A Refugee Hub, Why no Terror Attacks in Greece?


The Greek Gateway to Jihad

June 16, 2016

CTC: Abstract: Greece has become a crossroads for extremists trying to reach Syria and Iraq from Europe and for fighters returning home. The fact that several members of the Paris and Brussels attack cell transited through the Greek island of Leros illustrates the Islamic State’s ability to exploit refugee flows in order to move fighters into Europe. Although Greece’s migrant crisis has eased recently, a persistent economic crisis has left the Greek government with limited resources and capability for border security and counterterrorism efforts. At a time of growing radicalization and Islamist extremist activity within Greece’s own borders, this has led to concern that the Islamic State may take advantage by launching attacks against Western or Russian tourists or interests on Greek soil. 

On October 3, 2015, a boat originating from nearby Turkey carrying almost 200 refugees landed on the Greek Cycladic island of Leros.[1] Among them were two Iraqi Islamic State recruits carrying Syrian passports with fake names.[2] They were among the 400-500 migrants arriving on the island by sea every day last fall[3] and among about one million irregular migrants[4] who have come to Europe via the Aegean sea, many on rickety boats that trawl the Turkish coast seeking out the desperate.[a] Local officials processed the duo as refugees, and then the two men booked themselves on a ferry to Athens before transiting through the Balkans on a route trodden by tens of thousands of other refugees. Just over one month later they blew themselves up at the French national soccer stadium in the worst terrorist attack in France’s modern history.

They were not the only suspected terrorists who landed in Leros that day. Two others posing as refugees in the very same boat were arrested in Austria in the wake of the Paris attacks under suspicion of having ties to the plotters.[5] In addition, Leros was the arrival point in September for Swedish Islamic State operative Osama Krayem who was traveling with an alleged co-conspirator in the Paris and Brussels terror cell.[6] There were also eyewitness sightings of Paris attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud in Leros in the late summer. He subsequently claimed to have exploited refugee flows to enter Europe,[7] but it is not clear if Leros was his entry point.[8]

The Islamic State’s successful infiltration of operatives into Europe through Greece cemented concerns that the country had become the soft underbelly of Europe. An unannounced, on-site evaluation by E.U. inspectors of six Greek sea and land border sites between November 10 and November 13, 2015, (ironically, the day of the Paris attacks) revealed “serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control by Greece, in particular due to the lack of appropriate identification and registration of irregular migrants at the islands, of sufficient staff, and of sufficient equipment for verifying identity documents.”[9][b]

After reaching a crisis point, the migrant pressures on Greece eased dramatically[c] after March 2016 due to an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to deport irregular migrants back to Turkey[10] and the move by several countries in the Balkans along the so-called northern refugee corridor to restrict severely the admission of refugees trying to transit northward.[11] But there is concern that the numbers coming through Greece may surge again if the deal with Turkey collapses.

Transit Route 
An early example of a terrorist crossing through Greece was Ibrahim Boudina, a French Islamic State operative who was detained on January 3, 2014, after Greek police pulled over a taxi in which he was traveling in the town of Orestiada, four miles from the Turkish border. Greek police discovered a USB drive with instructions for how to make homemade bombs “in the name of Allah,” but let him go because, just as with Fabien Clain, there was no warrant for his arrest, despite French intelligence services being aware of his travel to Syria. One month later French police arrested him near Cannes, thwarting his alleged plans to carry out a bomb attack with three soda cans filled with the explosive TATP.[12]

Another case was Fabien Clain, one of the alleged masterminds of the Paris attacks, who reportedly transited through Greece on his way to Syria in the early months of 2015. Clain drove his family from the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa to the Turkish border in the northeast of the country, making stops in both Thessaloniki and Kavala. French authorities tipped off their Greek counterparts of his presence in the country, but there was no warrant for his arrest so he was not detained.[13][d]

A significant number have transited from Balkan countries such as Kosovo and Albania and then used Greece as a gateway to jihad.[e] A case in point was Mirsad Bektasevic, a Bosnian-Swede who was arrested along with another man in Evros, Greece, on January 28, 2016.[14] Bektasevic was previously implicated in a plot to attack the British Embassy in Sarajevo.[f] A file collected by Greek authorities showed that both suspects came to Athens via Sweden on January 22, 2016, for two days before continuing on their journey to exit European territory by the end January 2016.[15] Authorities were alerted of their arrival at Athens airport by a tipoff from a European intelligence service. From there, both men took a KTEL bus to Thessaloniki and arrived at Alexandroupolis on a second bus. The ‘green light’ for their arrest came when they booked a ticket for Tychero, a town near the Turkish border.[16]

