Draft Homeland Security report called for long-term surveillance of some Muslim immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security in a draft report from late January recommended authorities surveil Sunni Muslim immigrants in the United States long-term if it were decided that they fit “at-risk” demographic profiles, Foreign Policy reported Monday.

Upon reviewing 25 terrorist attacks that took place on U.S. between October 2001 and December 2017, the draft report concluded it would be of “great value for the United States Government in dedicating resources to continuously evaluate persons of interest,” according to a copy obtained by FP.

When such immigrants reached American soil, the draft report also reportedly recommended the U.S. track them on a “long-term basis.”

The report could raise new questions about the Trump administration’s policies geared toward Muslim immigrants.

The draft identified a broad group of Sunni Muslim residing within the U.S. who were identified as possibly being “vulnerable to terrorist narratives,” because they matched a set of risk indicators, such as being young, male and having national origins in “the Middle East, South Asia or Africa.”

Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), requested the report on Jan. 22, FP reported, citing internal DHS correspondence.

A CBP spokesperson told the news outlet that the report they obtained was a “first draft,” which has already undergone some revisions and continues to be changed.

“[I]t is extremely important to highlight an important aspect — the document that was improperly provided to you is not a final CBP intelligence assessment, and therefore does not reflect CBP’s policy on this matter,” the spokesperson wrote.

“More specifically, the initial draft assessment in your possession not only is still undergoing internal CBP review, but, at the time of its improper disclosure, did not reflect a large number of substantive comments and revisions that have since been made to subsequent versions of the document as a result of CBP’s internal and external review process,” their email continued.

One department official who reviewed the report told FP it is the only risk-analysis product being shared around DHS and the report’s recommendations are derived from reviews of select cases — even if the report markets it as an all-encompassing review.

“First, this report would steer policymakers to implement unfair and discriminatory surveillance of particular ethnic groups,” the DHS official told the magazine.

“Second, the analysis, which is misleadingly packaged as a comprehensive analysis of post-9/11 terrorism, could lead policymakers to overlook significant national security threats,” the official added.

During his presidential campaign, Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S., a policy that critics say has taken the form of his travel-ban on several Muslim-majority countries.

That ban has been challenged in the judicial system, and the Supreme Court announced plans to review it last month.

[The Hill]

Homeland Security Senior Adviser Was Right-Wing Radio Host Who Promoted Birtherism

A Department of Homeland Security senior adviser to the White House was formerly a conservative radio host who “promoted conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama’s birthplace, lamented the “Zimbabwe-fication of America,” and mocked the LGBT community,” according to a report by CNN’s KFILE.

Frank Wuco joined the White House in January after spending several years as a radio host in Florida, and his hardline views on Islam have been previously reported – as well as a jihadist character named Fuad Wasul he would often dress up as for videos warning of Islamic extremism.

CNN’s KFILE combed through dozens of hours of Wuco’s radio show, and found a trove of controversial comments from the man who now leads a team working to enforce President Donald Trump’s executive orders, including his controversial travel ban:

On the radio, Wuco said Obama knew nothing of the “black American experience,” defended the initial speculation in the media that Muslim extremists were responsible for the mass killing in Norway, and said that gay people had hijacked the word “gay” from happy people.

Wuco, a former naval intelligence officer, also happens to have something in common with Trump: he touted the birther conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, even referring to the former president’s birth certificate as “a questionable document.”

Acting DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton defended Wuco in a statement to CNN, saying “Mr. Wuco works every day to keep the American people safe by helping to implement the President’s security-focused agenda, including raising the global bar for vetting and screening of potential terrorists.

“Years-old comments cherry picked from thousands of hours on the air have no bearing on his ability to perform his job for the American people,” Houlton said.

[Mediaite]

Trump Scolds the Wrong Theresa May After Criticism Over Him Sharing Anti-Muslim Videos

The President of the United States, who shared a racist far-right group’s unverified anti-Muslim videos, responded to criticism from the office of Prime Minister Theresa May––who felt that the President of the United States should NOT be sharing a racist far-right group’s unverified anti-Muslim videos––by saying that she should not “focus on me” and focus on radical Islam instead, but in doing so he TAGGED THE WRONG THERESA MAY.

