A Thorn in Their Throats No More-AQAP Master Bomb Maker Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri Reported Killed in a Drone Strike

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) chief bomb maker was killed in a drone strike in late 2017 in Marib. If this is true, the world’s aviation sector is a little safer today than it was before, as Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was always seeking innovative ways to target aviation. Attached is an article I wrote in 2013 on this terrorist entitled, A Thorn in Their Throats-Ibrahim Hassan al-Siri Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Bomb Maker in Yemen.

                           

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was born from the fruits of a poisonous merger between Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  In 2009, when AQAP announced this merger, Al-Qaeda’s Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri issued an audio statement in which he hoped this merger would be more than a “thorn in the throats of the Crusaders and their agents like the house of Saud and Ali Abdullah Saleh.” Since that time Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, AQAP’s master bomb maker has been a sharp thorn and has put the world on notice with his innovative bomb-making skills.

Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 18, 1982. Ibrahim grew up in a traditional middle-class Saudi family with four brothers and three sisters in the shadow of the El Hadji Mosque in the al-Jazirah District of Riyadh.  His father, Hassan Al-Asiri served and retired as an officer in the Saudi military.  Ibrahim attended King Saud University for two years where he studied chemistry. With the death of Ibrahim’s older brother Ali in a car accident, Ibrahim and his brother Abdullah became more devout.

In 2003, Ibrahim was arrested while trying to enter Iraq to join Abu Musab al Zarqawi. He was held in a Saudi prison for nine months and then released to his family’s custody. Nine months isn’t much time for a terrorist who wanted to wage jihad against Americans in Iraq. Rather than punish, the Saudi emphasis was focused on getting jihadists to repent, rehabilitate, and reintegrate into Saudi society. Al-Asiri would later take full advantage of the Saudi’s softer approach to rehabilitation. Armed with this knowledge he would use this Saudi policy to target the official in charge of Counterterrorism and Rehabilitation programs in the Kingdom. After prison, Ibrahim operated under the kunya-Abu Salah, when he became part of an al-Qaeda affiliated cell in Saudi Arabia. Al-Asiri participated in the bombing of oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. With his safe house compromised after a raid, Ibrahim and his younger brother fled south seeking refuge in Yemen. There he met with Nasir al-Wahayshi, who had recently escaped from the Sanaa Political Security Prison. Al-Wahayshi along with 22 other Al Qaeda prisoners to include Hizam Saleh Ali Majali, Qasim al-Raymi, and Muhammad al-Umda tunneled out.  Al-Wahayshi had been Osama bin Laden’s private secretary in Afghanistan for four years.  He escaped from Tora Bora in December 2001 but was arrested en route to Iran.  Ibrahim Al-Asiri has become the primary bomb maker for AQAP and perhaps one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist. While some have described Al-Asiri as an evil genius, he is only one of about a dozen AQAP leaders that combined make AQAP very dangerous. What Al-Asiri has done is to expand the boundaries of bomb-making by combining his technical skills with imagination, sophistication, and deception.

Ibrahim al-Asiri came to light when his brother Abdullah carried his handiwork, a creative PETN bomb that would be concealed in his groin area in an attempt to assassinate a member of the Saudi royal family. While some have suggested that Abdullah concealed the bomb in his rectum that was not the case. Internal cavity devices have not been perfected as of yet but this is a concern for the future. Rather this was one of the first prototypes of his groin/underwear bomb. Since the target was a member of the Saudi royal family the attempted assassination plot needed to use a Saudi suicide bomber. The target for this attack would be Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who headed up all Counterterrorism efforts and Rehabilitation programs for terrorists in the Kingdom.  For such an important target, Ibrahim al-Asiri would build a different type of bomb for the suicide bomber. He would use his knowledge of Arab customs and cultural taboos against the security designed to protect a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia. The bomb would have no metal and would be hidden in the groin area of the suicide bomber. He knew there was a high level of success since the security would rely on metal detectors and would not closely check a repentant terrorist surrendering to the Crown Prince.  Ibrahim al-Asiri is dangerous because he adapts his bombs to defeat the security.  While it is important to understand Ibrahim al-Siri’s background, it is more important to understand the evolution of the bombs and the operational methodology he utilizes. Ibrahim al-Asiri not only built a bomb to thwart security but utilized his brother, Abdullah as the suicide bomber. Abdullah would be able to entice the Saudis to allow him to get close enough to the Crown Prince,  dangling hope that he might be able to convince his brother, the number one wanted terrorist in Saudi Arabia to surrender.

