Islamists Penetrate Western Security
by Daniel Pipes
January 24, 2005
updated Dec 26, 2010
It was hard for me to write this, but I argued exactly two years ago that "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces."
Those words came to mind this evening, at the very end of the sixth episode in Fox Broadcasting's 24 drama, when one of the key American counterterrorist figures turned out to be working for an Islamist terrorist gang. In fact, there are already at least four documented cases of Islamist infiltration of law enforcement and the intelligence services in Western countries:
- United Kingdom: Ghazi Kassim, 53, admitted three charges of "public office misconduct" for selling information about Saudi Islamists and Abu Hamza al-Masri to Ali al-Shamarani, a third secretary at the Saudi Arabian embassy. Kassim, a policeman for 15 years, was arrested in July 2003 after receiving something like £14,000. The prosecutor explained his modus operandi: "Ghazi Kassim conducted research into private individuals using confidential databases held by the Metropolitan Police. He received tasking from Dr Ali al-Shamarani to go to question people at their home addresses, which he did. … He did not declare he was a police officer when he did this, nor did he declare for whom he was carrying out this research." Kassim received a two-and-a-half year jail sentence in October 2004 for these abuses; in addition, he was jailed for six months to run concurrently for having a CS gas canister at his home.
- Canada: Mohammad Momin Khawaja, 24, a Canadian citizen born to Pakistani immigrants, was arrested on terrorism charges in March, 2004 while at his job, designing computer software for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs. Dec. 21, 2005 update: The five charges against Khawaja are finally public and all have to do with a London terrorist group, including allegations related to possession of explosives, participating or contributing to a terrorist group, and helping to arrange financing to benefit a terrorist group.
- The Netherlands: A Moroccan national identified as Outman Ben Amar, 34, who worked as a translator at the Dutch AIVD intelligence service, was arrested on Sept. 30, 2004, on suspicion of betraying state secrets. In particular, he is suspected of having leaked information, perhaps via hidden information on his website, to the group linked to the Nov. 2 ritual murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Dec. 14, 2005 update: Outman Ben Amar was sentenced to 4½ years in prison, to which he responded, "I feel really I have been treated in a rotten way." He is appealing the conviction.
- United States: On Jan. 6, 2005, the Chicago Police Department fired Patricia Eng-Hussain, 30, just three days into her training, on learning that her husband, Mohammad Azam Hussain, 36, was arrested in September 2004 and is charged with failing to tell U.S. immigration officials about his role as an active and founding member of Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H), a Pakistani group accused of murders, kidnappings and extortion. On arrest, Hussain admitted he had spent time at a Pakistani "death camp" and learned to use weapons and explosives. Suspicions about Eng-Hussain were aroused when she asked for time off to be in court. She had previously taken the stand as a defense witness.
For examples of penetration of the U.S. military, see my writings at "Pentagon Jihadis" and "More Pentagon Jihadis." Plus, I discuss the murky case of FBI Special Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz at "The FBI Fumbles [on Gamal Abdel-Hafiz]" and a follow-up weblog entry, "The Saga of FBI Special Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz."
Assuming that these are not the last such instances, I will record others here, as they come to my attention. (January 24, 2005)
March 8, 2005 update: The Los Angeles Times has a major article today on this problem by Bob Drogin, "Spy Agencies Fear Some Applicants Are Terrorists." Barry Royden, a counterintelligence instructor at the Central Intelligence Agency flat-out states that "We think terrorist organizations have tried to insinuate people into our hiring pools." Three senior counterintelligence officials added their worry that terrorist groups are trying to place an "insider" in U.S. counterterrorist planning and operational networks. They point to two difficulties in keeping out infiltrators:
those most qualified for such sensitive jobs — naturalized Americans who grew up in the Middle East or South Asia, for example, and who are native speakers of Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Urdu and other crucial languages — have proved the most difficult to vet during background checks. In addition, because of restrictions imposed by U.S. privacy laws, authorities at one spy service may not know that someone they had rejected later found a job at another agency or at a defense contractor working on classified systems.
