Since the emergence of the Islamic State (IS), an estimated 21 per cent of its 30,000 foreign fighters reportedly travelled from Europe to Syria and Iraq to join IS and participate in the conflict. Such phenomenon raises concern over the stability and the security of the nations from which the foreign fighters are recruited as these radicalised fighters may ‘may pose a serious threat to their States of origin … transit…travel, as well as states neighbouring zones of armed conflicts’ according to United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014). The resolution further called upon Member States to co-operate in restricting the movements of foreign fighters.
In response, States enacted laws not only restricting the movement of foreign fighters but also penalising actions that are considered a potential threat to national security and interests. These laws conferred expanded power of surveillance on intelligence and law enforcement agencies; they also restricted immigrant and non-citizen access to the state territory by limiting the right to have a passport and, in more extreme cases, restricted the right to citizenship. However, denationalization not only affects a person’s right to protection, freedom of movement and political participation as he no longer eligible to enjoy the rights and protection provided under the national legal system, but also creates debate that the state is provided an illegitimate enhancement of power ‘at the expense of all citizens and citizenship itself.’ In this context, this essay criticises the scope of counterterrorism laws in the United Kingdom (UK) that enable the deprivation of nationality on security grounds that cannot be justified as an effective counterterrorism mechanism as they would render individuals’ stateless.
Violation of Human Rights
Deprivation of nationality causes a severe erosion of human rights, including the right to life under article 2, and freedom from torture and other inhuman treatment of punishment under article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Although the UK government indicates regularly that it has ‘shown itself to be committed to deport foreign nationals involved in terrorist activities in this country fully respecting our human rights obligations’,such commitments have not been much effective. In some cases the UK government went a step further and required a Memorandum of Understanding to formally assure the receiving state would comply with the human rights’ norms of the deportees. However, this set of assurances is highly questionable in cases where deportees are sent back to countries that have poor human rights records, such as Yemen and Syria. In Abu Qatada, the Strasbourg Court was convinced that a mere Memorandum of Understanding may not prevent the violation of article 3 of the ECHR and not assure the right to fair trial because any confession obtained by torture is admissible in Jordan. Further, in states where the executive overly influences the judiciary, there can be no judicial protection or remedies available to the deportees, which fundamentally undermines the principle of the universal protection of human rights.
International law implications
International law forbids any arbitrary deprivation of nationality. According to the 1961 Convention, no State may deprive ‘any person or group of persons of their nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds’. However, articles 5–9 of the 1961 Convention prescribe range of principles for withdrawal of nationality, particularly the deprivation of nationality to serve a legitimate purpose. In relation to the deprivation as an external act, the international law impacts the rights and interests of other States. In the context of the UK, such deprivation of citizenship impacts the rights and interests of other States in the context of deportation, refusal and re-admission, prosecution of international crimes and application for protection abroad. This part of the essay focuses on the external act of deprivation and criticizes how in each case the UK’s decision to deprive nationality is problematic under international law.
This must also be seen in connection with the International Law Commission’s (ILC) Draft Articles on the expulsion of aliens, whereby article 9 prescribes for the ‘deprivation of nationality for the sole purpose of expulsion. A State shall not make its national an alien, by deprivation of nationality, for the sole purpose of expelling him or her.’ In the Commentary, the ILC noted that ‘deprivation of nationality, insofar as it has no other justification than the State’s desire to expel the individual, would be abusive, indeed arbitrary within the meaning of article 15, paragraph 2, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’ However, it is to be noted that the article does not intervene in the operation of any national legislation for the deprivation of nationality.
This is further affirmed in the General Comment on article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), where the Human Rights Committee noted that the right to enter one’s own country is more than a concept of nationality. General Comment No. 27 on the Freedom of Movement extended this view, noting that even if deprivation is possible, it will not put the individual outside the right to enter and reside in that country, as that is his ‘own country’. In this context, the deprivation of nationality can be seen as an illegitimate act for a permanent deportation. However, in legal discourse, no State has the right to hand-wash its duties to the deportee, as his right to remain in the country would exist even after his nationality is deprived. However, in the real world, this has not been the case, because the border agencies have never allowed citizens whose nationality was deprived to re-enter the country.