On August 27, 2009, Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, used deception and feigned his surrender as a repentant terrorist to Prince Nayef. A number of al-Qaeda terrorists had personally surrendered to Prince Nayef and had entered the Kingdom’s rehabilitation programs. Prince Nayef had sent an aircraft to Yemen to bring Abdullah al-Siri back to Saudi Arabia. The Prince was hoping that Abdullah’s surrender might lead to his brother’s surrender. Two top terrorists on Saudi Arabia’s Most Wanted List surrendering and entering the Kingdom’s rehabilitation program would silence the program’s critics.  After flying to Jeddah, the suicide bomber passed through metal detectors and was admitted to the Prince’s Palace. Prince Nayef was only slightly injured when the bomb detonated. Even though this attack was a failure it signaled the advent of a different type of bomb and how a terrorist group might use it to attack a protected target.

For years Palestinian terrorists have sent suicide bombers wearing underwear /groin concealed bombs to attack targets. The bulk of underwear and groin bombs carried by suicide bombers have been devices with metal components and shrapnel. But Ibrahim al-Siri has been designing his bombs to avoid detection. His devices had to be able to pass through airport-style metal detectors and visual security to reach the target undetected.

On December 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to destroy Northwest Airlines flight 253 flying from Amsterdam to Detroit with 289 passengers aboard. The bomb Ibrahim al-Siri built for Abdulmutallab used Pentaerythritol (PETN) and Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) and was concealed in his underwear. Abdulmutallab was able to detonate the device and required medical attention when the aircraft land. AQAP’s master bomb maker was able to build a device that was able to defeat airport type security. What one can be sure of is that al-Asiri will seek to make corrections so that this type of device will detonate instead of causing a fire.

Finding the Achilles heel of aviation security is something Ibrahim al-Siri seems to have exploited. Al-Asiri concealed his next two bombs in laser printers. On October 29, 2010, two of his devices were found after Saudi intelligence passed along critical intelligence. AQAP had shipped the laser printer bombs using FedEx and UPS addressed to targets in the United States. The two laser printers containing the bombs had cleared airport cargo screening at several airports. Ibrahim al-Asiri was able to take advantage of lax cargo screening. Even canine dogs and x-rays didn’t find the device in London. In November 2010, AQAP issued their Inspire magazine which outlined the details of this plot titled Operation Hemorrhage. While the articles in Inspire are mainly propaganda in nature they do highlight the research that was done in preparation for this attack. The article further states that the reason FedEx and UPS were chosen was to inflict the “maximum losses to the American economy.”

Ibrahim al-Asiri was able to conceal the bombs circuits into the printer cartridge circuits and to conceal the PETN within the toner. According to the article, this operation took three months to plan and execute and cost only $4200. While AQAP clearly wanted to down these two aircraft, even its failures show an evolution in the targeting and bomb-making skills within AQAP.  In April 2012, AQAP readied another explosive device to attack an aircraft on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. Thankfully, this plot was thwarted by a Saudi informant. The informant was able to bring the device out and the FBI has been able to exploit al-Asiri’s latest bomb. The unique bomb had no metal and a more improved trigger to ensure that the device would detonate, unlike his last underwear bomb.

Ibrahim al-Asiri continues to be a thorn that poses a great danger each day he is not captured or killed. Al-Asiri has taught a number of junior bomb makers who can continue these types of attacks or even design more sophisticated bombs. By passing on his bomb-making tradecraft, Al-Asiri’s handiwork will continue in the event he is captured or killed. While AQAP has shown a propensity to attack aviation and assassinate targets with suicide bombers, they can expand their attacks into other areas and other types of targets.  AQAP continues to expand their targeting within the region but has always focused on targeting the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

With the recent death of Sheikh Saeed al-Shehri (Abu Sufyan al-Azdi), the deputy commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s statements calling for AQAP to attack America, we can be certain that Ibrahim al-Asiri’s bomb-making services will be used by AQAP to press home major attacks.  Individuals in this region must be on guard for an attack against their interests. Due to the types of attacks AQAP has undertaken in the past, it would not surprise anyone to see another attack on aviation aimed at the United States or even Saudi Arabia.

