The FBI arrested two refugees from Iraq late yesterday, one in Texas and another in California, casting even more doubt on the ability of the US to vet refugees from the Middle East. Both are Palestinians, but they differed on their plans. One wanted to return to fight, while the other plotted to provide support to ISIS, according to prosecutors:
Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, of Sacramento, Calif., was charged with making a false statement involving international terrorism; and Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, of Houston, was charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.
Authorities said Hardan moved to this country in 2009 and was granted legal permanent residence status two years later. Jayab came to the United States in October 2012. The two men had been communicating about weapons and training, according to prosecutors.
“Jayab allegedly traveled overseas to fight alongside terrorist organizations and lied to U.S. authorities about his activities,” said John Carlin, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Prosecutors said Jayab, while living in Arizona and Wisconsin, claimed on social media that he had fought previously in Syria against the regime. He then returned to the war-torn country again in 2013 to fight for Ansar al-Islam, a designated foreign terrorist organization since 2004, authorities said. Jayab later claimed he had traveled to Turkey to visit his grandmother.
The arrest in northern California took place on the eve of a summit in San Jose between counter-terrorism experts and Silicon Valley tech firms. The timing of this lesson in security is certainly propitious, no?
Jayab took his mission seriously, according to Milwaukee’s WISN. While living there, Jayab trained at a local gun range for long-range marksmanship, then used an insurance settlement to fund a trip to Syria through Turkey. Somehow, Jayab managed to return to the US without getting noticed immediately by DHS.
From the reports, it appears that the pair didn’t get detected until after Jayab’s return. Jayab may have other legal issues facing him as well, according to this Fox News report, such as war crimes:
Social media and other accounts say that as soon as he arrived in the United States, he began saying he wanted to return to Syria to “work,” which the FBI says is believed to be a reference “to assisting in and supporting violent jihad.”
Al-Jayab criticized ISIS in several messages for killing Muslims, saying “If it weren’t for the State’s bloodletting, I would have been the first one to join it”, according to the FBI, although he later described fighting alongside the group.
In one communication with the Texas contact, dubbed “Individual I”, Al-Jayab described, during earlier fighting, emptying seven ammunition magazines from his assault rifle during a battle and executing three Syrian government soldiers.
Jayab faces eight years in prison, but he’ll get the boot after that. If the US hands him over to whatever competent authority might exist in Syria, he may not last long with his bragging about the execution of prisoners. And isn’t it just peachy that we allowed Jayab and Hardan into the country to prepare himself for war crimes abroad, too?
The Washington Post also reports on the Obama administration’s press on Silicon Valley today for more cooperation in the war on terror:
The meeting at a federal government building in San Jose, to be led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, follows President Obama’s televised call after the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., last month for tech leaders to “make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.”
The officials see it as a bull session to learn how they might use technology to “disrupt paths to radicalization to violence” and “identify recruitment patterns” as well as to measure efforts to countering radicalization, according to an agenda obtained by The Washington Post.
They are also interested in knowing how they can encourage others to publish content that would “undercut” the Islamic State’s message online. …
The encryption issue is also on the agenda but is not a main focus, officials said. That issue has divided the administration, with the tech and economic policy agencies supporting the use of widespread encryption and law enforcement and national security agencies concerned that such a trend is aiding terrorists and criminals. Comey’s participation in the meeting was on the condition of encryption being on the agenda, an official said.
Without a doubt, American industry should try to find ways to defeat radical Islamic jihad, but perhaps the titans of Silicon Valley might suggest that the federal government get its own house in order first. The proximity of Jayab to the “bull session” might make for a very good opening for a discussion about federal priorities, especially with the Obama administration proposing to allow thousands of Syrian refugees into the US this year.