Some have used Greece as a way station to transport weapons into Syria. In February 2016 Greek police arrested three alleged British jihadis of Kurdish descent in Evros in northeastern Greece who may have been seeking to cross into Turkey.[17] Police discovered a significant number of weapons in their possession and over 200,000 rounds of ammunition.[18]

In order to facilitate travel flows, militants have set up logistical, recruitment, and financial cells in Greece, and some members of Greece’s large immigrant community, particularly in Athens, have provided housing to the transiting jihadis and helped them evade security services.[19]

Islamic State operatives have used Greece to coordinate attack plots in Europe. The Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud communicated by a cell phone from an Athens apartment with several members of an Islamic State cell in Belgium, plotting a major gun and bomb attack. Plans for how to attack airports were reportedly discovered on a computer in his residence on Asteropolis Road in the heart of the capital.[20]The plot was thwarted in a gun battle in Verviers, Belgium, in January 2015. An Algerian associate of Abaaoud in Athens was extradited to Belgium and charged with being part of the conspiracy.[21]

The Threat to Greece 
Greece does not have as significant a problem with radicalization as some other European countries, which means the threat from homegrown Islamist terrorism is significantly lower than in France or the United Kingdom. Greece hosts a Muslim minority, which is a vestige of the Ottoman Empire, but also an expanding Islamic population from Arab countries and South Asia who have arrived in significant numbers as illegal immigrants. Estimates of the centuries-old[g] Muslim minority[h]—which is mostly located in western Thrace, a region bordering Bulgaria and Turkey—range from 98,000 to 140,000 (between 0.9 percent and 1.2 percent of Greece’s 11 million population but as much as a quarter of the population of western Thrace). Estimates for immigrant Muslim community numbers between 200,000 and 300,000 (between 1.9 percent and 2.7 percent) with the majority living in the Athens region. Most Albanian immigrants to Greece are Muslims, though most are secular-leaning.[22] While there are low rates of radicalization among the very longstanding Muslim minority in western Thrace, most of whom are secular-leaning,[i] there is concern about radicalization among immigrant communities.

One concern is the lack of registered mosques in areas where there are large immigrant Muslim populations like Athens, creating a potential informational black hole for authorities. Data from the Muslim Association of Greece shows that there are currently three officially registered mosques in Athens and about 20-25 unofficial mosques serving the city’s estimated 130,000-200,000 Muslims.[23]The presence of informal, unregistered mosques has complicated the task of law enforcement officials in investigating suspected foreign fighter cases.[24]

Some Greek Muslims have tried to travel to Syria via Komotini, a western Thrace town near the border with Bulgaria and Turkey. One example was a 40-year-old seller of ecclesiastical paraphernalia in Komotini[25] who, according to police sources, operated a pro-jihadist Facebook profile.[26]

In another example of extremist activity within Greece, an investigation into Rawti Shax, an Islamic State linked-organization headed by an Iraqi Kurdish cleric based in Norway, revealed the group was trying to recruit from Greece. In November 2015 European authorities arrested 15 people in four European countries, breaking up what officials called a terrorist network that sought to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and recruit militants to fight in Iraq and Syria.[27] According to Greek police, an Algerian national and a Pakistani who were residents of Norway and involved in the network spent time in Greece for recruitment purposes.[28] An analysis of internet chatroom activity also indicated the group had supporters in Greece.[29]

With thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in Greece after Balkan countries took measures to shut off transit routes for irregular migrants in March, there is concern refugee camps could become a breeding ground for extremism.[30] Before it was shut down last month, the Idomeni camp in northern Greece had swelled to over 10,000 migrants. Greek police have since moved the refugees to other facilities in Greece.[31]

There is concern that because of the jihadist transit through the country, the Islamic State may try to set up sleeper cells in Greece and that these cells might take advantage of limited Greek counterterrorism capabilities to launch attacks against Western or Russian visitors or interests inside the country. As many as 27.5 million tourists are expected to visit Greece in 2016, almost triple the country’s population.[32] As a member of NATO Greece itself is also in the Islamic State’s crosshairs, even if the country is not likely a priority target. In the wake of the Paris attacks the Islamic State released a video threatening reprisals in 60 countries that it considered allied against it, including Greece.[33]

