Recent Propaganda Releases by ISIS and Al-Qa’ida Promote Intensified Attacks by Supporters in the West

February 11, 2020

This assessment from NYPD has information that can be used to support both the federal and New York State grant applications. We highlighted issues concerning the Jewish community.


Open Source Assessment/February 10, 2020

Two recent extremist propaganda releases disseminated by ISIS’s al-Furqan Media and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Al-Malahem Media called on Salafi-jihadist supporters to intensify attacks as part of a retaliatory campaign of violence against the West, which may resonate with homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) based in the U.S. Both media campaigns referenced a broad variety of tactics, with ISIS’s statement promoting the use of conventional and chemical weapons, and AQAP’s message promoting simple, low-tech methods, as well as cyberwarfare campaigns.

  • While both propaganda statements called for an escalation in attack efforts, ISIS’s propaganda release notably emphasized a “new phase” geared specifically towards targeting Israeli and Jewish interests. ISIS previously referenced chemical weapons tactics in numerous propaganda graphics, demonstrating the group’s persistent support and interest in this attack method.  While the NYPD is not aware of any credible, active, or specific threats at this time, this statement, coupled with an already heightened threat environment, may serve as a catalyst for increased violence against Jewish communities.
  • Additionally, AQAP’s latest propaganda release may potentially have a stronger resonance with al-Qa’ida-aligned HVEs in the West following the recently confirmed death of Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, who was killed in a targeted U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen.
  • On January 27, 2020, ISIS’s official media apparatus published a 37-minute Arabic-language audio statement attributed to its new spokesperson, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, marking his second speech since the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and spokesperson Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir in separate U.S. counterterrorism operations. While much of the statement—titled “God Destroyed Them and a Similar Fate Awaits the Disbelievers”—revisited ISIS’s narrative of survivability and endurance despite strategic setbacks, al-Qurayshi notably declared war on Israel, and called for ISIS supporters to broadly intensify their attack efforts worldwide.
  •  Throughout the speech, al-Qurayshi claimed that U.S. narratives about ISIS’s defeat in the Middle East are false and that the U.S. has historically been unable to defeat its adversaries, specifically referring to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. He asserted that ISIS will persist despite al-Baghdadi’s death. The statement appears to have been recorded in recent weeks, as it also referenced the death of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in early January 2020.
  • After congratulating ISIS militants for waging a retaliatory campaign of violence in response to the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir, al-Qurayshi encouraged supporters to continue the revenge efforts by increasing the frequency of attacks. This specific statement could potentially resonate with lone offenders as a call to arms from core ISIS leadership.
  • Al-Qurayshi announced the beginning of a new stage for ISIS aimed at reclaiming Jerusalem. He specifically urged ISIS affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula and Syria to turn Israeli “settlements and markets into a proving ground for your rockets and chemical weapons.” He also ordered Muslims to thwart the U.S. peace plan referred to as the “Deal of the Century,” and implored Palestinians and Muslims worldwide to target Jews. While previous ISIS messaging also emphasized the targeting of Jewish and Israeli interests in an effort to inspire attacks by established ISIS affiliates and lone offender supporters, the emphasis on these targets in this audio message likely coincides with the latest proposed U.S. peace plan for the Middle East.
  • On February 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Qasim al-Rimi, the emir of AQAP and potential heir to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a U.S. military counterterrorism operation. Al-Rimi was previously featured in a propaganda video disseminated by AQAP on February 2 that claimed responsibility for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, praised global al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, and emphasized the importance of continued retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests. Given al-Rimi’s death, his latest message urging lone offender attacks against the U.S. may also catalyze HVEs to conduct retaliatory attacks.
  • AQAP’s propaganda video featured Qasim al-Rimi, often pairing his image with other al-Qa’ida ideologues. He declared that AQAP was responsible for the December 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola which was conducted by Saudi aviation student Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, who he claimed was a sleeper agent for AQAP. Similar to the retaliatory narrative in past AQAP propaganda messages, he stated that the shooting was in revenge for crimes committed by the U.S. across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Additionally, on February 4, the al-Qa’ida-affiliated al-Shabaab echoed this narrative by congratulating AQAP for its role in the Pensacola attack and encouraged continued lone offender operations in the West.
  • Al-Rimi connected the Pensacola shooting to other al-Qa’ida-affiliated operations, stating that it was part of a series of global attacks. He compared al-Shamrani to the group’s other perceived “heroes,” such as Nidal Malik Hassan, the November 2019 Fort Hood shooter, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who orchestrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in a likely attempt to encourage similar operations by HVEs in the West.
  • Most significantly, al-Rimi explicitly called for lone offender attacks in the U.S and told supporters to make sure their “chief concern” is “America.” He urged students, journalists, doctors, engineers, merchants, workers, Arab and non-Arabs to use low-tech, simple tactics, including vehicle ramming, firearms, and explosives. He also encourages viewers to consult AQAP’s Inspire magazine for tactical guidance.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW YORK CITY