March 25, 2005 update: Another specific case, this one nipped before it could happen:
- United States: Sadeq Naji Ahmed, 25, a Yemeni immigrant living in Dearborn, Michigan, was discharged early from the U.S. Air Force in September 2001 when his superiors became alarmed about statements he made at Eglin Air Force Base after 1999, and questioned his loyalty. Ahmed was said to make statements in support of bin Laden, to express indifference about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to say that the United States deserved to be attacked, that he wouldn't fight if the U.S. military took action in Iraq, and that he wished U.S. aircraft flying over Iraq would crash. After his early discharge, Ahmed got a job in December 2001 as a baggage screener for a private contractor at Detroit's Metro Airport. He was conditionally appointed in October 2002 to a security screener job with the Transportation Security Administration, contingent upon passing a background check. The TSA terminated him in August 2003, on learning that he hid the fact of his early discharge on the TSA background questionnaire he filled out. If convicted of making false statements on that questionnaire, Ahmed faces up to 5 years in prison on each count and a $250,000 fine. May 20, 2005 update: Ahmed was convicted today. Sep. 7, 2005 update: Ahmed was sentenced to eighteen months in jail.
May 31, 2005 update: There's quite a story coming out of Sydney:
- Australia: Martin Chulov and Jonathan Porter report in the Australian on a classified report marked "Highly Protected" by the customs agency about the country's largest airport. Not only do some 10 per cent of the 500 security screeners have criminal convictions, half of them serious, but 14 employees raised concerns with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, while 18 others could not be found on any DIMIA database. The report states that work as airport security screeners is highly sought after "particularly by Muslim groups". One security guard and his family are said to be members of a "fanatical" religious group.
It could be argued that racial if not ideological profiling is now an accepted part of risk assessment. Investigations revealed that some security guards ... have been in Australia for relatively short periods of time yet have already been issued with security and firearms licences despite their grasp of English being minimal.
Then there is the problem of porters. Among them, the report goes on,
there is a predominance of Middle Eastern male employees in their early 20s. It was felt some of the men were under the influence of a particular supervisor who used his 'lieutenants' in the distribution of narcotics and the systematic stealing from carpark and baggage. Some of these persons have affiliations with radical ... groups and are seen as a possible security liability. Some have associations with gangs predominantly in Sydney's southwest renowned for gang rapes, ram raids, theft, drive-bys and car-rebirthing. The vulnerability of Sydney airport ... should not be under-evaluated in terms of counter-terrorism or other criminal activity.
June 10, 2005 update: The report from Sydney just above focuses on airport security screeners and porters, but what about baggage handlers?
- Australia: News comes today that Bilal Khazal, 35, a former Qantas baggage handler, will stand trial on the charge of knowingly collecting or making documents connected with terrorism.
Crown Prosecutor Geoffrey Bellew told the court during the committal hearing that Khazal had compiled a terrorist manual by collecting articles he found on the internet. … [Central Local Court Magistrate Michael] Price today committed the 35-year-old to stand trial, saying there was a reasonable prospect of conviction. "I find there is a reasonable prospect that a reasonable jury properly instructed will convict you of this indictable offence and you are committed to stand your trial in the Supreme Court."
The Sydney Morning Herald provides details on Khazal's manual for terrrorists, titled Provisions on the Rules of Jihad and written under a pseudonym (Abu Mohamed Attawheedy). Khazal is modest about his effort, found on his computer in suburban Lakemba and dedicated to the "martyrs of Islam." He writes that it has "short and wise" rules for jihad but apologizes for the text's deficiencies, noting it was done in a few days. Almost a third of the text provides guidance for assassins, including attributes needed ("wit and a quick mind," "a terrorist psychology," and "high physical fitness"). The manual explains how to set up hit squads and tells how jihad fighters can protect themselves from the CIA and Mossad. A checklist for jihadist assassins covers such subject as finances, transportation, and constructing time-bombs. The book praises Al-Qaeda's "impressive success of the conquest of New York," a reference to September 11, 2001.
Khazal also faces a committal hearing on a second terrorism-related charge, that of inciting another person to commit a terrorist act.
Oh, and Bilal Khazal has already been convicted, along with his brother Maher, of helping and financing a terror group that bombed a McDonald's restaurant in Beirut in April 2003.
July 10, 2005 update: Michael Sulick, former CIA chief of counterintelligence, today quotes Barry Royden that as many as 40 terrorists may have attempted to infiltrate U.S. intelligence agencies in recent months and adds on his own authority that "post-Sept. 11 pressures to quickly boost staffing make it increasingly likely that a terrorist could sneak into the intelligence community's ranks." He also argues that
Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups operate like traditional intelligence services. Terrorists spy before they terrorize. They case and observe their targets. They collect intelligence about their enemy's vulnerabilities from publicly available information and by eliciting secrets from unwitting sources. Like intelligence officers, terrorists also practice tradecraft — the art of blending seamlessly into a society's fabric for months or years before striking.
