Trump Takes 2 Hours to Call Vehicular Manslaughter Terrorism in Barcelona, Still Won’t in Charlottesville

At around 6PM Barcelona time (12 PM ET), a van drove into pedestrians on Barcelona’s Ramblas walkway. Authorities recently announced that 13 people were killed and at least 50 others wounded. Police have arrested Driss Oukabir, a Moroccan immigrant (see update).

At precisely 2PM ET, just two hours after the attack, Trump called it terrorism.

Here’s what Trump has tweeted about the vehicular manslaughter attack in Charlottesville on Saturday.

At 1:19PM Trump said we must unite.

At 1:42 Nazi James Alex Fields Jr drove his car into Heather Heyer and other counterprotestors, killing Heyers and injuring at least 19 others.

It wasn’t until 3:33 when Trump made a statement, condemning violence “on many sides.”

[W]e’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.  On many sides.  It’s been going on for a long time in our country.  Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama.  This has been going on for a long, long time.

It has no place in America.  What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.  No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society, and no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play, or be with their parents, and have a good time.

I just got off the phone with the Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and we agreed that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now.  We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection — really — and I say this so strongly — true affection for each other.

Our country is doing very well in so many ways.  We have record — just absolute record employment.  We have unemployment, the lowest it’s been in almost 17 years.  We have companies pouring into our country.  Foxconn and car companies, and so many others, they’re coming back to our country.  We’re renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker.  We have so many incredible things happening in our country.  So when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very, very sad.

I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia — incredible people — law enforcement, incredible people — and also the National Guard.  They’ve really been working smart and working hard.  They’ve been doing a terrific job.  The federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor.  He thanked me for that.  And we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed.  We are ready, willing, and able.

Above all else, we must remember this truth:  No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first.  We love our country.  We love our God.  We love our flag.  We’re proud of our country.  We’re proud of who we are.  So we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it.  And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country, where things like this can happen.

My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another.  We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history and our future together.  So important.  We have to respect each other.  Ideally, we have to love each other.

He then posted several tweets of video from his stilted speech, invoking the racist Americans First pledge.

He eventually got around to offering condolences to Heather Heyer’s family that night, though not by name, and offered “best regards” to “all of those injured.”

Trump finally made some more appropriate prepared comments on Monday, calling out the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists specifically (though also mentioning “other hate groups”).

As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.  It has no place in America.

And as I have said many times before:  No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God.  We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence.  We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.

Racism is evil.  And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal.  We are equal in the eyes of our Creator.  We are equal under the law.  And we are equal under our Constitution.  Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.

Two days ago, a young American woman, Heather Heyer, was tragically killed.  Her death fills us with grief, and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers, and our love.

We also mourn the two Virginia state troopers who died in service to their community, their commonwealth, and their country.  Troopers Jay Cullen and Burke Bates exemplify the very best of America, and our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and every member of American law enforcement.

These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation.  In times such as these, America has always shown its true character:  responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice.

As a candidate, I promised to restore law and order to our country, and our federal law enforcement agencies are following through on that pledge.  We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear.  We will defend and protect the sacred rights of all Americans, and we will work together so that every citizen in this blessed land is free to follow their dreams in their hearts, and to express the love and joy in their souls.

Just hours later, he bitched that the media didn’t celebrate his belated, halfhearted statement.

Wednesday, he finally got around to naming Heyer on Twitter.

He of course then made off the cuff comments at an announcement on infrastructure. After explaining the delay in condemning white supremacists because he wanted to wait until he had the facts, he refused to call the attack terrorism.

THE PRESIDENT:  I didn’t know David Duke was there.  I wanted to see the facts.  And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well stated.  In fact, everybody said, “His statement was beautiful.  If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good.”  I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts.  Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts.

It was very important — excuse me, excuse me — it was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly.  Because if I would have made a fast statement — and the first statement was made without knowing much, other than what we were seeing.  The second statement was made after, with knowledge, with great knowledge.  There are still things — excuse me — there are still things that people don’t know.

I want to make a statement with knowledge.  I wanted to know the facts.

