Details of May 11th Terror Arrests

May 13, 2011


This afternoon Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference to announce the arrest of two suspects accused of plotting to bomb a major synagogue in Manhattan. Michael Miller and David Pollock of the JCRC were invited and attended. Watch the video of the press conference in low or high bandwidth.

Mayor Bloomberg explained in his opening remarks:

“Yesterday, detectives from the NYPD arrested two men who said they wanted to destroy a major synagogue in Manhattan, and then purchased several weapons and a hand grenade from an undercover officer.

“Fortunately, long before their aspirations could take hold, New York City police officers were watching them and were in a position to take them into custody, before they could maim and murder innocent New Yorkers.

Read Mayor Bloomberg’s full remarks here.

Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, are charged with multiple felony counts and hate crimes carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. In the course of the investigation Mr. Ferhani expressed clear anti-Semitism and asked an undercover officer whether he would join him in a plan to bomb a synagogue.

Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, Jr., noted:

“The defendants plotted and took concrete steps to bomb synagogues and kill Jewish New Y orkers as an act of terrorism”

Read DA Vance’s statement here. Read the full criminal complaint providing more details here.

NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly described the police activities leading to the arrests and commended NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen and his team for their outstanding work. He also commented that:

“While there are no specific plots targeting New York City in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, this latest case reminds us that we must remain vigilant every day.

Read Commissioner Kelly’s account of the investigation here.

When the news of the arrests broke this morning the JCRC called for heightened vigilance and tighter access policies in a security alert to synagogues, yeshivot and other Jewish institutions. Read the recommendations here.

Organizations wishing to apply for Nonprofit Security Grants will find more information at and can reserve for the JCRC May 23rd  Grants Webinar here. Find guidance and practical suggestions on how to increase the security of your Jewish institution at:

Heighten awareness, register for nonprofit grant seminar

May 02, 2011
  • Jewish organizations should have heightened awareness in light of the current situation.
  • Start your Nonprofit Security Grant application now, the application period is likely to be shortened.
  • Grant training webinar scheduled for Thursday, May 12th.
Get more info at:
Law enforcement and Homeland Security officials are counseling that Americans should heighten their awareness regarding possible terrorist activity. All organizations should do so. For more information on basic security click here.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security  (DHS) Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) offers a competitive grant to eligible nonprofit organizations planning to install hardware and conduct training to support target hardening and counter-surveillance.

The program this year was delayed (along with many other allocations) by the budget battle and details  about the grant program have not yet been released. For the latest suggestions on how to put together a successful application reserve here for the online JCRC webinar (see below) on May 12th at 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM.

The following includes the current available information:

  1. Announcement of details. DHS tentatively scheduled the release of their guidance to the state agencies on May 9th. Those agencies, including the NY Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) will prepare their Request for Applications as soon as they reasonably can. 
  2. A shortened application period is likely. DHS will not announce when the states’ applications will be due until they release their guidance. However, many have speculated that the application period will be shortened, possibly to 30 days. Nonprofits wishing to apply for FY2011 Nonprofit Security Grants should start working on their application immediately.
  3. The Investment Justification.  DHS indicates that the core of the application, the Investment Justification, will not be significantly different from last year’s. Download the Investment Justification from last year and begin to prepare answers to those questions ASAP. This year the Investment Justification will be in a MS Excel format. You will be able to paste your answers into the new DHS template.
  4. Non-recipients will have an advantage. The most significant change this coming year is that preference will be given to nonprofit organizations that have not received prior years’ funding. That doesn’t mean that past grantees cannot apply. However, they will be at a competitive disadvantage.
  5. JCRC grant trainings.The JCRC has sponsored trainings annually and those following the JCRC suggestions have a high success rate. The information provided will include tips on how to complete the Investment Justification and an introduction to the New York application process.
Based on input from past participants, we are offering this session exclusively over the internet. Information applicable to all eligible applicants will be presented at the beginning of the webinar, followed by NY specific guidance.

