activity.

Mateen visited Saudi Arabia in 2011 and 2012 for religious pilgrimages, a government spokesman said.

The attack in Orlando came six months after a married couple in California — a U.S.-born son of Pakistani immigrants and a Pakistani-born woman he married in Saudi Arabia — killed 14 people at an office holiday party in San Bernardino. The couple, who were inspired by Islamic State, died in a shootout with police hours after the mass shooting.

The most deadly attack on the nation’s soil inspired by violent Islamist militancy was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda-trained hijackers crashed jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 people.

Additional reporting by Barbara Liston and Yara Bayoumy in Fort Pierce, Fla., Zachary Fagenson in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Michelle Martin in Berlin and Susan Heavey, Caren Bohan, David Alexander and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Scott Malone.

People attend a candlelight vigil held in San Francisco. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
People attend a candlelight vigil held in San Francisco. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

WisDems slam Scott Walker’s endorsement of Ted Cruz

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin issued a statement today blasting Gov. Scott Walker for endorsing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president. The endorsement comes a week before voters in the state head to the polls to vote in the presidential primaries as well as for a Supreme Court justice and local leaders and judges.

Cruz came to national attention when he caused a shutdown of the federal government in 2013 over the Affordable Care Act, which he has compared to Naziism. WisDems denounced Cruz’s “extreme right-wing policies” on issues such as abortion, marriage equality and climate change.

“Cruz’s extreme record mirrors not only that of Walker, but also of current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump,” said a statement issued by WisDems. “ Most recently, Cruz said we should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” but this only scratches the surface of his divisive rhetoric. Cruz has accused people who support marriage equality as waging “jihad” against people of faith, said the laws in this country that give women a right to choose are extreme, and has said the Obama economy is disastrous even though we have had 68 positive months of job growth.

“It’s shameful that Scott Walker would support a candidate with an extreme record of divisive policies and hateful partisan rhetoric,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Kory Kozloski said today in a prepared statement. “Ted Cruz has spent his career working to divide people across this nation, rather than working to bring us together. That is not the sort of candidate the governor of our state should be standing behind.” Kozloski said.

WisDems’ press release provided an overview of Cruz’s divisive rhetoric (below):

Climate change

  • Ted Cruz compared those who believe in the science of climate change to those who believed the earth was flat.
  • Cruz compares the current research on global warming to that of “global cooling” in the 1970s, even though that subject was not taken seriously and has been debunked as ludicrous.

ACA

  • Ted Cruz compared the fight to defund Obamacare to that of taking on the Nazi’sin World War II.
  • If elected, Cruz stated he would repeal every word of Obamacare, which means nearly million people would lose coverage, insurance companies could punish people for pre-existing conditions, and companies would be able to discriminate against women with higher healthcare costs.
  • Cruz went so far as to say he lost his own healthcare coveragebecause of the ACA, and this has been dismissed as pandering for votes.

Gay Marriage and homophobia

  • He accused theLGBT community of waging jihad against people of faith
  • When Ted Cruz announced his presidency he said a top priority was defending traditional marriage, i.e. gay people would not have the right to marry
  • He scorned the Supreme Courts decision to make marriage equality the law of the land and said states should ignore the decision.
  • See Ted Cruz’s history on Gay Marriage and Homophobia here.

More

  • Ted Cruz said he wants to “carpet bomb” ISIS into oblivion and continues that narrative even though military experts say this is not feasible and is dangerous.

 

UN: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq in under 2 years

At least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 were wounded in Iraq between the start of 2014 and Oct. 31 of last year as Iraqi forces battled the Islamic State group, according to a U.N. report released this week.

The report documented a wide range of human rights abuses, including the IS group’s conscription of some 3,500 people into slavery, mainly women and children from the Yazidi religious minority captured in the summer of 2014 and forced into sexual slavery.

It said another 800 to 900 children were abducted from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, for religious and military training. It said a number of IS child soldiers were killed by the extremists when they tried to flee fighting in the western Anbar province.

The reports called the civilian death toll in Iraq “staggering.” It also detailed the various methods the IS group has employed to kill its enemies, including public beheadings, running people over with bulldozers, burning them alive and throwing them off buildings.

Such acts are “systematic and widespread… abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law,” the report said. “These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

Iraqi forces have advanced against the IS group on a number of fronts in recent months and driven them out of the western city of Ramadi.

