2013 April » ADL Blogs
April 23, 2013

Hate App Targets Towson University

Update 8/2/13: A new White Student Union has formed at Georgia State University by freshman Patrick Sharp.

The increasing exploitation of easy-to-use software to create smartphone apps by hate groups signals a move into a new realm of digital propaganda.

Some hate groups, like the neo-confederate League of the South, have produced apps intended for a general audience. Others, however, are developing apps with specific propaganda targets in mind. For example, the Towson White Student Union, founded by white supremacist Matthew Heimbach, a student at Towson University in Maryland, has created an app specifically targeting students at the school.

Like the League of the South’s app, the Towson White Student Union (Towson WSU) app is visually crude and technically rudimentary, primarily offering a collection of links. In the case of the Towson WSU app, the links lead to blogs, a group Facebook page, a Twitter account for the group’s organizer, a Google search results page, and a YouTube channel for the group.

These Android apps are not available through the authorized Google Play website. However, as Android apps do not need to be certified for installation (unlike iPad/iPod/iPhone apps), they are readily available through unofficial apps distribution websites.

Years ago, technological advances made it easy for hate groups to create websites without actually having sophisticated computer knowledge or skills. As the prevalence of wireless devices increases and easy-to-use app creation software proliferates, the presence of this sort of smartphone and tablet app will undoubtedly increase.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

April 22, 2013

Inspire Magazine: A Staple Of Domestic Terror

Pressure Cooker Bomb From Inspire Magazine

Update – May 30: The eleventh issue of Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula’s Inspire mag­a­zine cel­e­brates the April 15 Boston Bomb­ing, praises the Tsar­naev broth­ers and encour­ages future attacks against the U.S.

Update – April 23: Federal law enforcement officials have reportedly confirmed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother got bomb-making instructions from Inspire magazine.

Shortly after authorities revealed that pressure cookers were used in the explosives detonated at the Boston Marathon last week, numerous media outlets began to report and speculate that the bombs matched designs in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language terror magazine, Inspire.

Let’s be clear, there is still no evidence that brothers Tamerlan and Dzkhokhar Tsarnaev read the terrorist magazine or used its pressure cooker instructions, which are not unique to Inspire. However, the Tsarnaev’s online activity and social media profiles indicate some fascination with militancy and Islam that are consistent with other messages of Inspire.

Numerous international and domestic extremists motivated by radical interpretations of Islam have been influenced by the magazine and, in some cases, reportedly utilized the bomb making instructions in their attempts to carry out attacks. In the United States, for example:

  • In November 2012, Raees Qazi was arrested along with his brother, Sheheryar, for allegedly plotting a bomb attack against unspecified targets in New York City.  Raees reportedly admitted having read Inspire magazine, and a search of his home turned up bomb-making components consistent with instructions that can be found in an issue of Inspire he had read.
  • In November 2011, Jose Pimentel was arrested and charged with state-level terrorism offenses in New York after he allegedly came close to completing three bombs based on an Inspire design. Pimentel’s website, “True Islam,” also reposted PDF copies of Inspire magazine. Pimentel apparently had planned to attack returning U.S. military personnel, post office and police targets. He is still awaiting trial.
  • In July 2011, Naser Jason Abdo was arrested at a motel in Killeen, Texas, where authorities claimed that he was plotting to attack a restaurant frequented by military personnel based at Fort Hood.  Bomb making components were recovered from the motel room. The article “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” from the first issue of Inspire magazine was reportedly also found in his room. Abdo has since been sentenced to life-in-prison for his attempted attack.
  • Adel Daoud, who was arrested in September 2012 and charged with plotting to bomb a Chicago-area bar, sent his friends copies of the magazine in order to “brainwash them,” and called Inspire “the best magazine I have read.”

Inspire’s solicitation for reader contributions have also played a role in the radicalization process of other would be bombers in the U.S.

  • Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was convicted of attempting to bomb the 2010 Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland, Oregon, allegedly wrote and submitted an article to Inspire, although it was not published.
  • Quazi Nafis, who pleaded guilty to attempting to bomb the New York Federal Reserve Building in October 2012, also wrote an article that he supposedly planned to submit to Inspire after his attack in which he described his desire to “destroy America.”

Most recently, in November 2012, four men from Southern California were arrested and charged with planning to travel abroad to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda. According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began in January 2012 when one of the men was searched as he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and was found to have a copy of Inspire in his possession.

Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American known for distributing terrorist propaganda material online, was the principal author of Inspire before he was killed by a U.S. drone strike on September 30, 2011.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

April 22, 2013

Slain Officer Tragic Reminder Of Extremist Dangers To Law Enforcement

Officer Sean Collier

The hunt for suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gripped the nation on April 19 as authorities shut virtually the entire city down in their hunt for the deadly fugitive.

Somewhat sidelined by the manhunt was the fatal encounter that touched off the massive search, the shocking alleged murder by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev of a university police officer the night before.  Around 10:30pm on April 18, police received a call about a convenience store robbery near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge (the robbery later turned out to be unconnected).  Shortly thereafter, 26-year-old MIT police officer Sean Collier, reportedly encountered the two brothers, who shot him multiple times while he was still in his cruiser, mortally wounding him.

The brothers allegedly carjacked a Mercedes shortly thereafter.  Police located the stolen vehicle in Watertown, but when the first officer approached the car, the brothers allegedly jumped out and opened fire.  As additional officers arrived, the suspects allegedly threw explosive devices at the officers.  MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donahue, Jr., 33, received critical gunshot injuries during this chase, though he is now in stable condition receiving hospital care.  Fifteen other officers were injured during the shootout.  Tarmerlan Tsamaev died in this second encounter after receiving multiple injuries, including being run over by his own brother driving a vehicle.

The tragic death of Officer Collier and the near fatal shooting of Officer Donahue highlight the extent to which police officers risk their own lives and welfare to protect Americans from dangerous extremists.  However, most Americans are not aware how often the nation’s police officers must place themselves in the line of fire to oppose dangerous extremists.

According to ADL records, Officer Collier was actually the 30th police officer to die in the United States at the hands of domestic extremists (of all varieties) since 2001.  In a number of those instances, the officers, like Collier, were killed while encountering a desperate extremist fugitive trying to evade capture for a previous act.

Just since 2009, 33 shootouts (including the Watertown event) have taken place between law enforcement officers and domestic extremists—including right-wing anti-government extremists, white supremacists, domestic Muslim extremists and others.  In those violent encounters, extremists have shot 34 police officers, 11 fatally.  In at least four of those incidents, it was probably only body armor that saved the officers’ lives.  Almost 25% of these shootouts involved extremists who were fugitives or otherwise resisting arrest.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,