Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Feds Searching for Friend of Boston Marathon Suspect, 'Concern' Over Chechnya Trip


Feds Searching for Friend of Boston Marathon Suspect, 'Concern' Over

Chechnya Trip

March 4, 2014





Investigators are searching for Heda Umarova, pictured here with Boston

Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in an image on a Russian social

networking site, after she failed to return from a family trip to Chechnya

last year. The others pictured have been blurred out to protect their

identity. VK.com

U.S. counter-terrorism officials are attempting to track down a female

friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber after she traveled to Chechnya

last year and is believed to have since posted "alarming" jihadi imagery

online, officials told ABC News.


Officials are concerned that Heda Umarova, 23, may have been radicalized to

Islamist violence -- allegedly just like her friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,

charged in the April 15 bombings, and his brother Tamerlan, who was killed

in a police shootout -- and could pose a threat to Americans overseas

because her U.S. passport allows easy foreign travel.


Umarova left Boston with her family in July with a round-trip ticket to

visit relatives in their native Chechnya, but she failed to return to

Massachusetts with her parents at the end of August. Her family told federal

authorities and ABC News she stayed behind to get married after she met a

man there during Ramadan.


Her younger brothers, Adam, 20, and Junes, 18, were already under suspicion

by some investigators because of their online support for the Tsarnaev

brothers and social media postings that included tweets with Dzhokhar a day

before the blasts. A photo of Junes Umarov and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lighting

fireworks appeared on one social networking site in January 2013, an ABC

News investigation found.


"No one is calling Heda a terrorist but her travel has certainly garnered

some attention. People are concerned that a 23-year-old is in Chechnya, a

country that she fled from... and now she is deciding to stay on her own," a

ranking law enforcement source involved in the Boston Marathon investigation

told ABC News. The source said that her decision to stay in Chechnya also

raised eyebrows because, at least until she is married, she didn't seem to

have any "obvious means" of support.


"We were already concerned about the social media exchanged with her

brothers, who remain on the radar, especially the younger brother Junes, who

was Dzhokhar's best friend," the source added.


And now, sources said, the FBI has been monitoring Heda Umarova's apparent

Internet posts recently, which include depictions of Chechen jihadis

brandishing weapons and a photo-shopped image of a U.S. passport in a

carry-on bag bearing the black flag of jihad.


Heda and her brothers did not respond to multiple attempts by ABC News to

reach them through their parents and social media to comment on the sources'



In a brief interview at his family's home last month, Heda's father Hamzat

Umarov told ABC News that he spoke to the "FBI and CIA" about the

photographs but refused to talk about whether he believes his daughter is

becoming radicalized.


"What does it mean, pictures? Pictures can be anywhere. It doesn't mean

anything, the pictures. We don't want to talk about it. We talk with the

FBI, everybody. The FBI came, CIA, everybody's come,'' he said.


Umarova's trip back to the same country from which her parents fled as

refugees a decade ago to seek political asylum in the U.S. brought federal

agents back to her family's Chelsea home -- the same second-floor apartment

that armed agents searched last April during the manhunt for the accused

marathon bomber, several law enforcement officials told ABC News.


Heda Umarova has not been indicted for any offenses, sources said.


A spokesman for the Boston FBI field office declined to comment on Heda

Umarova or any possible threat she may pose. "It is the FBI's policy not to

confirm or deny whether or not an investigation is being conducted,'' said

Special Agent Gregory Comcowich.


Heda Umarova's Sister: We Were Treated Like 'Terrorists'


The Umarovs were questioned by immigration officials extensively about the

reasons for the return trip to Chechnya when they left Boston last summer,

scrutiny that only intensified when they returned without Heda, law

enforcement sources said.


"They had a hard time getting out of the country and an even harder time

coming back when she [Heda] was not with them,'' said a law enforcement

official familiar with the Umarov family.


The questioning led Heda's sister, Hawa Umarova, 26, to complain to U.S.

Customs and Border Protection and Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force

officials that her family was treated like "terrorists," the sources said,

despite their constant cooperation with various local and federal law

enforcement agencies.


Chelsea Police Chief Brian Keyes confirmed that Hawa Umarova was cooperative

with his officers last April after the identities of the suspected marathon

bombers became known and that her family submitted to a voluntary search of

their home during the desperate search for Dhzokhar Tsarnaev.


Federal investigators were led to Chelsea initially by Twitter messages

exchanged between Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Junes Umarov a day before the twin

blasts exploded along the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three

and wounding another 260 others last April 15.


