Thursday, July 22, 2021

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced July 29, 2021

 July 22, 2021


The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on July 29, 2021, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Guleed Hassan Ahmed (ISN – 10023).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to osd.pentagon.pa.mbx.gtmo-press@mail.mil.

All requests must be received no later than 10 a.m. ET July 27, 2021. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request. Multiple names from the same organization may be submitted.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at https://www.prs.mil/.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Afghan Forces Have Capacity to Fight, Defend Country, Milley Says

 July 21, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The Afghan security forces have the capacity and capabilities needed to fight and defend their country, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said today, and the United States will continue to support those forces.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke during a Pentagon press conference alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. "The future of Afghanistan is squarely in the hands of the Afghan people," Milley said. "And there is a range of possible outcomes in Afghanistan. … A negative outcome – a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan – is not a foregone conclusion."

The general said the United States will continue to monitor the situation there and make adjustments to the support as necessary, he said.

Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman stand at lecterns in front of a seated audience.

Milley gave a quick rundown of the situation in Afghanistan. "There very clearly is a narrative out there that the Taliban are winning – they are propagating an 'inevitable victory'," he said. "As of today, 212 or 213 of the district centers are in Taliban control – it's about half of the 419 that are out there. You've got 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan. None of them have been seized by the Taliban, although they are putting pressure on the outskirts of about half of them." 

The provincial capitals have most of the population and the Taliban is trying to isolate the major population centers including Kabul, the general said. 

The Taliban has seized a substantial swath of territory and "the strategic momentum seems to be with the Taliban, but the Afghan security forces are consolidating their forces to protect population centers," Milley said. "They are adjusting forces to consolidate forces into the provincial capitals and Kabul. It remains to be seen what will happen. … I don't think the endgame is yet written."

Reporters asked Milley about comments attributed to him in a recent book. While he did not address those directly, he did emphasize that he and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff always provide their best military advice to whoever is president. Any advice given to leaders was "candid, honest in every single occasion," Milley said. "We do that all the time, every time. All of us in uniform take an oath, an oath to a document, an oath [to] the Constitution of the United States. And not one time did we violate that oath. I can say with certainty that every one of [us] maintained our oath of allegiance to that document … and we also maintained the tradition of civilian control of the military … and we also maintained the tradition of an apolitical military."

Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman stand at lecterns in front of a seated audience.

Austin has served alongside Milley in combat. "We fought together, we served a couple of times in the same unit," the secretary said. "I'm not guessing about his character: He doesn't have a political bone in his body. I clearly have tremendous faith and confidence in the chairman and what I want to make sure we do is maintain our focus on the threats ahead."

Friday, July 16, 2021

DHS Announces Funding Allocations for FY 2021 Preparedness Grants

 

WASHINGTON — Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the final allocations for $475 million for seven Fiscal Year 2021 competitive preparedness grant programs.  These allocations, together with the almost $1.5 billion in non-competitive grant funding announced earlier this year, total nearly $2 billion in FY 2021 to help prepare our Nation against man-made threats and natural disasters.

The grant programs provide funding to state, local, tribal and territorial governments, nonprofit agencies, and the private sector in building and sustaining capabilities to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism and other disasters.  The total amount for each grant program is set by Congress and the allocations are made by the Secretary.

Secretary Mayorkas issued the following statement about this year’s grant awards:

“Through these grant programs, we demonstrate our steadfast commitment to addressing the most significant and persistent terrorism-related threats to the homeland today,” said Secretary Mayorkas.  “Many of the communities and nonprofit organizations receiving these grants have been historically underserved.  The funding allocated for each of the grant programs will allow these communities and organizations to build, sustain, and improve their preparedness and response capabilities.  I look forward to working with our state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to achieve these shared goals.”

For the competitive grant program allocations that are being announced today, DHS identified four critical priority areas for attention: cybersecurity, soft targets and crowded places, domestic violent extremism, and emerging threats. Applicants under the grant programs were provided percentage increases in their competitive scores for aligning their projects around these areas.

All capabilities and programs being built or sustained using homeland security grant funding must have a clear linkage to the core capabilities articulated in the National Preparedness Goal.

Preparedness Grant Program Allocations for Fiscal Year 2021

The following grants are competitive, with awards announced today:

Operation Stonegarden: provides $90 million to enhance cooperation and coordination among state, local, tribal, territorial, and federal law enforcement agencies to jointly enhance security along the United States land and water borders.

Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program: provides $15 million to eligible tribal nations to implement preparedness initiatives to help strengthen the nation against risk associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards.

Nonprofit Security Grant Program: provides $180 million to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack.  This year, $90 million is provided to nonprofits in Urban Area Security Initiative-designated areas, and $90 million is provided to nonprofits outside those designated urban areas located in any state or territory.

Port Security Grant Program: provides $100 million to help protect critical port infrastructure from terrorism, enhance maritime domain awareness, improve port-wide maritime security risk management, and maintain or re-establish maritime security mitigation protocols that support port recovery and resiliency capabilities.

Transit Security Grant Program: provides $88 million to owners and operators of public transit systems to protect critical surface transportation and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and to increase the resilience of transit infrastructure.

Intercity Bus Security Grant Program: provides $2 million to owners and operators of intercity bus systems to protect surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and to increase the resilience of transit infrastructure.

The following non-competitive grants were awarded Feb. 25 to recipients based on a number of factors:

State Homeland Security Program: provides $415 million to support the implementation of risk-driven, capabilities-based state homeland security strategies to address capability targets.  Awards are based on statutory minimums and relative risk as determined by DHS/FEMA’s risk methodology.

Urban Area Security Initiative: provides $615 million to enhance regional preparedness and capabilities in 31 high-threat, high-density areas.  Awards are based on relative risk as determined by risk methodology.

Emergency Management Performance Grant: including the funding provided under the American Rescue Plan Act, provides more than $455 million to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in enhancing and sustaining all-hazards emergency management capabilities.  Relative population is considered.

Intercity Passenger Rail: provides $10 million to Amtrak to protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism and increase the resilience of the Amtrak rail system.  Award made per congressional direction.

Further information on preparedness grant programs is available at www.dhs.gov and http://www.fema.gov/grants.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Miller Transfers Command in Afghanistan to McKenzie

 July 12, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Army Gen. Austin S. Miller transferred responsibility for U.S. Forces Afghanistan to Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie in a ceremony in Kabul today.

McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, praised Miller as "the right leader at the right time" and reassured Afghans of America's continued support.

Two men pass a flag.

Miller has served as the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support Mission since September 2018. He is the man who implemented the decision to retrograde U.S. and NATO forces from the country.

McKenzie also praised Miller for how he has handled the withdrawal. The general orchestrated moving millions of tons of equipment and thousands of personnel. All of this was done safely, swiftly and sensibly. At the same time, Miller continued advising and assisting Afghan National Security Forces.

Miller spoke after transitioning command over to McKenzie. "It is important that the military sides set the conditions for a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan," he said. "We can all see the violence that is taking place across the country. But we know that with that violence, what is difficult to achieve is that settlement. What I tell the Taliban is they are responsible, too. The violence that is going on is against the will of the Afghan people. It needs to stop."

McKenzie said the ceremony is not "the end of the story, it is rather the end of a chapter." 

Two men meet near a mud wall.

The Centcom commander said he will remain focused on four things, with the first being to protect U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. He will also look to enable the safe operation of the airport in Kabul. He will continue to provide appropriate advice and assistance to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Finally, he will support counterterrorism efforts.

Following the transition, McKenzie met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced July 15, 2021

 July 8, 2021


The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on July 15, 2021, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn   (ISN - 10016).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to osd.pentagon.pa.mbx.gtmo-press@mail.mil.

All requests must be received no later than noon ET July 12, 2021. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request. Multiple names from the same organization may be submitted.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at https://www.prs.mil/.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

TSA expects high travel volume, shares traveler tips ahead of Fourth of July

 As summer travel volumes continue to rise and the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) remains prepared to ensure a secure screening process at airports nationwide.

On Sunday, June 27, TSA screened 2,167,380 people through airport security checkpoints, which was the highest checkpoint volume the agency has seen since the beginning of the pandemic. TSA expects that number to be outpaced over the holiday weekend and advises passengers to arrive to the airport with plenty of time for ticketing, checking baggage, and security screening.

Many airports across the country are seeing passenger travel at pre-pandemic levels, especially in the mornings when flight schedules are compressed.  Some airports are already exceeding 2019 travel volumes, including popular summer travel destinations, such as Nashville International Airport and Myrtle Beach International Airport; while others, like Orlando International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are already close to pre-pandemic volumes ahead of the high-traffic holiday weekend.

