The Evolving Terrorism Threat in America and the Urban Area Security Initiative Grant Program

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On July 15, 2016, I had the opportunity to present testimony with the Orlando Chief of  Police John Mina and Sheriff Jerry Demings before a Joint Congressional  Subcommittee hearing. The purpose of this hearing was to bring attention to the fact that the terrorist threat to America hasn’t been reduced and that Orlando over the last two years didn’t make the cut for UASI funds.  It was a privilege to hear about the brave law enforcement officers who responded to the attack by Omar Mateen at the Pulse nightclub.  If we don’t provide resources and training for our local and state law enforcement communities we won’t be successful in identifying and defeating the homegrown and international terrorist threat that hasn’t gone away.

Walter Purdy
President of the Terrorism Research Center Inc.

Testimony Before the Joint House Subcommittees on National Security
And Transportation and Public Assets, United States House of Representatives
July 15, 2015

Opening Statement

Chairman Mica, Chairman DeSantis, Ranking Members Duckworth, and Lynch, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify on this important issue. The terrorism threat in America is one that is constantly evolving. In the wake of the terrorist attacks last night in Nice, the previous attacks in Paris, Brussels, Boston, Charleston, Chattanooga, Garland, San Bernardino, and Orlando, the last thing we should be doing is reducing the level of funding that is aimed to protect America. It is unthinkable at this time that President Obama’s budget reduces the level of funding for homeland security through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) as well as in other funding mechanisms to protect the homeland.

The threat to America from terrorists has not gone away or been reduced. The Director of the FBI, James Comey has warned that the FBI is investigating ISIS suspects in all 50 states with more than 900 investigations. Even the funding for State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) conducted through the Department of Justice has been reduced and cut back. Yet, the terrorism threat to America seems to be growing and evolving. Recently, the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified at a Senate hearing on funding for Homeland Security that he was constrained by a budget agreement and wasn’t happy but they had made hard choices.

If the terrorist threat to America was reduced or going away I could support a reduction of funding to UASI and the Department of Homeland Security. But that is not the case. We have seen homegrown radicalized terrorists conduct attacks where the attackers numbered no more than two as in the San Bernardino attack on December 2, 2015. Yet, we are asking the law enforcement community to deal with this ever growing complex challenge as funding levels are cut. We can’t expect that the law enforcement community is going to be prepared in the future when funding under UASI and other Homeland Security programs are being cut. Congress has heard from mayors, chiefs of police, sheriffs across America that have lobbied for a departure from the budget being presented by President Obama in regard to this issue.

The threat is real and I would ask you to change the direction and approach to funding UASI and other mechanisms that provide the resources and assistances needed by first responders in America. I thank you and look forward to answering any questions you might have.

Submitted Testimony for the Record

The Evolving Terrorism Threat in America and the Urban Area
Security Initiative Grant Program

Walter Purdy
President of the Terrorism Research Center Inc.

Before the Subcommittee on National Security And Transportation and Public Assets
United States House of Representatives

July 15, 2015

Chairman Mica, Chairman DeSantis, Ranking Members Duckworth, and Lynch, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify on this important issue. The terrorism threat in America is one that is constantly evolving. In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Boston, Charleston, Chattanooga, Garland, San Bernardino, and Orlando, the last thing we should be doing is reducing the level of funding that is aimed to protect America. It is unthinkable that President Obama’s budget reduces the level of funding for homeland security through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) as well as in other funding mechanisms to protect the homeland.

The threat to America from terrorists has not gone away or been reduced. The Director of the FBI, James Comey has warned that the FBI is investigating ISIS suspects in all 50 states with more than 900 investigations. Even the funding for State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) conducted through the Department of Justice has been reduced and cut back. Yet, the terrorism threat to America seems to be growing and evolving. Recently, the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified at a Senate hearing on funding for Homeland Security that he was constrained by a budget agreement and wasn’t happy but they had made hard choices. If the terrorist threat to America was reduced or going away I could support a reduction of funding to UASI and the Department of Homeland Security. But that is not the case.

Before September 11th terrorist groups like Al Qaeda sought to identify and recruit individuals to travel and train in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Today the plethora of terrorist groups associated with Al-Qaeda and ISIS use social media and slick on-line magazines like Dabiq and Inspire to launch attacks wherever they may be. We have seen a large number of terrorist wannabes that have been thankfully identified, arrested and charged by law enforcement here in the United States. We can’t afford to let our guard down or Congress will have to fund another 9/11 Commission when terrorists conduct a Paris or Mumbai style attack here in America. And the question the American people will want Congress to answer is “how could this have happened again in America.?

