War on Terrorism

Monday, June 30, 2014

Houston Man Sentenced for Threatening to Bomb Synagogue

Dante Phearse, 33, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt to serve 33 months in prison for calling in a bomb threat to Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Houston.  The announcement is being made jointly by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.  Phearse was further ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution and will serve three years of supervised release following completion of his prison term.  
On April 28, 2014, Phearse pleaded guilty to the civil rights violation of threatening to bomb a synagogue and to making a telephone bomb threat.  As part of his plea, Phearse admitted that on April 30, 2013, he willfully obstructed members of Congregation Beth Israel from enjoying the free exercise of their religious beliefs by threat of force with an explosive device.  Phearse also admitted to using an instrument of interstate commerce to communicate a threat to kill and injure people and to destroy a building by means of an explosive device.  
  
As a result of Phearse’s threats, the school at Congregation Beth Israel was closed for a day and extra security was hired to guard the synagogue and school, thus obstructing the synagogues’ members in the enjoyment of the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

The FBI investigated the case with the assistance of the Houston Police Department.  Trial Attorneys Nicholas Murphy and Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting in cooperation with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

Department of Defense Releases Strategy to Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction



Today the Department of Defense released its strategy for countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This strategy will direct the department’s efforts to prevent hostile actors from acquiring WMD, contain and reduce WMD threats, and ensure that DOD can respond effectively to WMD crises.
“The pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and potential use by actors of concern pose a threat to U.S. national security and peace and stability around the world,” Secretary Hagel writes in the foreword to the strategy. The constant evolution of WMD materials, tactics and technologies calls for flexible and innovative solutions from the full range of DOD tools and capabilities. This strategy places a premium on cooperative efforts to shape the environment and early action to prevent threats before they fully emerge.

The Department of Defense Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction seeks to ensure that the United States and its allies and partners are neither attacked nor coerced by hostile actors with WMD. “This strategy provides foundational guidance for enacting the department’s countering WMD policies, plans, and programs and advances a comprehensive response to existing and developing WMD threats,” Secretary Hagel writes. The strategy recognizes that, as we have seen in Syria, “instability in states pursuing or possessing WMD or related capabilities could lead to dangerous WMD crises” and calls upon DOD to improve collaboration and cooperation to reduce and eliminate such threats.

Recognizing that fiscal constraints require DOD to make strategic choices, the strategy emphasizes the importance of cooperating with partners—including other U.S. departments and agencies, allies and partners, and international bodies— to achieve countering WMD goals.

Endorsing the strategy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey writes “Our capability to defeat aggression will not be undermined by the threatened or actual use of WMD.”

Read the full strategy here.

A fact sheet on the strategy can be found here.

ISAF Emergency Doctors Save Lives With Team Effort



By Army Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston
Regional Command South

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 30, 2014 – In any game plan, success requires time, focus and consistent mental and physical effort from every team player.

The Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit here is such a team. Their patients’ well-being is their central focus and they strive to prepare for everything the battlefield of Afghanistan gives them.

“We’re really good at what we do here,” said Navy Lt.J.G. Trosper, a native of Petaluma, California, who has served Role 3 MMU as an intensive care unit and trauma nurse.

“And we strive to get our patients through our continuum of care as fluidly as possible,” Trosper said.

The constant care provided by Role 3 has been tested many times. However, there is a day that the Role 3 team will recall for years to come, and their performance that day will be remembered forever by those they treated.

Navy Capt. Mary E. Neill, a Baltimore, Maryland, native who serves as commanding officer of the NATO Role 3 MMU hospital described the scene March 30, 2014, when a Romanian security element was conducting a mounted patrol near the airfield when it was suddenly struck by an improvised explosive device.

“One Romanian soldier was immediately taken by the blast, another was critically wounded with an arm amputation, and the other four had injuries as well, of varying severities,” Neill said. “They received immediate care from the medics and were immediately medevaced here.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Grabo, a native of Pittston, Pennsylvania, who serves as a trauma surgeon and chief of trauma for the Role 3 MMU, recalled the situation as the “page that you don’t want to get. We are built to be a trauma hospital, that’s what we do. However, we don’t want it to be a situation that is a mass casualty [event] that overwhelms our capabilities.”

When the medevac helicopter landed, a team was rushed to get the Romanians off the litter and into the ambulance, which took the casualties directly to the emergency bay for triage and care.

As chief of trauma it was Grabo’s job to triage and coordinate appropriate care for the wounded Romanians.

“We kicked right into action; it was a great team effort,” Grabo said. “With everyone doing their job at each station, taking care of the patients as they came to them, it made my job very easy.”

During triage outside the emergency room, it was evident that one Romanian soldier who had all but lost his limb in the blast would need immediate care.