But U.N. envoy Jan Kubis said in a statement that “despite their steady losses to pro-government forces, the scourge of ISIL continues to kill, maim and displace Iraqi civilians in the thousands and to cause untold suffering.”

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said the civilian death toll may be considerably higher.

“Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” he said in a statement.

IS swept across northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014 and still controls much of Iraq and neighboring Syria. It has set up a self-styled caliphate in the territories under its control, which it governs with a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law.

AP’s top 10 stories of 2015

The far-flung attacks claimed by Islamic State militants and the intensifying global effort to crush them added up to a grim, gripping yearlong saga that was voted the top news story of 2015, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The No. 2 story was the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that led to legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But several of the other stories among the Top 10 reflected the impact of the Islamic State, while another group of major stories related to the series of mass shootings in the United States.

Among the 100 voters casting ballots, first-place votes were spread among 17 different stories. The Islamic State entry received 37 first-place votes and same-sex marriage 13. The No. 3 story — the deadly attacks in Paris in January and November — received 14 first-place votes.

A year ago, the top story in AP’s poll was the police killings of unarmed blacks in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere — and the investigations and protests that ensued. In this year’s poll, a similar entry, with more instances of blacks dying in encounters with police, placed fifth.

The first AP top-stories poll was conducted in 1936, when editors chose the abdication of Britain’s King Edward VIII.

Here are 2015’s top 10 stories, in order:

1: ISLAMIC STATE: A multinational coalition intensified ground and air attacks against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including expanded roles for Western European countries worried about IS-backed terrorism. For its part, IS sought to demonstrate an expansive reach by its operatives and supporters, claiming to have carried out or inspired the bombing of a Russian airliner, attacks in Beirut and Paris, and the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California.

2: GAY MARRIAGE: Fifteen years after Vermont pioneered civil unions for same-sex couples, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June enabling them to marry in all 50 states. Gay-rights activists heralded it as their movement’s biggest breakthrough, but there were flashes of disapproval. A county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, spent a few days in jail after refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in her jurisdiction.

3: PARIS ATTACKS: The first attack came just a week into the new year. Two brothers who called themselves members of al-Qaida barged into the offices of the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and later attacked a Jewish market, gunning down 17 people in all. Nov. 13 brought a far deadlier onslaught: Eight Islamic State militants killed 130 people in coordinated assaults around Paris. Targets included restaurants, bars and an indoor rock concert.

4: MASS SHOOTINGS: Throughout the year, mass shootings brought grief to communities across the U.S. and deepened frustration over the failure to curtail them. There were 14 victims in San Bernardino. Nine blacks were killed by a white gunman at a Charleston, South Carolina, church; a professor and eight students died at an Oregon community college. In Chattanooga, four Marines and a sailor were killed by a Kuwaiti-born engineer; three people, including a policeman, were shot dead at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

5: BLACK DEATHS IN ENCOUNTERS WITH POLICE: In Baltimore, riots broke out after the death of Freddie Gray, a black man loaded into a van by police officers. In Chicago, Tulsa and North Charleston, South Carolina, fatal police shootings of black men prompted resignations and criminal charges. The incidents gave fuel to the Black Lives Matter campaign, and prompted several investigations of policing practices.

6: TERRORISM WORRIES: Fears about terrorism in the U.S. surged after a married couple in California — described by investigators as radicalized Muslims — carried out the attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. The rampage inflamed an already intense debate over whether to accommodate refugees from Syria, and prompted Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to call for a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S.

7: US ELECTION CAMPAIGN: A large and varied field of Republicans launched bids for the presidency, with billionaire Donald Trump moving out to an early lead in the polls and remaining there despite a series of polarizing statements. He helped attract record audiences for the GOP’s televised debates. In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders surprised many with a strong challenge of Hillary Clinton, but she remained the solid front-runner.

8: CLIMATE CHANGE: Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached a first-of-its kind agreement in Paris on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Many questions remain over enforcement and implementation of the accord. But elated supporters hailed it as a critical step toward averting the grim scenario of unchecked global warming.

9: CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING: A Bible study session at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, suddenly turned into carnage when a white gunman opened fire, killing nine blacks, including the pastor. The alleged killer’s affinity for the Confederate flag sparked debate over the role of Civil War symbols in today’s South. In less than a month, the flag was removed from the South Carolina State House grounds.