Q    Two questions.  Was this terrorism?  And can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Stephen Bannon?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family, and this country.  And that is — you can call it terrorism.  You can call it murder.  You can call it whatever you want.  I would just call it as “the fastest one to come up with a good verdict.”  That’s what I’d call it.  Because there is a question:  Is it murder?  Is it terrorism?  And then you get into legal semantics.  The driver of the car is a murderer.  And what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.

He went on to complain that the press had treated some “fine people” protesting alongside Nazis unfairly.

THE PRESIDENT:  So you know what, it’s fine.  You’re changing history.  You’re changing culture.  And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally.  But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.  Okay?  And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people.  But you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats.  You had a lot of bad people in the other group.

Then, this morning, in response to Lindsey Graham’s (among others) criticism of those comments, Trump lashed out.

As of this moment, Trump still hasn’t called the terrorist attack in Charlottesville a terrorist attack (to say nothing of mentioning the attack on a Minnesota mosque last week).

Update: According to later reports Oukabir voluntarily went to the authorities and reported his documents had been stolen.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans Have No Excuse for Not Doing Something about White Supremacist Violence

Last I checked, the following Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have criticized white supremacists, violence, and/or Trump’s appeasement of the former in Charlotteville.

Chuck Grassley, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair:

What ” WhiteNatjonalist” are doing in Charlottesville is homegrown terrorism that can’t be tolerated anymore that what Any extremist does

Orrin Hatch, President pro tempore:

We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home

Their tiki torches may be fueled by citronella but their ideas are fueled by hate, & have no place in civil society.

Lindsey Graham, Chair of Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism:

The South Carolina Republican called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to go to Virginia and “personally handle domestic terrorism investigations” and alleged civil rights abuses by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis “who took this young woman’s life.”

Graham was referring to Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed when a car ran into a group of counter-protesters Saturday in Charlottesville where white supremacists and neo-Nazis were holding a “Unite the Right” rally. Many more were injured.

Graham additionally proposed the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security form a task force on the threat of white supremacist groups and report back to Congress with potential solutions for cracking down on them.

“This is an opportunity for the Trump administration to come down like a hammer on white supremacists,” Graham said during a news conference in his Columbia office. “And I hope they do.”

John Cornyn, Chair of Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration and Senate Majority Whip:

No place for the bigotry & hate-filled violence in . These actions should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

And (update, from August 17):

We’ve all been shocked that the unhealed wounds of the nation’s racial divide flared up in such a surprising and disturbing way,” Cornyn said in a Chronicle interview. “I think the president had an opportunity to send a message that would unite America behind our common resolve to heal those wounds and unite our country, and unfortunately I don’t think he did that.”

Ted Cruz, Chair of Subcommittee on the Constitution, who while Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, had a hearing on the importance of naming Islamic terrorism Islamic terrorism:

It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society.

The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this. Our Nation was built on fundamental truths, none more central than the proposition ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’

But,

“One of the things we’re seeing going on is the media and the Democrats are, to the surprise of no one, demagoguing this issue and using it for political advantage,” Cruz said. “So, in the media’s telling, they want to tar and feather any Republican, any conservative, and paint us all as these crazy racist nutbags.”

Jeff Flake, Chair of Subcommittee Privacy, Technology, and the Law):

We can’t accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn. Period.

Flake, more generally:

Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. It is what we talk about when we talk about “checks and balances.” Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.

Ben Sasse, Chair of Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts:

“I refuse to accept that mankind is tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism… Unconditional love will have the final word” -MLK

“My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” -Abraham Lincoln

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator with…unalienable Rights”

These people are utterly revolting–and have no understanding of America. This creedal nation explicitly rejects “blood & soil” nationalism.

John Kennedy:

Violence and hatred are never the answer.

There are 20 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 11 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Of the Republicans, eight have made statements at least condemning the violence in Charlottesville, even if Cornyn and Kennedy, among others, are obviously issuing empty condemnations.

If even two of the Republicans who’ve made statements condemning the right wing violence in Charlottesville are serious — or more specifically serious about actions that DOJ must take, as in comments that both Lindsey and Cruz made — then they’ve got the numbers to make it happen.

They’ve got the numbers to force DOJ to refund the Life After Hate program, which white supremacist Seb Gorka’s wife Katherine defunded. They’ve got the numbers to ask Jefferson Beauregard Sessions whether his DOJ will treat this act of terrorism as terrorism. They’ve got the numbers to ask whether FBI ignored warnings of surging white supremacism.