And Sulick makes this observation about the potential damage such a spy could do:
In the war on terrorism, intelligence has replaced the Cold War's tanks and fighter planes as the primary weapon against an unseen enemy. A single mole in the CIA, the National Security Agency or the FBI could inflict far more damage to national security than Soviet spies did during the Cold War. Because the U.S. and Soviet Union never went head-to-head in war, the Soviets never fully exploited the advantages from its spies. Now, however, our nation is at war. Imagine the damage Al Qaeda could do with the help of an infiltrator such as FBI spy Robert Hanssen or CIA traitor Aldrich Ames, each of whom passed a wealth of classified material to the Russians.
July 15, 2005 update: This case does not exactly fit the list, given the person's Christian religion and non-attempt to hide his views, but I include it because of its similarities with the other examples.
- United States: Bassam Khalaf, 21, a Texan of Christian Palestinian origins who also goes by the name of "Arabic Assassin," got a job in March 2005 with the Transportation Security Administration as a baggage screener at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. He lost it on July 7, "fired because of threatening language that undermines the public's trust" in the TSA, said Andrea McCauley, an agency spokeswoman. The lyrics on his website from his music CD, "Terror Alert," McCauley said, contain offensive language and talk about anarchy, harming children and blowing up airplanes. "We looked over [the Web site] ourselves and, certainly, we were very concerned. When you're charged with protecting the American people and you discuss how you will do harm to them, then it behooves us to terminate your employment." The letter firing him noted that his songs "applaud the efforts of the terrorists on September 11th, encourage and warn of future acts of terrorism by you, discuss at length and in grave and alarming detail various criminal acts you intend to commit, state your belief that the U.S. government should be overthrown, and finally warn that others will die on September 11, 2005." (The lyrics in his song, Bringing the Pain, include references to flying a plane into a building on that date.) Khalaf remained nonplussed: "I thought it was kind of ridiculous. What does my music have to do with my job?" He also says he took the TSA job to do his part in the war on terror.
Sep. 11, 2005 update: In a related matter, an Independent on Sunday investigation by Shiv Malik has established "How militant Islamists are infiltrating Britain's top companies." Specifically, it looks at the ways Hizb ut-Tahrir has placed its members in such leading institutions as the National Health Service, IBM, the Guardian, and Reuters.
Dec. 1, 2005 update:
- The Netherlands: Outman Ben Amar, a Moroccan interpreter for the Dutch intelligence service, AIVD, was directly involved in AIVD's investigation into the terrorist Hofstad group, listening to taped conversations in Arabic and translating them. He is now on trial, charged with passing on this information about Hofstad to its members, one of whom was Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of Theo van Gogh. He is also accused of providing Hofstad with detailed AIVD evaluation reports on itself. The prosecutor in the case noted that this "leaked information was eventually widely disseminated. This was extremely interesting for the recipients. It became clear to them that they were being monitored."
Dec. 9, 2005 update:
- United States: Paul Sperry states that FBI Special Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz (about whom I have written here, here, and here) has "showed a pattern of pro-Islamist behavior." Sperry also notes an "allegation that [Sami] al-Arian and [Taha] al-Alwani and other Islamic activists in the Washington area may have hatched a secret plan, according to other confiscated documents, to 'infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies' in Washington, and spy for the enemy."
May 14, 2006 update:
- United Kingdom: An exclusive report by Vincent Moss in the Sunday Mirror reports that "terrorists from al-Qaeda have infiltrated Britain's security services," and specifically M15. In an urgent effort after 7/7 to recruit more Muslims and Arabic speakers as spies, they went to Britain's universities and colleges and started hiring. A senior ministerial source concludes: "it has now been discovered that some of those people have strong links with al-Qaeda."
June 10, 2006 update:
United Kingdom: In a related problem, a high-level, confidential Metropolitan police report, commissioned by the Directorate of Professional Standards and written by an Asian detective chief inspector, concludes that Muslim officers, due to their cultural and family backgrounds, are more prone to become corrupt than white officers. The document was written in response to complaints against Asian officers being 10 times higher than against their white colleagues. "Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family ... and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality." The study recommends that Asian officers needed special anti-corruption training and is now being considered by a working party of senior staff.