“When this patient came in, he had a very ashen look to him and we all became very concerned,” said Navy Cmdr. Josh Tobin, a Los Angeles native who serves as the department head of anesthesiology and critical care at the NATO Role 3 MMU.

“So we immediately put in a breathing tube in less than a minute of him arriving at the trauma bay,” Tobin added. “The corpsman and surgeons were simultaneously working on getting him exposed and finding a good site for an IV.”

After the trauma team had worked on the wounded soldier for a brief time, it became necessary to try a different approach.

“Unfortunately, he had lost so much blood from his wounds that his heart actually stopped,” Tobin said.

With a flat-lined patient in the trauma bay, the doctors had every indication they needed to perform a very invasive lifesaving procedure.

“It required the most aggressive and invasive procedure you can have in the emergency department -- a resuscitative thoracotomy, which is cracking the chest, cross clamping the aorta so the blood only goes to vital organs such as the brain, heart and lungs, and then pumping the heart by literally squeezing it,” Grabo said.

Just a short while into the procedure, the trauma team achieved what they set out to do, which was getting the patient’s pulse back, Grabo said.

“In that moment,” he said, “we immediately took him to the operating room for damage-control surgery for his arm and other concerning wounds in his leg, abdomen and pelvis.”

While all of this was going on, the Role 3’s other trauma teams were simultaneously taking action to ensure all of the other casualties received the care they needed.

“Amongst the chaos, the other trauma teams were giving me information on every other critically-injured patient,” Grabo said. “We were sending them to the imaging scanners to get more information, and to the intensive care unit, while we went to the OR with this really sick guy.”

Grabo explained after damage-control surgery was administered to the most critically wounded patient and everything was under control, they got him into the recovery room and on to the intensive care unit in a very successful and timely manner.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Conley, a native of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, who serves as an emergency physician and department head of trauma for NATO Role 3 MMU, reflected on the team effort that took place that day.

“It’s a reminder of the resiliency of the human body,” Conley said, “and it’s amazing what you can do when you have the right tools and the team that works with efficiency to make it happen.”

“It was the first time our team had seen a patient come in straight from the point of injury and only having tactical field care administered by a field medic,” he said. “It was awesome to see how well the team reacted to a new situation.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ashley Humphries, a native of Palm Beach, Florida, who serves Role 3 MMU as a trauma surgeon, said that saving lives is why he and his comrades are in Afghanistan.

“We all come from very different backgrounds, whether civilian or active-duty military, but we’re here for a purpose,” Humphries said. “And that purpose is to take care of our coalition troops at a moment’s notice.”

Sadly, not all soldiers can be saved. To commemorate the Romanian soldier who died that day, the NATO Role 3 MMU team conducted a solemn ceremony.

“Any time that we have any coalition or U.S. soldier die in our facility, which is very rare, we have a dignified transfer so that we can all render honors and dignity to our fallen warrior,” Neill said. “It was quite moving for the Romanian soldiers.”

Neill explained that two of the wounded Romanian soldiers were able to stay behind and go through the Role 3’s physical therapy program until they were able to go back to their duties. The remaining three, she said, were shipped forward to Landstuhl, Germany, and eventually home.

Six member of the trauma team were awarded the Romanian Medal of Honor for their actions that day, and the whole team was recognized for their lifesaving efforts.

The NATO Role 3 MMU was awarded a framed certificate from the Romanian army.

The certificate reads:

“For your professionalism, commitment and effective work with a decisive impact in saving our servicemen’s lives. Your great devotion, compassion, and friendship shown to Romanian allies, were the last barricade in front of death, darkness and desolation. Our endless gratitude for your firm hands, brilliant minds and beautiful souls. God bless you all.”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dempsey: Iraqi National Unity Needed to Counter ISIL



By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2014 – The formation of a national unity government in Iraq will be key to defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told National Public Radio Friday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said it is clearly to America's advantage to oppose ISIL. American teams now in Iraq are looking at the threat posed by ISIL and the means Iraq has to oppose that threat, he added.

ISIL is a trans-regional terror organization that originated in Syria and now controls large portions of Northern and Western Iraq. Iraqi security forces in those areas collapsed and did not confront the extremist threat.

“It’s in our national interest to begin to think through how to counter that threat,” Dempsey said.

To do so, the United States needs a credible partner in the Iraqi government, the top U.S. military officer told NPR. For more than a decade, U.S. officials have stressed to Iraqi leaders that military solutions “were only a part of the equation -- that they had to take the opportunity to find a way to form a government that would work on behalf of all the people,” Dempsey said.

He said is disappointed that Iraqi leaders did not heed that advice and did not set up a government that reached out to all people of the nation. “My assessment of the situation we’re in today is not a military failure, but a failure of political leadership,” he noted.