In addition to the social media exchanges between Junes and Dzhokhar,

federal authorities are now also scrutinizing a Russian social networking

page using the name Heda Umarova that was linked to a fan page for Dzhokhar

on the same social networking site.


The page is sympathetic to Tsarnaev and his supporters, who insist on his

innocence. It features several pictures of the Umarov siblings with Dzhokhar

Tsarnaev, including one with Heda, her brother Adam, and "Johar" as a boy,

which is the Russian spelling of the accused terrorist's nickname.


But the postings on the Heda Umarova VK page that have concerned federal

counter-terrorism officials include photographs of several women dressed as

jihadi fighters in Chechnya, taken probably about a decade ago, an expert



In one photo, a woman in a black headscarf is toting an AK-47 rifle. Other

extremist postings support martyrdom and violence for Islam.


Days after ABC News spoke with Heda's parents, the images in question and

the link to the fan page for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev disappeared from the Heda

Umarova VK page.


The social networking page also included links to Kavkaz Center, which is a

jihadist media portal linked to Doku Umarov, the jihadi leader of the

Caucusus Emirate who threatened to strike the Sochi Olympics last July.

There is no familial relation to the terror leader and Umarov is a common

name, family members in Chelsea, Mass. told ABC News.


Investigators found a YouTube page created by Tamerlan Tsarnaev that

included a lecture given by a leader connected to Doku Umarov, law

enforcement officials said, but there is no evidence the North Caucasus

militant leader influenced the marathon attacks.


Heda's Mother: I 'Love' the US


During another interview last week, Heda's mother, Raisa Umarova, became

emotional when asked why her daughter stayed behind in Chechnya, a country

that she and her husband desperately wanted to leave 10 years ago when their

five children were "babies."


"She is getting married. She doesn't speak good Russian. They [the Umarov

children] come to this country as babies. This is my home now. I love this

country. I love my children being here," the mother said through tears.


Raisa Umarova said her family came to Massachusetts as political refugees

but became proud U.S. citizens after seven years here.


The Umarovs as new immigrants became friendly with the Tsarnaevs in 2004,

three years after the Tsarnaevs arrived, Hamzat Umarov told federal

officials, and acknowledged to ABC News that the families "knew each other."


Both families were natives of Chechnya -- though the elder Tsarnaevs now

live in neighboring Dagestan -- who successfully sought political asylum in

the United States by citing the staggering violence in that region and "the

Tsarnaevs took them under their wing," an investigator said.


But despite her younger children's public support for Dzhokhar, Raisa

Umarova insisted that she and her husband have no contact with the Tsarnaev



"I don't like them. I like my country,'' she said, referring to America.


No one in the Umarov family has been charged with a crime or named as a

suspect complicit in the April 15 attack on the Boston Marathon.


Chelsea High School officials said federal investigators interviewed Junes'

teachers and classmates after the marathon bombings last year.


Chelsea High Principal Joseph Mullaney told ABC News all five of the Umarov

children attended the public school and called them "bright students." Junes

and Adam were in Advanced Placement classes, like their older sister Hawa,

who speaks several languages, Mullaney added.


Hawa went on to graduate from Mass College of Liberal Arts in North Adams,

Mass. Junes and Adam are roommates and students at MCLA now. Adam Umarov was

questioned on campus last year, officials said.


Chelsea High School librarian Thelma Dakubu said the entire Umarov family

strongly identified with Chechnya. Adam even posted the Chechen flag of

Ichkeria - which symbolizes the ongoing conflict between the Russian

federation and nationalists there - on his Chelsea High School Yearbook page

in 2012.


"They were fond of saying, 'We're not Russian. We're Chechen,''' Dakubu told

ABC News. "Heda was the quiet one."


Dakubu was also quick to add that the family appeared tight-knit and

hardworking. The family patriarch, Hamzat Umarov, even performed a custom

Chechen dance at a high school talent show with his daughters, she said.


"They seem to be a close family,'' Dakubu said.


In his 2013 high school yearbook, Junes Umarov wrote, "I'm a stress free

kind of guy" -- which is the identical quote Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tweeted two

days after the bombings, one of several he sent during the chaotic search

for the attackers.


Both Hamzat Umarov and his wife Raisa Umarova insisted in separate

interviews that Heda stayed in Chechnya to get married. Raisa Umarova said

that the future groom is "lovely" and that Heda met him during Ramadan

services during the family trip.