June 18, 2006 update:
Israel: It's not clear that Lt.-Col. Omar el-Hayeb, 43, a senior Bedouin officer in the Israel Defense Forces, is an Islamist, but a special military court sentenced him today by to 15 years in prison for spying against Israel for Hizbullah, an Islamist organization. Specifically, he was convicted of espionage, contact with a foreign agent, and drug dealing, though he was acquitted of treason. He had contact with Hizbullah agents from 2002 dozens of times during which he transferred sensitive information regarding the movements and security surrounding the movements of the head of the IDF's Northern Command to Lebanon, tank movements along the border, and other military secrets. In exchange, el-Hayeb received cash payments and large supplies of heroin and hashish. The charge is all the more knowing that, while fighting Hizbullah in 1996, el-Hayeb lost an eye and was seriously wounded.
July 3, 2006 update:
United Kingdom: The BBC reports that Al-Qaeda sympathizers have attempted to infiltrate the British intelligence service, MI5, but were rejected on security grounds during a six to eight-month vetting process. According to a Home Office spokesman: "All applicants for jobs at the Security Service/MI5 are subject to a rigorous vetting procedure and a number of candidates are turned down on security vetting grounds."
July 30, 2006 update: Two items in the same paper, the Sunday Times (London), on the same day, one concerning law enforcement and one a policymaker.
United Kingdom: Scotland Yard, writes Michael Gillard, is investigating that one of its Muslim officers attended a terror camp linked to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The policeman, British-born and in his mid-twenties, appears to result from the discovery that he traveled to Pakistan in 2001 and may have attended or associated with people at an Al-Qaeda training camp before joining the police. In addition, the Association of Muslim Police (AMP) says there are two other investigations in which Muslim officers have been interviewed about trips to Pakistan.
- United Kingdom: Mockbul Ali, 26 and chief adviser on Islamic affairs at the Foreign Office, is (in the words of fellow Muslim) "a straightforward Islamist." As political editor of the newspaper put out by the Union of Muslim Students (UMS), he published a paean to Aayat al-Akhras, a Palestinian suicide bomber, lauding her "heroic operation . . . in the heart of the Zionist entity." He also wrote an attack on Western civilization. Dipesh Gadher writes in the Sunday Times (London) that "Leaked documents show that since joining the Foreign Office Ali has argued for Yusuf al-Qaradawi to be allowed into Britain and played a part in sending Sharif Hasan al-Banna, president of the UMS, to Islamic conferences in Indonesia and Nigeria at taxpayers' expense." Ali apparently had a key role in co-ordinating the seven Muslim anti-extremism taskforces set up after the July 7 bombings. MPs accuse him of using his senior position in the Foreign Office's "Engaging with the Islamic World Group" (EIWG), with its budget of £8.5m and staff of 26, to promote relations with Islamist groups. A Foreign Office spokesman added that it did not comment on individual staff members.
Nov. 15, 2006 update
: More rot in Londonistan.
United Kingdom: Abid Javaid, 41, by day is a 'senior executive officer' in the IT department at Lunar House in Croydon, South London, part of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office, which processes asylum and visa applications. The IND has been in the public eye due to a series of scandals including the failure to deport foreign prisoners. Javaid is also, it turns out, a leading member in Hizb-ut Tahrir, the Islamist group whose spokesmen refused to condemn the 7/7 London bombings and call for the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Tony Blair has called for Hizb-ut Tahrir to be banned. Javaid has represented HT for example, in talks with the Croydon Mosque, which has been trying to expel radical elements. A joint investigation by BBC2's Newsnight and File on 4 revealed Javaid's dual identity. Nov. 16, 2006 update: "Extremist at the Home Office will keep his job" reads the follow-up piece in the Daily Mail. That's because Prime Minister Blair has failed to ban the organization, as he had stated he would do. Javaid will, however, be subject to additional security vetting; for example, his office computer will be examined.
Jan. 21, 2007 update: Omar Bakri Mohammed, the British extremist now resident in Lebanon, met with Mike Hirst and Adam Lusher of London's Sunday Telegraph in Beirut, where he "sipped freshly-squeezed strawberry juice in an upmarket restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean." Bakri told them that Muslims in police, Armed Forces and Civil Service will one day revolt against the system to "crush it from within." Britain is "digging a deep hole" for itself by allowing Muslims into the Services and Whitehall.