For further information contact Dov Horwitz at

Note that all of this information is tentative. The JCRC webpage ( will have ongoing guidance.

Incendiary Packages Target Government Buildings in Maryland

January 07, 2011

NYPD SHIELD Terrorism Assessment
Open Source Assessment
January 6, 2011 Information cutoff: 4:00 PM
NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau Terrorism Threat Analysis Group

Key points. Two packages ignited shortly after being opened in two separate government buildings in Maryland. Investigators are examining two additional suspicious packages in a courthouse and a state office building in Baltimore.

The first device ignited in the mailroom of the Jeffrey Building, located in the state capital of Annapolis. A second device ignited at the state’s Department of Transportation headquarters, located in Hanover, Maryland. Two people suffered minor burn-related injuries. No claim of responsibility has been made.

Details of Incident. On Thursday, January 6, 2011, two incendiary devices concealed in packages ignited in two government office buildings in Maryland. At approximately 12:30 pm, a package addressed to Governor O’Malley ignited when it was opened in the mailroom of the Jeffrey Building located at 16 Francis Street in Annapolis. The mailroom attendant who opened the package suffered minor burns on his hands. The Jeffrey Building houses several different offices of the Maryland state government, including Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and the Secretary of State.

At approximately 12:45 pm, a second package of similar size and color ignited when it was opened in the mailroom of the Maryland Department of Transportation, located in Hanover, MD. The state employee who opened the package suffered minor burns, and several others were transported to medical facilities as a precautionary measure.
Both ignitions included a brief flash of fire, smoke, and an odor. Officials evacuated both buildings following the incidents. No claim of responsibility has been made regarding these incendiary devices.

Conclusions. Several factors suggest that the two devices that ignited may be linked: reports indicate that the packages were of a similar shape and color; both packages targeted government officials and buildings; and the devices ignited within approximately 15 minutes of each other. Moreover, the two devices that ignited appear to have been either poorly constructed or not intended to cause severe injury. The deliberate targeting of Maryland’s governor and state office buildings suggests that these attacks may have been motivated by anti-government sentiment.

Implications for New York City.

  • New York City remains a major target for terrorist groups and individual domestic terrorists. 
  • Explosive and incendiary devices concealed as packages have been used in the past by international and domestic terrorists and anarchists in attacks against civilians and government personnel.
  • Mailroom personnel, especially those working in government offices (JCRC comment: and Jewish organizations), should remain vigilant and keep an eye out for unusual activity and suspicious packages.

JCRC comments: Later reports indicate that the standard yellow padded envelopes had both excess postage and a fictional return address. Both are  standard indicators of suspicious mail. See JCRC’s guidance on screening suspicious packages and mail here.

    1. WP Editors. “Incendiary Devices at Md. Buildings.” Washington Post. January 6, 2011.
    2. M. Dresser, T. Bishop, J. Bykowicz “Explosive Devices Cause Injuries At Two Maryland State Buildings; One Addressed To O’Malley.” Baltimore Sun. January 6. 2011
    3. This Just In. Explosions at Maryland State Offices Injure 1. CNN. January 6, 2011.

    UK terror arrests a reminder: threat is real

    December 29, 2010

    The UK Christmas bombing campaign by nine alleged terrorists primarily targeted iconic sites such as the London Stock Exchange, Big Ben, the Millennium Wheel and the American Embassy in London. The religious sites on their list included Westminster Abbey and two British synagogues and rabbis (The CST is the lead British organization dealing with Jewish security, see their information here).

    Prosecutors reported that the group had conducted pre-operational surveillance of some of their potential targets and had tested explosives.

