Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Pentagon Aide Keeps Clearance Despite Spy Accusations

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The Extremism Roundup

Promoting Civil Discourse and Marginalizing the Extremes
A weekly compilation of the most important developments in the struggle against radical ideologies

Islamist Extremism

Illegal migrants cross the Rio Grande River from Mexico –  CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images)
CBP Issues Warning About Hamas, Hezbollah Crossing Southern Border

  • Federal officials are warning that members of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hezbollah could be crossing through the southern U.S. border, according to an internal Oct. 20 memo obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • The San Diego Field Office Intelligence Division of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sent the memo warning that due to the war between Israel and Hamas, there could be encounters of terror-tied individuals who are seeking to travel to or from the Middle East via transit across the southern U.S. border. Read More

Tennessee Man Convicted of Supporting ISIS

  • Benjamin Carpenter, 31, aka Abu Hamza, of Knoxville, Tenn., was convicted of attempting to provide material support to ISIS.
  • Carpenter served as the leader of Ahlut-Tawhid Publications, an international organization of pro-ISIS “munasirin” (i.e., supporters), dedicated to translating, producing and distributing ISIS propaganda throughout the world.
  • Carpenter faces up to 20 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release.  Read More

Former PLO Spokesman Placed on Leave From DHS

  • An asylum official, Nejwa Ali, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was placed on leave after her prior role as a spokeswoman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) came to light.
  • Nejwa Ali, who served as a public affairs officer for the PLO’s delegation to the U.S. in 2016 and 2017, was subsequently hired by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency of Homeland Security, where she worked as an asylum officer and was later an adjudication officer.
  • Ali’s inflammatory social media posts supporting Hamas and expressing anti-Israel sentiment came to public attention, including her use of the phrase “F–k Israel” and posts advocating for the Palestinian cause. Her social media handle was “Falastine Mi Amor.”
  • Ali’s posts led to calls for her termination and sparked concerns about her background checks, given the PLO’s designation as a foreign terrorist organization.  Read More

Convictions in New Mexico Terrorism Case

  • Siraj Ibn Wahhaj has been convicted on terrorism charges related to his involvement in a squalid compound in New Mexico where the remains of his 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, were discovered.
  • The case involved Wahhaj’s abduction of his son from his mother’s home in Georgia and their relocation to the compound, where the group, including other family members, engaged in firearms and tactical training to prepare for attacks against the government.
  • Wahhaj’s brother-in-law, Lucas Morten, was also convicted on terrorism charges, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and kidnapping resulting in the boy’s death, while Wahhaj’s sisters, Hujrah and Subhanah Wahhaj, were convicted on kidnapping charges.
  • The case involved religious and ideological elements, with the defendant holding a belief that the boy would be the second coming, and the defendants arguing they were targeted due to their Muslim faith.  Read More

Massachusetts Man Indicted for Scheme to Support ISIS

  • Mateo Ventura, an 18-year-old from Wakefield, Mass., was indicted for knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources intended for the terrorist organization ISIS.
  • The indictment follows Ventura’s alleged provision of gift cards to an individual he believed to be an ISIS supporter. Ventura reportedly expressed his desire for the proceeds from these gift cards to fund ISIS’s activities “for war on kuffar” (disbelievers).
  • Between January and May 2023, Ventura allegedly donated a total of $705 with the intent of supporting ISIS.
  • The charge of knowingly concealing the source of material support or resources for a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, potential lifetime supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.  Read More

Brooklyn Resident Gets Life in Prison for Supporting ISIS

  • Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a U.S. citizen and former Brooklyn resident, was sentenced to life in prison for providing material support to ISIS resulting in death. Concurrently, he received 20 years for conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS and obstruction of justice, and 10 years for receipt of military-type training from ISIS.
  • Asainov joined ISIS in Syria after abandoning his wife and daughter in Brooklyn in 2013. Over approximately five years, he fought in numerous battles, received military training, and eventually became a sniper trainer for ISIS, instructing around 100 students.
  • Asainov was captured in Syria after ISIS’s last stand at Baghouz and admitted to agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that he fought as a warrior and sniper for ISIS, and he expressed his allegiance to the group even during his trial.  Read More

Militant-Right & Militant-Left Extremism

Flowers laid at the Anne Frank (1929-1945) statue near Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paulo Amorim/NurPhoto via Getty Images
California Neo-Nazi Gets Prison Time for Antisemitic Incident in Amsterdam

