News from North America, Thursday 30th May 2013

The Guardian: “Two threatening letters sent to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg contained traces of the deadly poison ricin, police said on Wednesday.

The anonymous letters were opened in New York on Friday at the city’s mail facility in Manhattan and in Washington on Sunday at an office used by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the nonprofit started by Bloomberg. Chief New York police spokesman Paul Browne said preliminary testing done on Wednesday indicated the presence of ricin in both letters.

The people who initially came into contact with the letters showed no symptoms of exposure to the poison, but three officers who later examined the New York letter experienced some minor symptoms that have since abated, police said.”

Washington Post: “President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process.

Comey, 52, was at the center of some of the most bruising debates over counterterrorism during the Bush administration and established a reputation as a fierce defender of the law and the integrity of the Justice Department regardless of the political pressures of the moment.”

LA Times: “Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has agreed to plead guilty to the killing of 16 Afghan civilians who were shot to death in their homes outside a U.S. Army outpost in a violent rampage his lawyers have said was brought on by stress fueled with alcohol and drugs.

Bales, 39, will enter the plea June 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state as part of an agreement in which the government will not seek the death penalty, according to his lawyer, John Henry Browne.

Washington Post: “A Chechen man who was fatally shot by an FBI agent last week during an interview about one of the Boston bombing suspects was unarmed, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

An air of mystery has surrounded the FBI shooting of Ibragim Todashev, 27, since it occurred in Todashev’s apartment early on the morning of May 22. The FBI said in a news release that day that Todashev, a former Boston resident who knew bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed during an interview with several law enforcement officers.”

CBS Local: “A known white supremacist gang member has been sentenced to 75 years to life in prison Wednesday under California’s Three Strikes law.

Charles Demar, a member of the Sacramento Skinhead gang, was convicted on two counts of producing, transporting and possessing methamphetamine for sale.”

BBC News: “Facebook has said it will review how it deals with ‘controversial, harmful and hateful’ content after admitting current measures are not effective.

The admission follows sustained pressure from campaign groups, advertisers and the media.

An open letter from several feminist groups urged Facebook to ban pages that they said promoted violence.

In a blog post, the social network said: ‘We need to do better – and we will.’”

Comment: Foreign Policy: ‘The FBI’s Wiretapping Plan is Great News for Criminals’ by Bruce Schneier. “The FBI wants a new law that will make it easier to wiretap the Internet. Although its claim is that the new law will only maintain the status quo, it’s really much worse than that. This law will result in less-secure Internet products and create a foreign industry in more-secure alternatives. It will impose costly burdens on affected companies. It will assist totalitarian governments in spying on their own citizens. And it won’t do much to hinder actual criminals and terrorists.”

Comment: CNN: ‘Anti-Muslim backlash in England, but not here’ by Dean Obeidallah. “Two different terror attacks by two different sets of Islamic extremists in two different democracies. But the difference in people’s responses is what’s key, and exemplifies why America truly is exceptional.

I’m referring to the bombing in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 15 and the attack on a British soldier on a London street on May 22.

After the Boston attack, which claimed the lives of three people and injured more than 250 others, a minor anti-Muslim backlash was reported. The most notable: A Bangladeshi man in New York City was allegedly beaten and a Muslim woman in Boston was struck in the shoulder and called a terrorist.

And sure the professional Islamophobes, who make their living spewing hate, came out to sell their rancid goods of division and distrust. However, thankfully, and unsurprisingly, Americans weren’t buying it.

But in England, the backlash against British Muslims has been alarming.”

Analysis: SPLC: ‘Intelligence Report’, issue 150.

‘A Better Way’ by Don Terry. “On May 19, 2012, as many as 18 self-described anti-racists stormed into a suburban Chicago family restaurant and attacked a group of white nationalists meeting for lunch with batons, baseball bats and chair legs. The bloody attack highlighted the long history of endemic violence between white supremacists and “anti-fascists” that also includes the 1998 murder of two anti-racist skinheads in a neo-Nazi plot.”

‘Battle Lines’ by Ryan Lenz. “In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., schoolhouse slaughter, more than 400 sheriffs are promising to ‘oppose and disallow’ any new federal gun control measures. Much of their brazen talk about taking the law into their own hands, even at the cost of their lives, has its roots in the radical and racist Posse Comitatus organization.”

‘The Aryan Accountant’ by Heidi Beirich. “For at least six years, a well-known and respected certified public accountant — a man whose firm has audited many of Idaho’s public schools and government bodies — has led a secret life as a neo-Nazi. Timothy Stephen Folke now says his activism was part of a bizarre research project, but his family has not accepted that claim.”

Research: Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism:Early detection of the lone wolf: advancement of counter-terrorism investigations with an absence or abundance of information and intelligence’ by Jason-Leigh Striegher. “Large-scale terrorist operations aside, lone-wolf terrorists have now become one of society’s greatest threats. This is because lone wolves are fundamentally and ideologically driven to undertake terrorist activities autonomously; they generally adhere to no hierarchal structure; and they meticulously plan and prepare such acts while maintaining virtual invisibility within the community. As a result of their independence, astute preparation, and adept anonymity, the threat of lone-wolf terrorism presents a range of issues that are problematic for LEIA in their attempt at identifying those with a manifest hatred that leads to extreme violence. LEIA are further disadvantaged by a number of operational obstacles, which include the navigation of complex investigations offering limited, or conversely, an abundance of information. It is essential to recognise, however, that the lone-wolf terrorist never truly operates without the influence and/or assistance of like-minded individuals or groups; and that this may be the key to their undoing. It is the position of this paper that religion is not the sole motivating factor behind individual acts of terror, and that gathering and deciphering of information in juxtaposition with detecting, identifying, and tracking radical individuals pertains to a singular and/or combination of differing motives—political, ideological, and/or religious.”

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