While travel restrictions might make it harder for terrorists to locate American targets within the country it does not solve the problem. Closing facilities buys time and reduces the footprint at a potential target but it too does not solve the problem. Rather it gives terrorists a short-term propaganda victory. Terrorists can just wait until the restrictions are lifted to conduct their operations.  One of the brightest members of the Foreign Service was Ambassador Edmund Hull. Ambassador Hull served as the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen from 2001-2004.  Ambassador Hull always believed that one needed to seize the initiative and that an Embassy was not a bunker. From a secure Embassy, U.S. Diplomats could engage the people in Yemen and enhance the region’s security and economic development.

While the recent closure of U.S. Embassies and Consulates buys time to check and improve security, it also signals a weakness of the United States. Even when the US moves all non-essential personnel from an Embassy there are always U.S. citizens who must make a decision to depart or stay. Missionaries, NGOs, relief organizations are often caught between departing and reducing services and aid to the people they assist or potentially becoming a target.  As long as AQAP has terrorists and bomb makers such as Ibrahim al-Asiri, vigilance, awareness and a multi-pronged counterterrorism approach are needed until the threat has been removed.

The Terrorism Research Center (TRC) is an independent institute dedicated to the research of terrorism, conducts cutting-edge training and provides analysis and consulting services. Best known for conducting its Mirror Image: Training to Combat Terrorism, a total immersion counterterrorism training program.  The TRC is “A Virginia Company With A Global Purpose.”  For more information go to http://www.mirrorimagetraining.com

 

Advertisements

Remembering 9/11: Its “Unfathomable” that Mounir Motassadeq of Hamburg Cell to be Released Early from Prison and Deported

WTC Attack 911

The importance of the so-called “Hamburg Cell” can’t be overlooked regarding Al Qaeda’s September 11th attacks on America. The Hamburg Cell consisted of seven individuals who lived “hidden in plain sight” in Hamburg, Germany. The cell centered around Mohamed Atta, who piloted the first aircraft into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Atta’s two roommates were hijackers-pilots Ziad Samir Jarrah and Marwan Al-Shehhi. Ramzi Bin al Shibh received his paperwork to attend an aviation school in the United States but repeatedly failed to obtain a visa to travel to the United States. Unable to travel to the US to obtain his pilot’s license Bin al Shibh was made the cell’s coordinator.  Said Bahaji helped with internet expertise and fled Germany on September 4, 2001 for Pakistan. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reported Bahaji’s death in an audio message in 2017. Zakariya Essabar was supposed to come to the United States to learn to fly. But he was denied a visa when he applied for one in

Mounir Motassadeq came to Germany and attended the Technical University studying electrical engineering.  Motassadeq was a signatory to Mohamed Atta’s will and he had power of attorney for Marwan Al-Shehhi’s bank account. Motassadeq didn’t travel originally with the “four” to the Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Instead, he stayed behind to cover for them while they traveled.  Motassadeq’s role was to provide logistical support. On May 22, 2000, Motassadeq flew from Hamburg to Karachi and returned on August 1, 2000.  During that period, he attended military training in a camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Terrorists often need individuals to conduct research and undertake logistical support for them to be successful. Besides the hijacker-pilots out of Hamburg, the 9/11 plot needed individuals to support them logistically as well as having a coordinator. Ramzi Bin al Shibh took on the role of the coordinator and Mounir Motassadeq provided logistical support. The result is that the 9/11 terrorists killed 2996 individuals and injured over 6,000 people. Terrorists whether part of the execution team or the logistics team should all be held accountable.

Germany recently announced that Mounir el-Motassadeq sentenced in 2006 to 15 years would be released early for time served. Motassadeq would then be deported back to Morocco. Motassadeq should be extradited to the United States and tried for his support to the Hamburg terrorists.

There hasn’t been much outcry over Motassadeq’s upcoming release. Congressman Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts said it is “unfathomable” to free an individual who helped the 9/11terrorists. Congressman Lynch is right on point. Two of the aircraft seized by the terrorists on September 11, 2001, departed from Logan Airport. This airport in Boston, Massachusetts is located in Congressman Lynch’s 8th District. But more than one US Government official should be outraged that Motassadeq is about to walk free.  All Americans should be outraged that an individual who provided support for the 9/11 terrorists will shortly be free.