The family, however, would not provide details on the wedding and declined

to identify the groom to ABC News. Sources said law enforcement officials

were similarly stonewalled.


Tsarnaev has been held in a Massachusetts federal prison at Fort Devens

since his arrest and the Department of Justice has announced prosecutors

will seek the death penalty. Tsarnaev is also charged with the assassination

of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who prosecutors said was gunned down by

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on April 18.


U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole ruled last month that the trial

is slated to begin in November and allowed the defense team to add another

death penalty attorney to work on the case. Last week defense attorneys

complained in a court filing that the FBI is monitoring every file that they

review with Tsarnaev, endangering his right to a fair trial. Much of the

court filings on the case are under seal.



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Iran’s Dark Past Foreshadows an Even Darker Future


MARCH 4, 2014





Iran's Dark Past Foreshadows an Even Darker Future




Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman Poe, Ranking Members Deutch and Sherman, and the distinguished members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: Thank you for inviting me to testify at today's important hearing on Iran.

I have had the pleasure of working with many of you, and I understand your deep commitment to shaping and influencing American foreign policy. I appreciate your bipartisan efforts to achieve that end.

As talks between the P+5 nations and Iran over its nuclear program continue, we need to examine Iran's past and present, and determine how that will foreshadow its future.

We are all well-aware of the threats and actions of the Islamic Republic over the past 30 years – including its failure to pay what is now $18 billion in judgments against it – which I will discuss later in my testimony. However, it is the future and evolving threat about which we must be most concerned. My intelligence background tells me that we need to be anticipating potential developments and asking the tough questions about where Iran may be heading. We know the past. How does that inform the future?

What are the potential dramatic developments that could transform the threat from Iran, and its proxy Hizballah? There are at least three areas that I believe will significantly magnify the threat that the United States will face from Iran. These go well beyond Iran's commitment to continue to use conventional terrorist tools, expand its sphere of influence, and develop its ballistic missile and nuclear program. Transformational areas include:

 An increasing sophistication of Iran's cyber program and capability to conduct cyber warfare.

 A strengthening of the relationship between Iran and Russia.

 The possibility of more collaboration between Iran, Hizballah, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as other Islamist groups.

The developments in these areas will profoundly impact America's security moving forward. Please allow me to discuss each of these in more detail.

Cyber Threat

First, cyber space is the new battlefield, and it is an especially difficult environment. It is hard to detect. It is difficult to identify attackers. It can do significant damage. It can reach globally and cross borders effortlessly. Press reports indicate that it has been used by Iran's enemies to disrupt its nuclear program.

The United States has established a Cyber Command headed by Gen. Keith Alexander. In recent congressional testimony he discussed a potential attack "that galvanizes some of these

Islamic fundamentalists into a true fighting force...we don't have the proper footing...to stop that." He went on to state that regardless of the work at cyber command, "I worry that we might not be ready in time."

The Iranian regime is fully aware of our vulnerabilities, and it reportedly has grand ambitions for its cyber warfare capabilities. Only a few years ago most experts rated Iran at tier two or tier three cyber capabilities. Today many are surprised and believe that Iran has dramatically closed the gap and ranks closely behind tier one cyber powers such as the U.S., Russia, China, and Israel. They are not only surprised, but they wonder how Iran could have made up that much ground so quickly.

In March 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, announced the creation a new Supreme Council of Cyberspace to oversee the defense of the Islamic Republic's computer networks and develop new avenues to infiltrate or attack the computer networks of its enemies, according to reporting by Shane Harris in Foreign Policy.

As with many of its capabilities, Iran is not afraid to use them once they have them. Iran has infiltrated U.S. financial institutions through a computer network at the University of Michigan, and last year it hacked into an unclassified computer network used by the Navy. It also claims to have used cyber capabilities to take control of a U.S. drone and capture it.

Furthermore, an Iranian military official recently said that the Armed Forces are equipped with the most advanced information technologies and should be ready to confront enemies in the field of electronic warfare, reports the Iranian Fars News Agency.

The very nature of cyber warfare and Iran's increasing capability should be of major concern to the United States.

Ties with Russia

The relationship between Russia and Iran has always been a complex roller coaster. Recently it appears that both of its leaders see a mutual benefit in forging stronger ties in the economic and security spheres.

Cooperation in the security sphere is easy to understand, with both seeing the U.S. as their primary target.

Russian antagonism toward the U.S. and its ambitions of once again becoming a world superpower are well-documented.