  • Robert Wilson, a former resident of Chula Vista, Calif., was found guilty of projecting an antisemitic message onto the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and was sentenced to two months in prison. He had previously spent three months in jail while awaiting trial, so he won’t serve additional time.
  • The message displayed on the Anne Frank House suggested that Anne Frank couldn’t have written her diary because it was written in ballpoint pen, which was not widely used during World War II. This conspiracy theory has been debunked.
  • Wilson is associated with the Goyim Defense League, an antisemitic hate group that spreads false and hateful messages about Jewish people. He has been involved in various antisemitic incidents and was also charged with a hate crime in San Diego in 2021. While living in Poland, an image of Wilson holding an antisemitic sign outside the Auschwitz memorial went viral on the internet.  Read More

Minneapolis City Council Candidate Films Attack at Anti-Israel Protest

  • An elderly man drove through an anti-Israel protest in Minneapolis, Minn., as the group blocked streets, with a local city council candidate, Zach Metzger, filming the incident and instructing the crowd to “hunt him down.” The video showed the mob attacking the man’s car and attempting to pull him out.
  • The mob surrounded the man’s vehicle, with one person jumping and kicking his window. The man was in distress, but he eventually freed himself and drove away, with the mob chasing after him.
  • Metzger, a Minneapolis City Council candidate, has made pro-Palestinian posts on social media and was seen at the scene of the protest. Despite some reports of a gunshot sound, no injuries related to a gunshot or the driving incident were reported.  Read More

 Anti-Israel Protests Turn Violent Against NYPD

  • Protests in Bay Ridge, N.Y., turned violent, with NYPD officers using an LRAD sound cannon against demonstrators, and some officers struck by thrown objects like eggs and fireworks.
  • Nineteen adults and three juveniles were charged, and several people were issued summonses for disorderly conduct.
  • The protest was organized by the group Within Our Lifetime, a New York City-based anti-Israel group with a history of harassing and making violent threats toward Jews.  Read More

Harvard Student Attacked During Anti-Israel Protest

  • A first-year Israeli student at Harvard Business School was physically and verbally assaulted during a protest on the Harvard campus. The student was accosted while attempting to film the protesters with his phone.
  • The report to the FBI identified two of the individuals involved in the assault as Harvard University graduate students. One was a law student, Ibrahim Bharmal, a member of the Harvard Law Review, and the other was a divinity school graduate student, Elom Tettey Tamaklo, who held a supervisory role as a proctor in a residential setting.  Read More

  Hate Crime

David Emanuel, 63, of Cedar Key, Fla. – Levy County Sherriff’s Office via Levy screenshot
Florida Man Sentenced for Racially Motivated Attack

  • David Emanuel, 63, of Cedar Key, Fla., was sentenced to one year and a day in prison followed by two years of supervised release for his attack on a group of Black men surveying land in Rosewood, Fla.
  • The attack occurred when Emanuel drove his truck toward the group of men on a public road, shouting racial slurs and expletives at them.
  • The attack was deemed a racially motivated hate crime.  Read More

Illinois Man Charged for Threats

  • Larry York, of Lombard, Ill., has been denied pre-trial release and charged with two counts of hate crime, a Class 4 felony, for allegedly verbally abusing and threatening two Muslim men in an incident at the Point West Apartment Complex on October 17, 2023.
  • The incident involved York approaching one of the victims in his car, swearing at him, and telling him to leave the country. York is accused of making violent threats and using offensive language against the victims.  Read More

Washington Man Charged for Threatening Federal Worker Due to His Race

  • Steve L. Veres, 41, of Thurston County, Wash., was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on federal charges related to threats made to a Black federal employee at the Social Security office in Olympia, Wash.
  • Veres visited the Social Security Office seeking a replacement Social Security card. He became angry, used racial slurs, and threatened to assault or kill the worker after being informed that his paperwork did not meet the requirements for a new card.
  • Veres is charged with influencing a federal official by threat, which carries a potential punishment of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release, as well as interference with federally protected activities, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.  Read More

  School Threats

Alier Ojedasalas, 42, of Miami Beach – via 7 News Miami screenshot
Miami Man Arrested for Threatening Jewish School