The account he linked to does not belong to the British prime minister, it belongs to another woman named Theresa who’s about to get a lot of angry and confused tweets.

Theresa May’s account is @theresa_may.

[Mediaite]

Reality

There’s no evidence of extremist takeover of areas in Europe or the United States. This is a myth pushed by Fox News that has no basis in reality.

Update

The President deleted the tweet and corrected it.

White House defends Trump’s Muslim tweets

The White House on Wednesday defended President Trump’s widely condemned retweets of videos purporting to show violence committed by Muslims.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that whether the inflammatory videos are real or not, “the threat is real.”

“I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” she told reporters at the White House. “I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real and that is what the president is talking about.”

Sanders said the videos underscore the need for Trump’s push to bolster national security and secure the nation’s borders.

“Those are very real things. There is nothing fake about that,” she said.

Trump retweeted videos posted by Jayda Fransen, a leader of the far-right organization Britain First. The group is considered a fringe entity in the U.K. and Fransen has been convicted of a hate crime.

The tweets set off a massive backlash against the president on both sides of the Atlantic.

U.S. civil rights leaders accused Trump of fanning anti-Muslim sentiment and the British government condemned the tweets.

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect,” British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said in a statement. “It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

The Council of American-Islamic Relations also condemned the tweets. The group’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said Trump is “clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims.”

“Trump’s posts amount to incitement to violence against American Muslims,” he said. “His actions should be condemned by all American political and religious leaders, regardless of their party or faith.”

Fransen’s first tweet read: “VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”

“VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” read another. “VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” read a third.

The videos have not been independently authenticated.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump retweets far-right group’s anti-Muslim videos

Donald Trump has retweeted three inflammatory videos from a British far-right group.

The first tweet from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, claims to show a Muslim migrant attacking a man on crutches.

This was followed by two more videos of people Ms Fransen claims to be Muslim.

Responding to Mr Trump’s posts, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”.

Britain First was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP).

The group has grabbed attention on social media with controversial posts about what they deem “the Islamification of the UK”.

It has put up members to run in European elections and by-elections on anti-immigration and anti-abortion policies, but has not secured any seats.

It also contested the most recent London mayoral election, receiving 1.2% of the vote.

The original video was shared by US conservative commentator Ann Coulter who Mr Trump follows.

Ms Fransen has more than 52,000 followers on Twitter.

She responded enthusiastically to Mr Trump sharing her tweets. She posted on her account: “Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers!”

“God bless you Trump! God bless America!” she added. The message was also shared on Britain First’s Twitter account.

Donald Trump is once again using Twitter to weigh in on contentious religious-tinged political issues in the UK.

In the past, he’s attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan for mishandling a militant attack just hours after it occurred. He misattributed a rise in crime in England and Wales to the “spread of radical Islamic terror”. Now, he has retweeted a series of unverified videos posted by a far-right British nationalist group.

For the president, directing attention toward the UK seems to serve a domestic political purpose.

He cites events and opinions there as a warning to Americans of what could happen in the US if they do not heed his policy prescriptions on immigration and border security. The Muslim ban, the US-Mexico wall, increased deportations, the sharp reductions on refugee resettlement – it’s all part of the president’s “national security” package.

While most Americans probably haven’t heard of Britain First and are unfamiliar with European radical nationalist movements, there are white supremacist groups in the US that follow the actions of these overseas operations quite closely. The president on Wednesday signalled that he watches them too.

Earlier this month, Ms Fransen was charged with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” during speeches she made in Belfast.

She will appear at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 14 December.

[BBC News]

Anger over Donald Trump’s UK crime tweet

Donald Trump has been accused of fuelling hate crime with a tweet erroneously linking a rise in the UK crime rate to “radical Islamic terror”.

He said crime in the UK had risen by 13% amid the “spread” of Islamist terror – despite the figure referring to all crimes, not just terrorism.

The Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, said the statement was “inflammatory and ignorant”, while ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Trump was “a moron”.

The Home Office declined to comment.

Mr Trump’s tweet used data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)’s latest crime update, which reported a 13% increase across all offences in the 12 months to June.

It covered England and Wales, not the whole of the UK.

Police recorded 5.2m offences in the last year, the bulk of which were not associated with terrorism.