It is currently working to bring Ukraine back into its fold over the overtures from the European Union and other Western powers. It harbors a U.S. traitor who leaked secret documents while working as a contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency.

More relevant to today's hearing is that Russia is largely suspected of helping Iran to develop its advanced cyber capability. Both Russia and Iran are reportedly providing arms to the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime as it builds up its death toll in the country's civil war.

Will Iran itself serve as a proxy in Russia's aggressive posture against the U.S.? Just how much is Russia working with Iran to foment violence in areas like Iraq and Afghanistan and assert itself in other Middle Eastern affairs? Recent reports about Russian intentions for military basing in Central and South America should also be of concern.

How far will a closer relationship between Iran and Russia go, and what will that mean to U.S. national security? Cooperation between these two U.S. antagonists creates a dangerous new dynamic.

Iran's Affairs with other Islamist Terror Groups

What is the prospect for Iran, Hizballah, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamist groups, to work together in the future to achieve their goals of destroying the U.S., the West, and Israel?

Again, these are very complex relationships. The groups are deeply divided in the brutal and deadly Syrian conflict. There is the long history of conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Their differences are well understood and historically documented.

However, in the past they have bridged their differences and have found opportunities to work together, successfully.

In the multidistrict case in regard to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, plaintiffs' attorneys demonstrated that Iran, Hizballah, and al Qaeda formed an alliance in the early 1990s. Experts testified that Iran had been waging an undeclared war on the U.S. and Israel since 1979, often through proxies such as Hizballah, Al Qaeda, and Hamas.

For more than 20 years, Iran, via its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), provided training to Hizballah and Al Qaeda.

Furthermore, according to court documents, Iran's facilitation of the travel of at least eight of the 9/11 hijackers "amounted to essential material support, indeed direct support, for the 9/11 attacks."

According to the 2012 State Department report on international terrorism that was released on May 30, 2013, "Iran provided financial, material, and logistical support for terrorist and militant groups in the Middle East and Central Asia. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and militant groups to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and stir up instability in the Middle East."

The United States needs to understand the capabilities of each of these organizations individually, as well as the threat that they pose in their totality. They share the same goals, as Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently articulated on CNN. They want to engage in jihad, impose Sharia law, and establish the caliphate.

They have much that separates them, but they also have much in common.

Developments in cyber, Russian/Iranian relationships, and cooperation among Islamic terror groups will do much to shape the nature of the future capabilities not only of Iran, but the totality of the threat that the United States faces. The developments in these areas will determine whether there is transformational change.

Reviewing Iran's Dark Past

Sanctions against Iran

Sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran have never been limited in scope to its nuclear weapons activities.

Sanctions have always been used to target a wide range of Iranian actions.

President Carter ordered a freeze on all Iranian assets in the first series of sanctions against Iran, which resulted from the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis in which the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini held 52 Americans in the U.S. Embassy for 444 days. Nuclear weapons were not an issue at this time.

Additional sanctions were introduced in 1984 when Iran was implicated in the bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Since the attack, consecutive administrations have designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and banned all foreign aid to Tehran.

In 1992, the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act targeted the acquisition of chemical, biological, nuclear, or destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.

The Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1995 imposed new sanctions on foreign companies that engage in specified economic transactions with Iran or Libya. It was intended to help deny Iran and Libya revenues that could be used to finance international terrorism, as well as limit the flow of resources necessary to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

President Bush froze the assets of any entity determined to be supporting international terrorism following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York and Washington. These included individuals, organizations, and financial institutions in Iran.

In 2011, the United States designated the entire Iranian banking system as potentially supporting terrorist activities. In 2012, President Obama issued an executive order aimed at disrupting Iran's oil revenue.

The support for further strengthening sanctions in Congress is strong.

There is in fact growing bipartisan support in the Senate for introducing new penalties related to its ballistic missile stockpiles – which are the ideal delivery systems for nuclear warheads – and are not included in current negotiations with Iran.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ranking Republican Mark Kirk (R-IL) have introduced legislation, but President Obama has issued a veto threat citing the ongoing negotiations.

Iran's International Terror Network and Global Reach

Iran continues to fund global terrorism unabated. The regime's relentless support of terrorists and terrorist-supported organizations since the horrific 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut is well-documented.

The current list of countries where Iran has significant outreach and sponsored terrorist activity is breathtaking.

They include Afghanistan, Bahrain, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Ecuador, Venezuela, Yemen, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, USA, France, Germany, UK, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Thailand, Cyprus, and Bulgaria. (Chart 1)

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5, 2013, outgoing Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis described Iran as "the single-most significant regional threat to stability and prosperity."

