Army Spc. Arlyn Libao hands donated supplies to an Afghan evacuee at Fort Pickett, Va., Sept. 25, 2021.
Washington Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Cassie Saephanh with the 194th Medical Group, Camp Murray, Wash., uses a nasal swab to test an Afghan infant for the COVID-19 virus at the medical isolation dorm, Liberty Village, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 24, 2021. The Defense Department — through Northern Command and in support of the Department of Homeland Security— is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees.
WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the formation of the Law Enforcement Coordination Council (LECC) – the Department’s first unified law enforcement coordination body – to comprehensively assess a broad range of law enforcement matters, including its law enforcement policies and training. The LECC, which will be chaired by Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, will immediately begin comprehensive reviews that ensure more fair, equitable, and impartial policing, as well as officer and community safety. The LECC builds on several steps undertaken by DHS during the Biden-Harris Administration to promote best practices in its law enforcement activities.
“Law enforcement is a noble profession. Its personnel honorably protect and serve our communities across the country, and they do so at great personal risk,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “DHS is committed to ensuring our law enforcement personnel and our law enforcement partners have the training and tools to execute their mission, including by protecting civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. The Law Enforcement Coordination Council will better enable the Department to combat current and future threats to our country, while ensuring the safety of both our law enforcement personnel and the diverse communities we serve.”
The LECC includes the leadership of every DHS law enforcement Component, as well as leadership of DHS Headquarters offices with advisory and oversight roles, including the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), Privacy Office, and Office of the General Counsel. The LECC will evaluate and respond to emerging law enforcement challenges and opportunities, comprehensively assess potential policy changes, facilitate information sharing, and promote best practices. The LECC will also coordinate closely with partners across every level of government, as well as with other key stakeholders.
The LECC will immediately form two sub-committees. The first subcommittee will undertake a review of Department-wide and Component-specific use of force policies – including those that govern de-escalation tactics, the use of chemical agents such as tear gas, and less-than-lethal munitions – to ensure our law enforcement officers and agents continue to execute their mission appropriately and lawfully, including in a way that takes into account health and safety and is mindful of sensitive locations. The second subcommittee will undertake a review of law enforcement training techniques and curricula, adhering to a set of key principles that include a rigorous protection of civil rights and civil liberties and respect for privacy, a data-driven focus on preventing implicit bias, the promotion of standards that prohibit profiling and enhance de-escalation techniques, policies that support mental health, and strategies to increase trusted community engagement.
These initiatives build on the Department’s longstanding commitment to continuously evaluate and improve its law enforcement-related practices and policies to ensure they are consistent with the law, align with best practices, and protect inalienable rights.
Sept. 27, 2021 , DOD News
Joint Task Force-Liberty is built around the Air Force Expeditionary Center at the base, and Austin was welcomed by the commander, Maj. Gen. Mark D. Camerer, before touring the facilities.
– Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III
WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the awarding of 37 grants, totaling $20 million, under the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program. The TVTP Grant Program is managed by DHS’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) and is the only federal grant program dedicated to enhancing the capabilities of local communities to prevent targeted violence and terrorism. This year’s grant program prioritized the prevention of domestic violent extremism, including through efforts to counter online radicalization and mobilization to violence.
“Domestic violent extremism and targeted violence pose significant and persistent threats to our homeland,” said Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Attacks on schools, houses of worship, workplaces, and public gatherings threaten Americans’ lives and inflict trauma on our communities. The Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program prioritizes investments that empower and equip communities across our country to prevent acts of violence before they occur.”
The FY21 TVTP grants expand on the Department’s new approach to prevention, which centers on providing local communities with evidence-based tools to help prevent violence, while protecting civil rights and civil liberties and privacy rights. These grants will help local communities strengthen online and in-person prevention efforts, including by addressing early-risk factors that can lead to radicalization and violence.
The FY21 TVTP Grant Program is open to state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies; institutions of higher education; and nonprofit organizations. DHS anticipates the next round of funding will become available for competition in late Winter/early Spring 2022. To ensure more equitable access to this grant program, CP3 provides technical assistance to interested applicants who seek to better understand requirements for applying for federal grants.
For more information, including a full list of grant awards, please visit the TVTP Grant Program website
Sept. 20, 2021 | BY C. TODD LOPEZ , DOD News
The investigation performed by U.S. Central Command to look into the Aug. 29 airstrike in Kabul will itself undergo further review, the Defense Department announced today.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby today announced that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has asked Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall to task a military officer — three-stars or higher — to conduct a review of the Centcom investigation.
