Ohio State University Islamic terrorist Abdul Razak Ali Artan is the latest so-called "lone wolf" radical Islamic terrorists to strike the homeland. The Somali-born, Pakistani-raised student rammed his car - Nice, France-ISIS style - into a group of people on the campus, and then - Palestinian-terrorist style, proceeded to slash his victims with a butcher's knife he purchased earlier that day.
The Obama Administration refuses to acknowledge the OBVIOUS - that this was yet another act of radical Islamic terror against innocent Americans. Surprised? Not I! This is the same Administration that can't muster the character to forcefully call out Russia for interfering in our national elections, or shed anything but crocodile tears for the slaughter in Aleppo. How about returning that undeserved Nobel Prize?
According to press reports Artan's terror rampage was memorialized in a Facebook posting in which the terrorist cited ISIS as his motivation, and the YouTube sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki as his inspiration. Hours after the attack, the New York Times reported that the encrypted Telegram channels run by Islamic State supporters referred to the assailant as "brother" and used an Arabic hashtag that translates #OhioAttack.
Last June (in the wake of over 12 actual homeland terrorist attacks inspired by al-Awlaki) I issued an urgent call to action in the HuffPost for Google/YouTube to pro-actively remove from its platform the vile, vindictive radical Islamic sermons of al-Awlaki which are directly complicit in the murder of innocent Americans. Virtually every time the FBI has investigated lone wolf attacks and other radical Islamic terror conspiracies almost ALL were directly or indirectly linked to the on-line radicalization inspired by al-Awlaki's sermons which Google/YouTube knowingly acknowledges are available to any would-be lone wolf at a click.
The New York Times' Scott Shane wrote on August 27, 2015 (one of the nation's leading authorities on al-Awlaki) that while most of those sermons bring up the earnest, smiling face preaching what makes a good marriage, or the nature of paradise, the same queue contains a digital legacy of invective against Americans explaining why, exactly, it is every Muslim's religious duty to kill Americans.
Since I issued my plea, Google's management has cordially engaged in a thoughtful dialogue with me about its unacceptable refusal to act in the best interests of Americans and proactively remove the most egregious al-Awlaki content which directly advocates the rampant murder of any and all Americans.
Inexplicably, it remains Google's position that it will only act if third parties, such as myself, police its content and flag radical Islamic claptrap - even when the technology exists for Google to preemptively act on the very content it itself acknowledges has contributed to the radicalization of terrorism by low-lifes such as Artan. Meanwhile, as we painfully witnessed at Ohio State, at Orlando, at San Bernadino, Islamic extremists have hijacked and weaponized the internet.
How many more Americans will die because Anwar al-Awlaki is able to hauntingly reach from his grave courtesy of Google/YouTube which provides him a Broadway stage to do his sinister brainwashing? Just type "Anwar al-Awlaki" into YouTube's search bar and one is able to review 64,700 hits - including hundreds of recorded sermons preaching death to Americans. I, myself, flagged five of those sermons in which al-Awlaki preached death of Americans, and within five days, Google removed them. That is what we call a Pyrrhic victory. I do not have the manual capacity to review 64,000 YouTube videos.
What if I also told you that as impertinent as Google's conduct is, it is also earning ad revenue from al-Awlaki's sermons - whether knowingly or unknowingly, since ads are impersonally hitched to highly-reviewed sites such as those of Anwar al-Awlaki. Is that trafficking in death, or what?
I wrote YouTube's CEO, Susan Wojcicki, on August 22, 2016:
"YouTube is shamelessly turning a blind eye to the worsening record of
Homeland terrorism even if current law shields it from content liability...At
what point...can the corporate leadership of YouTube assert with a
straight face that it has no duty and responsibility to the American
people to scrub (and to continue to use its best efforts to scrub) its
platform of the worst of al-Awlaki's sermons."