There is currently no direct, credible or specific threat to New York City following these recent propaganda releases by ISIS and AQAP media entities; however, ISIS’s calls for attacks against Jewish communities highlights the importance of vigilance for suspicious activity indicators at similar locations, houses of worship, and Jewish faith community gatherings throughout the five boroughs. In recent months, authorities have disrupted numerous plots by malicious actors from across the violent extremist ideological spectrum who espoused anti-Semitic views and targeted the Jewish community.

Security personnel are advised to be on alert for suspicious behavior that could indicate pre-operational surveillance for an attack. Such behavior could include individuals taking photographs of security procedures in place, and asking probing questions of security/law enforcement officers stationed outside such locations.

Information sharing and prompt reporting of suspicious behavior indicators between the public, private-sector security personnel, faith community leaders, and law enforcement authorities remains vital to the deterrence, detection, and disruption of terrorist activity and the prevention of attacks.

If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)

Active Shooter Preparedness Workshop

February 03, 2020

Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Active Shooter Preparedness Workshop

March 19, 2020
26th Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278

Given today’s ever-changing threat environment, preparing for and training employees to cope with workplace violence should be a key piece of an organization’s incident response planning.

A Unique Training Opportunity

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is hosting a one-day security workshop to enhance awareness of, and response to, an active shooter event:

  • Educating participants on the history of active shooter events.
  • Describing common behavior, conditions, and situations associated with active shooters.
  • Fostering communication between critical infrastructure owners and operators and local emergency response teams.  This course includes discussions of interoperability, communications protocols, and best practices for planning, preparedness, and response.

Building Emergency Planning Capabilities

The event will also describe how to incorporate key elements of successful incident management into planning efforts including:

  • Communication and incident planning for employees
  • Emergency action plan development
  • Recognizing behavioral indicators
  • Coordinating with first responders.

Understanding Liability and Risk Exposure

The workshop focuses on providing awareness training that supports the development of emergency action planning capabilities. These capabilities may better position private sector organizations in receiving important legal liability protections from the DHS Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the private sector became very concerned about the risk of liability they would face in the event that their product, service, or layered security program (e.g., Technology) was impacted by an act of terrorism. The SAFETY Act seeks to mitigate those risks by encouraging the wide-spread deployment of effective anti-terrorism technologies by providing legal protections that cap or dismiss liability in the event of an act of terrorism.

To learn more about the SAFETY Act and the types of products, services, and layered security programs that have received protections, visit www.safetyact.gov.

Who Should Participate?

This event is open to:

  • Corporate and facility security professionals from the private and public sectors
  • Supervisory first responders
  • Human resource managers
  • Community response officials
  • Homeland security representatives

Agenda

Time                Event

8:00 A.M.        Registration Begins

8:30 A.M.        Opening Remarks and Welcome; Modules 1-3   (RecognitionPreventionProtection)

12:00 P.M.      Lunch

1:00 P.M.         Modules 4-6 (MitigationResponseRecovery)

4:00 P.M.         Closing Remarks

Notes:  A government-issued ID (license) will be required for entry.

Registration

January 30, 2020

Kudos to Governor Andrew Cuomo on his milestone ‘NO HATE IN OUR STATE’ Conference and his inspirational message.

JCRC-NY Executive Vice President and CEO, Rabbi Michael Miller was honored to open the conference with an invocation and noted, “We [are] beset by a plague of dreadful violence, generated by senseless hatred of “the other.” And all [at this conference] are “the other.” . . . [As Governor Cuomo] has led with his raised voice . . . decrying the hatred, [so too] our voices need be raised.”