"Part of that review will be to examine the investigation itself, the thoroughness of the investigation, to study the degree to which any policies, procedures or targeting mechanisms may need to be altered going forward, if any, and of course to then take a look at what levels of accountability might be appropriate and if so at what level," Kirby said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
According to Kirby, the secretary of defense has asked that the review be completed within 45 days. He also said that the role of that officer would be to make recommendations, rather than to take actions. He said if the reviewing officer believes that there needs to be accountability, that should be annotated in the report when it is passed on to the secretary of the Air Force and the secretary of defense.
On Friday, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., briefed the findings of an investigation into an August 29 airstrike in Kabul, where a Hellfire missile was launched in an effort to kill ISIS-K planners, but instead killed 10 civilians.
"Having thoroughly reviewed the findings of the investigation and the supporting analysis by interagency partners, I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians — including up to seven children — were tragically killed in that strike," McKenzie said.
It will be this investigation that was conducted by Centcom that will undergo further review by the senior Air Force officer.
As a result of that airstrike, the Defense Department has said it is looking into ex gratia payments, or payments made out of a sense of moral obligation rather than legal requirement, to the family members of those killed. Additionally, media has reported that some of the surviving family members have expressed concerns about staying in Afghanistan and that some of those family members have expressed an interest in coming to the United States. Kirby said Centcom is now looking into both issues.
"We know that Central Command is working through how best to reach out to them for the issue of payments, but also to determine the validity of this interest in moving out," he said.
While Kirby said Centcom is still looking into both issues, and that it was too early to announce any decisions there, he did say he believes the secretary of defense would support those individuals coming to the U.S.
"I believe the secretary of defense would absolutely support, if the family wanted to leave Afghanistan and come to the United States. I believe he would support that," Kirby said. "[That is] assuming that ... all the proper legal hoops were worked through. I don't want to get ahead of a process or decision that hasn't been made yet, but I think he would absolutely consider that."
Army Spc. Jessica Collet, a practical nursing specialist, administers a vaccine to an Afghan child while supporting Operation Allies Welcome at Fort Bliss’ Doña Ana Complex in New Mexico, Sept. 16, 2021. The Defense Department, through U.S. Northern Command and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible.
John T. Earnest of Rancho Penasquitos pleaded guilty in federal court today to a 113-count hate crimes indictment, admitting that he set fire to an Escondido mosque and opened fire in a Poway synagogue because he wanted to kill Muslims and Jews. The religiously- and racially-motivated attacks resulted in the murder of one person and the attempted murders of 53 others.
Earnest was indicted by a federal grand jury in May of 2019 on civil rights, hate crime, and firearm charges in connection with the murder of Lori Gilbert Kaye and the attempted murder of 53 others at the Chabad of Poway on April 27, and the March 24 arson of the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido.
“This nation stands with Lori Gilbert Kaye’s family and the survivors
of these unspeakable acts of terror,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy
S. Grossman. “We emphatically reject the defendant’s hate, racism and
prejudice, and we hope the conclusion of this case brings some measure
of comfort to all those affected by his heinous crimes.”
“The defendant entered a synagogue with the intent to kill all those inside because of his hatred for Jewish people, and days earlier used fire in an attempt to destroy another sacred house of worship because of his hatred for Muslims,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “There is no place in American society for this type of hate-fueled violence. The Department of Justice will enforce hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws to the fullest extent of the law and will hold perpetrators accountable for these crimes, which inflict harm not only on individual victims, but on entire communities.”
“This guilty plea will hopefully bring closure and start the healing process to all those impacted by the defendant’s cowardly acts nearly two-and-a-half years ago,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “The FBI stands steadfast with all of our law enforcement partners throughout the county to root out and defeat hate; It has no place in a civilized society.”
“The tragic shooting at the Chabad of Poway was shocking for our community,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Monique Villegas. “Our condolences go out to the victims and their families who were affected by this horrific act. ATF remains committed to bringing individuals responsible for such acts to justice to ensure everyone can worship safely.”
According to the plea agreement and other court documents, after several weeks of planning, on the morning of April 27, 2019, Earnest drove to the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where members of the congregation were gathered for religious worship. Earnest entered the building armed with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle that was fully loaded with a 10-round magazine. He wore a chest rig which contained five additional magazines, each loaded with ten rounds of ammunition. Earnest opened fire, killing one person and injuring three other members of the congregation, including a then 8-year-old child. After Earnest emptied his initial magazine, several congregants rushed at Earnest. Earnest fled in his car and, shortly after, called 911 and confessed that he had “just shot up a synagogue.” Earnest was apprehended by local law enforcement who found the rifle and additional ammunition in his car.
Investigators found a manifesto written by Earnest and posted on the Internet shortly before the attack. In the manifesto, Earnest made many anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, including “I can only kill so many Jews” and “I only wish I killed more.” Earnest wrote that he was inspired by the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.
Earnest also admitted that on March 24, 2019, he attempted to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California because of his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building. Seven missionaries were asleep in the mosque, but no one was injured.