10: EUROPE’S MIGRANT CRISIS: Fleeing war and hardship, more than 1 million migrants and refugees flooded into Europe during the year, overwhelming national border guards and reception facilities. Hundreds are believed to have drowned; 71 others were found dead in an abandoned truck in Austria. The 28-nation European Union struggled to come up with an effective, unified response.

Was the Planned Parenthood shooting an act of political terrorism?

The man accused of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic brought several guns, ammunition and propane tanks that officials say he assembled around a car.

For hours, he holed up inside the clinic, unleashing a fusillade that wounded nine people and sent shoppers scattering inside surrounding buildings during a standoff with police.

To some in the community, the attack resembled an act of domestic terrorism, sparking a debate over what to call Robert Lewis Dear’s rampage even before he was taken into custody.

But the legal system may not resolve that question.

Dear faces state charges of first-degree murder, and the federal criminal code has no specific, catchall charge for acts of domestic terrorism. That means federal prosecutors pursuing charges for ideologically motivated violence often turn to other statutes — such as those for firearms, explosives, hate crimes or murder — to cover offenses that could arguably be labeled as terror. The punishment may be the same, but generally without the branding more often associated with international terrorism.

“There has long been some interest in defining acts of domestic terrorism as terrorism. It’s become quite a partisan issue,” said William Yeomans, a former high-ranking official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

But given the number of laws already available to federal prosecutors, he added, “Whether it’s domestic terrorism or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

Police have not yet detailed a motive in the killings of one police officer and two civilians at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, though a law enforcement official said Dear said “no more baby parts” during rambling comments after his arrest.

Dear used a rifle in the shooting and also brought other firearms and ammunition, according to an official familiar with the case who was not authorized to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has called the killings a “form of terrorism,” and Planned Parenthood has said witnesses believe the gunman was motivated by opposition to abortion. But Dear also has been described by acquaintances as a loner who once gave neighbors anti-Obama literature but never any indication he would target a clinic.

A coalition of advocacy groups is calling on the Justice Department, which is reviewing the case, to investigate violence against abortion clinics as domestic terrorism. Federal authorities have the option of filing their own charges but haven’t yet said whether they will do so. Among the federal government’s potential avenues is a 1994 law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate abortion clinic patients and employees.

Federal law defines domestic terrorism as dangerous acts that take place inside the U.S. that are intended to intimidate the public or coerce government policy or conduct — a description meant to encompass, among others, anti-government anarchists, white supremacists and animal-rights activists.

But without one all-encompassing statute, the actual charges can vary.

In the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, for instance, Timothy McVeigh faced charges including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, malicious destruction of federal property and the murders of law enforcement officials. A Florida man in 2012 was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of arson and damaging a reproductive health facility after firebombing an abortion clinic.

While the Justice Department consistently charges individuals who look to join organizations like the Islamic State with providing material support for a foreign terror organization, there’s no comparable statute for prosecuting domestic crimes motivated by extremist ideologies and no catchall “domestic terrorism” charge or offense in the federal criminal code.

That lack of clarity can make it hard to count the number of domestic terror prosecutions, or differentiate that crime from other illegal activity, according to a 2013 Congressional Research Service report.

“Individuals considered to be domestic terrorists by federal law enforcement may be charged under nonterrorism statutes, making it difficult to grasp from the public record exactly how extensive this threat is,” the report said.

The issue arose in July when the Justice Department brought federal hate crime charges against Dylann Roof in the massacre a month earlier at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Asked at a news conference about the absence of domestic terrorism charges, Attorney General Loretta Lynch replied, “Well, as you know, there is no specific domestic terrorism statute.” But she did describe hate crimes as “the original domestic terrorism.”

The Justice Department in the last year has paid added public attention to the domestic terrorism threat. Last year, it revived a domestic terrorism executive committee that had fallen into disuse after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the government shifted focus to international terrorism. More recently, officials appointed a domestic terrorism counsel to coordinate the flow of information.

Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Dear “should be charged with crimes that take him away forever” and that the federal government has many tools to do just that.

But, she added, “I think it’s very important for the government to call a terrorist, a terrorist. I think a reluctance to do that is a terrible thing.”

‘Season of Light’ goes dark

I usually write something frothy around the holidays, but the terrible events in Beirut and Paris and now in a women’s clinic in Colorado have turned the so-called “season of light” into something dark and foreboding.