Ostensibly, any effort to monitor and delete content runs the risk of raising First Amendment considerations. The challenge is to ensure a rule of objective reason prevails. It may come as a shock to many that Google/YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter self-censor content based on their own respective content policies. Twitter takes down accounts it considers unacceptable. So, too, does Facebook. And I can flag a video I consider offensive and if YouTube's management considers that video a violation of YouTube's policies, it will be deleted. Pure and simple, and no one else has a say in that decision. There is no unfettered First Amendment right on the internet, Anyone who believes otherwise would be shocked how much content is deleted on their own volition on a regular basis by the "Big Three" content platforms. At that is not at the instigation of any U.S. government authority!
What can a Trump Administration practically do as part of a comprehensive military engagement against ISIS?
1. Cybersecurity Recommendations:
Amend the Communications Decency Act to Compel "Best Efforts" to Remove Radical Islamic Incitement. President Trump should request Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) (passed long before the threat of cyber-inspired terrorism) to compel internet service providers (ISPs) and content platforms to require them to use "best efforts" to monitor and delete content directly inspiring acts of terror and radical Islamic inspiration promoting harm and hatred of Americans.
Acquire New Software to Scrub Radical Islamic Content. Whether via amendment to the CDA or by stand-alone law or regulation, require ISPs and content providers to utilize new technological solutions which will proactively remove extremist content from their platforms. Online Jihadi activity is not the sole purview of Anwar al-Awlaki...whether it be ISIS or Al Qaeda, or any other goofy-sounding "martyrs brigade" with the word "Jihad" or Islamic" in it, every internet platform has been polluted for recruitment and incitement, martyrdom and glorification of attacks, and the exposition of violent attacks to create terror fear and admiration for terrorism.
The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) - headed by former Amb. Mark Wallace - has supported the development of "eGlyph" technology, software developed by Dr. Harry Farid of Dartmouth College - which uses "robust hashing" across all social media platforms to analyze images, videos and audio, to flag - very quickly and accurately - radical Islamic extremist content.
Create A National Office for Reporting Extremism. "See Something/Say Something!" What can average Americans do to help combat radical Islamic? What can our government do better that the FBI cannot do alone to help combat radical Islam? The Congress should authorize the creation of a National Office for Monitoring Extremism (an important recommendation of the CEP), which will house a database of extremist content to be shared with ISPs and content platforms to support their best efforts to identify and remove extremist content.
Mandatory Reporting of Social Media Terrorist Activity. Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced legislation compelling ISPs and content platforms to report actual activity relating to terrorist activity to federal law enforcement authorities.
Get Technologically Ahead of ISIS on Social Platforms. ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups have weaponized the internet into their own social media battleground. Jihadis rely on social media technology to survive...it is their battlefield oxygen. Their toolbox is far more sophisticated than American imagine. Using so-called Dark Web illegal server farms in Eastern Europe, and secure browsers, such as TOR, which, along with APPs like Tunnel Bear, which cloak IP addresses and eliminate third-party surveillance, ISIS has been able to thwart uncoordinated western intel. Encrypted communications via Telegram and WhatsApp adds further terror planning and funding capacity. Even our National Security Agency is unable to interdict and decipher all of the data bits that emanate from known ISIS operatives. We must reverse ISIS' technological social media advantage. How? For starters, we have been far too focused on the encryption challenge and not on the illicit server capacity that sustains ISIS networks. Secure browsers serving ISIS are sheltered in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Moldova, and Kosovo. That information is not secret. Our CIA and DIA need more White House support to tackle the foreign policy challenge of staging attacks on those ISIS server operations abroad.
Public Dissemination of ISIS Recruits. The FBI has identified 250 Americans who attempted to join ISIS and 15 Americans who actually joined ISIS in Syria. Their identities are relatively unknown. Most of them do not appear on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list. The new administration needs to explore new ways to inform and educate Americans who these recruits are since many may attempt to return to the homeland.