Limited Counterterrorism Capabilities 
The rise of Islamist radicalization and the transit of European foreign fighters through Greece has been in danger of overwhelming security services such as the Greek National Security Agency (EYP), which was established to confront left-wing terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Organization 17 November. Most of its staff comes from various bodies such as the police (drug enforcement), coast guard, and military intelligence.[34] Greek ministers have criticized EYP’s leadership,[j] and a lack of funding and training has made it extremely reliant on help from other Western intelligence services.[35] Greek police also lack capabilities to track jihadis. When Belgian authorities requested Greek authorities arrest Abaaoud in Athens in early 2015, Belgian officials accused Greek police of failing to move quickly enough.[36]

There have been some positive developments, including a recent, dramatic reduction in the number of migrants entering Greece, and E.U. officials have proposed creating a European border security force and coast guard to help Greece.[37] In addition, the newly established European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) has stationed officers on the islands of Chios, Samos, Lesvos, and Leros where refugee registration centers are in operation, as well as in Piraeus Port, bolstering Greece’s current border-security capabilities. EMSC agents are checking suspicious individuals against Europol’s databases in the Netherlands.[38]

Although the migrant crisis has eased, a sustained economic crisis has left the Greek government with limited resources and capacity for border security and counterterrorism efforts at a time of growing radicalization and militant activity within Greece’s own borders. If thousands of migrant seekers remained trapped in military camps in Greece for a lengthy period there is a possibility some will be radicalized.[39] Rising anti-immigrant activism by militants from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party risks adding fuel to the fire.

There is concern that the Islamic State may take advantage by launching attacks against Western or Russian interests on Greek soil. Moreover, there is a sense of complacency that Greece will not be struck because it is not playing any role in the coalition against the Islamic State, which is partly due to its financial restraints but also due to the fact that the governing Syriza party hails from an anti-war rhetoric movement.[40] It may only be an attack in Greece itself that leads to a wake-up call.

Ioannis Mantzikos is a security analyst based in Athens, Greece. He is a Ph.D. candidate at the Free State University in South Africa and a senior analyst at the Research Institute for European and American Studies. His recent book with Dr. Denise Baken is entitled The Transformation of Al-Qaeda in the Middle East and North Africa. Follow @YMantzikos

Substantive Notes
[a] Since the start of 2014, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) calculates that almost 1.4 million migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean and entered Europe via one of five E.U. coastal borders: Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, and Malta. Through March 16 of this year, IOM counted over 997,000 seaborne arrivals to Greece alone. According to the Greek authorities, 47 percent of newly arrived migrants are from Syria, 27 percent from Afghanistan, 17 percent from Iraq, and 3 percent each from Iran and Pakistan. See “Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016 Approach 150,000; Deaths Reach 455,” IOM, March 11, 2016.

[b] E.U. Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos stated in January, “we know that in the meantime Greece has started undertaking efforts towards rectifying and complying with the Schengen rules. Substantial improvements are needed to ensure the proper reception, registration, relocation or return of migrants in order to bring Schengen functioning back to normal, without internal border controls. This is our ultimate common goal.” “Commission discusses draft Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece,” European Commission Press Release, Brussels, January 27, 2016.

[c] According to the IOM, 3,360 migrants and refugees landed on the Greek islands in April 2016 as compared to 26,971 the previous month—an 88 percent drop. The figures for May were lower still with just 1,465 migrants and refugees arriving on Greek shores by sea, fewer than were arriving daily in January and February. See “‘Dramatic’ drop in migrant arrivals to Greece: officials,” Deutsche Welle, May 13, 2016; “IOM: Noted drop of maritime migrants reaching Greece,” Xinhua, June 4, 2016.

[d] Fabien Clain had previously served jail time for recruiting for al-Qa`ida in Iraq. As well as claiming the Paris attacks on behalf of the Islamic State, he was also suspected of encouraging a plot by a Parisian student to attack a church in the city, which was thwarted in April 2015. Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, “Immense challenges remain despite arrests of terror suspects,” CNN, April 8, 2016.

[e] The Islamic State has produced several propaganda videos featuring Kosovars appealing to their countrymen to join them, and the Kosovo authorities believe some 200 individuals have left to wage jihad in Iraq and Syria. See Tim Lister and Ioannis Mantzikos, “Add this to Greece’s list of problems: It’s an emerging hub for terrorists,” CNN, January 26, 2015.

[f] On October 19, 2005, Bektasevic had been arrested after a police raid on his aunt’s home in Sarajevo, Bosnia. In the house, police had found a belt with explosives, 18 kilograms of explosives, and a videotape with directions as to how to create a makeshift bomb. See Rodolfo Toe, “Sarajevo Embassy Attack Plotter Held in Greece,” Balkan Insight, February 2, 2016, and Maja Zuvela, “Three jailed in Bosnia for planning suicide attack,” Reuters, January 10, 2007.