Republicans often complain that there’s nothing they can do about their unmanageable President. This is one case where that’s patently false.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Three Times Donald Trump Treated Vehicular Manslaughter as Terrorism

Donald Trump gave the weakest statement on Charlottesville today, even going so far as calling on Americans to “cherish our history,” in response to a Nazi mob responding to the removal of Confederate symbols.

[W]e’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.  On many sides.  It’s been going on for a long time in our country.  Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama.  This has been going on for a long, long time.

It has no place in America.  What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.  No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society, and no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play, or be with their parents, and have a good time.

[snip]

I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia — incredible people — law enforcement, incredible people — and also the National Guard.  They’ve really been working smart and working hard.  They’ve been doing a terrific job.  The federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor.  He thanked me for that.  And we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed.  We are ready, willing, and able.

Above all else, we must remember this truth:  No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first.  We love our country.  We love our God.  We love our flag.  We’re proud of our country.  We’re proud of who we are.  So we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it.  And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country, where things like this can happen.

My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another.  We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history and our future together.  So important.  We have to respect each other.  Ideally, we have to love each other. [my emphasis]

In spite of the attack on counter-protestors — a tactic borrowed from ISIS terrorists in Europe — Trump didn’t label this terrorism or even call out the white supremacist violence.

Which is curious, because on at least three occasions he treated vehicular manslaughter as terrorism. He did it with Nice.

He accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of blowing off the London Bridge terrorist attack.

And he demanded the “civilized world” change its thinking in response, in part, to the Berlin truck attack.

I guess Trump has lost his interest in civilization now?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Lesson Trump Has (Thus Far) Not Taught Us: Civilian Casualties

I have a confession.

There’s something I like about the Trump Administration.

It’s the way that his unpopularity taints long-standing policies or practices or beliefs, making people aware of and opposed to them in a way they weren’t when the same policies or beliefs were widely held under George Bush or Barack Obama. Many, though not all, of these policies or beliefs were embraced unquestioningly by centrists or even avowed leftists.

I’ve been keeping a running list in my mind, which I’ll begin to lay out here (I guess I’ll update it as I remember more).

  • Expansive surveillance
  • The presumption of regularity, by which courts and the public assume the Executive Branch operates in good faith and from evidence
  • Denigration of immigrants
  • Denigration of Muslims
  • Denigration health insurance

As an example, Obama deported a huge number of people. But now that Trump has expanded that same practice, it has been made visible and delegitimized.

In short, Trump has made things that should always have been criticized are now being far more widely so.

But there’s one thing that Trump has escalated that has thus far — with the singular exception of the botched raid on Yemen — escaped widespread condemnation: the bombing of civilians. There was the Al Jineh mosque on March 16, a school sheltering families in Raqqa on March 21, and this strike last week in Mosul, not to mention continued Saudi attacks in Yemen that the US facilitates.

Again, I’m not saying such civilian strikes didn’t happen under Obama. And it’s not clear whether this spate of civilian bombings arises from a change in the rule of engagement put in place in December, the influence of James Mattis, or Trump’s announced review of rules of engagement. But civilians are dying.

And for the most part, unlike all the other horrible things happening under President Trump, they’re getting little notice and condemnation in the US.

Update: This NYT story on the Mosul strike says that the increased civilian casualties do reflect a change in rules of engagement put in place under Trump.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

A Modest Proposal: Ban the Interstate Travel of Kansans

It may be that Kansas is actually one of the most dangerous hives of terrorist activity in the US today.

Consider the case of Adam Purinton, who allegedly shot three men on Wednesday night outside of Kansas City, believing two of them — who are actually engineers from India — were Middle Eastern.

Details are emerging of what happened in and around Austins when a man known to some bar staffers became disgruntled in the patio area, spouting racial slurs at two men of Indian descent and then shooting them and another regular who stood up for the two.

At least one witness reportedly heard the suspect yell “get out of my country” shortly before shooting men he reportedly thought were Middle Eastern. Both men, engineers at Garmin, appear to be originally from India.

[snip]

The suspect fled on foot as police descended onto his neighborhood just behind Austins. Purinton eventually left the Kansas City area.