  • A 42-year-old Miami man, Alier Ojedasalas, was arrested for allegedly threatening to plant explosives at a Jewish school in Miami Beach.
  • The incident occurred when Ojedasalas approached a security guard at the school, claimed to be a member of Hamas, and threatened to detonate C-4 explosives.
  • Ojedasalas is facing multiple charges, including threatening to use a bomb, disturbing schools or religious assemblies with prejudice, assault with prejudice based on religion, and harassment or intimidation based on religious or ethnic heritage.  Read More

Teen Arrested for Bomb Threat

  • A 13-year-old boy was arrested for making a bomb threat against Antigo Middle School, in Antigo, Wisc., which resulted in the school’s closure.
  • The boy will be referred to the Langlade County Juvenile Justice System on multiple charges related to the threat.  Read More

Florida Man Arrested for School Threat

  • Daniel Dominguez, 31, from Gainesville, Fla., was arrested for posting a video on Instagram in which he threatened to shoot up an unidentified middle school.
  • He was charged with electronic threats to kill or harm another and a crime related to terrorism resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
  • Law enforcement agencies, including the Gainesville Police Department and Alachua County Sheriff, collaborated to arrest Dominguez, who was found with an AR-15 rifle and handgun at his home near the University of Florida’s East Campus.  Read More

Hostile Foreign Influence Operations

Ariane Tabatabai stays a top Pentagon official despite being named as part of an Iranian influence campaign in leaked emails – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists via New York Post screenshot
Pentagon Aide Keeps Clearance Despite Spying Accusations

  • An Iranian-born Pentagon official, Ariane Tabatabai, remains in her position with a top-level security clearance despite being connected to a covert influence campaign orchestrated by Tehran.
  • Tabatabai was part of a group known as the Iran Experts Initiative, formed to promote public acceptance of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) during the Obama administration, which aimed to improve Iran’s image via an aggressive media campaign.
  • Despite her involvement in this influence campaign, which included communicating with Iranian officials, Tabatabai continued to rise in academic and media circles, never disclosing her connections to the Iranian regime and often advocated for Iran’s interests, even regarding sensitive matters such as missile capabilities and relationships with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.  Read More

Senator Pleads Not Guilty to Foreign Agent Charge

  • Senator Bob Menendez has pleaded not guilty to a federal indictment accusing him of conspiring to act as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government in a court arraignment in Manhattan.
  • Menendez, who faces charges related to an alleged years-long corrupt relationship with New Jersey businessmen, had previously pleaded not guilty to an initial three-count indictment, which included bribery, honest services fraud, and extortion under color of official right.
  • The updated indictment introduced a new criminal count, alleging that Menendez unlawfully conspired to “act as an agent of a foreign principal” and used his influence to secretly aid the government of Egypt. Despite calls for his resignation, Menendez has maintained his innocence and vowed to prove it.  Read More

Research and Trends in Extremism

Members of the NYPD patrol in front of a synagogue on October 13, 2023 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn – Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Neo-Nazis and Groups Linked to Al Qaeda Flood Social Media With Calls for Violence  

  • Hamas extremists are using social media platforms to call for attacks on Jewish communities and other targets in the U.S. and Europe, raising concerns among U.S. law enforcement agencies.
  • Groups linked to Al Qaeda and American neo-Nazis are seeking to exploit the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict to encourage attacks. They have issued calls for violent actions against Americans, Britons, French nationals, and Jewish and Arab Americans.
  • U.S. security agencies are monitoring a “heightened threat environment” and are particularly concerned about potential attacks on Jewish-Americans, as well as Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans.
  • Much of the threat today comes from individuals radicalized online, often operating as lone actors. Extremist content, especially praising the Hamas attacks, has surged online since the start of the conflict.  Read More

White Supremacist Active Club Recruitment Videos Reach Millions on TikTok

  • Recruitment videos for a new cluster of white supremacist groups known as “Active Clubs” have gained millions of views on TikTok, including hashtags like #activeclub and #aktivklubb.
  • These videos often feature white men exercising and promoting white supremacist symbols, flags, and messages, with some displaying actions like destroying pride flags and confronting police officers at protests.
  • Active Clubs were founded by Robert Rundo, the founder of the racist Rise Above Movement, and promote physical fitness and survivalism as preparation for racial violence and battles against “antifa.” TikTok’s community guidelines prohibit content that supports hateful ideologies or includes white supremacist symbols, flags, or related objects.  Read More

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