[g] The first Muslims settled in this region after arriving from Anatolia in 1363 during an attempted conquest of Europe by the Ottoman Turks. In 1923 Greece and Turkey agreed to a mass exchange of populations and consequently Greeks resettled from Asia Minor to mainland Greece and vice versa. The Muslim minority in Thrace is mirrored by a Greek-Orthodox minority in Istanbul. See, for example, Ioannis Michaletos, “Islam in Greece: Country Outlook,” Radical Islam Monitor in Southeast Europe, August 5, 2011.

[h] It is estimated that 45 percent of Muslims in Western Thrace are of Turkish descent, 40 percent of Slavic descent, and 15 percent of “Pomak” descent. Ioannis Michaletos, “Islam in Greece: Country Outlook,” Radical Islam Monitor in Southeast Europe, August 5, 2011.

[i] Muslim preachers in the area of Komotini in the Evros region of northern Greece have repeatedly denounced radical extremism and have been supportive of all counterterrorism measures. “Thraki Muftis denounce ISIS,” To Vima, October 1, 2014.

[j] Former Minister of Interior Yiannis Panousis said he was aware that jihadis were traveling via Greece and questioned EYP’s ability. Minister of Defence Panos Kammenos called for EYP Head Mr. Yiannis Roubatis to resign. See Constantinos Zoulas and Yiannis Souliotis, Panousis claims SYRIZA officials told him to free detained suspects, Kathimerini, November 15, 2015; “Kammenos: Roubatis should have resigned,” Huffington Post Greece, November 22, 2015.

[1] Christopher Harress, “Paris Shootings 2015: Greek Officials Claim Bataclan Attack Terrorist Passed Through Country In October,” International Business Times, November 14, 2015.

[2] Paul Cruickshank, “The inside story of the Paris and Brussels attacks,” CNN, March 30, 2016.

[3] “Attaque du Stade de France: le terroriste kamikaze passé par la Grèce n’était pas seul, “ France TV-Info, November 20, 2015.

[4] “Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external borders by Greece,” General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, February 18, 2016; “Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016 Approach 150,000; Deaths Reach 455,” International Organization for Migration, March 11, 2016.

[5] Éric Pelletier and Thibault Raisse, “Attentats de Paris: révélations sur l’autre commando de Daech,” Le Parisien, February 13, 2016.

[6] Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, “Immense challenges remain despite arrests of terror suspects,” CNN, April 8, 2016.

[7] “Document RMC: Le témoignage de Sonia, celle qui a dénoncé Abaaoud,” BFMTV, February 4, 2016.

[8] Paul Cruickshank, “Paris ringleader came through Greek island Leros,” CNN, December 17, 2015.

[9] “Council Implementing Decision,” p. 4.

[10] “European Commission – Fact Sheet European Agenda on Migration: Securing Europe’s External Borders,” December 15, 2015.

[11] Patrick Kingsley, “Balkan countries shut borders as attention turns to new refugee routes,” Guardian, March 9, 2015.

[12] Paul Cruickshank, “Raid on ISIS suspect in the French Riviera,” CNN, August 28, 2014; Rukmini Callimachi, “How ISIS Built the Machinery of Terror Under Europe’s Gaze,” New York Times, March 29, 2016.

[13] Yiannis Souliotis, “Fabien Clain’s Greek Journey,” Kathimerini, April 3, 2016.

[14] “Suspected jihadist terrorists arrested in Alexandroupoli,” To Vima Online, February 1, 2016.

[15] Panagiotis Spyropoulos, “What has been found in Jihadists cellphones,” The TOC, February 1, 2016.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Lia Nesfige, “Evros: getaway of jihadists and arms smugglers,” Ta Nea online, February 15, 2016.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “120 Kosovar jihadists returned from Syria,” Tribune, November 30, 2015; Arianna Ferentinou, “Jihadists giving headaches to Greeks too,” Hurriyet Daily News, October 12, 2014.

[20] Éric Pelletier and Stéphane Sellami, “Attentats de Bruxelles : cinq questions sur un carnage,” Le Parisien, March 23, 2016.

[21] Paul Cruickshank, “Inside the ISIS plot to attack the heart of Europe,” CNN, February 13, 2015.

[22] Ioannis Michaletos, “Islam in Greece: Country Outlook,” Radical Islam Monitor in Southeast Europe, August 5, 2011.

[23] “Unlicensed mosques in spotlight after Paris attacks,” Kathimerini, November 26, 2015; Tasos Telloglou, “Three mosques registered in Athens,” Kathimerini, November 22, 2015.