Over the years the Iran-controlled Shia terror network – comprising the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp- Quds Force and Tehran's proxy in Lebanon, Hizballah – have plotted numerous attacks on Western and Israeli targets.

Iranian Presence in South America, Latin America, and the Western Hemisphere

Iran has an active presence and extensive network in Latin America and the broader Western Hemisphere. In addition to enjoying strong bilateral ties and state support from governments in Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – and, we fear, El Salvador might be the next to roll out the welcome mat – the Islamic Republic "maintains a network of intelligence agents specifically tasked with sponsoring and executing terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere."

A 500-page indictment released by Alberto Nisman, chief prosecutor of the investigation into the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA (Associacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires corroborated evidence of Iran's infiltration into Latin America. "For the first time in the Argentine and world judicial history, it has been gathered and substantiated in a judicial file, evidence that proved the steps taken by a terrorist regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran, to infiltrate, for decades, large regions of Latin America, through the establishment of clandestine intelligence stations and operative agents which are used to execute terrorist attacks when the Iranian regime decides so, both directly or through its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah," the report said.

In addition to Argentina, where the AMIA bombing took place, the report named Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname as countries that had been deeply infiltrated by Iranian intelligence networks.

An earlier indictment related to the AMIA bombing from 2003 referenced a document seized from the house of an Iranian diplomat that proposed a strategy to export the Iranian revolution and Islam from South America to North America. The document said that areas densely populated by Muslims "will be used from Argentina as [the] center of penetration of Islam and its ideology towards the North American continent."

There have been reports of Iran and Hizballah militants working in collusion with Mexican narco-traffickers as part of their larger global, asymmetric warfare against the United States. A leaked 2010 Tucson police department report cited growing use of improvised explosive devices and car bombs by Mexican terrorist organizations signaling possible collaboration with Hizballah that specializes in such explosive devices. Hizballah is also helping Mexican cartels set up "narco tunnels" along the border to help get narcotics into the U.S. from Mexico.

As national security expert Douglas Farah notes in his October 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "There is growing concern that Hezbollah is providing technology for the increasingly sophisticated narco tunnels now being found along the U.S.-Mexican border which strongly resemble the types used by Hizballah in Lebanon."

Several cases of Hizballah activity in Mexico have been recorded in the past decade: Salim Boughder-Mucharrfille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent who ran a café in Tijuana, smuggled at least 200 "Lebanese nationals sympathetic to Hamas and Hezbollah into the United States" from Mexico. Boughder-Mucharrfille was sentenced to 60 years in prison on immigrant smuggling and organized crime charges.

Hizballah has engaged in a wide range of criminal activities in the U.S. itself, including cigarette-smuggling scams, procurement scams, intellectual property crime, tax evasion, counterfeiting, and drug trafficking to raise millions of dollars in the United States.

Monetary judgments against Iran in U.S. courts

Iran has been held liable and assessed judgments in excess of $18 billion to compensate victims of its terrorist activities, yet it has only paid out a pittance of that amount.

In numerous cases brought in U.S. courts under the state-sponsored terrorism exception to jurisdictional immunity of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) after it was amended in 1996, Iran has defaulted and been found liable for acts of terror that have killed or maimed U.S. citizens, both domestically and internationally.

Iran generally does not fight against a judgment, but hires major U.S. firms to fight the collection of the award.

The plaintiffs in these cases include victims of: the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut; the 1996 bombing of the U.S. Air Force residence at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; numerous suicide bombings, rocket attacks and other assaults by Middle Eastern terrorist groups, financed and facilitated by Iran; the September 11, 2001 attacks, and other violent attacks on Americans. Award amounts have risen over the years, but judgments are largely unsatisfied.

The bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut killed 241 American servicemen operating under peacetime rules of engagement. After a bench trial in March 2003, the district court found that Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security were liable for damages from the attack because they provided material financial and logistical support to Hizballah to carry it out. On September 7, 2007, the court entered a default judgment against the defendants in the total amount of $2,656,944,877.

The June 25, 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence in Saudi Arabia killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel and wounded hundreds more. The Department of Justice announced the indictment in June 2001 of 13 members of the Saudi Hizballah group and one member of Lebanese Hizballah who assisted with the construction of the tanker truck, but the defendants were never tried in the U.S. on those criminal charges.