When you start to ask Muslims to join your Army and your police you are making a grave mistake. That British Muslim who joins the police today will one day read the Koran and will have an awakening. Those moderates are one day going to be practising Muslims. Now what happens if they are British police or in the Army and they have weapons? How much information do they have about you that they will use to serve the global struggle? They will revolt against the system if they have been failed by your foreign policy which is oppressive against Islam, or have been contacted by people who believe Britain is a domain of war.
Hirst and Lusher report that Bakri, consistent with this outlook, "took pleasure" in hearing about Abid Javaid, a civil servant in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, who was exposed late last year as a leading member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The Muslim Council of Britain, not surprisingly, took exception to Bakri's analysis. According to Ibrahim Mogra, chairman of its Interfaith Relations Committee, "On the contrary, the more a Muslim police officer becomes a practising Muslim, the more loyal he will become, the more he will realise his duty to his country and the need to contribute to its well-being."
Feb. 3, 2007 update: Intimations of a mole in the military:
United Kingdom: The nine men just arrested in Birmingham, suspected of being Islamic terrorists, had in their possession of a list with the names and addresses of 25 British Muslims in the regular army, with home addresses as far apart as Glasgow and the West Country, who served a recent tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. The gang is accused of intending to kidnap and behead these soldiers. Senior officers are alarmed, worried that a Ministry of Defence mole provided this information. A defence official commented: "Such sensitive information about our personnel is kept under conditions of strict confidentiality, so we obviously want to discover how a list of names and home addresses was reportedly compiled."
Apr. 21, 2007 update: What could be a mole in a nuclear power plant:
United States: Mohammad Alavi, 49, an engineer for 16 years at the triple-reactor Palo Verde nuclear power plant near Phoenix, Arizona, and a U.S. citizen, was arrested April 9 as he arrived on a flight from Iran, charged with a single count of violating a trade embargo that prohibits Americans from exporting goods and services to Iran. He stands accused of taking to Iran computer access codes and software. According to the Associated Press, court records indicate "the software is used only for training plant employees, but allowed users access to details on the Palo Verde control rooms and the plant layout. In October , authorities alleged, the software was used to download training materials from Tehran, using a Palo Verde user identification. Deborah McCarley, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Phoenix, says that an investigation "has not led us to believe this information was taken for the purpose of being used by a foreign government or terrorists to attack us." Palo Verde, the largest nuclear power plant in the United States, has experienced outages and equipment problems for some years. If convicted, Alavi faces up to 21 months in prison.
May 8, 2007 update
Omar Altimimi, convicted terrorist, tried to get a job with the Manchester, U.K. police department.
: A novel twist from Chicago:
- United States: Arif Sulejmanovski, 47, a supervising janitor at a Chicago Police 25th District station on the city's Northwest Side, working for Nationwide Janitorial Services Inc., was fired after a parking violation revealed his name was on a federal terrorist watchlist of international terrorism suspects. In February 2007, he pleaded guilty to bribing a public official to obtain a Social Security card for an illegal immigrant.
July 6, 2007 update: A rare instance of a convicted terrorist trying to get access to a police building from the inside:
United Kingdom: Omar Altimimi, a failed asylum seeker, was sentenced to nine years today for ownership of materials that pointed to his planning to carry out terrorist attacks; earlier, he had applied to work as a cleaner for the Greater Manchester police force.
July 7, 2007 update: Large-scale fears of UK police being penetrated by Islamists; and worse than that, almost no recourse to dismiss them.
United Kingdom: "Up to eight police officers and civilian staff are suspected of links to extremist groups including Al Qaeda. Some are even believed to have attended terror training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Their names feature on a secret list of alleged radicals said to be working in the Metropolitan and other forces. The dossier was drawn up with the help of MI5 amid fears that individuals linked to Islamic extremism are taking advantage of police attempts to increase the proportion of ethnic staff. Astonishingly, many of the alleged jihadists have not been sacked because - it is claimed - police do not have the 'legal power' to dismiss them. We can also reveal that one suspected jihadist officer working in the South East has been allowed to keep his job despite being caught circulating Internet images of beheadings and roadside bombings in Iraq. He is said to have argued that he was trying to 'enhance' debate about the war."