 

Judge Allows Convicted Terrorist To Retain His US Citizenship

Brooklyn Bridge with WTC

Citizenship in the United States is nothing less than a priceless treasure. Recently, the US Government sought to revoke the citizenship of Iyman Faris, a convicted terrorist who was a naturalized citizen. The government was unsuccessful with the process of denaturalization in Federal Court. Judge Staci Yandle of the 7th Circuit recently held that the government did not provide sufficient evidence to convince her that Iyman Faris’ misrepresentations on his immigration papers had influenced the decision to make him a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Faris was sent to New York by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2002 to case and conduct surveillance on the Brooklyn Bridge and determine whether Al Qaeda could drop the iconic bridge by cutting the steel cables using blow torches. While in an Afghan terrorist camp Faris met Osama Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda operatives.

Faris was born in Karachi, Pakistan on June 4, 1969. In March 1994, he entered the United States in New York using a passport and visa belonging to another person. Faris requested political asylum and filled out a “Request for Asylum with Immigration” in July 1994. While his political asylum request was pending, Faris married Geneva Bowling a U.S. citizen in 1995. Marrying a US citizen meant that Faris could then file a “Petition for Alien Relative” and be recognized as an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen. Faris also filed an “Application to Register as a Permanent Resident or Adjust Status.” Due to Faris’ application to Adjust Status because of his marriage, INS never considered Faris’ request for political asylum. In March 1996, Faris was granted permanent resident status and in 1999 became a naturalized citizen.

In 2000, during divorce proceedings from his wife, Faris asked the Court for a continuance since he stated he needed to travel to the Middle East for a family emergency. Instead, Faris traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he went to an Al Qaeda training camp and met Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Upon his return to Columbus, Ohio, Faris, the commercial truck driver was on a different mission to strike the Brooklyn Bridge. Faris and his ex-wife would both be interviewed by the FBI after the September 11th attacks. Faris conducted research on the internet of the Brooklyn Bridge before he physically traveled to the Bridge to case this iconic target in New York City.

Terrorists have used almost every way to enter and stay in a country. Faris used another person’s passport and visa to travel to the United States. Once in the United States he requested political asylum to stay in the country. This is one of the oldest ploys to be allowed to stay in a country and Faris also took advantage of this loophole just like other terrorists. Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual adviser to the first World Trade Center terrorists also used an asylum to thwart his deportation back to Egypt. Ramzi Yousef arrived at JFK International Airport in New York from Pakistan on September 1, 1992. Yousef was using an Iraqi passport and didn’t have a visa and his boarding pass was under the name of Azan Mohammed and he arrived in the US with multiple IDs in other names. The INS Inspector recommended that he be detained. But since he was seeking political asylum he was released on his own recognizance and told to show up for a political asylum hearing at a later date. Needless to say, Ramzi Yousef wasn’t interested in asylum but in conducting a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Mir Aimal Kansi, who killed two CIA officers and Gazi Abu Mezer, who attempted to blow up a New York subway train are two other terrorists that used political asylum to stay in the United States.

Once allowed to stay in the country a terrorist has to find a way to extend his ability to stay or change his status. Marrying an American is one method we have seen terrorists use. Iyman Faris married Geneva Bowling in 1995. What is not known is whether he was in love with her or just using her for her status as a U.S. citizen.

What we do know is that Iyman Faris was sent to New York to conduct casing and surveillance operations on the Brooklyn Bridge after September 11th for Al-Qaeda. Whether he should retain his naturalized citizenship was the question before a Federal Judge. Just knowing that he was attempting to help Al-Qaeda after September 11th alone one might think would be grounds for denaturalization. Arriving in New York and using another person’s passport and visa one would think would be grounds as Iyman Faris did when he first arrived in the United States. Traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan and going to an Al-Qaeda training camp and meeting with Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad one would think might be grounds. Returning to the United States and undertaking casing operations against an iconic target in New York one would think might be grounds for denaturalization.

The US Supreme Court in Costello v United States held that the Government “carries a heavy burden of proof in a proceeding to divest a naturalized citizen of his citizenship.” The US government brought a denaturalization action against Fedorenko a former armed guard at the Nazi concentration camp at Treblinka in Poland alleging he had procured his US citizenship illegally or by willfully misrepresenting a material fact. The Government charged that Fedorenko, in applying for his visa and for citizenship, had willfully concealed that he had served as an armed guard at Treblinka and had committed crimes against inmates of the camp because they were Jewish, and that therefore he had procured his naturalization illegally or by willfully misrepresenting material facts. The US Supreme Court in Fedorenko v United States held that Fedorenko illegally procured citizenship and his citizenship must be revoked.

