September 03, 2009

Al Qaeda Frequently Encountered in ... Virginia!??!

When I read this, I was stunned. Bombshell?:

Based on collection requirements established in 2008, al-Qa段da, Al-Shabaab, HAMAS, Hizballah, Jama誕t ul Fuqra, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and the Muslim Brotherhood were assessed as potential international terrorism threats to Virginia. While most of these groups are known to have individuals that currently live, work, or frequently travel through Virginia, some groups were included in this threat assessment based more on historic data or emerging significance based on world events. These assessments were largely corroborated by recently released data from the Terrorism Screening Center. According to 2008 ground encounter data, the most frequently encountered groups were al-Qa段da, HAMAS, and Hizballah. Occasionally encountered groups
and movements included Sunni Extremists, Jama誕t Tabligh, Palestinian Islamic Jihadb , Islamic Jihad Unionc, Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban.
So, members of al Qaeda were encountered in Virginia? My immediate thought was that the wording here might be technical. So, I went to a definitional footnote to see how 'encountered' was operationalized:
(LES) Encounters include air travel, traffic stops, arrests, firearms purchases, employment checks, and visa applications
Okay, I'm guessing that most of these "encounters" were false alarms based on routine screenings which turn up false positives based on similar names.

I hope.

But let's continue with the section specifically dedicated to al Qaeda and its links to Virginia [I've left the footnote numbers in so you can check them in the original if you want]:

Possible activities by al-Qa段da members or sympathizers within the U.S. include fundraising through hawalas (moneylenders), front businesses, and narcotics sales, as well as recruitment and radicalization.5 Group members or sympathizers may have established a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. and may be attempting to exploit minority communities that perceive themselves as marginalized. 6,7 Past intelligence indicates group operatives may be entering or attempting to enter the U.S. through Mexico and Latin America.8

According to 2008 Terrorism Screening Center ground encounter data, al-Qa段da was one of the three most frequently encountered groups in Virginia.9 In 2007, at least 414 encounters between suspected al-Qa段da members and law enforcement or government officials were documented in the Commonwealth.d Although the vast majority of encounters involved automatic database checks for air travel, a number of subjects were encountered by law enforcement officers.

So, yes most of these 414 "encounters" were database checks -- again, hopefully we are talking about false positives -- but at least some al Qaeda "subjects" were encountered by law enforcement.

Double Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!?!

Who are these al Qaeda "subjects" being "encountered" in Virginia??????


While reports of encounters with known members or sympathizers are important to note, the potential for encountering unidentified al-Qa段da members or sympathizers within existing Salafie populations in Virginia are also cause for concern. Enclaves of Salafist ideology adherents have been identified in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas.10 Al-Qa段da may also have a presence in Central Virginia due to the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood.11 College campuses12 and correctional centers within Virginia also represent potential recruitment and radicalization venues.f According to 2009 public safety survey data, the counties of Fairfax and Spotsylvania reported awareness of individuals potentially linked to al-Qa段da living, working, or otherwise linked to their jurisdictions.13
This is pretty big. Read the footnotes for the sources of this information and you'll see that most of it is open source. Except:
10 (LES) 2009 VFC Threat Assessment Survey: Fairfax County, City of Falls Church, , Spotsylvania County, VSP
11 (LES) 2008 VFC Threat Assessment Survey: FBI Richmond Field Office
12 (LES) 2008 VFC Threat Assessment Survey: Regent University Campus Police;
13 (LES) 2009 VFC Threat Assessment Survey:
So, on the one hand I'm pretty freaking happy that some in law enforcement are taking the homegrown jihad threat seriously. On the other hand, it's not that comforting to know that, yes, those guys next door that you think might be jihadis might actually be jihadis!

I'm still kind of reeling from this. Maybe you've seen the whole report already as it's a few days months old, but I'm still reading it. It's marked "LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE" and "NO REPORT OR SEGMENT THEREOF MAY BE RELEASED TO ANY MEDIA SOURCES" but it's already out there.

Canada Free Press has the whole thing in PDF format here.

I'll probably update this post as I read the rest of the document. Let me know via email if there are others who have covered this already and have something worthwhile to say and link to; or, if as you read it something important sticks out.

UPDATE: How come none of you emailed me about this when it was first leaked? You're off the Christmas card list!

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 02:25 PM | Comments |