About five hours later, he was having a drink at the Applebee’s at Clinton, Mo., when he told a bartender he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men.

The bartender called police, and he was arrested without incident.

The FBI is investigating whether this is a hate crime, but it falls squarely into the kind of crime that Trump wants to treat as terrorism in order to defend his Muslim ban.

More serious still is the attack that three conspirators on the other side of the state plotted against Somali refugees — a plot the FBI broke up not long before Election Day last year. The men (at least one of whom is a Trump supporter) called themselves the Crusaders. They had already scoped out a mosque, churches that sponsored refugees, and an apartment complex where many Somalis live. They were both trying to make their own bombs, as well as trading drugs with an undercover officer to get help building a fertilizer bomb. They spoke of the Somalis as “cockroaches” and planned to launch a “bloodbath” to take “this country back.”

The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back…we might be too late, if they do wake up…I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.

In 2014, Frazier Glenn Miller killed three people at two Jewish sites near Kansas City. Like Purinton, Miller didn’t succeed in targeting his desired type of victim; all of his victims are Christians. A former Klan member, Miller had also previously conspired with MLK parade terrorist Kevin Harpham.

In 2009, Scott Roeder assassinated abortion provider George Tiller in his church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder conspired with a network of other anti-abortion terrorists, and he continued to call for violence even after being imprisoned.

In 1994 and 1995, Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols carried out most of their preparation for the Oklahoma City bombing in Kansas.

Under Trump’s logic, the best way to deal with spiking violence such as we see in Kansas is to wall it off, to prevent it from infecting the rest of the country.

I realize this will create a lot of undue hardship for the people of Kansas. I realize, too, it will prove to be a royal pain in the ass for anyone trying to drive across the vast expanse in the middle of the country, particularly long haul truckers.

But we have to keep our country safe.

So Kansans will have to be cooped up in their violent state, along with the dangerous whackjobs that mean to do them harm, until we can figure this out.

Update: Fixed spelling of Purinton. Thanks to DFDG for reminding me about the Tiller assassination. Thanks to KG for reminding me that McVeigh prepped the Oklahoma City attack in Kansas.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Trump’s Muslim Ban Forces IC to Conduct Actual Assessment of Terror Threats

CNN reports that the Trump Administration has asked DHS and DOJ to come up with an intelligence report backing the selection of the seven Muslim banned countries. According to CNN, some of those working on the report feel they’re being asked to fit a report to a desired conclusion.

President Donald Trump has assigned the Department of Homeland Security, working with the Justice Department, to help build the legal case for its temporary travel ban on individuals from seven countries, a senior White House official tells CNN.

Other Trump administration sources tell CNN that this is an assignment that has caused concern among some administration intelligence officials, who see the White House charge as the politicization of intelligence — the notion of a conclusion in search of evidence to support it after being blocked by the courts. Still others in the intelligence community disagree with the conclusion and are finding their work disparaged by their own department.

This is another of those areas where I’m grateful for the incompetence of the Trump Administration. If it were me, I’d call the four Obama Administration officials who first named these seven countries a threat: former Deputy CIA Director Avril Haines, former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Homeland Security Czar Lisa Monaco, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. They’re already on a court declaration in this case, so even the ones who might have been able to dodge testifying normally, they wouldn’t be able to. Make them explain why Iran and Sudan are on this list. They would either have to admit the truth: that our notions of terrorism generally are utterly politicized, and that if we were to measure on actual threat, our close allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would lead the list. Or they’d have to invent something to justify their past politicized actions.

Instead, Trump is trying to politicize intelligence, which not only has elicited this backlash, but will never be able to accomplish its objective. Even after redefining terror attack down to include material support (something that is actually consistent with the last 15 years of FBI fluffing their terror prosecution numbers), it is still impossible to present Iran as a bigger terrorist threat than Saudi Arabia (plus, you’d have to acknowledge that the listing and delisting of MEK, which a number of Trump officials have supported for cash payments, is also totally politicized).

Hopefully, that will lead to a larger reassessment of how we think of terrorism, including the recognition that our allies are actually the problem, not our arch-enemy Iran. That’s obviously wildly optimistic. But it is the kind of possibility that Trump’s incompetence allows us to consider.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Undie Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Life Coached “Who Moved My Cheese” Weeks before Jihad

I’m still working on the serious parts of the reports from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s FBI interrogations that Scott Shane liberated. But I wanted to share this detail, because it’s pretty funny.