The indictment noted the linkage of entities:

"These Hizballah organizations were inspired, supported, and directed by elements of the Iranian government. Saudi Hizballah, also known as Hizballah Al-Hijaz, was a terrorist organization that operated primarily in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and that promoted, among other things, the use of violence against nationals and property of the United States located in Saudi Arabia. Because Saudi Hizballah was an outlaw organization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its members frequently met and trained in Lebanon, Syria, or Iran."

A series of cases brought by victims and their families alleged that Iran, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS"), the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp ("IRGC" or "the Pasdaran"), and "John Does" were "liable for damages from the attack because they

provided material support and assistance to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that orchestrated and carried out the bombing."

The trial judge found that "'the Khobar Towers bombing was planned, funded, and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran; the IRGC had the responsibility and worked with Saudi Hizballah to execute the plan, and the MOIS participated in the planning and funding of the attack.'" As of November 2013, the judgment awarded in these cases stood at approximately $591 million in punitive and compensatory damages, as plaintiffs continued to attempt to collect.

Similarly, numerous cases were filed in U.S. courts against Iran for damages from bombings, rocket attacks and other terrorist events by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hizballah. The courts found that Iran materially supported the terror groups, and was therefore liable for the damages from the attacks.

As one court held:

"Iran funnels much of its support to Hamas through MOIS, a ministry with approximately 30,000 employees and a budget of between $100,000,000 and $400,000,000 [citations omitted]. With Iranian government funds, MOIS 'spends between $ 50,000,000 and $ 100,000,000 a year sponsoring terrorist activities of various organizations such as Hamas.'... The bombing also would not have occurred without Iranian sponsorship."

At a hearing in 2009, after Congress modified the FSIA to include punitive damages, the federal district court judge presiding over a consolidation of cases brought by American terror victims against Iran noted:

"The cases against Iran that will be addressed by the Court today involve more than one thousand individual plaintiffs. Like countless others before them, the plaintiffs in these actions have demonstrated through competent evidence – including the testimony of several prominent experts in the field of national security – that Iran has provided material support to terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah and Hamas, that have orchestrated unconscionable acts of violence that have killed or injured hundreds of Americans. As a result of these civil actions, Iran faces more than nine billion dollars in liability in the form of court judgments for money damages. Despite plaintiffs' best efforts to execute these court judgments, virtually all have gone unsatisfied."

Of course, efforts to collect funds to satisfy the judgments have yielded almost nothing. The federal district court in Washington has "awarded more than $18 billion in judgments against Iran since 2008 for its support of terrorism." While award amounts have risen, judgments remain largely unsatisfied.


Iran has long been an outlaw state. For decades the United States has faced an Iranian threat consisting of brutal terrorist attacks. The United States has watched Iranian influence grow around the world. We have watched it develop networks near our borders and even within our borders. We have watched with great concern Iran's development of ballistic missile capabilities and its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

Iran in fact all but declared war against the United States when its agents attempted to assassinate a Saudi Arabian ambassador on U.S. soil in 2011. The threat is real and growing. The question is now whether the threat is entering a transformational phase.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism believes the Iranian theocracy has a very dark past and present, and in that context we are very concerned about its future. Iran will view cyber warfare, a closer relationship with Russia, and the possibility of closer cooperation with other Islamist terror groups as potential opportunities to radically change the national security equation for the U.S. and our allies. Just like the nuclear program, each of these will take some time to develop. But that's what it has always been about Iran: buying time.

Iran has skirted away from accepting responsibility for the regime's actions since the 1979 revolution. After billions of dollars in judgments against Iran, it is time for those who have suffered greatly from Iran's brutal actions to receive just compensation. Even Muammar Gaddafi in Libya was required to do so under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996.

Libya fulfilled its obligations under the bill by accepting responsibility for the 270 people who died in the 1988 bombing of PanAm 103, renouncing terrorism, and arranging for the payment of appropriate compensation to the families of the victims.

The bill is now titled the Iran Sanctions Act because Iran has refused to do the same.

We need to keep in mind that Iran is a ruthless killing machine, it is committed to creating a global Islamic caliphate ruled by Shariah law by any means possible, and it flagrantly makes a mockery of international laws and norms.

Can we really expect Iran to fulfill any of its unenforceable commitments reached during the ongoing negotiations over its nuclear program, especially keeping in mind that it has never really been held accountable for its actions prior to now?

It would be an incredible leap of faith to sign such a significant deal with a regime that has shown time and again that it cannot be trusted in the past to trust it in the future.