    This plot echoes many of the “homegrown terror” plots here in the U.S. and is a reminder that:

    • Anti-Semitism is a core component of Jihadist ideology.
    • Anti-Semitism is a common tool in the radicalization process.
    • Jewish-affiliated targets may be preferable for less sophisticated terrorists.
    • Jewish institutions may not be priority targets, but may become secondary targets or targets of convenience.
    Jewish organizations should continue to operate with heightened vigilance. Review our security resources for suggestions and guidance at: Timely articles include Tips on detecting hostile surveillance from our partners at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and JCRC’s Sample Building Access Policies and Procedures.

    More tips for package screening

    November 03, 2010
    Wall Street Journal, “Focus on Cargo Security Steps”, November 1, 2010

    We continue to advise Jewish institutions to carefully screen their mail and packages. Be suspicious of any item coming from an unknown sender, especially unknown senders from overseas.

    If you receive a package from an unknown sender and suspect that it could be an explosive device or it may contain a hazardous substance, do not disturb it, do not try to open it. Leave the room, close the door and call 911.  For specific steps see steps below.

    The packages from Yemen discovered last week were designed to be hard to detect, even with an x-ray device. They prove that terrorist tactics are evolving and adapting to our security measures.

    Although none of the following suggestions can definitively “rule-in” or “rule-out” a shipment, think about the following before opening any parcel:

    • Was the delivery from an expected shipper? Did your usual UPS driver deliver the package? Was the package from one of your regular vendors? (e.g., The NYPD received a call this week about a printer toner delivery to a Jewish institution. The caller was questioned and told that, because they had ordered the toner and it came from their usual office supply company, the shipment should not be considered suspicious.) Even if the package is from a regular supplier, did it come from the right address. Did it come from overseas?
    • Even without sophisticated equipment you can often tell when something is wrong. Use your “Just Doesn’t Look Right” instincts.
      • Was the package professionally packed? People who regularly order over the internet can probably answer this question.
      • Did someone tamper with this box? Does it appear that the package was opened and resealed? Are there additional layers of tape or different tape and/or fasteners? Are there cut marks on the packaging?
      • Was the package one of a dozen or all by itself?
    • Talk to your mail carrier, FedEx and UPS deliverer. They are your first line of defense and they probably know what kind of packages they deliver to your facility. Ask them about any briefings received about the screening done at their central facilities. Let them know, in a friendly way, that you are “counting on them”.

    Recommended mail protocols (from previous post)
    We recommend that organizations consider and adopt formal mail screening protocols, appropriate for their organization, staff and building. Your protocols should consider that a variety of hazards can arrive by mail, including explosives and toxins.

    Your protocols may include steps, such as:

    1. Larger organizations should continue to screen and x-ray their mail. The USPS best practices for mail center security can be found here. It contains an excellent chapter, “Protect Your Business from Package Bombs and Bomb Threats”.
    2. All organizations, large and small, need to examine all mail and packages, whether delivered via the post office, UPS, FedEx, other carrier or hand delivered.
    3. Whether or not your organization has a mail room, designate and train specific people to screen your organization’s mail. Make sure that they know what your screening protocols are and know what to do if they find anything suspicious.
    4. Screen your mail in a separate room. That way if you find anything suspicious, you can easily isolate it.
    5. If you believe that an envelope or package contains a hazardous substance (e.g., an unknown white powder) instruct your screener to avoid inhaling the particulates, wash his/her hands with soap and room temperature water and isolate him/her in an adjoining, designated area away from the substance and await instructions from the first responders (This will take some planning. You don’t want anyone walking past the other employees and possibly contaminating them).
    6. If you deem an item to be suspicious: 
      • Do not open it.
      • Do not shake it.
      • Do not examine or empty the contents.
      • Leave the room.
      • Close the door.
      • Alert others in the area.
      • Call 911.
      • Shut down your HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) systems, if possible.
      • Consider whether you want to vacate your premises.