ISIL's advance into Iraq was accompanied by reports of massacres of Iraqi service members and citizens. But because many Iraqis are dissatisfied with their government, the group has managed to attract allies. These groups are not natural allies of ISIL, however, and if Iraq goes the route of a unity government, Dempsey said he fully expects these ISIL sympathizers to peal away from the group.

President Barack Obama has asked the U.S. military to work on options for him. “Those [options] do include high-value individuals who are the leadership of ISIL, it includes potentially the protection of … critical infrastructure,” the chairman said. “And then there is the issue of blunting attacks by massed groups of ISIL.”

The American teams in Iraq are refining the intelligence picture of the group. American aircraft are flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Iraq to color in that picture, “so that if the decision was made to support the Iraqi Security Forces as they confront ISIL, then we could do so,” Dempsey said.

Any options need to be precise, he noted.

“One thing we would absolutely have to be concerned about is that this doesn’t become an issue between Sunni and Shia, with us taking one side or the other,” the chairman said.

“There’s a great phrase that when there’s no center, there are only sides. And that’s why you’ve heard us -- all those of us who’ve had experience in Iraq -- state as a first principle that we really have to see what the Iraqis themselves, and in particular, the central government intends to do to try to get these groups into a better place,” he continued.

A lot depends on the assessment, Dempsey said. The American teams need to look at the Iraqi security forces and assess whether they can defend the nation.

“Once we have that assessment that will take one of two directions,” he said. “One is if they can defend Baghdad and we get indications that the central government intends to form a unity government that will begin to address the issues that have led to this uprising, if you will. Then I think that takes us on the path to provide a certain kind of support going forward."

But if the assessment is that Iraqi forces may not hold together, or the central government is not forming a national unity government, “we still have the ISIL challenge, but we would probably look at other ways to address with other regional partners,” Dempsey said.

Iran has national interests in Iraq, and that must be taken under consideration, Dempsey said. “Iran has been active in Iraq for a very long time,” he said. “I can say with some confidence that Iran, which has a deep interest in the Shia holy sites, is undoubtedly providing assistance and support and advice on how to secure those holy sites. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I would be surprised if we didn’t find it.”

The level of support Iran is giving Iraq will influence what the United States does. “One of the things we need to find out is whether Iran is embedded in and advising and supporting the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “That will take us in one direction. If they’re not, that’ll take us in another. And it’s really about understanding facts on the ground before we make a decision on how to address them.”

The chairman said the United States will “look at Iran with a cold eye on where and when we may need to operate in the same space and toward what is potentially the same goal of countering ISIL. But I can state with some assurance that their goals in Iraq are not going to be completely aligned with ours, and we’re very clear about that.”

Ahmed Abu Khatallah Indicted for Terrorist Conspiracy Stemming from September 2012 Attack in Benghazi, Libya

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, aka Ahmed Mukatallah, made his first appearance today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on a federal terrorism offense arising from his alleged participation in the Sept. 11 through 12, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
 
Khatallah was indicted by a federal grand jury on the charge of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, knowing and intending that these would be used in preparation for and in carrying out a killing in the course of an attack on a federal facility, and the offense resulted in death. 
 
The investigation is ongoing and the Justice Department can bring additional charges as the case continues.
 
“Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah has arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.  “We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi.”
 
“Capturing Ahmed Abu Khatallah and bringing him to the U.S. to face justice for his role in killing American citizens in Benghazi is a major step forward in our ongoing investigation,” said FBI Director James B. Comey.  “Our work, however, is not over.  This case remains one of our top priorities and we will continue to pursue all others who participated in this brazen attack on our citizens and our country.”
 
“Ahmed Abu Khatallah's capture and his appearance in court today were critical steps toward bringing him to justice for his role in the terrorist attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin.  “We will not rest in our pursuit of the others who attacked our facilities and killed the four courageous Americans who perished that day.”
 
“In a courtroom in our nation's capital, today we took the first step down the road to justice for the four American heroes killed in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. for the District of Columbia.  “This prosecution is a reflection of our determination to honor the sacrifice of U.S. citizens who perish on foreign soil in service to our country.  We will be steady, deliberate and relentless in seeking to hold accountable all who were responsible for this deadly act of terror.”
 
“The capture and return to the United States of Ahmed Abu Khatallah should be a warning to all those who want to harm the United States,” said Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office George Venizelos.  “As alleged in the indictment, Khatallah participated in September 11-12, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four innocent Americans.  Now he is in the United States to stand trial for his actions.  The FBI will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who conduct such heinous acts no matter where they are located.”
 