But in Faris’ case Judge Yandle decided the government did not provide sufficient evidence to convince her that Faris’ “misrepresentations” on his immigration papers had influenced the decision to grant him citizenship, and therefore ruled in favor of the convicted terrorist. There was no mention of the fact in the Court’s opinion that Faris had used another person’s passport and visa to actually enter the US. There was no mention of “terrorist tradecraft” to enter a country includes using another person’s passport or identification. Or that terrorist tradecraft includes seeking “political asylum” since this is a loophole terrorists have utilized numerous times or marrying a citizen so that one can remain in a country where one is planning terrorist operations. Iyman Faris took the below Oath of Allegiance to the United States when he became a naturalized citizen.

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

It seems that he didn’t take this oath of allegiance seriously and instead targeted his new country for Al-Qaeda. And now he wants to retain his citizenship. The government should appeal Judge Yandle’s decision and should be able to take into account the original statements and materials from his application for asylum as well as the facts that he arrived in the country using someone else’s passport and visa as well as the fact that he had multiple identifications in other names on him. In 2003, Faris was sentenced to 20 years and thus just has a few years left on his sentence before being released. If he retains his US citizenship he will be released within the United States. Or if Judge Yandle’s decision is successfully appealed, Iyman Faris can then be deported back to Pakistan once he has served his sentence.

The New Age of Martyrdom: Suicide Attackers and Bombers Training

New Age of Martyrdom picture

Northern Virginia National Capital Region     August 21-23rd

 

WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Law Enforcement Officers, Supervisors, SWAT, Intel Analysts, Security Officials, Special Event Planners, EOD teams, Military Personnel, and Emergency Management Personnel. Registration is limited so sign up early.

Participants will learn first hand about the operational methodology of terrorists attacking special events, airport and transportation hub attacks, conducting targeted violence, vehicle ramming attacks, Inside the Bataclan Attack, Terrorists targeting Tourists, Hotels, Museums, Shopping Malls, Religious Institutions and other targets. Participants will explore the Evolution of Suicide Bombings and Attacks, Complex Attacks with Firearms, Ramming Vehicle Attacks, Knives, Axes and Hammers, Understanding the Ideology and Mindset, and Targets in Your Jurisdiction and a Protocol for Dealing with these Challenges.

TRC has always believed in conducting field research. One can’t gain a true understanding of these attacks without having been on the ground and at the sites of these attacks. TRC staff have been on the scene of bombings, interviewed victims, witnesses and first responders at these horrific attacks. The TRC maintains one of the largest databases on suicide bombings and attacks.
Each Participant will receive a copy of the Terrorism Research Center’s “The New Age of Martyrdom: Suicide Attacks and Bombings.”

For additional information about registration, course content and the program contact the Terrorism Research Center at trc@mirrorimagetraining.com

 

 

 

The Russian Threat Takes Many Forms: Cyber, Ricin, Polonium-210, Novichok and Putin

Putin's World

It should surprise no one that Russia seeks to gain an advantage over the United States. The Special Prosecutor’s Indictment of 12 Russians from the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU) Units 26165 and 74455 for cyber operations during the last election should surprise no one. Recently, Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Armed Services Committee said that Russia wants to “disrupt the normal channels of communication and create an environment of misinformation and distrust.” Misinformation and distrust are just two initial steps that Russia seems to undertake besides a host of others in various information warfare campaigns undertaken. Misinformation followed by fear are all hallmarks of what President Putin knows best.

Russia is an adversary of the United States and has been for some time. For years, New England fishermen spoke of Russian trawlers off the coast. Don’t the Russians have fish off their own coasts? It’s one thing for fishing boats to venture out to the Georges Banks from Gloucester, New Bedford or Newport but to come to the coast of the US from Russia on a fishing trawler is another thing. But these Russian trawlers were “fishing” or collecting intelligence because the Navy had ships and submarines coming in and out of Newport and Groton. Russian ships have been lurking around underwater fiber-optic cables in California. In September 2015, the Russian ship Yantar, was off the coast of Kings Bay, Georgia just where the US has a submarine base collecting intelligence.