According to the terms of the plea agreement, the United States and Earnest will jointly recommend a sentence of life in prison plus 30 years.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shane
Harrigan and Peter Ko, along with Deputy Chief Rose Gibson of the Civil
Rights Division. The FBI, ATF and San Diego Sheriff’s Office conducted
the investigation. Grossman thanked the prosecutors and law enforcement
agencies for working hard to achieve justice in this case.
DEFENDANT Case Number 19cr1850
John T. Earnest Age: 22 San Diego
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Counts 1 - 54
Obstruction of Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs Resulting in Death and Bodily Injury; and Involving Attempt to Kill, Use of a Dangerous Weapon - 18 U.S.C. §§ 247(a)(2), 247(d)(1) and 247(d)(3)
Maximum penalty: Life in prison or death and $250,000 fine
Hate Crime Acts – 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(1)(B)(i)(ii)
Maximum penalty: Life in prison and $250,000 fine
Damage to Religious Real Property Involving Use of a Dangerous Weapon or Fire – 18 U.S.C. §§ 247(a)(1), 247 (d)(3)
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine
Using and Carrying a Firearm During and In Relation to a Crime of Violence, Resulting in Death – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. and 924(c) and 924(j)
Maximum penalty: Life in prison or death and $250,000 fine
Using, Carrying, and Discharging a Firearm During and In Relation to a Crime of Violence – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. and 924(c)
Maximum penalty: Life in prison and $250,000 fine, mandatory minimum 10 years in prison
Federal Bureau of Investigation
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
San Diego Police Department
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
Escondido Police Department
A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty today to one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, of Pittsburgh pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS in relation to his plan to attack a church in Pittsburgh.
“The defendant, motivated by ISIS’s call to violence and hate, plotted a terrorist attack targeting a church in Pittsburgh,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “With today’s guilty plea, he will be held accountable for his crimes. The Department of Justice is committed to identifying, disrupting and holding accountable individuals who seek to engage in such attacks. I commend the agents, analysts and prosecutors who identified the threat posed by this defendant and took action to protect the public from his plans.”
“Inspired by ISIS, Mustafa Alowemer devised and intended to carry out a deadly attack on a house of worship and its congregation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “If not for the tireless, multi-faceted investigation by the FBI and our partner agencies, the true depth of his determination to commit violence in the name of ISIS may not have been exposed until his deadly plans were achieved.”
“The guilty plea today by Mustafa Alowemer leaves no question about his intention to commit an act of terrorism against a place of worship,” said Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office. “Mr. Alowemer will now face the consequences of his elaborate plan to inflict harm on innocent people. I’m proud of FBI Pittsburgh and all of the personnel who worked countless hours to protect the community, and I want to thank all of the agencies that participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Together, we combine our resources to identify and disrupt threats to protect our communities and the nation.”
According to court documents, Alowemer plotted to bomb a church located on the north side of Pittsburgh using an explosive device. His stated motivation to conduct such an attack was to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States to join together and commit similar acts in the name of ISIS. Alowemer also targeted the church to “take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria.” Alowemer was aware that numerous people in the proximity of the church could be killed by the explosion.
In furtherance of the plot to bomb the church, in May 2019, Alowemer distributed multiple instructional documents related to the construction and use of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an individual Alowemer believed to be a fellow ISIS supporter, but who was in fact an FBI employee. Alowemer distributed these documents with the intent that the information be used in the assembly of a destructive device and in furtherance of conducting an attack in support of ISIS. In or around June 2019, Alowemer purchased several items, including nails and acetone (nail polish remover) with the belief that they were necessary to assemble a destructive device and with the intention they be used to construct the explosives that would be detonated in the vicinity of the church.
Between April 16 and June 11, Alowemer met four times in person with an FBI Undercover Employee (UCE) and/or an FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS). At the June 11 meeting with the UCE and CHS, Alowemer provided additional details about the bomb plot and provided the materials, including boxes of nails, he had purchased for construction of the device. Alowemer provided printed copies of detailed Google satellite maps, which included hand-written markings identifying the church and routes of arrival and escape. Alowemer also wrote and provided a 10-point handwritten plan outlining details related to his plot to personally deliver explosives in a backpack. Alowemer expressed a desire to meet one more time to conduct planning and coordination prior to carrying out the attempted bombing in July 2019. That meeting was later scheduled for June 19 in the Pittsburgh area, at which time Alowemer was arrested.
Alowemer is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 26, 2022. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000.00, or both, and a lifetime term of supervised release. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Pending sentencing, the court ordered that Alowemer remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force members who were directly involved in this investigation include: FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Police Department, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Port Authority Police, Allegheny County Probation, University of Pittsburgh Police Department and UPMC Police Security.
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