In his fourth interview with the FBI on January 31, 2010 (the third after he started cooperating), Abdulmutallab told about how he tried to serve as a life coach for someone — perhaps a friend or a family member — back in Nigeria. He relied, according to the interrogation report, on principles he learned not from reading the Quran, but from the pop business book, Who Moved My Cheese.

That was in May 2009. Just two months later (two paragraphs in the interrogation report), Abdulmutallab decided to take set off to find Anwar al-Awlaki to undertake jihad.

In the last few days of July, 2009, UM [Abdulutallab] emailed the headmaster at SIAL [the school he would study at in Yemen]. He obtained the email address from SIAL’s website and sent the message using UM’s [redacted]

[snip]

This decision was entirely UM’s; no one encouraged him to go to Yemen to participate in jihad.

[snip]

For security reasons, UM told no one of his plan to travel to Yemen and participate in jihad.

Perhaps it’s not just funny and schmaltzy. It also demonstrates the degree to which Abdulmutallab was just looking for a path in life. Not long before he left to Yemen, he twice to propose to a woman, but (as he told the FBI, at least), his family wouldn’t permit him to marry yet.

Having been deprived that cheese, perhaps, he set off to martyr himself in the service of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

In Attempting to Justify Trump Muslim Ban, Propaganda Outlet Proves Inanity of Iran, Sudan Inclusion

WaPo did this fact check on Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller’s claim that, “72 individuals, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, have been implicated in terroristic activity in the United States who hail from those seven nations, point one.” It awards his claim three stars, stating,

[U]pon closer examination of the cases on the list, it becomes clear that his statement went too far. In fact, this is pretty thin gruel on which to make sweeping claims about the alleged threat posed to the United States by these seven countries, especially because the allegations often did not concern alleged terrorist acts in the United States.

[snip]

Regardless of the direct or tangential ties that investigators believe each individual may have to terrorist activities, these charges need to be proven in a court of law. Suspected or potential terror links involving these 72 individuals do not confirm Miller’s claim that they were “implicated in terrorist activity.”

Moreover, some people on this list entered the United States — many of them naturalized — decades before they were charged with any of the crimes. That makes Miller’s use of this list to defend Trump’s executive order quite questionable.

There are other methodological problems with the list Miller references that WaPo doesn’t consider. For example, it includes people, like Ahmed Warsame, who got extradited or rendered to the US, so it’s not like their presence in the US can be attributed to visa screening (though there is some concern that the Muslim ban will make it more difficult to extradite and coerce cooperation from similarly situated defendants, thus making it harder to round up threats overseas).

Just as strikingly, the list affirmatively undermines the claim that these seven countries are all a threat. Of the CIS’ list of 72 individuals, just four are from Iran, two from Libya, just one from Sudan. And the claims implicating these people mostly fall apart when you look closer. Most of them arise from the efforts in the early 2000s to prosecute Muslim charities, and several of those cases eventually fell apart, rather spectacularly in a case associated with Al-Haramain. Plus, in at least two cases, these defendants got caught in the middle of America’s changing views on which terrorists it criminalizes and which it partners with.

Sudan

Abdel Azim El-Siddig: CIS claims that El-Siddig was found guilty of conspiracy to fail to register as a foreign agent and was sentenced to 58 months. That’s an error. El-Siddig plead just to conspiracy to violate FARA. He was sentenced to probation and has served that sentence. El-Siddig was largely charged in an effort to coerce his cooperation in prosecuting former Congressman Mark Deli Siljander, who pursued the interests of the Islamic American Relief Agency. Ultimately, even Siljander was only sentenced to a year; it looks like this may have been one of the cases that fell apart based on crummy intelligence.

Libya

Ali Mohamed Bagegni: One of the Libyans listed is Ali Mohamed Bagegni, who was on the board of IARA and got wrapped up in the case against Siljander. He served 6 months of probation.

Emadeddin Muntasser: Muntasser was convicted in another charity case — for lying to get tax exempt status for Care International and also for lying about having met Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has gone on and off America’s list of favored terrorists for twenty years now. Judge Dennis Saylor overturned the tax charge, finding it was not supported by the facts presented. The First Circuit reinstated guilty verdicts on tax charges, but Saylor just sentenced him to time served.