In cases where extradition is required under international law, the UK is obligated to extradite the person ‘without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case without undue delay to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution…’. Article 5 of the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), to which the UK is a party, is one example of the international obligation to extradite a suspect. Further, the Questions Relating to the Obligation to Prosecute or Extradite case is an example of the State’s responsibility. There, Senegal was found liable for State responsibility under articles 6(2) and 7(1) of the CAT against Belgium. As such, the UK depriving nationality and deporting citizens who are potential suspects of international crimes may cause the UK to violate its obligation to extradite and may lead to its the UK’s liability for its ineffective approach to countering terrorism.
Further, the UK is one of eight parties to the 1961 Convention. Under part 14 of the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules and of the new Rule Nos 401 and 403, while an individual ‘satisfies the requirements of Article 1(1) of the 1954 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, as a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law….’ In the event when the other parties to the 1961 Convention may not receive the individual, whose nationality is deprived by the UK, the UK will be left with an obligation under the 1961 Convention to readmit the individual in order to prevent a condition of stateless to the individual. This may reflect on the reputation of the UK, on the one hand, for prosecuting an ineffective approach that deprives the nationality of the individual and, on the other hand, as a signatory without complying in good faith with the 1961 Convention.
First, the deprivation of nationality is an unprecedented blurring of the framework of security policies, as it can be invoked without any trial or criminal conviction relating to terrorism. It is on the basis of a dominant logic of prevention based on the logic of suspicion. However, it is also an echo of the colonial history of governance by racialized conception of social order, where the citizenship is not a secure status, but a reward for conformity to the bounds of defined ‘acceptable behaviour’. This resort to deprivation constitutes the securitization of citizenship as a policy, where the pre-crime preventive paradigm is encouraged as an option to counter the new definition of ‘radicalization’, which includes political violence, holding views against the government and ‘vocal opposition to (…) British values’. Although the notion of civic citizenship involves a more inclusive national identity compared to the legal definition of citizenship and belonging based on ethnicity, the deprivation of nationality as a counterterrorism measure nevertheless creates normative boundaries of exclusion and a hierarchy between the ‘good and tolerated’ citizenship and the ‘failed’ citizenship.
Second, it is the State that has the fundamental duty to provide security for its citizens. Permitting the deprivation of citizenship simply allows States to disregard the consequences. Being statelessness without diplomatic protection or conveyance by passport renders the deportee in an extremely vulnerable position to abuse. A good example is the 16 British nationals whose passports were revoked when they were abroad: two were killed in a drone attack by the US, one was kidnapped, and one was rendered by US security services. While there has been debate over whether denationalization is an appropriate punishment, the position that lets an individual remain stateless is condemnable.
Third, the deprivation of citizenship creates a situation where instead of citizens having the sovereign power to choose their government, the government chooses who they wish to govern; deprivation is no longer based on ‘conductive to the public good’, for as Lord Slynn notes in Secretary of State for the Home Department v Rehman, ‘there is no definition or limitation of what can be “conducive to the public good” and the matter is plainly in the first instance and primarily one for the discretion of the Secretary of State.’ This phrase therefore provides an ill-defined ground for the UK government to deprive nationality of an individual and at the same time create ‘a dubious and shifting hierarchy of citizenship’.
Depriving the nationality of citizens on mere suspicion for links with terrorist organisations as a counterterrorism mechanism has failed from both legal and rights-based perspectives. This essay concludes there are four main reasons that reflect the deprivation of nationality problem. First, it disrupts the UK’s international commitment to reduce statelessness, and its obligation under the UN Security Council Resolution to bring suspects of terrorism to justice. Second, it undermines the UK’s commitment to uphold human rights and the rule of law as a liberal democratic state while countering threats against its national security and national interest. Third, revoking nationality is an ineffective security strategy against terrorism because of practical implications. In the same vein, the above analysis recognises that mere banishment and deportation could be a measure that may backfire the real intention in countering terrorism because it fails to address the root cause for the radicalisation. Such avoidance in the long term may produce counter activities against the state and keep the national security at constant risk. Fourth, the power of the UK to revoke the citizenship of naturalised citizens who have no second nationality—which causes stateless—thus creates a legal black hole, into which once an individual fall he cannot be pulled out.