On August 31, 2018, the United States ordered the closure of Russia’s San Francisco Consulate. The San Francisco Consulate was the hub for all of Russia’s intelligence collection on the west coast. Military and economic espionage was the forte of the majority of those so-called Russian Diplomats assigned to the San Francisco Consulate. One day in particular, a Russian “diplomat” in a business suit traveled over the Golden Gate Bridge heading north and getting off on Rt. 1. The Russian passed by Muir Beach to finally be observed at Stinson Beach by the water’s edge with a device in his hands. After a few minutes the Russian Intelligence officer in a business suit left the beach.

While the activities of Russia have increased in the cyber domain, the Chinese, Iranians and others are all seeking an advantage against America. America must confront these cyber threats with vigor. We are just at the water’s edge when it comes to information warfare. Stealing information or manipulating it are two examples from Putin’s playbook. But he also has a sinister side that favors violence. This is an area that our government and others can’t overlook. The Russian government has undertaken a targeted assassination campaign against individuals using Ricin, Polonium-210, and Novichok among other weapons.

Forty years ago, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissent who escaped to England was working for the BBC and Radio Free Europe. On September 7, 1978, as Markov was at the Waterloo Bridge bus station, an assassin injected a Ricin capsule into his thigh. The assassin used an umbrella that fired a Ricin capsule into the target. The umbrella weapon was created by the technical staff of the KGB.

In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB officer was poisoned in the Millennium Hotel’s Piano Bar in London. Litvinenko had received political asylum and had been providing information on Russian mafia operations and ties to President Putin. Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi were sent to poison Litvinenko using Polonium-210 which they put in his tea. In 1997, Litvinenko was ordered to coordinate the assassination of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Instead, he warned Berezovsky. In 1998, Litvinenko accused his FSB supervisors of seeking to kill Berezovsky. Berezovsky was an early supporter of President Putin but later was a fierce opponent. Putin took these actions by Litvinenko as an act of treason. Litvinenko and his family sought refuge in England.

Sir Robert Owen, who led a British inquiry into the poisoning of Litvinenko found “that the FSB operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Patrushev (head of the Russian Security Service in 2006) and also by President Putin”

On March 4, 2018, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok in an assassination attempt. Novichok is a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Skripal and his daughter survived but there were other victims. Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were both contaminated. Dawn Sturgess died in Amesbury after coming in contact with the nerve agent. Years earlier, Skripal who acted as a double agent for MI-6 was traded for Russian spies held by England.

Russia has become emboldened with these attacks and will continue to push the envelope if nothing is done to reign them in. Russia has been an enemy of our freedom and is nothing short of an economic, military and political adversary. Whether with cyber operations against our elections, stealing economic secrets from Silicon Valley, or collecting intelligence the Russia Bear is very active on all fronts. With their targeted assassinations of so many individuals in England, Putin has shown a propensity towards violence that goes against all international laws and civilized norms. Expelling diplomats does not send the right signal or cause any discomfort to Putin or those decision makers around him. The US and the rest of the western world needs a comprehensive plan to contain the bear before it thinks this is the norm.

America’s 242nd Birthday-July 4th Celebration

John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail from Philadelphia after Congress declared the Colonies independent. “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. Church bells rang out, drums and cannons sounded, and bonfires were lit as the people of Philadelphia people celebrated their new independence. Copies of the Declaration were dispatched with riders on horseback to the 13 colonies. When the Declaration of Independence was read in New York City, a riot broke out and a statue of King George III was torn down.

On August 2, 1776, the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence took place. Fifty-six delegates signed the Declaration with John Hancock signing his name first and making his signature the largest. By putting their names on this Declaration, they were risking not only their freedom but their lives. This was an act of treason against the King. Ben Franklin said, “we must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” These men were willing to risk all for a free and independent country. Enjoy the Fourth of July and remember the sacrifices others made so that we could be free and independent. Happy Birthday America!

Communication Follies with a Supreme Leader

Taliban Leaders Omar and Current Ldr

Just because a Supreme Leader of a hostile government has contact with a US government official doesn’t mean everything will change. Historically, we have seen this in our past and things haven’t turned out how we thought they would. Though it can be better to be speaking to an enemy than just threatening one. One can be hopeful, but actions always speak louder than words.

On August 21, 1998, a supporter of the Taliban asked Michael Malinowski, the Director of the Office for Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh at the State Department if he was willing to communicate with one of the Taliban’s top leader. Malinowski stated he was always open to such communication if it was serious.