[24] Telloglou.

[25] “Turkey extradites Greek Muslim with suspected jihadi ties,” Kathimerini, November 19, 2015.

[26] Alexandros Kalafatis, “Who is the 40 year old man arrested for alleged ties with ISIS?” Huffington Post Greece, November 20, 2015; “Turkey extradites Greek Muslim with suspected jihadi ties,” Kathimerini, November 19, 2015.

[27] Gaia Pianigiani, “Coordinated European Raids Target Ring Supporting Terrorist Groups,” New York Times, November 12, 2015.

[28] Vasilis Labropoulos, “Terrorist Recruitment network in Greece,” To Vima, April 10, 2016.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Migrant Crisis: Macedonia Shuts Balkan Route,” BBC, March 9, 2016.

[31] Costas Kantouris, “Greek police evacuate hundreds from Idomeni refugee camp,” Associated Press, May 24, 2016.

[32] For example, see Oliver Guitta, “Greece: ISIS’s Gateway to Europe?” National Interest, December 15, 2015; Helena Smith, “Miracle in Athens as Greek tourism numbers keep growing,” Observer, May 28, 2016.

[33] Philip Chrysopoulos, “ISIS Threatens 60 Countries Including Greece,” Greek Reporter, November 25, 2015.

[34] John M. Nomikos, “Does Greece needs a department of Homeland Security?” Research Institute of European and American Studies, November 1, 2013.

[35] “Kammenos: Roubatis should have resigned.”

[36] Cruickshank, “Inside the ISIS plot to attack the heart of Europe.”

[37] “European Commission – Fact Sheet.”

[38] Philip Chrysopoulos, “Europol Undercover Agents at Greek Hotspots to Locate Jihadists, Traffickers,” Greek Reporter, April 11, 2016.

[39] Ioannis Michaletos, “Current Greek Counter-Terrorism Threat Assessment: Terrorism, Radicalization and Migration,” BalkanAnalysis.com, May 3, 2016.

[40] Sarantis Michalopoulos, “Greece will abstain from military action against ISIS,” Euractiv, November 16, 2015.

How Terrorists use Encryption


How Terrorists Use Encryption

June 16, 2016

CTC: Abstract: As powerful encryption increasingly becomes embedded in electronic devices and online messaging apps, Islamist terrorists are exploiting the technology to communicate securely and store information. Legislative efforts to help law enforcement agencies wrestle with the phenomenon of “going dark” will never lead to a return to the status quo ante, however. With the code underlying end-to-end encryption now widely available, unbreakable encryption is here to stay. However, the picture is not wholly bleak. While end-to-end encryption itself often cannot be broken, intelligence agencies have been able to hack the software on the ends and take advantage of users’ mistakes.

Counterterrorism officials have grown increasingly concerned about terrorist groups using encryption in order to communicate securely. As encryption increasingly becomes a part of electronic devices and online messaging apps, a range of criminal actors including Islamist terrorists are exploiting the technology to communicate and store information, thus avoiding detection and incrimination, a phenomenon law enforcement officials refer to as “going dark.”

Despite a vociferous public debate on both sides of the Atlantic that has pitted government agencies against tech companies, civil liberties advocates, and even senior figures in the national security establishment who have argued that creation of “backdoors”[1] for law enforcement agencies to retrieve communications would do more harm than good, there remains widespread confusion about how encryption actually works.[a]

Technologists have long understood that regulatory measures stand little chance of rolling back the tide. Besides software being written in other countries (and beyond local laws), what has not been fully understood in the public debate is that the “source code” itself behind end-to-end encryption is now widely available online, which means that short of shutting down the internet, there is nothing that can be done to stop individuals, including terrorists, from creating and customizing their own encryption software.

The first part of this article provides a primer on the various forms of encryption, including end-to-end encryption, full device encryption, anonymization, and various secure communication (operational security or opsec) methods that are used on top of or instead of encryption. Part two then looks at some examples of how terrorist actors are using these methods.

Part 1: Encryption 101 

End-to-End Encryption
A cell phone already uses encryption to talk to the nearest cell tower. This is because hackers could otherwise eavesdrop on radio waves to listen in on phone calls. However, after the cell tower, phone calls are not encrypted as they traverse copper wires and fiber optic cables. It is considered too hard for nefarious actors to dig up these cables and tap into them.