Compared with the deprivation of nationality, the measures proposed by sections 1 and 2 of the CTA 2015 such as seizure of passport from personnel suspected of involvement in terrorism, and temporary exclusion orders are more effective because they involve some judicial intervention and temporary suspension of individuals within the UK, which means the state will have the power to retain the suspect whenever required. There are also other counterterrorism measures that, with the adequate intervention of judiciary, have been an effective security strategy against terrorism. Thus, this essay proposes that the UK must revoke its laws concerning the deprivation of nationality as a counterterrorism measure but alternatively introduce laws that would address issuing permits to return to the terrorist suspects on individual basis, set specific obligations to the individuals after return to the UK, set tribunal that could review the decision of temporary exclusion, and strict the terrorism prevention and investigation measures with consideration of enforceability, and upholding international law and obligations in the contemporary counterterrorism context that will make the UK counterterrorism response effective.
U.S.: From mass airstrikes to targeted terrorist attack
The U.S.-led military operation “Inherent Resolve” has begun in August 2014. Its ostensible purpose was a struggle with the gaining ground ISIS at that moment. As the operation develops, Australia, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries joined the American airstrikes.
United forces, with purposes to show power and strengthen its influence in the region carried out more than three thousand airstrikes in the first year, resulting in thousands of victims among civilians. It is worth to note that member states of the coalition didn’t try to hide the fact that their actions caused the death of thousands of people. In 2018, British authorities justified civilian deaths by the fact that militants used them as human shields and it was impossible task to minimize losses.
According to “Airwars”, the British non-government organization, from 2014 till 2019 up to 13,190 civilians were killed in Iraq and Syria as a result of the international coalition actions.
However, despite all the “efforts” and the Pentagon’s loud statements about the fight against international terrorism, the fact of the continuously growing territory controlled by the militants testifies the opposite. In addition, since 2015, facts of provided by Washington direct support to terrorists have begun to be revealed. U.S. and its allies produced weapons were repeatedly found in the territories liberated from jihadists. So, for example in 2017 during armed clashes with government troops militants used anti-tank TOW-2 and SAMS air defense systems of the U.S. production. Also, American medicines, communication tools and even component kits for UAVs were found in positions abandoned by terrorists.
The negative reaction of the international community began to rise in this context and Washington had no choice but to change the strategy of its activity in Syria. The practice of mass airstrikes was replaced by targeted terrorist attacks against government forces by their backed militants.
For implementing of such kind of actions, U.S. retained its military presence in Homs province where their military base Al-Tanf is deployed. A huge amount of evidence U.S. servicemen training armed groups fighters is widely accessible. Moreover it’s known that 55 km zone around Al-Tanf has been inaccessible to government troops for years and Syrian army attempts to enter the area were suppressed by the U.S. airstrikes.
At the same time, IS militants have been spotted moving in this region without encumbrance and used the base as a safe zone for regrouping. Terrorists slipped in Deir ez-Zor, Palmyra, as well as Daraa and As-Suwayda from this area. In addition, the U.S. has created the Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra group to fight government forces in the eastern section of the border between Syria and Iraq. Initially, the armed group was created to fight against government troops, but after a number of defeats they started to protect the area around the Al-Tanf.
Up to the date Washington continues to insist on Bashar al-Assad government “illegitimacy” and actively supports so-called moderate opposition. Pursuing its selfish economic and political goals, the United States counters to the international law, completely ignoring the tens of thousands victims among civilians and millions of refugees flooded Europe. Although the role of the White House and its allies in supporting terrorist groups is difficult to overestimate, the United States obviously will not consider it enough.
FATF: A Sword of Damocles or a tool of financial discipline?