“It’s heartening to see the country taking to travel again and travelling to enjoy the weekend and celebrate our nation’s independence,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We continue to remind passengers to pack their patience and remain calm through the security checkpoint and onboard aircraft. TSA will not tolerate aggressive actions toward our officers; please help us make travel safe, secure and pleasant on this holiday weekend.”

The federal face mask mandate remains in effect on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Face masks are not required in outdoor areas of conveyances (if such outdoor areas exist on the conveyance) or while outdoors at transportation hubs.

 

Some helpful reminders for the airport security checkpoint include:

  • Arrive early. TSA expects to see the increasing summer travel volumes to continue to rise into the holiday weekend. Although nationally our travel volume remains around 75% of pre-pandemic levels, some airports around the country have already surpassed volumes from 2019. Please arrive at the airport in plenty of time for ticketing, checking baggage, security screening, etc.
  • Wear a face mask. Face masks remain mandatory for employees and passengers, regardless of vaccination status, throughout all domestic transportation modes, including airport security screening checkpoints. Since the implementation of the face mask mandate for travelers on Feb 2, there has been near-total voluntary compliance throughout the entire transportation system.
  • Enroll now in TSA PreCheck® to “Travel with Ease.” By enrolling in TSA PreCheck, airline passengers can avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light jackets at the TSA checkpoint. Most new enrollees receive their known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years.  
  • Pack smart; start with empty bags. Those airline passengers who begin packing for travel with empty bags are less likely to bring prohibited items through a TSA checkpoint. Technology and modifications help reduce the need for physical contact with TSA officers, but those who take time to come prepared for the TSA checkpoint are far more likely to avoid physical contact. Check for prohibited items by using the “What Can I Bring?” page on TSA.gov.
  • Consider other ways that might help avoid physical contact at the checkpoint. Prior to entering the line for the TSA checkpoint, take a few minutes to prepare. Place jewelry, keys and other pocketed items into your carry-on bag so they might be scanned with need for fewer bins at the conveyor belt. Have a valid ID card readily available and follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less, with the exception of hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage.
  • Traveling with Firearms. Unloaded firearms may be transported in a locked, hard-sided container in checked baggage only. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.
  • Contact TSA for help if there are questions or concerns. Passengers with questions about checkpoint procedures and how to prepare for TSA security screening, or who need additional assistance during the security screening process should contact TSA Cares in advance of their travel: (855) 787-2227 (Federal Relay 711). Additionally, they can submit questions to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.  Information is also available at TSA.gov. If you have any concerns or questions during screening at a TSA checkpoint, or have a disability, medical condition or require additional assistance, please ask for a Supervisor or Passenger Support Specialist.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

DHS Announces Expansion of the Securing the Cities Program

 WASHINGTON — Today the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) announced the expansion of its Securing the Cities (STC) program to two additional metropolitan regions, Boston and New Orleans.  This expansion will assist these regions with building capabilities to detect, analyze, and report nuclear and other radioactive materials. 

 

“We are committed to working with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments across the country to help them safeguard their communities,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The Securing the Cities program enables the Department and our partners to focus on the threat of radiological and nuclear terrorism. We will continue to expand the Securing the Cities program in the coming years.”

   

The STC program seeks to reduce the risk of a successful deployment of radiological or nuclear weapons against major metropolitan areas in the United States. Through STC, DHS provides radiological and nuclear detection equipment, training, exercise support, and operational and technical subject matter expertise through cooperative agreement grants. The initial awards are $2 million to both Boston and New Orleans to fund planning and analysis. Future grants will enable these cities to work with CWMD to build robust capabilities. Areas surrounding the core urban centers will be included in the program as well.

  

“Our job at CWMD is to help ensure our federal, state, local law enforcement, and first responder partners have the equipment, training, and knowledge they need to protect their communities and the Nation,” said CWMD Acting Assistant Secretary Gary Rasicot.   

STC began in 2006 as a pilot project for the New York City/Jersey City/Newark region and expanded to the Los Angeles/Long Beach region in 2012, the National Capital Region in 2014, the Houston region in 2015, and the Chicago area in 2016. In 2020, the Department more than doubled the number of cities by expanding to six new regions–Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle. The CWMD Act of 2018 formally authorized the STC program and provided for this expansion.