Rises were recorded in crime public order offences, stalking and harassment, possession of weapons and robbery.

The statistics – which made no reference to “radical Islamic terror” – showed that 35 out of the 664 homicides in England and Wales were caused by terror attacks in London and Manchester.

US media outlets have speculated whether Mr Trump’s tweet followed a TV report on One America News Network, a conservative TV channel, which aired the statistics on Friday morning.

Donald Trump is half right.

Crime has gone up by 13% – but not in the UK. The increase announced yesterday covered England and Wales whereas Scotland and Northern Ireland publish their data separately.

But overlooking that mistake, what about the phrase that appears to connect the increase to the “spread of radical Islamic terror”?

The number of cases of murder and attempted murder linked to Islamist-related extremism, has indeed gone up substantially.

Of the 664 homicides recorded in the year ending June 2017, 34 resulted from the Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks – there were no such deaths last year.

The attacks also accounted for the majority of the 426 additional attempted murders registered by police.

Arrests for terror-related offences went up as well, from 226 to 379, across England, Wales and Scotland, though that number also includes people detained for far-right extremism.

But in terms of overall offending, this increase in terror-related crime represents a fraction, when you consider that there were an extra 579,553 offences recorded by police compared with the year before.

[BBC News]

Trump Resurrects Pig’s Blood Myth After Barcelona Attack

President Trump resurrected a dubious story about a renowned U.S. Army general’s handling of Muslim insurgents following Thursday’s terror attack in Barcelona, Spain.

“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” he tweeted.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump frequently told a tale of how Pershing had Muslim prisoners in the Philippines executed with bullets coated in pig’s blood to discourage rebellion against American rule.

Similar rumors have been floating around the internet for years, but the website PolitiFact gave Trump’s claim “pants on fire” — the rating it gives the “most ridiculous falsehoods.”

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said his team knew the story was a myth even when Trump told it in 2016 but decided to tell it at rallies anyway.

“It’s not about that,” he told The Washington Post in June 2016 following his ouster. “Look, it’s an analogy.”

Trump’s inflammatory Thursday tweet comes during a week he is facing fierce criticism over his response to last weekend’s deadly violence at a white supremacist rally Charlottesville, Va.

The president initially failed to single out neo-Nazis, the KKK and other groups that fomented the violence. After issuing a specific condemnation a day later, Trump said Tuesday that there is “blame on both sides.”

The president explained his hesitance to blame white supremacists, telling reporters, “Before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”

One person was killed and 19 were injured when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters during the rally. The alleged driver was a 20-year-old man with ties to white supremacist groups.

In Spain, authorities said at least 12 people were killed and more than 80 were injured when a van plowed into a crowd of people Thursday in a popular tourist area in Barcelona.

One suspect was arrested in the terror attack, a Moroccan citizen who was residing legally in Spain.

Trump made a more conventional statement condemning the Barcelona attack roughly half an hour before tweeting about Pershing.

“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” he tweeted.

[The Hill]

 

Donald Trump abandons traditional White House Ramadan celebration

Donald Trump has been criticised for not hosting an iftar dinner during Ramadan, breaking a nearly 20-year tradition.

Despite events held by previous administrations from across the political divide, this year’s Ramadan – which began on 26 May – passed nearly unobserved by the White House. It was marked only by a statement published late on Saturday afternoon, coinciding with the end of the holy month.

The first White House iftar dinner is said to have been hosted by President Thomas Jefferson in 1805. Guests included a Tunisian ambassador to the US.

Hillary Clinton, when she was first lady, resurrected the event in February 1996, hosting about 150 people for a reception for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month.

The sunset dinner, attended by legislators, diplomats and leaders within the US Muslim community, went on to become an annual tradition starting in 1999, observed by the past three administrations.

George W Bush held an iftar dinner every year of his two terms, including just after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. James Norton, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Bush, said: “From President Bush’s perspective, it was important post-9/11 for the administration and to show the White House and the US is inclusive of all people and religions, especially after such a traumatic event. We were not at war with Islam itself but with terrorist organisations.

“President Bush went out of his way to wrap his arms around the Muslim community. I don’t know why the current administration made this decision.”

Barack Obama hosted his first Ramadan dinner in 2009, and subsequently every year of his presidency. He visited a mosque in Baltimore last year and spoke out against Muslim stereotypes in TV dramas.