Pakistan has been groaning under the Financial Action Task Force restrictions. There is marked contrast between Pakistan’s and India’s view of Pakistan’s current status, compliant or tardy with regard to most of the conditions. Pakistan oozes optimism that it has complied with most of the conditions. India however is pessimistic about Pakistan’s ability to get over the bar anytime soon.
One hurdle to meet the FATF conditionalities was to have a permanent mechanism to nab and prosecute the offenders. Pakistan’s federal cabinet has already approved a new set of rules to amend Anti-Money-Laundering (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021. Thus, Pak government is now all set to set to introduce new rules on forfeiture, management and auction of properties and assets relating to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) cases and transfer of investigations and prosecution of AML cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies to achieve remaining benchmarks of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
These rules and related notifications for certain changes in existing schedule of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) would come into force immediately to be followed by appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.
These legislative steps would help the FATF determine whether Pakistan has complied with three outstanding benchmarks, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the so-called grey list in February this year. The FATF has planned several meetings in the second week of June, ending in the FATF plenary on June 21-25.
The three outstanding action points (out of total 27) include (i) demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; (ii) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and (iii) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf.
Within framework of the amended rules, the Pak government would appoint dozens of administrators with the powers to confiscate, receive, manage, rent out, auction, transfer or dispose of or take all other measures to preserve the value of the properties and perishable or non-perishable assets (including those at go downs, maalkhanas or any other place) to be confiscated under the AML 2010 rules or court orders pursuant to proceedings under AMLA 2010.
The regional directors of the Anti-Narcotics Force would be designated as administrators for the ANF, customs collectors for the Federal Board of Revenue, directors of directorates of intelligence and investigation of the Inland Revenue Service for the IRS, zonal directors for FIA and additional directors of recovery, disposal and assets management cells for National Accountability Bureau.
Valuation of inventories
The AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 specify how the inventories would be measured, described or defined, protected and evaluated for auction and how to complete all processes thereto, including constitution of auction committees and how properties would be quantified or classified like if a property is of residential, commercial or industrial nature and what should be its market value or sale price etc.
For example, the movable case property worth more than Rs100,000 would be kept in the locker or vault in the State Bank of Pakistan, district or tehsil treasury or any nationalised bank. For withdrawal of such movable properties, the agency concerned would designate two officers of grade-17 or above and prior written permission of next supervisory officer of the agency would be required.
Each agency would establish a central asset recovery office to ensure assets recovery and management of the forfeited property and keep a designated central account with the SBP maintained by the ministry of finance where proceeds of property would be remitted by all agencies after attainment of the finality of forfeiture order by a court. All investigating and prosecuting agencies would exchange financial intelligence and information about the properties with other stakeholders for expeditious confiscation and forfeiture under the AMLA 2010.
Transfer of cases to competent authorities
The Anti-Money Laundering (Referral) Rules, 2021 are being introduced to enable transfer of the cases from one set of investigation agencies to another. If police, the ACEs or any other governmental organisations, other than investigating and prosecution agency under the AMLA, finds that an offence under the AMLA 2010 has been committed and such agency lacks jurisdiction to take cognizance of it, the head of such would refer the matter to the head of the agency concerned having jurisdiction to investigate.
Police, the ACEs or other governmental organisations would continue an inquiry or an investigation of the offence and would take necessary measures to preserve and retrieve the relevant information and evidence and case properties till formal acceptance by the investigating and prosecuting agency concerned as set out in the relevant clause of the AMLA and formal handing over and taking over of complete record.
After acceptance of the case by the competent investigating and prosecuting agency, police or ACEs etc would hand over complete record, including case files, record of proceedings and seizure memos along with relevant evidence, property and other material seized and the accused in custody, if any. Such investigating and prosecuting agencies would resume all the proceedings under the said act including to examine, re-examine persons concerned and other oral and documentary evidence and would expeditiously take steps as necessary for just finalisation of the proceedings.