  

CWMD serves as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s focal point for counter-weapons of mass destruction efforts. By supporting operational partners across federal, state, and local levels, CWMD coordinates and manages the detection effort for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) and health security threats. CWMD is committed to addressing current mission needs to enable operators on the ground to successfully detect, interdict, respond to, and report CBRN threats

Monday, June 28, 2021

Military Commissions Media Invitation Announced for United States v. Encep Nurjaman; Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep; Mohammed Farik Bin Amin, Arraignment

The Department of Defense and the Office of Military Commissions will allocate seats for news media aboard a military-chartered aircraft for travel from Joint Base Andrews (JBA) in Maryland to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) Cuba to cover the military commission arraignment scheduled for United States v. Encep Nurjaman; Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep; Mohammed Farik Bin Amin, Aug. 30, 2021.

Currently, the tentative flights will be available as follows:

  • Aug. 29 – Joint Base Andrews to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
  • Sept. 1 – Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Joint Base Andrews

Please note that the flight schedule, to include departure and arrival locations, is subject to change. Media desiring to view this hearing from NSGB must complete the registration form. All requests must be received no later than noon EDT, Thursday, July 1. Multiple requesters from the same organization must register separately via the form.

Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at NSGB, selection is not guaranteed. Additionally, all traveling media shall have printed proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 viral test within 72 hours prior to departing the national capital region. A test is not required for media who have a confirmed COVID positive test result within 90 days of travel if written proof from a medical provider can be provided no later than Aug. 13.

Media who can provide proof of being fully vaccinated will be allowed on the OMC charter flight. Media who are fully vaccinated (post 14-days from receiving complete COVID 19 vaccination) are not required to quarantine upon arrival at NSGB. Media who are not fully vaccinated may not view the hearing from NSGB. All media are subject to surveillance testing while on NSGB and will adhere to personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements directed by the NSGB Commanding Officer.

Additional viewing is available for media via Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) from a media work center at Fort George G. Meade, in Maryland. Regular COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing may apply at all locations depending on local guidance and vaccination status, although media viewing from Fort Meade are not subject to COVID-19 testing or ROM requirements.

Media desiring to view this hearing from Fort Meade must send their requests via email to osd.mc-alex.OMC.mbx.omc-pa@mail.mil with the following information (multiple requesters from the same organization must send separate emails):

Subject Line: Nurjaman et al. 30 AUG 2021

  • Individual's full name
  • Individual's occupation/position
  • Sponsoring organization (News Outlet)
  • Contact information (cell phone and email)

NOTE 1: The primary purpose of travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is courtroom reporting. Tours of the detention facilities are not available. Requests for reporting on Guantanamo topics unrelated to the military commissions must be coordinated in advance through the respective Public Affairs Officers of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Southern Command, and/or NSGB.

NOTE 2: All media must ensure their passports and visas (foreign press) are up-to-date and eligible to enter and exit the United States.

View Expeditionary Legal Complex – B-roll 2017 

View Expeditionary Legal Complex – Photos 2014

Further information including the media ground rules can be viewed at the Office of Military Commissions website at https://www.mc.mil.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Statement by the Department of Defense

 June 27, 2021


(Attributable to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby)

"At President Biden's direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region. The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries. Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata'ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these facilities.

As demonstrated by this evening's strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks. We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS. The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation - but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.

As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope. As a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq."

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

United States Seizes Websites Used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union and Kata’ib Hizballah

 Today, pursuant to court orders, the United States seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and three websites operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), in violation of U.S. sanctions.

On Oct. 22, 2020, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated IRTVU as a Specially Designated National (SDN) for being owned or controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC). SDNs are prohibited from obtaining services, including website and domain services, in the United States without an OFAC license. According to OFAC, the designation of IRTVU as an SDN was in response to the Iranian regime targeting the United States’ electoral process with brazen attempts to sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters. OFAC’s announcement explained that components of the government of Iran, to include IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the United States to with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations. 33 of the websites seized today were operated by IRTVU. The 33 domains are owned by a United States company. IRTVU did not obtain a license from OFAC prior to utilizing the domain names.

Three additional websites seized today were operated by KH. On July 2, 2009, OFAC designated KH an SDN, and the Department of State designated KH a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The announcements described KH as an Iraqi terrorist organization that committed, directed, supported or posed a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. OFAC further explained that the IRGC provides lethal support to KH and other Iraqi Shia militia groups who target and kill Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. The three domains operated by KH were owned by a United States company. KH did not obtain a license from OFAC prior to utilizing the domain names.