Contributing to the toxic atmosphere have been comments from politicians that incite violence, scapegoat refugees and spread prejudice and xenophobia. That includes Carly Fiorina’s deliberate, vicious lies about Planned Parenthood; Ben Carson’s reference to Syrian refugees as “dogs” from whom we have to remove the “rabid” element; and Donald Trump’s scurrilous description of Mexicans as criminals and rapists.

We are right to be concerned about the growing threat from ISIS, but we should be equally concerned about the Taliban-like rantings of our own political leaders. Attacking our government as incapable of screening refugees (when in fact multiple agencies spend up to two years vetting individuals) and characterizing desperate victims fleeing ISIS terror as would-be terrorists is utterly counterproductive.

We have demonized refugees and immigrants during many crises in the past and have always come to regret our behavior. 

In the 1930s and 1940s we shut the door to Jews fleeing Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. This was due to a prevailing anti-Semitism among the public (registered in many polls) and to the blatant anti-Semitic views of administrators in our State Department and Visa Division. Memos to President Franklin Roosevelt also cited fear of “penetration of German agents” as rationale for keeping Jews out.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt signed an executive order to intern Japanese-Americans, most of them U.S. citizens. More than 120,000 people were deprived of due process, shorn of their goods and property and imprisoned in isolated camps patrolled by armed guards. The census bureau provided the demographic data used to locate and lock up these innocent people.

While their families suffered in camps, thousands of Japanese-Americans won distinction fighting against the Nazis in the 442nd Infantry Regiment. Of the 14,000 men who served, 9,486 received Purple Hearts, 560 won Silver Stars for valor and 21 won our highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

Today, many Mexicans and other Latinos new to the United States join the Armed Forces as a means to earn citizenship. The people demeaned by Donald Trump are actually playing an outsize role in the defense of our country.

As for Planned Parenthood, in the past 38 years, 10 doctors, clinic personnel or patients have been assassinated. Other acts of violence include: 26 attempted murders; 42 bombings; 182 arson attacks; 199 assaults; 1,507 incidents of vandalism; 80 acid attacks; and 983 death threats or stalking incidents. 

Women who go to Planned Parenthood clinics for health services and birth control are routinely harassed by screaming crowds of anti-abortion zealots. In this context it is a travesty that the media fails to identify the latest attack as an act of domestic terrorism. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did the right thing by ordering state police to protect Planned Parenthood clinics in that state. 

While we deplore the misogynist cruelty of ISIS and the Taliban abroad, we must fight the growing terrorism against women here at home.

For end-of-year charitable donations, I recommend giving to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin at www.ppwi.org and the United Nations Refugee agency at www.unhcr.org. Your donations will support critical services and make an important political statement in these times of domestic and international terrorism.

Mid-size U.S. cities are largely unprepared for Paris-style terrorist attacks

For Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there are lessons to be learned from the terror that gripped Paris just over a week ago.

After the Islamic State attacks, Democratic Mayor Walter Maddox took note of the Parisian security staff that prevented a suicide bomber from entering the French national soccer stadium. His thoughts turned to Bryant-Denny Stadium — where more than 100,000 people gather for University of Alabama football games. He considered the impact a terrorist attack could have on his 95,000-person city.

But experts say that unlike Maddox, many chief executives and police departments in midsize U.S. cities may not realize that terrorism could put their people and infrastructure at just as much risk as high-profile targets like New York City and Washington, D.C.

“The larger cities understand and grasp this,” Maddox said. “I’m not sure that at the midlevel cities the awareness is that high.”

Terrorism can and does happen in those places. This year, two men suspected of communicating with overseas terrorists were killed when they attempted to attack a free-speech event in Texas. A gunman killed four people at a military recruiting center in Tennessee, though it was unclear if he had worked with known terrorist organizations.

In the days following the Paris attacks, New York City deployed the first 100 officers in the city’s new Critical Response Command. The 500-officer program will be dedicated to counter-terrorism in the city, which spent $170 million this year to bring 1,300 new police officers to its 34,500-officer force. 

Conversely, in Wichita, Kansas, where an airport worker was arrested after he tried to execute a suicide attack at the local airport in 2013, the 437-officer police force was struggling to stay fully staffed this summer. 

While it’s difficult to know just how prepared every state and municipality is for a potential terrorist attack, security specialists say the ability to prevent and react well depends on a communication system and local counter-rism efforts that are still underdeveloped, even 14 years after 9/11.