July 8, 2007 update
: An only-in-Britain tale of incompetence.
United Kingdom: Mustapha Boutarfa, 32, was arrested by Scotland Yard in 1996 for his role in the July 1995 attack on the St Michel station which killed eight people and wounded 80, extradited to France, and convicted. After a laughably short two-year prison sentence for providing a safe house to Algeria's Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Boutarfa got back into the UK and found a position as a traffic warden in Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey. "We often see him in his grey uniform prowling the streets and handing out tickets,' said a town resident. "I had no idea about his past. It beggars belief."
Nov. 11, 2007 update: "Thousands of illegal immigrants have been given official licences to work as security guards, the Home Office has admitted."
United Kingdom: The government's Security Industry Authority (SIA), set up by the Home Office to regulate the security industry in 2004, has cleared around 250,000 applicants. But it only checked to make sure applicants do not have a criminal record, not for legal status. Investigators have discovered illegal immigrants working at the Metropolitan Police, government departments, and at ports and airports. One was even employed as a security guard charged with protecting the prime minister's car.
Nov. 13, 2007 update: The FBI released information today on perhaps the worst U.S. case of infiltration so far:
United States: Nada Nadim Prouty "a 37-year-old Lebanese national and resident of Vienna, Va., pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Michigan to charges of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship, which she later used to gain employment at the FBI and CIA; accessing a federal computer system to unlawfully query information about her relatives and the terrorist organization Hizballah; and conspiracy to defraud the United States." Nov. 20, 2007 update: Joel Mowbray provides a roundup of this key case (and the media's lack of interest in it) at "A real travesty."
Nov. 20, 2007 update: In a major analysis, "Is U.S. gov't infested with terrorist moles?" WorldNetDaily.com surveys this general problem. It also focuses on one case:
United States: Waheeda Tehseen, a Pakistani national who, as she helped run a charitable front for Osama bin Laden, also filled a sensitive position with the Environmental Protection Agency as a toxicologist. Arrested in 2004, Tehseen pleaded guilty to fraud and was deported to Pakistan after spending 17 years in the United States. WorldNetDaily.com explains her possible role: "It's not clear if Tehseen, 49, stole classified information for al-Qaida, but investigators suspect espionage is probable, as she produced highly sensitive health-hazard documents for toxic compounds and chemical pesticides. Tehseen also was an expert in parasitology as it relates to public water systems, a terror target of al-Qaida." The account quotes an FBI agent: "She's a classic example of an al-Qaida sympathizer who infiltrated our government and our society, and worked and lived among us for years and years, and even started a family here."
Dec. 14, 2007 update: The UK sets a new scale for this problem, dwarfing all others:
United Kingdom: Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, estimates that more than 11,000 migrants are illegally employed in the private security industry, for example, as security guards and doormen, although they lack the right to work. Roughly one in four of the 40,000 non-European foreigners issued with licenses by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) are not supposed to work in Britain. The issue came to light five weeks ago when it came out that an illegal worker had been responsible for repairing Tony Blair's car while he was prime minister.
Feb. 12, 2008 update: Stephen Wright of the Daily Mail offers a survey of this problem at "Revealed: Islamist extremists have penetrated the heart of Britain," based on government intelligence reports.
Islamist extremists have infiltrated Government and key public utilities to pass sensitive information to terrorists, the security services have warned. Counter-terrorism officials say "insiders" or their associates are almost certainly working "undetected" in sensitive posts and are actively supporting the activities of extremists. In some cases, lifelong relationships between friends or relatives are being exploited to obtain crucial information from those in sensitive posts. … Officials say the idea of "penetrating the enemy is pervasive" for Islamist extremists. … Some are even believed to have attended terror training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Wright then gets into operations:
Fanatics who infiltrate the Government or the "Critical National Infrastructure" - vital utilities such as water, electricity, transport and communications - have a number of objectives. These include trying to gain information on what the law enforcement agencies know about the activities of fellow Islamist extremists and how to evade the attention of police and the security services. They may also try to obtain information or intelligence to help them to carry out acts of terrorism. This involves getting access to premises or individuals "with the immediate purpose" of mounting an attack or obtaining sensitive information to facilitate a later atrocity. The extremists might also seek information which is of "indirect use" to the planning of a terrorist attack - such as getting access to banking information to raise money through fraud, gaining insider knowledge about airport security and surveillance measures on the London Underground. Security sources say there is evidence that UK-based terrorists have discussed the possibility of attacking national infrastructure targets with the help of a "sympathetic insider".