Governor Cuomo said that it was not enough for government to offer “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of horrible, violent hate crimes. Following his own injunction that government must not just talk, but act, he proposed as part of his FY 2021 Executive Budget an additional $25 million in security grant funding for organizations vulnerable to hate crimes. The Governor also proposed expanding eligibility for these security grants to include houses of worship.

“We are focused on protecting our institutions every day and we know that houses of worship are among the most vulnerable,” said David Pollock, JCRC-NY Associate Executive Director and Chair of the new Community Security Initiative (a joint venture of UJA-Federation and JCRC-NY). We appreciate the Governor’s genuine concern, and with the enactment of the New York State 2020-2021 budget, millions of congregants will be protected. “We are especially pleased that day camps will now be eligible to apply without matching funds (see the new Request for Application).”

NY nonpublic K-12 schools, community centers, camps and museums should click to JCRC-NY’s dedicated webpage (www.jcrcny.org/securitygrants) for more information on how to apply for grant funding to protect at-risk institutions.

State security grant webinar: Tuesday, January 14th from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM

January 12, 2020

Announcing New York State Security Grant opportunities for eligible nonpublic schools, nonprofit day care centers, nonprofit community centers, nonprofit cultural museums, and nonprofit residential and day camps.

Want to learn more about the application process?

Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) and UJA-Federation of New York and invite you to an online training:

Tuesday, January 14th from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM

What will the training cover?

Prequalification, navigating the application process, security bridge loans, and more. Organizations that participate may be eligible to access additional assistance in the grant application process. To register and receive instructions for participation, please click here.

Please find further information on the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes grant below.


 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is committed to ensuring the safety and equal treatment of all New Yorkers and as such has continued support of the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Program.  This program is designed to boost safety and security at New York’s nonprofit organizations at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission. In support of this effort, $45 million in grant funding is being made available on a statewide basis and will be administered by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES).

The NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is releasing the Request for Applications (RFAs) to solicit proposals to support projects under the SFY2019-2020 Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Program (SCAHC Program) and the SFY2019-2020 Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Program with Local Matching Funds (SCAHC Match Program).

  • SFY2019-2020 Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Program (SCAHC) – $25 million has been made available through this competitive grant program to eligible nonpublic nonprofit schools, nonprofit day care centers, nonprofit community centers, nonprofit cultural museums and nonprofit residential camps which demonstrate a risk of a hate crime due to their ideology, beliefs or mission.  Applications will be accepted for up to $50,000 per facility.  Eligible organizations may submit up to five applications for a maximum total request of $250,000.
  • SFY2019-2020 Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes with Local Matching Funds (SCAHC Match Program).  $20 million in grant funding has been made available through this competitive grant program to eligible nonpublic nonprofit schools, and nonprofit day camps which demonstrate a risk of a hate crime due to their ideology, beliefs or mission.  Applications will be accepted for up to $50,000 per facility (with a local cost match per application). Eligible organizations may submit up to five applications for a maximum total request of $250,000 (including local cost match).

Nonprofit organizations that are applying for these funding opportunities must be prequalified in the NYS Grants Gateway prior to application submission.

To learn more about prequalification, go to the Grants Management website.

The Request for Applications (RFA) and other required documents for both of these grant programs can be found here.

The due date for applications for both programs is February 27, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.

Any applications and/or supporting documentation received after the due date and time will not be considered.

National threat analysis: Iran

January 04, 2020

SUMMARY OF TERRORISM THREAT TO THE U.S. HOMELAND
This Bulletin will expire on or before January 18, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST

  • The United States designated Iran a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” in 1984 and since then, Iran has actively engaged in or directed an array of violent and deadly acts against the United States and its citizens globally. The United States designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a Foreign Terrorist Organization on April 15, 2019 for its direct involvement in terrorist plotting.
  • On January 2, 2020, the United States carried out a lethal strike in Iraq killing Iranian IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani while Soleimani was in Iraq.
  • Iranian leadership and several affiliated violent extremist organizations publicly stated they intend to retaliate against the United States.
  • At this time we have no information indicating a specific, credible threat to the Homeland. Iran and its partners, such as Hizballah, have demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct operations in the United States.
  • Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber enabled attacks against a range of U.S.-based targets.
  • Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyber attacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States.
  • Iran likely views terrorist activities as an option to deter or retaliate against its perceived adversaries. In many instances, Iran has targeted United States interests through its partners such as Hizballah.
  • Homegrown Violent Extremists could capitalize on the heightened tensions to launch individual attacks.
  • An attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with our federal, state, local, and private sector partners to detect and defend against threats to the Homeland, and will enhance security measures as necessary.