Khatallah, a Libyan national approximately 43 years of age, was taken into custody earlier this month.  He initially was charged in a criminal complaint that was filed under seal on July 15, 2013, and that became public on June 17, 2014.  The Justice Department secured the defendant’s initial indictment on June 26, 2014, and the charging document was unsealed today.
 
An indictment is merely a formal allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty. 
 
The case is being investigated by the FBI New York Office's Joint Terrorism Task Force with substantial assistance from various other government agencies.  The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Friday, June 27, 2014

ISAF’s Gender Advisor Mentors Afghan Female Counterparts By Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg International Security Assistance Force KABUL, Afghanistan, June 27, 2014 – The International Security Assistance Force’s gender advisor is breaking new ground not only in her native country of Croatia but also in Afghanistan. Croatian Brig. Gen. Gordana Garasic, who arrived here in April, is spearheading efforts to assist the Afghan military and police in increasing the number of females serving to 10 percent over the next decade. “We have put together an action plan for the Afghan security forces in order to train, assist and help those security forces recruit more females in their police and army,” Garasic said. “We believe, and it has proven that if women participate in the police and military that it will help stability of the whole society.” Garasic speaks from experience. She is the first female general officer in Croatia's history and the first general officer to serve as the Gender Advisor in NATO-led operations. Garasic works closely with her Afghan counterparts in the Ministries of Interior and Defense. Recently, the general met with her Afghan counterparts who serve in the Afghan National Police, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Defense to encourage information exchanges toward gender integration of their military and police. “It was very nice that the general invited us here,” said Brig. Gen. Hekmat Shahi, director of Gender, Human and Children’s Rights within the Afghan government’s Ministry of Interior. “This visit was very important and useful for us to exchange and learn from the general,” Shahi added. “Future meetings will be very useful for us,” Shahi said. “If we exchange ideas with the general and learn from her experiences we can move forward with our planning.” Currently there are approximately 2,000 women serving in the Afghan National Police and roughly 700 women serving in the Afghan Air Force and Army. Garasic encouraged other opportunities to exchange information not only with the Afghan government but also with international organizations and other institutions involved with gender integration. “We all need to work together with the Afghan government and institutions, and of course, other international organizations to promote gender and integration,” Garasic said. “The unity of effort toward progress can be achievable.” The general cited the participation of Afghan women in both the April 5 and the June 14 run-off elections which in the last vote was 38 percent. Garasic says Afghan women want to serve in the military and police without obstacles. “Through the course of recruitment and training, proper assignment and promotion will all result in the retention of women in both the military and police,” she said. “If it is perceived as a respectable occupation, especially as more women enter the police force, it will help to suppress and solve crimes and offenses against women.”



By Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg
International Security Assistance Force

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 27, 2014 – The International Security Assistance Force’s gender advisor is breaking new ground not only in her native country of Croatia but also in Afghanistan.

Croatian Brig. Gen. Gordana Garasic, who arrived here in April, is spearheading efforts to assist the Afghan military and police in increasing the number of females serving to 10 percent over the next decade.

“We have put together an action plan for the Afghan security forces in order to train, assist and help those security forces recruit more females in their police and army,” Garasic said. “We believe, and it has proven that if women participate in the police and military that it will help stability of the whole society.”

Garasic speaks from experience. She is the first female general officer in Croatia's history and the first general officer to serve as the Gender Advisor in NATO-led operations.

Garasic works closely with her Afghan counterparts in the Ministries of Interior and Defense. Recently, the general met with her Afghan counterparts who serve in the Afghan National Police, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Defense to encourage information exchanges toward gender integration of their military and police.

“It was very nice that the general invited us here,” said Brig. Gen. Hekmat Shahi, director of Gender, Human and Children’s Rights within the Afghan government’s Ministry of Interior.

“This visit was very important and useful for us to exchange and learn from the general,” Shahi added.

“Future meetings will be very useful for us,” Shahi said. “If we exchange ideas with the general and learn from her experiences we can move forward with our planning.”

Currently there are approximately 2,000 women serving in the Afghan National Police and roughly 700 women serving in the Afghan Air Force and Army. Garasic encouraged other opportunities to exchange information not only with the Afghan government but also with international organizations and other institutions involved with gender integration.

“We all need to work together with the Afghan government and institutions, and of course, other international organizations to promote gender and integration,” Garasic said. “The unity of effort toward progress can be achievable.”

The general cited the participation of Afghan women in both the April 5 and the June 14 run-off elections which in the last vote was 38 percent.

Garasic says Afghan women want to serve in the military and police without obstacles.

“Through the course of recruitment and training, proper assignment and promotion will all result in the retention of women in both the military and police,” she said. “If it is perceived as a respectable occupation, especially as more women enter the police force, it will help to suppress and solve crimes and offenses against women.”