Mar. 9, 2008 update: More along these lines, but now more specific: "MI5 targets four Met police officers 'working as Al Qaeda Spies'," reports the Sunday Mail.
Four police officers in Britain's top force are reportedly under close secret service surveillance after being identified as Al Qaeda spies, it emerged today. MI5 are said to have homed in on the the "sleeper" agents passing secrets from Scotland Yard to the terror group only in recent weeks. … All four are understood to be Asians living in London and are feared to have links both with Islamic extremists in Britain and worldwide terror groups - including al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. MI5 chiefs reportedly believe the suspected moles have been planted as sleepers - agents under deep cover - to keep al-Qaeda informed of anti-terror raids planned by London's Metropolitan Police. They are said to fear the four could have already accessed sensitive information about secret operations to root out terror cells planning further attacks in the UK. …
Now agents, helped by anti-terror police, are understood to be watching the four suspects - who work at different police stations around London - around the clock while searching for the vital evidence needed to make arrests. The officers' every move at work is being monitored along with their phone calls, it was claimed. Homeland security agents are reportedly sifting through their bank account transactions. MI5 experts are also understood to be building a family tree for each one and trying to put together a picture of their links to their home countries. Their names are being cross-referred with lists of men who have been to terror training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Apr. 23, 2008 update: The authorities were disturbingly soft on what appears to be another infiltrator:
United States: Weiss Rasool, 31, a Fairfax County police sergeant and Afghan immigrant, was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty for checking police databases without authorization to help someone being investigated in a federal terrorism case. Here is the Washington Post account:
In June 2005, when federal agents had a Fairfax man under surveillance, the man apparently asked Rasool to check the license plates of three vehicles he thought were following him. Rasool's lawyer described the man as a member of Rasool's mosque. According to court records, Rasool checked the databases and left the following voice-mail message for the man: "Umm, as I told you, I can only tell you if it comes back to a person or not a person, and all three vehicles did not come back to an individual person. So, I just wanted to give you that much." The three vehicles were undercover FBI vehicles, according to a letter from the FBI filed in court yesterday, and Rasool's message "likely alerted the subject of the FBI investigation which had a disruptive effect on the pending counterterrorism case." …
The target was arrested in November 2005, then convicted and deported, according to court filings in Rasool's case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanine Linehan said that the target and his family were already dressed and destroying evidence at 6 a.m. when agents arrived to make the arrest, indicating that they had been tipped off. The target's name and the charges against him have not been disclosed. In October 2007, the FBI confronted Rasool about his computer inquiries on the man's behalf. According to a brief written by Linehan, Rasool denied knowing the man. When presented with the recording of his message for the man, Rasool admitted checking the databases
May 9, 2008 update (1): The Investigative Project on Terrorism has made the prosecutors' sentencing memo to the court about Rasool available, and it explains the importance of Rasool's activities:
The defendant's actions damaged the integrity of the NCIC [National Crime Information Center] system and jeopardized at least one federal investigation. The defendant's actions could have placed federal agents in danger. The FBI has had to undo the harm caused by the defendant.
May 9, 2008 update (2): A new area of activity:
United States: The city of Rochester, New York, fired Nadire P. Zenelaj, 32, a 911 emergency operator of Albanian origins, because she illegally searched state databases for 227 names, including at least one person on the FBI's terrorist watch list. The director of Rochester's Office of Public Integrity, Richard Vega, accused Zenelaj of running personal information on herself, on her family and on friends not just for reasons of curiosity, but because "she was accessing this information to pass it on to others." She pleaded not guilty to 232 felony counts of computer trespass.
Aug.12, 2008 update: I summarized this blog in an article today, "The West's Islamist Infiltrators."