Suspected terrorist links to synthetic ID fraud are being 'ignored'





Suspected terrorist links to synthetic ID fraud are being 'ignored'

'This is not a conventional crime. This is more towards terrorism,' expert



By Rick MacInnes-Rae, and Mark Gollom, CBC News Posted: Mar 04, 2014 5:00 AM

ET Last Updated: Mar 04, 2014 5:00 AM ET


The growing problem of synthetic identity fraud is raising concerns that

terrorist cells could be linked to these schemes, experts say.


"This requires immediate attention. This is extremely serious, and it's been

ignored for way too long," said Kalyani Munshani, an expert in financial



Synthetic identity fraud is a scheme that procures new and genuine credit

and identification cards using false names in order to create a fake



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Fraudsters have been able to obtain driver's licences, passports, phone

numbers and credit cards, as well as open bank accounts, take out bank loans

and create companies, all under fake names. By the time police move in, many

of the fraudsters have vanished, leaving investigators trying to locate

people who never existed.


While domestic organized crime is certainly involved in these frauds,

Munshani has warned of the possibility of a terrorist link.


She said synthetic identities are used for two purposes: revenue generation

and logistical purpose.


"And this is where the real concern lies," said Munshani, who has referred

to synthetic identity fraud as a "game changer."


"Using synthetic identities, safe houses can be established, cars can be

rented, heavy vehicles can be bought, international travel can be

facilitated, restricted goods can be bought without any flags being raised,"

she said. "This is not a conventional crime. This is more towards terrorism,

I believe, not just merely revenue generation."


The RCMP has also warned that terrorism may be a motivating factor in

creating identity-related fraud schemes including synthetic identities.


John Russo, vice-president and legal counsel of consumer credit reporting

agency Equifax, said they've uncovered cases of people on do-not-fly lists

using synthetic IDs for travel purposes.


"They've created these fictitious IDs to escape and avoid being caught at

airports, and being able to travel across the borders in terms of exchange

of materials.


"So it's not only financial gain, but for other criminal elements."


Police have also uncovered synthetic identity fraud involving airline

tickets between New York, Toronto and Pakistan, a high-risk state in the

world of global security.


Toronto Police Detective Constable Mike Kelly, who has been investigating

synthetic identities for the past four years, said these schemes can be

"very useful to anybody with bad things on their mind.


"Think of the potential of having an apartment and a vehicle and a phone,

all registered in different names. That you can come and go as you please.

You have the ability to open businesses and transport large volumes of

materials in trucks with appropriate permits and licence designations," he



"And then at the end of the day, when people like myself and police agencies

go to investigate who's behind it all, there's a puff of smoke and there's

nobody there."


Fraudsters didn't enjoy 'spoils of their efforts'


In a five-month investigation called Operation Mouse, Kelly and his

colleague discovered synthetic identities were responsible for $25 million

in fraud losses in which credit card bills and mortgages were never repaid.

But Kelly said one of his concerns is that the vast majority of fraudsters

they've come across who are involved in these schemes are living modestly. 


"Generally people do fraud for financial gain and most people get financial

gain so they can enjoy the spoils of their efforts. In this case, we never

saw that," he said.


Instead, Kelly said he believes the money is going to "something overseas

that isn't anything positive."


"I don't think anything good comes from somebody in an organization

hoovering tens of millions of dollars out of our legitimate economy and

feeding some form of organized crime. Particularly one that operates



Mushani suggested that the ease with which identities can be created, the

amount of money that can be raised and the destination of the funds should

be cause for concern.


"There are streams of money. We don't know where it's going. Hezbollah?

Perhaps, I can't say. Or any organization? I can't say.


"In your own backyard you have safe houses being put up by people you're not

aware of. You don't know the size of this group of individuals, but they're

highly financially- sophisticated," she said.


"They know how the departments work, government departments. Where the

access points are. Where the weaknesses are. They seem to know a lot of

things. I think it would worry anyone."


Terrorist finance laws brought in after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are just

not effective to deal with this  new type of crime, she added.


"The complete structure cannot appropriately address this crime," she said.


These Are the American Forces That Could Fight in Ukraine



These Are the American Forces That Could Fight in Ukraine

One carrier battle group, jets, Marines and paratroopers

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, characterized Russia’s intervention in Ukraine to be “as dangerous as it is destabilizing.” But Washington has so far stopped short of direct action beyond pulling out of June’s G8 summit in Sochi.

It’s a terribly unpredictable situation—and there are indications Ukraine and Russia are on the verge of open war. As the situation escalates, it’s important to take note of U.S. military forces in the region, just in case.