Profound changes were being undertaken during that period by the supreme leader of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar and the Taliban. In July 1998, the Taliban closed all foreign NGOs in Afghanistan which resulted in food distribution and aid disappearing. On August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda attacked two US Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda had been given sanctuary by Mullah Omar. Then on August 8, 1998, the Taliban captured the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Immediately the Hazaras were brutally singled out and according to Human Rights Watch over 2,000 individuals were indiscriminately killed by the Taliban fighters.
On August 22, 1998, Malinowski in the early morning was connected to a conference call with Taliban Headquarters in Kandahar. Mullah Omar came on the conference call and interacted with a representative of the United States for the first time. Malinowski spoke of the threat posed by Bin Laden and the continued presence of Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar replied that he was open to dialogue. Malinowski suggested that open telephone lines were inappropriate and stated that it would be best if representatives meet in person. Mullah Omar suggested that the US could engage with the Taliban’s representatives in Islamabad, Pakistan.

One of the most comical things was that the supreme leader of the Taliban suggested that Congress should force President Clinton to resign. Omar warned that US strikes would be counterproductive and rally the Islamic world to Afghanistan’s side. Malinowski urged Mullah Omar to take Bin Laden in custody or expel him from Afghanistan. Malinowski cable drafted after the interaction with Mullah Omar ends with “this is a long way, however, from the Taliban doing the right thing on Bin Laden. We are still a long way from getting North Korea, Iran, and even the Taliban from doing the right thing. Mullah Omar had numerous opportunities to give up Bin Laden but continued to take a hardline stance that Bin Laden should not be expelled or extradited.

Last week the current leader of the Taliban Hibatullah Akhundzada called for direct talks with the United States to end the fighting. The Taliban still doesn’t want to negotiate with the Afghan government. Akhundzada said in a statement that “If the American officials truly believe in a peaceful end to the Afghan imbroglio, then they must directly present themselves to the negotiation table so that this tragedy the destructive effects of which mainly harm the American and Afghan people can be resolved through talks. . ..” It is almost as if the current leader of the Taliban doesn’t know why the Americans invaded Afghanistan. Early in his career, Akhundzada was a member of the notorious Promotion of Virtue and Prevention Police in Farah Province. He returned to Kandahar to take a position as a religious instructor at the Jihadi Madrasa where he had numerous interactions with Mullah Omar. He was then appointed Chief Justice of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Shariah Courts. In 2015, Akhundzada was appointed Deputy Commander of the Taliban. Then on May 25, 2016, the United States targeted and killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Supreme Leader of the Taliban. Akhundzada was elevated to lead the Taliban and Sirijuddin Haqqani and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, who is Mullah Omar’s son. These three are not going to be easy to negotiate with and will instead stake out their hardline position. Communications is just one of many steps on a much longer journey. And as President Reagan once said, “trust but verify.”

On Memorial Day Thank God Such Men Lived

070

General George Patton once said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.” On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, the Commander of the Grand Army issued General Order 11, which stated that May 30th should be observed  as Decoration Day.  Decoration Day would become what we now know as Memorial Day. General Logan’s order stated that the day would be “for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Freedom has never been free. From our nation’s earliest days individuals have  volunteered to serve our nation and lost their lives. Individuals like Nathaniel Hale who  was hanged as a spy during the Revolutionary War stated, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Our nation owes so much to those brave service members who have lost their lives protecting our nation and our freedoms. We should remember all those brave military members like SFC.  Mihail Golin who was killed in Afghanistan and Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar who was killed in Syria. Remember Johnny Michael Spann, Navy SEAL Neil Roberts,  SFC Nathan Chapman, Marine Sgt. Wade Wilson, Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible,  Senior Airman Bradley Smith, and 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal among so many others who we owe so much for their sacrifice.

We should remember their families and all the families of those who have lost their lives to secure our freedom. God Bless our country and all those who serve in uniform!

Marine Warrior Retires After Upholding the Highest Traditions of the Marine Corps

Many heroes emerged from the fighting in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, but none more noteworthy than First Sergeant Brad Kasal. On November 13, 2004, First Sergeant Kasal heard enemy gunfire to his front and learned that Marines were pinned down inside a structure. He joined a squad of Marines entering the structure to rescue the Marines inside. He eliminated an insurgent fighter upon entering the first room. While moving towards a wounded Marine, First Sergeant Kasal and another Marine were severely wounded. The insurgents then threw hand grenades into the room attempting to kill the Marines. First Sergeant Kasal rolled on top of the other Marine to shield him from the shrapnel with his body.