Iran

Siavosh Henareh: As WaPo notes, one of the Iranians listed is Siavosh Henareh. He was busted for conspiracy to import heroin that others allegedly were going to use to raise money for Hezbollah. But he was not charged with any ties to terrorism.

Pete Seda (Pirouz Sedaghaty): Seda’s case is a particularly problematic charity case, as we know the government illegally spied on him under Stellar Wind (though they probably did with all the other charity defendants as well). Ultimately, though, the charge that he tried to funnel money to Chechen fighters was overturned by the 9th Circuit, and he pled guilty to tax fraud. The case fell apart in part because the government had to pay off witnesses to implicate him and withheld other information. See this post for more details about how HSBC got off for a far bigger scale of crime associated with this case.

Zeinab Taleb-Jedi: Taleb-Jedi was prosecuted in 2006 for material support for MEK, the anti-Iranian group that a good chunk of DC has also materially supported, including Howard Dean, Elaine Chao, John Bolton, Fran Townsend, and Newt Gingrich, a group which had been a big source of often flimsy intelligence on Iran.  She stalled out that prosecution and in 2009 ultimately pled guilty to violating an executive order. Shewas sentenced to time served.

Manssor Arbabsiar: I’ve written about the Scary Iran Plot extensively (for example here, here, here, here). It is the one case where someone really was convicted of plotting an attack in the United States — in this case, to assassinate then Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir. Arbabsiar plead guilty to the charges, so there’s no doubt he did act on his Revolutionary Guard cousin’s orders to find someone to kill the Saudi Ambassador. But most of the details about the plot — Arbabsiar’s likely prior role as an informant and his efforts to resume that role, DEA’s great craft in making the plot as scary as possible (even targeting a restaurant favored by Senators), the circumstances surrounding Arbabsiar’s interrogation and mental competence, and even hints that the cousin may have been a mole for another government — raise questions about how serious Iran was about actually conducting this attack.

In short, just one of these cases can really be construed as an attempted attack, and that was pretty remarkable for the fiction and other handiwork the DEA went into in making it a spectacular bust.

Don’t get me wrong. The overall list is bullshit too. If you look at CIS’ numbers, you see that most represented community, Somalia, also happens to be the one that has for years partnered closely with the FBI to alert them to concerns about radicalization. That basically means Trump’s Muslim ban punishes that community for affirmatively working to prevent terrorism.

But CIS’ efforts to pretend that Iran, Sudan, and Libya make sense here fall even further flat.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Trump’s War on Some Terror Directed Only at White European Christians

Yesterday, Trump told a bunch of military service members that the press doesn’t cover terrorist attacks.

We’re up against an enemy that celebrates death and totally worships destruction — you’ve seen that. ISIS is on a campaign of genocide, committing atrocities across the world. Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland as they did on 9/11; as they did from Boston to Orlando, to San Bernardino. And all across Europe, you’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported and, in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that.

When the press called him on that claim, the White House released a batshit crazy list of 78 attacks; the Guardian offers an excellent compilation and contextualization here. (Update: CNN matches the list to how many stories reported out each attack.)

As many have observed, there are a slew of problems with the list. There are numerous spelling errors, including a page where the attackers were labeled “ATTAKERS,” other spelling errors including “San Bernadino,” and a remarkable scope. The list appears to include just those attributed to or inspired by ISIL, leaving out even the Charlie Hebdo attack while listing associated Paris attacks. It leaves out attacks in Sub-Saharan Africa; as Micah Zenko noted on Twitter, those make up the vast majority of mass casualty attacks. The list also leaves out other attacks — even those rare white supremacist attacks charged as terrorism — that don’t involve Muslims (here’s a list of those attacks). Which of course means it leaves out the attack on a mosque that self-described Trump supporter Alexandre Bissonnette carried out in Quebec last week, leaving 6 dead and 19 wounded.

The list also sometimes, though not always, describes perpetrators as “US persons” rather than by name. That may suggest it is based off a real list put together by a foreign intelligence agency, which would have to minimize the names of US persons. If so, that would explain why domestic terror attacks aren’t included, as FBI does, inconsistently, include those in its list of terror attacks. (See my analysis of a 2012 FBI list used as a prop by Dianne Feinstein here.)