This summary is not to suggest these forces will actually deploy. There are lots of good reasons why the U.S. will not do anything militarily. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, for one. Second, American action could risk a disastrous war with a nuclear-armed state.

“We are strong enough to defend ourselves,” Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N., said on Feb. 28. As if to hammer home the point, Sen. John McCain stressed to The Daily Beast on March 1 that there is no military option the U.S. or NATO can use against to deter Russia from withdrawing its forces from Crimea or moving farther into Ukraine.

But it’s worth keeping tabs on what nearby U.S. forces are up to. This is not a complete list, as we’ve focused on the forces most capable of projecting power: Navy ships, aircraft and ground units capable of rapid deployment.

USS George H.W. Bush flight operations on Feb. 2, 2013. Department of Defense photo

Naval ships

By far the greatest U.S. firepower in the region belongs to the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier and her accompanying strike group. Together, they boast dozens of aircraft and hundreds of cruise missiles. A carrier strike group might be the symbol of American military power.

The thousand-foot carrier left her base in Norfolk, Virginia on Feb. 15 and entered the Mediterranean on Feb. 27. She is replacing the carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which is in the final days of a nine-month deployment patrolling the waters near the Middle East.

There are nine squadrons aboard Bush. Four are fighter squadrons—two flying the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and two with older F/A-18C Hornets. The exact number of fighters in a squadron varies, but typically ranges between 12 and 14 for the Super Hornet units and 10 and 12 for the Hornets. Bush could carry as many as 52 fighters, in all.

Bush also has a squadron of four EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes, another squadron with four E-2C Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, two squadrons of Seahawk helicopters—with 10 to 11 birds each—and two C-2 transport planes.

Aside from Bush, the carrier group includes the destroyers USS Truxtun and USS Roosevelt and the cruiser USS Philippine Sea. Combined, the three warships pack some 300 long-range air-defense missiles and land-attack cruise missiles.

U.S. carrier groups always have at least one nuclear-powered attack submarine nearby, although the subs’ identities and dispositions are usually secret.

Two other American destroyers are in the Med operating independently from the carrier group. These are the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Donald Cook, both based in Spain for ballistic missile defense.

In the Black Sea, the Navy has at least one ship—possibly two—initially tasked with helping provide security during the Sochi Winter Olympics.

One is the frigate USS Taylor. But on Feb. 12, Taylor ran aground during a stop in the Turkish port of Samsun, scraping its propeller. The Navy fired the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Dennis Volpe. Taylor’s last known position was Samsun.

The other ship in the area is very, very interesting.

Accompanying the Taylor was the USS Mount Whitney, a high-tech command ship capable of hoovering up vast amounts of electronic communications. Mount Whitney was last seen on Feb. 27 leaving Istanbul, heading toward the Med.

It should come as no surprise if the ship turned around.

Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit train in Greece in June 2009. Marine Corps photo

Marines, jets and paratroopers

Then there are the Marines. In late February, the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group arrived off the coast of Spain for an eight-month deployment.

Bataan is a helicopter carrier transporting 2,400 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. Bataan’s group includes the assault ships USS Gunston Hall and USS Mesa Verde.

The 3,300 soldiers of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, are available on short notice. America’s rapidly-deployable ground response force for Europe, the lightly-equipped 173rd can parachute into a war zone from C-17 and C-130 airlifters.

And there’s always the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The famed 82nd keeps a battalion on standby, ready to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice.

The Air Force also has a significant presence in Europe, with its largest forces based in Italy, Germany and Britain.

The flying branch has three F-15 squadrons at RAF Lakenheath near Suffolk, England. Two F-16 squadrons are at Aviano Air Force Base in Italy. Another F-16 squadron flies from Spangdahlem in Germany.

The Air Force has transport planes at Ramstein Air Force Base, Spangdahlem and Stuttgart Army Airfield in Germany.

Lastly, the Air Force recently sent four F-15s to Lithuania as part of a rotating NATO air patrol for the Baltic. These fighters scrambled on Feb. 24 to intercept an unknown Russian plane.

Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list. But these are the American ships, planes and soldiers that are close enough and sufficiently agile to go to Ukraine quickly, in the unlikely event the U.S. decides to meet Russian force with force of its own.

Russian forces in Crimea alone number at least 15,000 soldiers. In the event of a wider war in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin could send tens of thousands more. A U.S. carrier group in the Med and some Marines won’t stop them. And Putin knows that.