Chet Lunner, a security consultant and former senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the FBI has counter-terrorism investigations in every state, but most places probably lack the resources to prevent or respond to an attack.

“You might think that all 50 states are responding to that kind of warning, but I’m not sure that they are at the appropriate level,” Lunner said.

The Paris attacks on “soft” targets like the restaurant and the concert hall — places with minimal security — should signal to local governments in the U.S. that they, too, could be at risk.

Lunner and Michael Balboni, a security consultant and former New York State senator who wrote homeland security laws for his state, say even if smaller cities and towns aren’t at high risk for violence and are short on the financial resources that big cities have, they should still plan and practice for terrorist attacks.

“State and local personnel are literally the tip of the spear,” Lunner said. “They owe it to themselves as well as the communities they serve” to be as prepared as possible.

Communication is key

Despite repeated efforts and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on collecting and sharing information nationwide about potential terrorist threats, questions remain about how much filters down to local officials, especially in smaller municipalities.

In 2003, DHS and the U.S. Department of Justice began creating fusion centers to encourage and ease the sharing of information between federal law-enforcement and counter–rism officials in states and major urban areas. But a 2012 U.S. Senate subcommittee report found the centers yielded little counter-terrorism intelligence.

In 2011, the White House released the first national strategy and plan to empower local governments to prevent domestic violent extremism and homegrown terrorism. The plan advocates enhancing federal engagement with local communities that may be breeding grounds or targets for violence, though it has been criticized for disproportionately focusing on and alienating Muslims.

Until there is centralized information-sharing between the national and local governments, it will be difficult to get localities invested in sustained anti-terrorism work, Balboni said.

Balboni, who also served as a New York State homeland security adviser, said the fusion centers need to morph into what he calls “command and control centers” that gather intelligence and work in places where a potential threat or terrorist activity surfaces.

Outside big cities

People who don’t live in big cities typically viewed as likely terrorist targets may not think about terrorism affecting their communities or about devoting the resources to countering the possibility they could be hit. But they ought to.

Less-populated locales are where terrorists may settle in to plan or practice attacks, Lunner said. It is up to local police to get to know people and seek out information about potential threats.

“In this country, if you dial 911, the CIA does not show up at the end of your driveway,” Lunner said.

In Minot, a North Dakota city of less than 50,000, dealing with terrorist threats became a reality in the wake of the Paris attacks as the names of six people stationed at the Minot Air Force Base appeared on an Islamic State hit list.

The biggest challenge in responding to such a threat, Police Chief Jason Olson said, is the limited amount of resources his department has to focus on gathering intelligence and analyzing data.

Minot is a good example of a place that most people would not consider at risk for terrorism. And all Olson and local officials can do is push for relevant and timely information from the federal government.

But, Lunner said, they are probably not as informed as their counterparts in places like New York City.

Although states were quick to spend billions of federal dollars funneled to them after 9/11, they couldn’t sustain salaries needed to run long-term local surveillance programs with that one-time infusion of money. Since then, local spending on anti-terrorism has been reduced, said Doug Farquhar, a program director with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“The problem is that they knew this was one-time dollars,” Farquhar said. “You can buy a firetruck or build a building, but you can’t hire employees.”

Localities have also been unlikely to pay more attention to anti-terrorism because of the infrequency of attacks, he said.

Maddox said Tuscaloosa is unique in its willingness to dedicate money and resources to prepare for terrorism and disaster. He credits much of that willingness to training that he and his staff received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in 2009.

“It’s getting your team to believe that we need to prepare for a moment that may or may not ever come,” he said.

Disaster prep equals terror prep

For many states and municipalities, counter-terrorism has become just a part of general disaster preparation, Farquhar said.

Maddox, who has been credited with an exemplary response to a 2011 tornado that destroyed 12 percent of the city, said the same elements of responding to a natural disaster or a major violent crime — providing emergency medical care, shelter and food, and good law-enforcement — extend to counter-terrorism.

“Whether we have a natural disaster or an active shooter situation, my protocols are going to be nearly identical in how we approach that situation,” he said.

And in Minot, which has suffered a number of disasters in recent years — including a train derailment and subsequent ammonia spill, a chemical warehouse fire and historic flooding — Olson said responding to terrorism has become just a part of the disaster preparedness plan.

Stateline is a news service of The Pew Charitable Trusts.