These website seizures were investigated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and the FBI. The National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section prosecuted the seizure.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Special Agent in Charge J.C. (Chris) Hacker, of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Ariel Joshua Leinwand, of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement’s Atlanta Office, made the announcement.

The National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section is investigating this matter in coordination with the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and Atlanta Field Office.

Guantanamo Periodic Review Board Media Invitation Announced June 22, 2021

 June 22, 2021


The Department of Defense will allocate seats for news media at the Pentagon satellite viewing location on June 29, 2021, to cover unclassified portions of the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board for Haroon al-Afghani (ISN - 3148).

Due to limited space availability, selection is not guaranteed. Upon selection, additional information on meeting time and location will be provided.

Media desiring to observe the hearing should send requests via email to osd.pentagon.pa.mbx.gtmo-press@mail.mil.

All requests must be received no later than noon ET June 24, 2021. Media members should include their name, position, sponsoring organization and contact information (cell phone and email address) in their request. Multiple names from the same organization may be submitted.

Further information, including media ground rules, can be viewed at the Periodic Review Secretariat website at https://www.prs.mil/.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chief Trial Judge Named For Military Commissions

 June 17, 2021


Colonel Lanny J. Acosta, Jr., U.S. Army, has been designated as Chief Trial Judge for the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary with an effective date of July 1, 2021. 

Col. Acosta replaces Col. Douglas K. Watkins, the current Chief Trial Judge, who will retire from the Army July 31.   

The Chief Trial Judge assigns military judges to preside over each military commissions case referred to trial.

For more information about the Office of Military Commissions, visit https://www.mc.mil.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Queens Woman Sentenced to More Than 16 Years’ Imprisonment for Teaching and Distributing Information About Weapons of Mass Destruction

 Today in federal court in Brooklyn, Noelle Velentzas was sentenced to 16 ½ years’ imprisonment by United States District Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. for her role in planning a terrorist attack in the United States.  Velentzas and her co-defendant, Asia Siddiqui, pleaded guilty on August 23, 2019 to teaching or distributing information pertaining to the making and use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction in furtherance of a planned federal crime of violence.  Siddiqui was sentenced in January 2020 to 15 years’ imprisonment. 

Mark J. Lesko, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the sentence.

“The defendant expressed her support for foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham by learning how to build bombs and other explosive devices and targeting members of law enforcement for terror. Today’s sentence imposes a just punishment on the defendant for her planned horrific crimes,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Lesko.  “Counterterrorism and protecting the American people remain among the highest priorities of the Department of Justice, and this Office, together with the FBI, the NYPD and our Joint Terrorism Task Force partners, will continue to exercise extreme vigilance to incapacitate terrorists.”

“As part of her plan goal to wage violent jihad, Velentzas and her co-defendant Asia Siddiqui researched and taught each other how to construct bombs to be used on American soil against law enforcement and military targets,” stated Assistant Attorney General Demers. “With the sentence imposed by the court, Velentzas has been held accountable for her crimes. The Attorney General recently reminded us that we must remain vigilant against threats from international terrorism, and we are grateful for those agents, analysts and prosecutors who were and brought Velentzas to justice before she could carry out her plans.”

Between approximately 2013 and 2015, Velentzas and her co-defendant Asia Siddiqui taught each other chemistry and electrical skills directly related to creating explosives and building detonating devices; studied the explosives used in past terrorist attacks including the Boston Marathon bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 1993 World Trade Center attack; researched how to make plastic explosives and build car bombs; shopped for and acquired materials to be used in an explosive device; and assessed potential targets of an attack, focusing on law enforcement and military-related targets.

While engaging in these activities, Velentzas repeatedly expressed her support for promoting and waging violent jihad and her desire to commit acts of violence.  Velentzas claimed that Osama bin Laden was her hero, and expressed praise for the September 11, 2001 attacks as well as Mohammed Shnewer, who was convicted of plotting a terrorist attack against members of the armed services at Fort Dix in New Jersey. 

At the time that Velentzas and Siddiqui were arrested in 2015, law enforcement officers searched their residences and found tools of the trade for a terrorist attack, including propane gas tanks, soldering tools, car bomb instructions and jihadist literature, machetes and knives. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security & Cybercrime Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Heeren, Jennifer M. Sasso, Josh Hafetz and Jonathan E. Algor are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jennifer Burke of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

The Defendant:

NOELLE VELENTZAS
Age:  33
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 15-CR-213 (SJ)