Until today, we have seen homegrown radicalized terrorists conduct attacks where the attackers numbered no more than two as in the San Bernardino attack on December 2, 2015. Yet, we are asking the law enforcement community to deal with this ever growing complex challenge as funding levels are cut. We can’t expect that the law enforcement community is going to be prepared in the future when funding under UASI and other Homeland Security programs are being cut. Congress has heard from mayors, chiefs of police, sheriffs across America that have lobbied for a departure from the budget being presented by President Obama in regard to this issue.

The terrorist attacks and plots that we have seen here in the United States in the last ten years should remind us all that the threat of terrorism is not going away. The threat is evolving and getting more complex as terrorists adapt to evade and defeat measures put in place to identify them here in the United States. These issues are of the utmost importance for our country’s security not only today, but in the future. America can’t afford a shoe string approach to funding training for the first responder community.

In the last week we have seen arrests by the FBI of individuals in Burke and Sterling, Virginia not more than 20 miles from the Capital. These two individuals were both supporters of ISIS. One was identifying targets for a purported ISIS video and the other had purchased a weapon to launch an attack. The threat is real and I would ask you to change the direction and approach to funding UASI and other mechanisms that provide the resources and assistance needed by first responders in America.

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Released GTMO Terrorist “Jihad Dhiab” Flees Uruguay

In June 2014, the Obama Administration released six terrorists from Guantanamo Bay after Uruguay agreed to take them. Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab was one of the six released to a house on Maldonado Street in Montevideo, Uruguay. Jihad Dhiab not long ago decided to flee Montevideo for Brazil.  Maybe he wanted to beat the rush next month to Rio for the Olympic Games. Maybe he wanted to travel to the Tri-Border region, a lawless area of South America known for harboring terrorists, criminals and smugglers. Maybe he wanted to return to Syria to appeal the conviction and death sentence he received in absentia for terrorist activities when he fled Syria for Afghanistan in 2000. Today, law enforcement officers in Brazil are attempting to locate Jihad Dhiab.

During Dhiab’s time at Guantanamo Bay he was deemed to be a high risk, who posed a threat to the United States, its interests and allies. How a terrorist like Jihad Dhiab goes from being assessed and recommended for “continued detention” to actually being released is another story. But a campaign promise by President Obama to close Guantanamo Bay weighs more heavily than risks posed to Americans by terrorists held there. At the very least Jihad Dhiab should have been charged and tried.

Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab, a Syrian citizen was an expert forger who was part of a Syrian terrorist cell. The cell provided support for members of Abu Zubaydah’s global network and Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The leader of the Damascus terrorist cell was Sulayman Khalid Darwish. Darwish was the uncle of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq which later became the Islamic State. In July 2000, Syrian Intelligence officials arrested 15 members of this cell forcing the rest of the cell to flee to Afghanistan. Dhiab fled to Afghanistan and was sentenced to death in absentia for his terrorist activities in Syria. Dhiab also has ties to numerous other noted terrorists to include the September 11th recruiter Muhammad Zammar, Muhammad Yaqub, Ali Muhammad Abdul Aziz al-Fakhri (Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi) and Abu Zur al-Tunisi among others.

Dhiab’s forgery activities supported Abu Zubaydah’s global terrorist network since the mid 1990’s. While in Afghanistan, Dhiab received training at Al-Qaeda’s al-Faruq camp near Kandahar City.  Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, an Al-Qaeda paymaster listed Jihad Dhiab as an operative and provided an additional stipend for Dhiab’s four children.  With the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, Dhiab fled Afghanistan like so many Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters seeking refuge in Pakistan. Nur Zaman, the Al-Qaeda facilitator provided a residence in Lahore for Dhiab and his family.

On April 1, 2002, Dhaib was captured during a raid by Pakistani Police in Lahore at a safe house along with Abdul Haddi Bin Hadiddi, Muhammad Murdi Issa al-Zahrani and Abdullah Bin Omar. Dhiab was transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he was for twelve years before being released to Uruguay.

Dhiab was trained at Al-Qaeda’s Al-Faruq terrorist training camp, he provided material support to Abu Zubaydah and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was paid by an Al-Qaeda paymaster, provided housing by an Al-Qaeda facilitator and arrested in a safe house with other terrorists. And yet we have released this terrorist-maybe I am missing something.

Maybe Dhiab didn’t like the free housing he was given in Montevideo  or the $600 per month in financial support he was receiving. Offered a job, he and the other released terrorists refused the offer to work souring feelings with some union officials in the Uruguay capital.  A person who provides material support (i.e. forged documents) to a terrorist group like Jihad Dhiab is as much as a terrorist as the members of an execution cell. Hopefully, the Brazilian Police will be able to locate this released terrorist before he creates another headline.