In a similar manner, older chat apps only encrypted messages as far as the servers, using what is known as SSL.[b] That was to defeat hackers who would be able to eavesdrop on internet traffic to the servers going over the Wi-Fi at public places. But once the messages reached the servers, they were stored in an unencrypted format because at that point they were considered “safe” from hackers. Law enforcement could still obtain the messages with a court order.

Newer chat apps, instead of encrypting the messages only as far as the server, encrypt the message all the way to the other end, to the recipient’s phone. Only the recipients, with a private key, are able to decrypt the message. Service providers can still provide the “metadata” to police (who sent messages to whom), but they no longer have access to the content of the messages.

The online messaging app Telegram was one of the earliest systems to support end-to-end encryption, and terrorists groups such as the Islamic State took advantage.[2] These days, the feature has been added to most messaging apps, such as Signal, Wickr, and even Apple’s own iMessage. Recently, Facebook’s WhatsApp[3] and Google[4] announced they will be supporting Signal’s end-to-end encryption protocol.

On personal computers, the software known as PGP,[c] first created in the mid-1990s, reigns supreme for end-to-end encryption. It converts a message (or even entire files) into encrypted text that can be copy/pasted anywhere, such as email messages, Facebook posts, or forum posts. There is no difference between “military grade encryption” and the “consumer encryption” that is seen in PGP. That means individuals can post these encrypted messages publicly and even the NSA is unable to access them. There is a misconception that intelligence agencies like the NSA are able to crack any encryption. This is not true. Most encryption that is done correctly cannot be overcome unless the user makes a mistake.

Such end-to-end encryption relies upon something called public-key cryptography. Two mathematically related keys are created, such that a message encrypted by one key can only be decrypted by the other. This allows one key to be made public so that one’s interlocutor can use it to encrypt messages that the intended recipient can decrypt through the private-key.[d] Al-Qa`ida’s Inspire magazine, for example, publishes its public-key[5] so that anyone using PGP can use it to encrypt a message that only the publishers of the magazine can read.

Full Device Encryption
If an individual loses his iPhone, for example, his data should be safe from criminals.[e] Only governments are likely to have the resources to crack the phone by finding some strange vulnerability. The FBI reportedly paid a private contractor close to $1 million to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook.[6]

The reason an iPhone is secure from criminals is because of full device encryption, also full disk encryption. Not only is all of the data encrypted, it is done in a way that is combined or entangled[7] with the hardware. Thus, the police cannot clone the encrypted data, then crack it offline using supercomputers to “brute-force” guess all possible combinations of the passcode. Instead, they effectively have to ask the phone to decrypt itself, which it will do but slowly, defeating cracking.[f]

Android phones work in much the same manner. However, most manufacturers put less effort into securing their phones than Apple. Exceptions are companies like Blackphone, which explicitly took extra care to secure their devices.

Full disk encryption is also a feature of personal computers. Microsoft Windows comes with BitLocker, Macintosh comes with FileVault, and Linux comes with LUKS. The well-known disk encryption software TrueCrypt works with all three operating systems as does a variation of PGP called PGPdisk. Some computers come with a chip called a TPM[g] that can protect the password from cracking, but most owners do not use a TPM. This means that unless they use long/complex passwords, adversaries will be able to crack their passwords.

CIA Brennan’s Chilling Statements in Testimony

Update, Jo Cox died of her injuries from the terror attack. See below.

NYPost: CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on Thursday that the Islamic State remains “formidable” and “resilient,” is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West and will rely more on guerrilla-style tactics to compensate for its territorial losses in the Middle East.

Giving the Senate intelligence committee an update on the threat from extremists, Brennan said IS has been working to build an apparatus to direct and inspire attacks against its foreign enemies, as in the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels — ones the CIA believes were directed by IS leaders.

“ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West,” Brennan said, using another acronym for the group. He said IS probably is working to smuggle them into countries, perhaps among refugee flows or through legitimate means of travel.

Brennan also noted the group’s call for followers to conduct so-called lone-wolf attacks in their home countries. He called the attack in Orlando a “heinous act of wanton violence” and an “assault on the values of openness and tolerance” that define the United States as a nation.

Brennan said the CIA is sharing intelligence with the FBI to help identify potential lone-wolf attackers, but the CIA’s responsibility is to gather information about operations overseas.

More Islamic State fighters worldwide than al Qaeda at its height: CIA director

Reuters: The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, said on Thursday there were tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters around the world, more than al Qaeda at its height.

He also told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the agency was concerned about the growth of Libya as a base of operations for Islamic State militants, who had 5,000-8,000 fighters there, although the group’s fighters in Iraq and Syria had dropped to 18,000 to 22,000 from 19,000 to 25,000.

