Monday, November 28, 2016

Terrorist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar "Mr. Marlboro" may have been killed in French air strike.

Washington (AFP) - One-eyed hostage killer Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of Al-Qaeda's most notorious allies in North Africa, was said Monday to have been slain in a French air strike.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal that US intelligence helped France target the veteran jihadist.

The news came as French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Washington for talks with his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

But neither top official confirmed the strike, said to have taken place in southern Libya earlier this month.

The Algerian militant, commander of an Al-Qaeda-linked faction of the Al-Murabitoun group, has been reported killed on several previous occasions.

But the official told AFP the latest strike is believed to have finally hit the elusive militant, once known for kidnapping Europeans for multimillion dollar ransoms.

According to the Wall Street Journal report, citing experts and unnamed officials, the strike reflects closer US and French intelligence cooperation.

After November 2015, Islamist attacks on Paris left 130 dead, US President Barack Obama announced promised that closer intelligence cooperation with Paris would begin.

Belmokhtar became one of the world's most wanted men in 2013 after a spectacular assault on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria left at least 38 hostages dead.

This year, his group claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso that killed another 20 people, most of them foreigners.

And reports he had arrived in Libya have fuelled concern that jihadists will take advantage of the political turmoil there to establish a base of operations.

Washington put a $5 million bounty on the 44-year-old's head, dubbing him the leader of the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade, also known as the "Signatories in Blood."

In May last year, he insisted that Al-Murabitoun remains loyal to Al-Qaeda, despite another of its leaders pledging allegiance the Islamic State group.

Belmokhtar was born on June 1, 1972 in the ancient desert city of Ghardaia, 370 miles (600 kilometers) south of the Algerian capital.

- 'Mister Marlboro' -

In a rare 2007 interview he said he joined the mujahideen rebels fighting the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in 1991 when he was barely 19 years old.

In Afghanistan, he claimed, he lost an eye to shrapnel and had his first contact with the group that became Al-Qaeda, eventually rising to a senior position.

He returned to Algeria in 1993, a year after the Algiers government sparked civil war by cancelling an election that an Islamist party was poised to win.

He joined the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and thrived thanks to his intimate knowledge of the remote deserts of southern Algeria, northern Mali and Niger.

In 1998 the "Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat" (GSPC) broke from the GIA and Belmokhtar went with them.

Nine years later, GSPC formally adopted the global ideology of Saudi-born jihadist kingpin Osama bin Laden and renamed itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Belmokhtar was best known as a smuggler, known by some as "Mister Marlboro" for trafficking cigarettes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

AIRBUS APPROVED BY US TO SALE JETS TO IRAN

WSJ : LONDON— Airbus Group SE has received U.S. government backing for the export of more than 100 jetliners to Iran, despite a move by U.S. lawmakers to curb such transactions.
The export license was granted on Tuesday by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, an arm of the Treasury Department, and clears Airbus to deliver more than $20 billion in jets to Iran Air, the Islamic Republic’s flag carrier.
Iran Air and Airbus in January agreed on the potential sale of up to 118 jetliners. It was a landmark transaction and one of the most high-profile deals for Iran following the lifting of sanctions as part of a wider accord to significantly constrain the country’s nuclear activities. Airbus, Europe’s biggest plane maker, in September won U.S. government backing to deliver 17 planes to Iran Air. Boeing at the time also received approval to sell planes to the carrier.
Airbus initially sought license for a smaller number of planes to expedite the process to get planes to Iran Air, which has been struggling with an aging fleet after years of sanctions, some imposed in the wake of its revolution in 1979. Iran Air operates some of the world’s oldest airliners.
The Airbus and Boeing plane deals have been staunchly opposed by critics of the nuclear accord with Iran. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has attacked the Iran deal and named retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn as national security adviser and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) as Central Intelligence Agency director. Both have voiced opposition to the nuclear deal.
The Obama administrated has been working to strengthen the accord, including by granting more export licenses for business to sell in Iran. The effort is unrelated to Mr. Trump’s election victory, U.S. officials have said.
Airbus said it was still working with Iran Air to complete contract terms before any planes will be handed over.
Iran Air has said it was looking to buy a wide range of Airbus aircraft, from its popular A320 single-aisle plane to the A380 superjumbo. The initial license for 17 planes covered A320 jets and A330 long-range planes. Iranian officials have said they were close to completing the contract.
The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a motion to block dollar funding for such transactions. The move isn't expected to have any immediate impact on plane deliveries, though.
Airbus’s plane sales to Iran Air are expected to be denominated in euros. Boeing also is likely to use nondollar transactions to deliver its planes. Boeing aims to sell 80 jets to Iran Air in a deal valued at up to $17.6 billion. It would include its new 777X long-range jet, which is still in development, and the 747-8 jumbo jets.