The Washington Post reported that Saturday’s White House statement was signed by Donald and Melania Trump, and was not posted to the president’s social media presences. It read: “Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity.

“Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbours and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Eid Mubarak.”

But Trump was condemned for cancelling the annual dinner. Washington-based Mamadou Samba, of Senegalese origin, who attended the iftar celebration hosted by Obama in 2015, said: “As a tradition held by US presidents, I personally appreciate the reception as recognition of our faith and as Muslim Americans. I looked forward to it this year but was a bit disappointed that it did not occur and wonder what it means to have skipped it.”

Talib Shareef, imam of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, told Newsweek magazine: “It is disappointing because that’s been a good tradition. To stop it doesn’t send a good message. You get the chance to go golfing and all this other kind of stuff. How come you don’t have time for a population of your society that needs some assistance? The message that it sends is that we’re not that important.”

Others suggested the iftar dinner controversy was just the tip of an iceberg. Haroon Moghul, a fellow in Jewish-Muslim Relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute and author of the memoir How to Be a Muslim: An American Story, said: “[Trump] shows no concern for our rights, employs the worst anti-Muslim bigots in his administration, and enshrines Islamophobia into law.

“Just with this travel ban, the lives of thousands of Americans – and that’s who they are, because they live and work and contribute to here – are ruined. It is the beginning of his hatred of us, rhetoric unfolding into policy, and not the end. What difference would a dinner invitation make to any of these things?”

In May, Reuters reported that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had refused a recommendation by the state department’s office of religion and global affairs – which typically initiates such events – to host a reception marking Eid al-Fitr.

A state department spokesperson told Reuters it was “still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr. US ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”

The Trump administration has been accused of Islamophobia for the president’s controversial proposed travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries. After the presidential order was temporarily blocked by two federal appeals courts, the US supreme court on Monday reinstated significant elements of the ban. Trump was quick to claim a victory.

This month, about 100 Muslim activists protested against the US president’s divisive policies and rhetoric on Islam outside Trump Tower in New York. The group prayed and broke fast outside the president’s business headquarters late on 1 June, as part of the “#IftarInTheStreets” action organised by immigrant advocacy groups.

Asked why the dinner did not take place, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday: “I don’t know.”

[The Guardian]

Trump OMB Nominee Uncovered as Anti-Muslim

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday raised alarms about Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Ahead of a Senate Budget Committee hearing on his nomination, the ACLU pointed to Vought’s inflammatory comments about Muslims in a 2016 religious post.

“Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned,” Vought wrote.

Manar Waheed, ACLU legislative and advocacy counsel, said Vought’s nomination to the position was “disturbing” in its implications for religious freedom.

“It is vitally important that Americans have confidence that their public servants will serve our entire nation in good faith,” he said.

“We will watch Vought closely and press to ensure that those helping decide how public money is spent and the government is managed understand the vital importance of nondiscrimination,” he added.

OMB pushed back on the ACLU’s characterization of Vought’s comments, saying they were merely an internal theological discussion at his alma mater, which is a Christian school

“Russ Vought is here to serve the President and to help Mick Mulvaney advance this Administration’s priorities. If he is to be confirmed by the Senate, there is no doubt that he would afford all people with dignity and respect,” said OMB spokesman John Czwartacki.

[The Hill]

US Approves Social Media Background Checks for Visa Applicants

The U.S. is buttressing its paperwork walls with new requirements for social media disclosures as part of revised visa applications.

Reported by Reuters earlier today, the decision from the U.S. government’s Office of Management and Budget was made over strenuous objections from education and academic groups during a public comment period.

The new questionnaire will ask for social media handles dating back over the last five years and biographical information dating back 15 years.

For critics, the new questionnaire represents yet another obstacle that the government is putting in the path of potential immigrants, would-be students and qualified researchers and teachers that may otherwise want to come to the United States.

Check out the new visa questionnaire here.

Quoting an unnamed State Department official, Reuters reported that the additional information would only be requested when the department determines that “such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.”

In an earlier Reuters report, the news service quoted an immigration attorney railing against the new procedures:

“What this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion,” Gairson said.

[TechCrunch]

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