Adequate number of special public prosecutors would be appointed for the Anti-Narcotics Force and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) besides a separate panel of lawyers for customs and the Internal Revenue Service of the Federal board of Revenue. Also, law officers not below the rank of assistant director legal would be appointed for the Federal Investigating Agency and special public prosecutors for the National Accountability Bureau.
Pakistan also has to issue “National Policy Statement on Follow the Money (NPSFM)”. Through this statement and rules listed above, Pakistan’s compliance with FATF recommendations in Post Observation Period Report (POPR) would further improve with corresponding enhancement in the ratings or effectiveness of the FATF’s relevant Immediate Outcomes. Pakistan’s POPR would be reviewed by the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Joint Group (A-PJG), and based on the report of this group, the FATF would decide further course of action on Pakistan’s progress on the POPR in its plenary scheduled in June 21-25, 2021.
The NPSFM commits Pakistan to tackling money laundering and terrorist financing as a matter of priority during investigations, prosecutions, and subsequent confiscation in all money laundering, terrorism financing and high risk predicate crimes by adopting universal approach to combating money-laundering and terror-financing through generating sound and effective financial intelligence reports for the consumption of law enforcement agencies and maintaining risk-sensitive anti-money-laundering regime to enhance cooperation and coordination amongst the such stakeholders both domestically and internationally.
The government is also committed to protecting the financial system and the broader economy in Pakistan from criminality through a robust financial system to ensure that dirty money does not find its ways into the financial system. The government would ensure a robust beneficiary identification system, deterring financial crime as it deprives criminals of the proceeds of their crimes and removes financial support for terrorism and further ensures that targeted financial sanctions are implemented in letter and spirit.
Further, it would ensure a transparent, robust and efficient approach to investigating money laundering and terrorist financing and to the seizure, confiscation and management of criminal assets by supporting relevant agencies in cooperatively achieving this goal.
The Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering has improved Pakistan’s rating on 21 of the 40 technical recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against money laundering and terror financing, but retained it on ‘Enhanced Follow-up’ for sufficient outstanding requirements.
The second Follow-Up Report (FUR) on Mutual Evaluation of Pakistan released by the APG — a regional affiliate of the Paris-based FATF — also downgraded the country on one criterion. The report said Pakistan was re-rated to ‘compliant’ status on five counts and on 15 others to ‘largely compliant’ and on yet another count to ‘partially compliant’.
Overall, Pakistan is now fully ‘compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘largely compliant’ with 24 others. The country is ‘partially compliant’ with seven recommendations and ‘non-compliant’ with two out of total 40 recommendations. All in all, Pakistan is now compliant or largely compliant with 31 out of 40 FATF recommendations.
The Asia Pacific Group announced,
“Overall, Pakistan has made notable progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) and has been re-rated on 22 recommendations,”.
It said recommendations 14, 19, 20, 21 and 27 had been re-rated to comply. These pertain to money or value transfer services, higher risk countries, reporting of suspicious transactions, tipping-off and confidentiality and powers of supervisors.
The APG said Pakistan was re-rated to largely compliant with 15 recommendations — 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 32, 35 and 40. These include assessing risk and adopting a risk-based approach, targeted financial sanctions relating to terror and terror financing, targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation, non-profit organisation, politically exposed persons and reliance on third parties.
Also, re-rating was done on designated non-financial business & professions (DNFBP) in terms of due diligence and other measures, transparency in beneficial ownership of legal persons and related legal arrangements, responsibilities of law enforcement and investigation authorities, cash couriers, sanctions and other forms of international cooperation.
Another re-rating to partially compliant status was done on recommendation 28 that pertained to regulation and supervision of DNFBPs. The two recommendations on which Pakistan was downgraded to ‘non-complaint’ were 37 and 38 due to insufficient progress and pertained to mutual legal assistance (MLA) with other countries and freezing and confiscation of assets and accounts.
Negative impact of rigorous compliance
The managers of financial institutions in Pakistan are implementing the FATF conditions without understanding their purpose. They are harassing honest investors. For instance, the manager of the national Saving Centre Poonch house Rawalpindi refuses to issue an investment certificate unless the applicant submits a host of documents. These documents include a current bank statement, source-of-income certificate besides biodata along with a passport-size photograph. They call for the documents even if the applicant submits a cheque on his 40-year-old bank account.