READ MORE HERE

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ohio Man Arrested for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIL


USDOJ: Aaron Travis Daniels, aka Harun Muhammad, aka Abu Yusef, 20, of Columbus, Ohio, was arrested today for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The arrest was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman of the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division and agencies participating in the Southern Ohio Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

JTTF agents arrested Daniels as he attempted to leave Columbus with an alleged eventual destination of Libya, for the purpose of joining ISIL. The criminal complaint against him also alleges that Daniels sent $250 in January 2016 to an ISIL operative and had communicated his commitment to violent overseas jihad.

The complaint alleges that Daniels set up email addresses and a social media account using aliases and expressed his interest in violent jihad and traveling overseas in various communications.

The complaint also alleges that Daniels wired money to an intermediary for Abu Isa Al-Amriki, a now-deceased ISIL member, recruiter and external attack planner. Daniels allegedly told an undercover FBI employee that he wanted to travel to Trinidad as the beginning of his trip to Libya, where Daniels said Al-Amriki had suggested he go to support jihad. On Nov. 5, Daniels bought an airline ticket to travel from Columbus to Houston, Texas, and on to Trinidad. The flight was scheduled to leave Columbus today.

JTTF officers arrested Daniels at the airport, before boarding his flight. Daniels appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp who ordered him held without bond.

If convicted of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, Daniels faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Congress prescribes the maximum potential sentences and it is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge. A federal criminal complaint merely contains allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The Southern Ohio JTTF is made up of officers and agents from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Columbus Division of Police, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio State University Police Department, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the John Glenn International Airport Police Department, the Westerville Police Department and the Columbus Division of Fire.

Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the JTTF for its investigation of this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica W. Knight of the Southern District of Ohio, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gibson of the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office, and Trial Attorneys Michael Dittoe and Taryn M. Meeks of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

CIA releasing 11 million classified documents


FROM: THE HILL By Julian Hattem - 10/27/16 10:50 AM EDT


The CIA will publish more than 11 million declassified documents onto the internet, making its library of old files dramatically more accessible to the public, the agency announced this week.

Currently, the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) is only accessible to researchers who travel in person to an office of the National Archives in College Park, Md., severely limiting the public’s access. Once there, users can search through the database’s millions of electronic records that have already been reviewed and approved for public release.

That will change soon.

“CIA does intend to move the documents located on the CREST system to CIA.gov,” agency spokesman Jonathan Liu said in a statement Thursday.

Once they're on the agency’s website, people will be able to search through the 11 million pages just as visitors to the National Archives office in Maryland can currently do.

“This will dramatically increase the ability of the public to access these documents, which currently are available only by going to [the National Archives and Records Administration] in person,” Liu said.

The CIA was unable to provide a specific date when the documents will be posted online, “but we are moving out on the plan to make the transition,” said Liu.

The development was previously reported by the Federation of American Scientists’s project on government secrecy.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

NSA contractor who stole documents over two decades charged


CBS NEWS: 

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who’s been charged with stealing and keeping highly classified material over the course of two decades put U.S. intelligence officers and operations at risk by possessing their names, according to a court filing Thursday.

In the filing with a Maryland federal court, the Justice Department confirmed for the first time specific details about the type of information Harold Martin took from the NSA.

“As an example, information stolen by the Defendant includes numerous names of intelligence officers of the United States,” the filing said. “These officers operate under cover outside the United States, and putting the secrecy of their identities at risk by removing information about those identities from appropriate, secure storage not only endangers the lives and safety of those officers and the individuals with whom they work, but also risks exposure of American intelligence operations.”

The Justice Department added that if numerous intelligence sources and methods for highly sensitive intelligence operations fell into the wrong hands, they “could be rendered nearly useless.”

Prosecutors estimate that a substantial portion of the 50 terabytes of digital information found in Martin’s possession contains “highly classified information.” Authorities also found thousands of hard-copy documents containing “highly classified information” in his possession.

In the filing Thursday, the Justice Department did not say whether the names of intelligence officers were shared with U.S. adversaries and it’s still unclear whether Martin was selling this information or if he was simply hoarding the information in his home.

Regardless of his intentions, the Justice Department plans to charge Martin under the Espionage Act. He has already been charged with theft of government property and removal and retention of classified materials for stealing half a billion pages of U.S. secrets and records between 1996 and 2016.

Martin, 51, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, made his first public court appearance in a Baltimore federal courtroom on Friday and the judge ruled that he must remain detained because he poses a “serious risk to the public.”

In court documents filed last week, government lawyers said that Martin committed theft that was “breathtaking in its longevity and scale.”

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