See the full  document here. 

Vigilance in light of the killing of Qasem Soleimani

January 03, 2020

While the analysts are still contemplating the implications of the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani (see a profile here), the consensus is that Iran will try to exact revenge somewhere around the world. Targets associated with Jewish community have been in Iran’s crosshairs since the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994. In 2012, the incoming Executive Director of JCRC-NY and UJA-Federation’s Community Security Initiative focused on the threat to Jewish targets in the Wall Street Journal. Experts surmise that Iran and Hezbollah conducted surveillance on Israeli, Jewish, or pro-Western institutions, tourists, or high-profile individuals; or Israeli or Western government facilities and personnel. There were recent arrests of Iran-connected suspects here in New York and in Chicago last year.

While there are no known specific threats against New York or the Jewish community, we recommend that Jewish organizations should exercise heightened vigilance.

  • Access control. If an attacker can walk into a building unchallenged bad things will happen. No unauthorized person should be able to enter your building at any time. Many organizations, including synagogues, keep their doors locked until the visitor is identified and cleared. The first step is to develop a feasible access control policy (see our Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures) and to keep any door that cannot be monitored and controlled locked.
  • Vehicle restraint systems. AKA bollards. Bollards are effective, but expensive and difficult to install. What’s worse, many synagogues and schools have “No Parking” zones directly outside their doors, leaving them vulnerable to ramming or vehicular-borne explosive devices. Our suggestion is for NYC organizations to contact their local Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO) and ask for permission to park their own cars or school buses in the “No Parking” zones. Institutions with parking lots should consider parking “friendly” cars adjacent to your building. Find your NCO’s contact info here.
  • Assess your cybersecurity. We have received numerous reports about ransomware attacks on Jewish organizations. Iran has significant cyberwarfare capabilities. This is a good time to review your hardware, software and human factor cybersecurity protections. Check out this great primer from NJ CCIC (NJ’s cybersecurity agency) for best practices.
  • Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
  • Connect. The first step in the process is to “Connect”. You should have an ongoing relationship with your local police precinct. They should know when your services and programs are scheduled. If you don’t know your local police officials, the JCRC can help. Click here to contact us.
  • Overview. Look at the recent DHS publication, Mass Gatherings: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places, can be a great template for your security planning process. Virtually every suggestion in the document can be applied to your planning process. Organizations should “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”. Applying these four steps in advance of a possible incident or attack can help better prepare  us to proactively think about the role that our whole community plays in the safety and security of our organizations.
  • Plan. Download Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities and Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship for  suggestions and ideas.
  • Active Shooter response. Many of our contacts attended active shooter trainings offered in the New York area last week. If you could not attend either session or another training, click here for the JCRC-NY dedicated Active Shooter Resources webpage that includes resources from many sources. If you want to arrange a training the JCRC can help, based on available resources. Click here to contact us.
  • Security personnel. Guards at synagogues vary in quality, but generally, almost anything is better than nothing. Volunteers are good, trained volunteers are better. Uniformed guards (e.g., identifiable shirts, vests, blazers) can be deterrents. Guards who are off-duty or retired police or corrections officers bring experience, training and judgement. To be effective, any guard has to have clear instructions and procedures (see below). NYPD does have a Paid Detail Unit which provides officers to perform off-duty, uniformed security work within New York City for approximately $45/hour.  Click here for more information and contact details. For a discussion of armed vs. unarmed guards see our post Armed or unarmed security, what’s best? and a guest post here.
  • Private security. Some police departments allow private parties to hire off-duty officers in uniform for events (in NYC, contact the Paid Detail Unit). Others use other off-duty officers (hired privately or through a security firm), retired officers or hire private security guards.
  • Revisit and review your security plans and procedures.
    • Active shooters. Have a plan and train your staff and key volunteers on its implementation. See JCRC’s dedicated active shooter webpage here.
    • Bomb threats. Review your bomb threat procedures and make sure that your staffers (especially those who answer the phones) know what is expected of them. For a range of resources from top agencies, including the FBI and the DHS guidance click here.
    • Suspicious packages. Is your staff aware that they should be on the lookout for suspicious packages? For USPS guidance click here.