Sep. 21, 2009 update:
United States: According to the FBI, Imam Ahmad Afzali, 37, is a double agent. Elizabeth Hays and Helen Kennedy explain in the New York Daily News:
agents approached Afzali Sept. 10 and showed him a photo of Najibullah Zazi, 24, a fellow Afghan immigrant who moved from Queens to Denver. The next day, Sept. 11, FBI wiretaps caught Zazi's father telling his son he'd gotten a call from Afzali warning him the FBI was showing his photo. Then call waiting beeped: Afzali was on Zazi's other line. "They asked me about you guys," the imam told the suspected terrorist, according to a transcript. "They came to ask me about your characters." Afzali told Zazi, "Listen, our phone call is being monitored." Hours later, Zazi called the imam to say his rental car had vanished. Afzali allegedly asked if there was any "evidence" in the car, and Zazi said no. The car contained bomb-making notes, the FBI says. According to the government, when questioned April 17, Afzali said it was Zazi who called him, not the other way around. He allegedly denied tipping Zazi to the probe or asking about evidence in the car - and even denied saying the call was being taped.
Oct. 13, 2009 update: Here's perhaps the most hair-raising danger so far.
Switzerland: Adlène Hicheur, 32, recently arrested in France as suspected Al-Qaeda affiliates and charged "criminal activities related to a terrorist group," is a non-employee physicist of Algerian origins at the world's largest particle physics laboratory, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. In a release, CERN indicated that he work since 2003 as an analyst on the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator. He previously worked for a year at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, a top-secret British nuclear research center. One source said he had been "pinpointing nuclear targets." A report indicates that Hicheur planned to target a Total Oil refinery to cause an explosion capable of destroying a city "the size of London." Hicheur also planned assassinations of such politicians as President Nicolas Sarkozy and Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux of France as well as attacks on a French army brigade and French businesses.
May 6, 2010 update: This one matches the previous one in its implications.
United States: Sharif Mobley worked in at five nuclear power plants along the East Coast and recently, according to former CIA official Charles Faddis, joined Al-Qaeda and moved to Yemen where the security forces arrested him in March. U.S. law enforcement emphasizes that Mobley's low security clearance means he cannot pass vital details about American nuclear-plant security but Faddis demurs: "it doesn't take top-level clearance to know how to set off a nuclear meltdown. All it takes is information on perimeter security — information Mr. Mobley possesses about every plant where he worked." Faddis runs through the technicalities of a meltdown and argues that "Even low-level employees at a nuclear plant would have the information necessary to pull off such an attack, like the number of guards, their weapons and procedures at entry gates — even someone as low-level as Sharif Mobley." Faddis recalls Al-Qaeda's intense focus on this very subject: "We don't yet know what kind of plant-security information, if any, Mr. Mobley passed on to Al Qaeda. But we do know that the organization has been interested in attacking American nuclear plants for years; it even considered including a plant on its Sept. 11 target list." Turning to policy, he concluds that
we have no choice but to assume that Mr. Mobley did in fact pass on details about plant security, and we need to take immediate steps to head off any possible terrorist attack. Defensive schemes at the plants where Mr. Mobley worked need to be significantly changed so that his information is no longer of value to any potential attacker. Guard procedures, for example, must be altered. Where such changes cannot adequately compensate for the potential risk Mr. Mobley presents, then defenses need to be strengthened. Security perimeters need to be widened. And more barriers must be put in place against car bombs. Once we have dealt with the plants where Mr. Mobley worked, we need to institute similar procedures at the remainder of the nuclear plants in the United States, because the unfortunate truth is that the defensive schemes at these sites are essentially all alike.
Oct. 4, 2010 update: Mobley was open about his views while employed at the nuclear reactors, reports the inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
My point has been made over the past near-five years. So, with this entry, I close this useful but growing and ever-more taxing blog. The only exception will be occasional bibliographic entries for any one who wishes to pursue the topic.
- David J. Rusin, "Denying Islamists Federal Security Clearances." PJ Media, January 27, 2012.
- Ian Gallagher, "'Terror link' pilot who flew 747s for BA can be identified for the first time." The Mail on Sunday, February 4, 2012.
- "BA boss told me that 'all Mussies are terrorists' says sacked bag handler." The Daily Telegraph, February 24, 2012.
- Kiran Randhawa, "Heathrow man's 'terror plot' sacking upheld." The Evening Standard, March 26, 2012,
- "Ex-CERN physicist faces terror trial in France over alleged emails to al Qaida contacts." Associated Press, March 29, 2012.
- Ben Leach, and David Barrett, "MI5 feared British police attended terrorist camps." The Telegraph, May 12, 2012.
- "French Soldier, 2 Others Held in Terror Probe." Associated Press, March 27, 2013.
Related Topics: Counter-terrorism, Muslims in the West, Radical Islam
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