Compulsory Coordination Between the U.S., NATO & Muslim Nations. The State Department's Global Engagement Center (GEC) (another Kerry shortcoming) needs to be revamped from top to bottom. The GEC is supposed to combat ISIS and radical Islamic propaganda digitally and via social media. It has woefully under-performed. To this day, there is inadequate intelligence sharing within NATO, within "friendly" Muslim states, and among them and the U.S. on ISIS on-line activities, coordinating the apprehension of ISIS operatives, or to interdict the financing mechanisms which support acts of terror.
Facilitate Entrepreneurial Anti-Terrorism Software. Ari Kresch and Keith Altman, of the 1800Law Firm in Chicago, who are the lead plaintiff counsel in Reynaldo Gonzalez vs. Twitter, Inc, Google, Inc. and Facebook, Inc. are working with software technology experts who may be able to identify, IN ADVANCE, social media signals of an impending terror enterprise. Reynaldo Gonzalez, 23, was visiting Paris when he was murdered during the Paris 2015 terror attacks. The Trump Administration may wish to consider organizing an "Entrepreneurial anti-terrorism software/technology summit to explore with U.S. government chief technology officers the latest, breakthrough computer software to better read ISIS on-line and even encrypted "data tea leaves."
2. Proposals for Interdicting ISIS Operatives
Improve Foreign Airport Screening. Support pending Congressional legislation is pending which would expand foreign pre-clearance operations to 38 countries which participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. This Travel Facilitation & Safety Act would also require the Director of National Intelligence to share biometric and biographic terrorist information in U.S. databases with countries which are accorded the benefits of the Visa Waiver Program.
Border Inspection Documentation. The Current U.S. Customs Declaration form required to be completed by every incoming traveler (or head of family) merely requests travelers to disclose countries visited. There is no penalty for committing perjury for intentionally failing to list all countries visited (..." oh, I forgot to mention that I was in Pakistan!"). Adding a legal requirement to disclose all countries visited provides a new tool to arrest terror suspects at points of entry/clearance into the U.S. That power does not currently exist under federal law to Customs and Border police.
3. Time to Get Tougher with Gulf States Financing Terrorism.
Although the U.S. Treasury has done a terrific job interdicting terror financing, Arab Gulf states, notably Saudi Arabia, continue to be a source of "charitable donations" to ISIS and its progeny. Saudi Arabia, in particular, remains the primary source of radical Islamic Sunni terror financing. I am well aware of ISIS terrorists, posing as Hajj pilgrims, slipping into Saudi Arabia to set up dummy charities to launder terror financing, while still receiving financing from Saudi-government sanctioned charities. This must cease. The Saudis have used these financing vehicles to convert moderate Muslim Kosovo into a den of ISIS and radical Islamic terror support smack in the middle of Europe. Navigating the Saudi relationship is going to pose a significant challenge for the next Administration for a host of regional reasons. But the relationship has fast become a one-way street, and it is time to get down to fundamentals with the Saudis about America's own strategic interests in the region, not merely the Saudi's entangling us in Sunni vs. Shiite proxy wars.
4. NATO Must Invoke Article 5 (Mutual Self Defense). Despite all of the criticism leveled against Mr. Trump during the campaign due to his threat to distance the U.S. from NATO, he made a very bi-partisan point about NATO members shirking their duties in the fight against ISIS. The struggle against radical Islamic terror is a global war. Currently, only 7 of NATO's 27 members are actively participating in Operation Inherent Resolve (Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Turkey, and the United Kingdom). In other words, only these 7 countries have committed front line military assets in the struggle against ISIS. This is patently unfair, and calls into question where is the necessary burden sharing in the struggle against ISIS, let alone in NATO members' failure to shoulder their fair share of the collective defense budget. If this is a war against radical Islamic terror that has grievously harmed our European allies as much as it has harmed Americans, time for them to put up the troops and hardware.