    If you have a specific question about a package mailed to you, you can contact:

    PO BOX 555
    NEW YORK NY 10116-0555
    Phone : 877-876-2455
    Thanks to MSA Security for many of these ideas.Check out more security, counterterrorism and emergency preparedness guidance at:

    Plot Involving Suspicious Packages

    October 31, 2010
    Key Points from the NYPD
    • Since Thursday night, law enforcement officials identified two suspicious packages addressed to two synagogues in Chicago. 
    • Initial reports indicate that the packages contain explosive material. Forensic analysis is underway. 
    • The packages were discovered in Dubai and East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom. 
    • Cargo planes at Newark International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport originating in Yemen were searched for similar suspicious packages. 
    • Media reports indicate that one woman was arrested in Yemen on suspicion of mailing the packages and that authorities are searching for others.
    Implications for New York City 
    • The NYPD is working closely with our federal partners in the intelligence community to investigate this incident. 
    • At this time, there is no known specific threat to New York City connected to this incident. 
    • The NYPD recommends that all New Yorkers remain vigilant. 
    • In the event a suspicious package is found, call 911 and do not handle it.
    Implications for the Jewish community
    • There are no known additional specific threats to Jewish institutions at this time.
    • Jewish institutions continue to be targeted by those wishing to attack the United States.
    • Jewish communal institutions should review their security precautions and ensure continued vigilance, both for mail and direct threats.
    • Jewish communal institutions and known leaders should be suspicious of any packages from unknown senders. Terrorists know how to adapt. Do not assume that bombs only come from Yemen. 
    • In the event a suspicious package is found, do not handle it and call 911. Be prepared to evacuate your building.

    Evolving security threats require heightened vigilance

    May 24, 2010

    In light of the Times Square bomb plot, the subway plot and other recent events, intelligence and law enforcement analysts assume that Al-Qai’da and its affiliates have an undiminished intent to attack the United States and that there are people already here who might do so with little, or no, warning. The number and pace of the attempted attacks against the United States over the past nine months have surpassed the number of attempts during any other one-year period. Note: there are no known, specific threats to the Jewish community or to our institutions.
    Some patterns underlying of recent attempts lead analysts to consider the possibility of attacks using improvised explosive devices or small arms. Likely targets include “softer” targets such as transportation hubs and mass transit, government buildings and commercial facilities.

    The heroic T-shirt vendors in Times Square can teach us the most important lessons: everyone should be vigilant, take notice of your surroundings and report suspicious items or activities to local authorities immediately. To protect ourselves – in the subways/trains, in our institutions or at home – there are specific actions we should be engaged in, specifically:

    • Immediately report any suspicious activity to 1-(888) NYC-SAFE in New York City or 1-888-SAFE-NYS across New York State. 
    • Maintain a heightened level of vigilance.Be especially aware of your surroundings, what is happening around you and your building. Get more information and tips on the JCRC-NY security and emergency planning resources page:
    • Know the rhythms and routines.Be alert as you go about your daily business. This will help you to learn the normal routines of your neighborhood, community and workplace. Understanding these routines will help you spot anything out of place. Be aware of what is going on around you. Whether traveling, at work or at home, be on the lookout for suspicious activities.
    • Learn to spot suspicious mail, packages, or abandoned parcels.
    • Review your access policies.You are the first and last line of defense for your building and your people. An effective access policy can save lives and be a deterrent. Check out what you should be thinking about at Read the NYPD publication, Engineering Security, to learn how you can harden your target.

    Recent attacks reflect the disturbing phenomenon of “homegrown terrorism”. Many of these individuals considered an attack on Jewish institutional targets before deciding on other targets. This fact underscores the necessity of constant vigilance by Jewish institutions and individuals.
    JCRC President Janice Weinman Shorenstein, President-elect Alan Jaffe, Executive Vice President Michael Miller and JCRC Commission on Jewish Security Chair Sally Goodgold continue to express their deep appreciation to both the NYPD and the FBI for their ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers and the Jewish community. They are, indeed, sensitive and critical partners.

    For further information call Dov Horwitz at (212) 983-4800, ext. 129 or write to