Deviation from objectives
The financial Action Task Force has ostensibly noble objectives. It provides a `legal’, regulatory, framework for muzzling the hydra-headed monster of money-laundering. It aims at identifying loopholes in the prevailing financial system and plugging them. But, it has deviated from its declared objectives. It has became a tool to coerce countries, accused of financing terrorism or facilitating money-laundering. The FATF is more interested in disciplining a state like Pakistan, not toeing US policies, than in checking money-laundering. The tacit message is that if Pakistan does not toe USA’s Afghan policy, and lease out air bases for drone attacks, then it will remain on FATF grey list.
The consequences of being in the grey list may entail economic sanctions and difficulties in obtaining loans from international donors like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The trade-and-aid difficulties may retard economic progress of a country.
Favoritism towards India: India has a much larger Gross Domestic Product (US$2875 billion , 2019), than Pakistan’s paltry US$ 264 billion (2020).Similarly India has a much larger and wealthier Diaspora than Pakistan particularly in the Middle East and the USA.
The hawala (hand to hand transactions) and other money transfer practices among Indians and Pakistanis are similar. Yet the FATF keeps Pakistan always in focus and looks the other way when it comes to India.
Pakistan is a bête noire and India a protégé at the FATF only because of stark geo-political interests. Otherwise the money laundering situation in India is no less gruesome in India than in Pakistan. India has even been a conduit of ammunition to the Islamic State study conducted by Conflict Armament Research had confirmed that seven Indian companies were involved in the supply chain of over 700 components, including fuses or detonating cords used by the so-called Islamic State to construct improvised explosive devices.
Political considerations, not primary objectives, override voting behavior at the FATF.
The Autopsy of Jihadism in the United States
The American counter-terrorism establishment is shocked to know that its current terrorist threat, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not foreign but “a large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents”.
A terror threat assessment by NewAmerica, a think tank comprehensive, up-to-date source of online information about terrorist activity in the United States and by Americans overseas since 9/11, 20 years after 9/11 reported: “…while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident except one who was in the United States as part of the U.S.-Saudi military training partnership”.
The ultimate irony is NewAmerica quoting a terrorist to underline the seriousness of the threat: “Yet today, as Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric who became a leader in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, put it in a 2010 post, ‘Jihad is becoming as American as apple pie’.”
Since 9/11 and today, the United States faced just “one case of a jihadist foreign terrorist organization directing a deadly attack inside the United States since 9/11, or of a deadly jihadist attacker receiving training or support from groups abroad”. The report recalls: “That case is the attack at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6, 2019, when Mohammed Al-Shamrani shot and killed three people. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed the attack and according to the FBI, evidence from Al-Shamrani’s phone he was in contact with an AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) militant and AQAP prior to his entry to the United States…”
In the last two decades, “jihadists” have killed 107 people inside the United States. Compare this with deaths occurring due to major crimes: 114 people were killed by far-right terrorism (consisting of anti-government, militia, white supremacist, and anti-abortion violence), 12 and nine people, respectively, killed in attacks “inspired by black separatist/nationalist ideology and ideological misogyny”. Attacks by people with Far-Left views have killed one person. It just goes to show that terrorism inside the United States is no longer the handiwork of foreign or “jihadi” ideologies, but is “homegrown”, the report points out.
The report points out a poor understanding of the terror threat and its roots by the Trump administration. A week into his presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry of citizens of seven Muslim countries into the United States. The countries were: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Th order cited “national security” as the reason, but gave no real justification.
Trump’s aides tried to find some justification for the order claiming that in the administration’s assessment the United States was and will be the prime target of terrorist organisations from these countries. The same report clarifies how wrong this assessment was: “None of the deadly attackers since 9/11 emigrated or came from a family that emigrated from one of these countries nor were any of the 9/11 attackers from the listed countries. Nine of the lethal attackers were born American citizens. One of the attackers was in the United States on a non-immigrant visa as part of the U.S.-Saudi military training partnership.”