We will be forwarding the NYPD SHIELD analysis as soon as it becomes available. Questions? Click here to send questions, comments and suggestions.

Security funding updates

December 22, 2019

While our concerns about anti-Semitic attacks remain high, this week brought three new funding-related announcements that will help us to protect our institutions. We will notify our Security and Alert List when applications become available. To join our list, click here.

All those who wish to apply for upcoming grants should pre-qualify for the state or federal grant applications through the Grants Gateway Document Vault. Those having previously pre-qualified should check if their file is up-to-date. Get more help from JCRC-NY here. Also check out our dedicated webpage for more tips on how to successfully apply for grants.

  • Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes.The JCRC-NY is deeply grateful to Governor  for the latest awards of $10M in New York State security grants to schools (pre-school – 12) and museums. Grantees benefiting from this program applied in December 2018.  The announced awards will help 207 institutions to protect their people and facilities against hateful attacks. As of December 23, 2019 there is no new application for the next round of grants and will notify subscribers to the Security and Alert List as soon as we learn of  the availability of another round of grants.
  • Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Featuring a major victory for at-risk nonprofits, Congress completed the FY 2020 Appropriations Bills and the President is expected to sign them into law. This year, the team led by Rob Goldberg of JFNA’s DC office (including JCRC-NY and UJA-Federation as active members), successfully secured $90 million for the program, a 50% increase over the FY 2019 level:
    1.   $50 million will support NSGP-UA (Urban Area’s including NYC, Long Island and Westchester) projects; and
    2. $40 million will support NSGP-S projects (applicants outside the Urban Areas).

With the enactment of this legislation, the federal government will begin developing the FY 2020 program guidance and application (known as the Nonprofit Security Grant Program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)). Any at-risk 501(c)(3) organization (including houses of worship) can apply.

Our best guess is that applications will be available at the NY DHSES website in February or March. All NY organizations must apply through the process as outlined  by NYDHSES. We will notify subscribers to the Security and Alert List as soon as we learn of  the availability of another round of grants.

Who might commit a mass killing? New insights.

November 21, 2019

One of the surest ways to prevent a mass shooting is to identify potential threats before they actually attack. Often the threats are “insiders”.

James Densley, co-founder of the Violence Project and a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University, said researchers looked at factors in the lives of shooters, including mental health troubles, whether they considered suicide, and how they had access to guns. These findings were reported in the New York Times/Associated Press:

“For a start, we need to be a little bit more attuned to the fact that people are in crisis, and are looking for help, and perhaps aren’t getting it.” Researchers found that 98 percent of mass shooters were men and that 52 percent were white. The proportion of mass shooters who had been diagnosed with mental health conditions was only slightly higher than the general population, according to researchers.

Importantly, school mass shooters are most often insiders. Here are more recent tools to help with threat assessments:

New concerns from ISIS-inspired lone wolves

October 29, 2019

According to some analysts, the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has the potential for violent reactions by United States-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs). While there is no specific threat to the Jewish community or to the New York area, JCRC-NY recommends that Jewish institutions maintain heightened vigilance.

In a recent op-ed in the NY Daily News (Why ISIS remains far from finished: A warning from two leading counterterrorism officials), Ray Kelly and Mitch Silber observed, “The ISIS threat to the U.S. early on was mainly based on its ability, through cutting-edge use of social media, to radicalize and mobilize Americans to either want to join ISIS as a foreign fighter (with the latent threat to return to attack the U.S.) or to plot attacks at home on their own.”

This is a good time to review your facility’s security protocols to ensure that they reflect the current need for heightened vigilance. We suggest that you download JCCA’s Security Readiness:A Framework for Security at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), YM and YWHAs, and Camps. The publication is a valuable tool for all kinds of organizations and the chapter on a “Security Escalation Plan” on pp. 42ff. features six indicators that should cause you to consider escalating security and the included checklist is a helpful template to build an effective response.

Keep safe.