Of course, the list also doesn’t include random gun deaths, the casualties of which dwarf the casualties of terror attacks.

In short, the list is a shit show. And rather than proving a point (at least to anyone outside of his followers), Trump instead got a lot of media genuinely pissed that he had claimed they ignored stories they covered for months, like San Bernardino or Paris. He even got a few in the media to report on that Quebec terrorist attack, which has received spotty attention amid all the Trump craziness.

Trump claimed the media isn’t making us fearful enough, and instead he performed a caricature of obsession about terror against white European Christians.

For years, the US has obsessed about Islamic terrorism, dedicating all our resources towards killing that off, while doing nothing about the more pressing threats to the US. Trump will only make that worse — as his limitation of Countering Violent Extremism programs to Islamic terrorism already has (a move that JM Berger criticized here).

But that was built on bipartisan insider consensus that that was the right standard. Trump, because he is so obviously wrong, may finally change that.

Or, he may wield the power of the state against Muslims as scapegoats for all his own failures.

That’s the choice before us.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Folks Who Picked the Stupid Seven Banned Countries Say the Muslim Ban Is Stupid

Buried in a declaration written by a bunch of former national security officials in the Washington v Trump suit opposing Trump’s Muslim ban is this passage:

Because various threat streams are constantly mutating, as government officials, we sought continually to improve that vetting, as was done in response to particular threats identified by U.S. intelligence in 2011 and 2015. Placing additional restrictions on individuals from certain countries in the visa waiver program –as has been done on occasion in the past – merely allows for more individualized vettings before individuals with particular passports are permitted to travel to the United States.

These officials, which include (among others) former Deputy CIA Director Avril Haines, former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Homeland Security Czar Lisa Monaco, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice argue that the practice is to tweak immigration rules based on changing threat patterns rather than impose broad bans not driven by necessity and logic. They argue that additional restrictions imposed on certain immigrants in 2015 were “in response to particular threats identified by U.S. intelligence.”

That’s really interesting because the 2015 change they reference is the basis of the Trump list that excludes countries that are real threats and includes others (especially Iran) that are not. Here’s how CNN describes the genesis of the seven countries covered by Trump’s ban.

In December 2015, President Obama signed into law a measure placing limited restrictions on certain travelers who had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011. Two months later, the Obama administration added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list, in what it called an effort to address “the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters.

The restrictions specifically limited what is known as visa-waiver travel by those who had visited one of the seven countries within the specified time period. People who previously could have entered the United States without a visa were instead required to apply for one if they had traveled to one of the seven countries.

Under the law, dual citizens of visa-waiver countries and Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria could no longer travel to the U.S. without a visa. Dual citizens of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen could, however, still use the visa-waiver program if they hadn’t traveled to any of the seven countries after March 2011.

Now, Haines, Kerry, Monaco, and Rice might be excused for opposing Trump’s ban on seven poorly picked countries that themselves had a hand in picking. After all, the changes derived from bills presented by Republicans, Candace Miller and Ron Johnson, which got passed as part of the Omnibus in 2015. Obama can’t be expected to veto the entire spending bill because some Republicans wanted to make life harder on some immigrants.

Except that, as far as I understand, the Obama Administration extended the restrictions from the original law, which pertained only to people from or who had traveled to Syria and Iraq, to Iran and Sudan. And then (as CNN notes) they extended it again to three other countries, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen (notably, all countries we destabilized).

So it’s partly the fault of Haines, Kerry, Monaco, and Rice that Iran, which hasn’t targeted the US in real terrorism for decades, is on the list. It’s partly the fault of Haines, Kerry, Monaco, and Rice that countries with actual ties to terrorists who have attacked inside the US — most notably Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — are not on the list.

I have no doubt that the argument presented in the declaration (which was also signed by a bunch of people who weren’t part of Obama’s second term national security team) is right: Trump’s Muslim ban is badly conceived and makes us less safe. But one reason they likely know that is because their own visa restrictions were badly conceived and did little to make us more safe.

Trump is pursuing a lot of stupid policies. But we should remain honest that they largely build on stupid policies of those who came before.

Update: Corrected that this is not an amicus, but a declaration submitted with state opposition.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.