When offered medical attention and extraction, Kasal refused until the other wounded Marines were taken care of first. He shouted encouragement to his fellow Marines as they cleared the structure of the insurgents. With seven bullet wounds, over 43 pieces of shrapnel and his leg nearly severed he was carried out of the structure by two Marines. Bleeding profusely, with his pistol in one hand and his Ka-Bar in his other hand, a freelance photographer, Lucian Read captured that moment in time with an iconic photograph. For his bravery, leadership and dedication to duty, First Sergeant Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross in 2006.

While Kasal was always an inspiration for his Marines he showed true grit returning to duty after undergoing numerous operations. When doctors recommended that he accept amputation of his leg and retire, Kasal showed his toughness and personal courage keeping his leg and returning to service within the Marine Corps.

Kasal was promoted to Sergeant Major and served in a number of positions to include his last command as Sergeant Major of I MEF. In 2012, Nathaniel Helms wrote, “My Men are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story” which provided insight into this hard charging grunt. The book follows Kasal’s days growing up in Afton, Iowa, to joining the Marine Corps, to Fallujah, and his fighting for life and recovery. One learns the character of this Marine.

My Men Are My Heroes The Brad Kasal Story

Sergeant Major Kasal is a Marine’s Marine. Humble, courageous and a leader of warriors. For thirty-four years he served his country until his retirement last week. Our country owes warriors like Sergeant Major Kasal so much for their service. There are so many silent but legendary leaders that the social media generation never learns about. In this age of self-adulation and “likes”  Sgt. Major Kasal is a leader who puts his men first and never worries about tweets, likes or recognition. He is a true Marine in the spirit of John Basilone, “Hashmark” Johnson, and Chesty Puller. We should all give thanks that our country has great leaders like Sgt. Major Brad Kasal who served their country and trained that next generation of leaders. And as Sgt. Major Kasal once said, “thank you for doing what many would not.” Semper Fidelis!

9/11 Mastermind Seeks to Interject into Gina Haspel’s Confirmation-“Forget about it”

WTC MemorialKhalid Sheikh Mohammed, the terrorist mastermind of the 9/11 attacks wants to dish some information on the nominee for Director of Central Intelligence, Gina Haspel. The New York Times has an article entitled “9/11 Planner, Tortured by C.I.A., Asks to Tell Senators About Gina Haspel.” Hopefully this doesn’t come to fruition. This honorable woman has spent 33 years in the service of her nation in numerous undercover positions for the CIA. Today in our hallowed halls of government Gina Haspel answered numerous barbed questions from Senators from one party. While that is part of the nomination process we don’t need to hear from a terrorist. Maybe the New York Times and certain Senators have forgotten who KSM is and the grief he caused.

KSM helped finance his nephew, Ramzi Yousef’s first attack on the World Trade Center and Operation Bojinka. Operation Bojinka was Yousef’s plan to detonate twelve aircraft flying to the US over the Pacific Ocean. KSM also beheaded Danny Pearl, a Wall Street journalist in Pakistan and videotaped this horrific murder. When asked if that was hard KSM stated no it wasn’t “I had very sharp knives. Just like slaughtering sheep.” KSM told his interrogators, “I cut Daniel’s throat with these blessed hands.” We shouldn’t have to see or hear anything written with those hands.

KSM has always thought himself to be very smart. “Call me Mukhtar,” which means the Brain. “I was the amir of the 9/11 attacks.” We should be smart enough to see what this terrorist is doing and not allow him the freedom to attempt to interject anything into the confirmation hearing of someone who has dedicated her life to service.

Because of KSM there are now 2,983 names of victims on memorials in New York City. There are memorials in Pennsylvania and outside of the Pentagon. There is a star on a wall at CIA HQ to honor Mike Spann, the first American killed in Afghanistan. For without KSM all these individuals would be alive today doing great things.

After the confirmation of Gina Haspel, the Congress needs to do something meaningful-see that all the detainees including KSM have a trial. Justice is being delayed and we are paying for it. We shouldn’t have to hear from the mastermind of 9/11.