“I am concerned about the growth of Libya as another area that could serve as the basis for ISIL to carry out attacks inside of Europe… that is very concerning,” Brennan said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

Questioned about the broader crisis, Brennan told lawmakers he believed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been strengthened with Russia’s support.

“A year ago, (Assad) was on his back foot as the opposition forces were carrying out operations that were really degrading the Syrian military. He is in a stronger position than he was in June of last year” as a result of Russian support, Brennan said.

Just two days ago, Obama held a national security team meeting and then a presser stating the major gains being made against Islamic State. When the same day, MSNBC questions that statement from an on the ground in Turkey, we know we are being oversold on this national security threat.

***** Meanwhile, during this ridiculous gun control debate as a solution to terrorists, it seems that a knife and a gun was used in an attack on a member of the UK Parliament. Europe has exceptionally tight gun control laws.

Labour MP Jo Cox in critical condition after being shot and stabbed

Guardian: Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, is in a critical condition after being shot and stabbed multiple times in her West Yorkshire constituency.

Armed officers responded to the attack near a library in Birstall on Thursday afternoon, and a 52-year-old man was arrested in the area, police confirmed.

Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen.

They added that the Labour politician had suffered “serious injuries and is in a critical condition”. She has been taken by helicopter to Leeds general infirmary.

Police also confirmed a man in his late 40s to early 50s nearby suffered slight injuries in the incident.

Witnesses said the attack was launched after the MP became involved in an altercation involving two men near her weekly advice surgery. A Labour source confirmed Cox was shot and stabbed after she had concluded the drop-in session for constituents at around 1pm.

The scene pictures in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

The shopkeeper in a greengrocer opposite Birstall Library, Golden D’Licious, told the Guardian that he believed the attacker had been waiting for the MP outside the library.

“I was inside the shop and all I heard was a scream and then the gunshot,” he said, without giving his name. “I went out and everyone was dispersing. I couldn’t see because it happened behind a car.”

But witness Hithem Ben Abdallah, 56, who was in the cafe next door to the library shortly after 1pm, said he the MP involved in an altercation between two arguing men.

He told PA a man in a baseball cap “suddenly pulled a gun from his bag” and after a brief scuffle with another man the MP became involved.

He added: “He was fighting with her and wrestling with her and then the gun went off twice and then she fell between two cars and I came and saw her bleeding on the floor.”


Police close to the scene in Birstall, Yorkshire.

Belgium Warnings of Imminent Terror Attacks


By AFP Belgium, France face ‘imminent’ terror attacks — report

A Belgian soldier patrols the shopping centre City2 in central Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday (Reuters photo)

JordanTimes: BRUSSELS — A fresh wave of Daesh terror group’s militants has left Syria and could commit attacks imminently in France and Belgium, Belgian police have been warned, according to media reports on Wednesday.

“Fighters traveling without passports left Syria about a week and a half  ago in order to reach Europe by boat via Turkey and Greece,” a memo sent to police and security services across Belgium said, according to La Derniere Heure newspaper.

The militants were traveling armed and plan to carry out attacks in groups of two the memo is reported to have said.

Their action is imminent,” the memo added, without giving the total of suspected attackers.

Belgium’s OCAM national crisis centre in a statement did not deny the report, but said the information needed to be looked at further.

The information reported by the media “is non-contextualised and, as such, has not made a direct impact on the current level of threat” in Belgium.

Belgium’s terror alert is currently at the second-highest level of three, which means a threat is possible and likely.

Belgium is still reeling from Daesh suicide bombings at Brussels airport and on the city’s metro on March 22 which killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more.

They came five months after militants, many of them from Brussels, carried out gun and bombing attacks in Paris on November 13, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds more.

France, which is hosting the Euro 2016 football championships, is on maximum alert after an assailant previously convicted for jihadism killed a police officer and his partner on Monday.

The attacker told police negotiators before being gunned down that he had sworn loyalty to Daesh three weeks earlier.

It was not immediately clear how seriously French and Belgian authorities were treating the threat. French authorities told local newspapers that such warnings are relatively common.

“According to the information received, these people could already in be in possession of the necessary weapons and their action could be imminent,” the alert said, according to the Belgian Dernière Heure newspaper.

The attackers were expected to split into two groups, one heading toward France and the other toward Belgium, and to conduct attacks in pairs, the alert said. It offered no details on the basis of the information.

Belgian counterterrorism police declined to comment. Belgium’s security threat coordination center has not raised its threat level, which is currently set at three out of four levels, with the fourth being the expectation of an imminent attack.