President Trump had to swallow his pride and gradually revoke his order. In early March of 2017, he revised the order excluding Iraq from the ban list. That September, he dropped Sudan too, but added North Korea, Venezuela and Chad.
In the last two decades since 9/11, there have been 16 “lethal jihadist terrorists in the United States”. Of them, “three are African-Americans, three are from families that hailed originally from Pakistan, one was born in Virginia to Palestinian immigrant parents, one was born in Kuwait to Palestinian-Jordanian parents, one was born in New York to a family from Afghanistan, two are white converts – one born in Texas, another in Florida, two came from Russia as youth, one emigrated from Egypt and conducted his attack a decade after coming to the United States, one emigrated from Uzbekistan and one was a Saudi Air Force officer in the United States for military training”. Nobody from the banned countries, nobody foreign citizens; all were American citizens.
What is more embarrassing for the Trump administration is the report saying: “When the data is extended to include individuals who conducted attacks inside the United States that were foiled or otherwise failed to kill anyone, there are only four cases that the travel ban could have applied to. However, in at least two of those cases, the individual entered the United States as a child. In a third case the individual had a history of mental illness and assault not related to jihadist terrorism. In a fifth, non-lethal attack Adam al-Sahli, who conducted a shooting at a military base in Corpus Christi on May 21, 2020, was born in Syria but was a citizen because his father was an American citizen and thus would not have been subject to the travel ban.”
The NewAmerica assessment, in contrast to the executive order, finds concrete evidence to suggest that the terror threat is “homegrown”. It gives the example of Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar, “a naturalised citizen from Iran”, who on March 3, 2006 drove a car into a group of students at the University of North Carolina, injuring nine people. “Taheri-Azar, though born in Iran, came to the United States at the age of two” and “his radicalization was homegrown inside the United States”. On September 17, 2016 Dahir Adan, a naturalized citizen from Somalia, injured 10 people while wielding a knife at a mall in Minnesota. He too had come to the United States as a young child.
There are more such instances: “On November 28, 2016 Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an 18-year-old legal permanent resident who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia in 2014 — having left Somalia for Pakistan in 2007 — injured eleven people when he rammed a car into his fellow students on the campus of Ohio State University…However, it is not clear that the attack provides support for Trump’s travel ban.
In Artan’s case, he left Somalia as a pre-teen, and “if he was radicalized abroad, it most likely occurred while in Pakistan”, which is not included on the travel ban. The report says the chances of him being radicalised inside the United States are more. This is based on the fact that “in a Facebook posting prior to his attack, he cited Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric born in the United States, whose work — which draws largely upon American culture and history — has helped radicalize a wide range of extremists in the United States including those born in the United States”.
There are several other pointers to the “homegrown” theory. For one, a “large proportion of jihadists in the United States since 9/11 have been converts”. There are “jihadists” who are non-Muslims. These facts “challenge visions of counterterrorism policy that rely on immigration restrictions or focus almost entirely on second generation immigrant populations”, the report says, debunking the Trump executive order.
The NewAmerica report debunks the assumption that only “hot headed” people are attracted to jihadist extremism. It finds that “participation in jihadist terrorism has appealed to individuals ranging from young teenagers to those in their advanced years (and) many of those involved have been married and even had kids – far from the stereotype of the lone, angry youngster”.
Women have broken the glass ceiling of jihadist terrorism as “more women have been accused of jihadist terrorism crimes in recent years” inside the United States.
The expansion of the social media world has played a singular role in radicalising American youth. “Many extremists today either maintain public social media profiles displaying jihadist rhetoric or imagery or have communicated online using encrypted messaging apps. The percentage of cases involving such online activity has increased over time.” Al Qaeda terrorists became key figures in this proliferation. They “fine-tuned the message and the distribution apparatus” and “put out extremist propaganda via websites and YouTube videos”.
America’s jihadists were never an immigration problem, the biggest jihadist terror threat U.S faces today is “homegrown”.
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