The group was planning to travel from Syria into Europe via boat from Turkey to Greece, without passports, according to the alert.

Possible Belgian targets include a Brussels shopping center, an American fast-food chain and a police station, the newspaper reported.

On Monday, an attacker claiming loyalty to the Islamic State killed a police captain and his partner, who worked at a police department outside Paris. The assailant was killed in a police raid.

Amid numerous public memorials for the slain couple, President François Hollande called for international unity to face a “long war” against terrorism.

This battle, he said in an address at the Elysee Palace, is “not just in a few countries but in the world. Everyone can be concerned.”

In an interview on France Inter radio, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls predicted the fight could take decades.

“Other innocent people will die,” Valls said. “It is very hard to say. People can accuse me — and I completely understand — of making the society even more fearful than it already is today with these events. But, unfortunately, this is the reality. It will take a generation.”

Officials added that it was unclear whether there was any link to the murder of a senior policeman and his partner on Monday by a man who pledged allegiance to IS.

For DHS, Terror Attacks are Really Just Violent Extremism


Press Release

June 15, 2016 — In December 2015, I announced the revision of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Terrorism Advisory System, or “NTAS,” to include an intermediate level NTAS “Bulletin.” We then issued a new NTAS Bulletin at the same time. The duration of the December Bulletin was six months, and expires tomorrow.

June 15, 2016

National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin

Date Issued:  Wednesday, June 15, 2016
View as PDF:  National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin – June 15, 2016 (pdf, 1 page, 876.65KB)


In December, we described a new phase in the global threat environment, which has implications on the homeland. This basic assessment has not changed. In this environment, we are particularly concerned about homegrown violent extremists who could strike with little or no notice. The tragic events of Orlando several days ago reinforce this. Accordingly, increased public vigilance and awareness continue to be of utmost importance. This bulletin has a five-month duration and will expire just before the holiday season. We will reassess the threats of terrorism at that time.


Issued:  June 15, 2016
Expires:  November 15, 2016


  • Since issuing the first Bulletin in December, our concerns that violent extremists could be inspired to conduct attacks inside the U.S. have not diminished.
  • Though we know of no intelligence that is both specific and credible at this time of a plot by terrorist organizations to attack the homeland, the reality is terrorist-inspired individuals have conducted, or attempted to conduct, attacks in the United States.
  • DHS is especially concerned that terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists may be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places.
  • As we saw in the attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, and, most recently, Orlando, terrorists will consider a diverse and wide selection of targets for attacks.
  • Terrorist use of the Internet to inspire individuals to violence or join their ranks remains a major source of concern.
  • In the current environment, DHS is also concerned about threats and violence directed at particular communities and individuals across the country, based on perceived religion, ethnicity, nationality or sexual orientation.

U.S. Government Counterterrorism Efforts

  • DHS and the FBI continue to provide guidance to state and local partners on increased security measures.  The public may observe an increased law enforcement and security presence across communities, in public places and at events in the months ahead. This may include additional restrictions and searches on bags, more K-9 teams, and the use of screening technologies.
  • The FBI is investigating potential terrorism-related activities associated with this broad threat throughout the United States.  Federal, state, and local authorities are coordinating numerous law enforcement actions and conducting community outreach to address this evolving threat.

Types of Advisories


Describes current developments or general trends regarding threats of terrorism.

Elevated Alert

Warns of a credible terrorism threat against the United States.

Imminent Alert

Warns of a credible, specific and impending terrorism threat against the United States.

How You Can Help

  • Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or public safety officials who are best positioned to respond and offer specific details on terroristic indicators.
  • Suspicious activity or information about a threat may also be reported to Fusion Centers and the FBI’s Field Offices – part of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative.
  • Learn how to recognize signs of pre-operational planning associated with terrorism or other criminal activity.

Be Prepared

  • Be prepared for increased security and plan ahead to anticipate delays and restricted/prohibited items.
  • In populated places, be responsible for your personal safety. Make a mental note of emergency exits and locations of the nearest security personnel. Keep cell phones in your pockets instead of bags or on tables so you don’t lose them during an incident. Carry emergency contact details and any special needs information with you at all times. For more visit Ready.

Stay Informed

  • The U.S. Government will provide additional information about any emerging threat as additional information is identified. The public is encouraged to listen to local law enforcement and public safety officials.
  • We urge Americans to continue to travel, attend public events, and freely associate with others but remain vigilant and aware of surroundings.
  • The Department of State issues international travel alerts and warnings.

If You See Something, Say Something™. Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or call 911.