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Entries in Homeland Security (10)

Friday
Aug102012

‘Jane Doe’ Sought in Child Pornography Case

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking the public’s assistance to identify a woman, “Jane Doe,” who has been accused of molesting two young girls in a child pornography case.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents obtained images of the woman, who, along with an unidentified man, allegedly victimized the two girls.  One is believed to be between the ages of 5 and 7 and the other is believed to be between the ages of 3 and 5.

Jane Doe is described by HSI special agents as a Caucasian female, between the ages of 25 and 35 with a medium build, dark brown hair and blue eyes.  She is also identifiable by a large mole on the back of her left thigh.

ICE agents obtained a criminal complaint and federal warrant from a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., to arrest the woman, who is believed to be living in the United States.

ICE agents from Los Angeles had been working on the investigation since June 2011 when they executed a search warrant and seized a computer with images that they said depicted the child victims being abused.

HSI’s Child Exploitation Investigations Unit’s Victim Identification Program has worked with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) which determined that the children had not been identified or rescued yet.

A break in the investigation came in June 2012, when the FBI in Colorado said it seized a computer that had over 200 images and two videos of the child victims with the images of the female Jane Doe suspect.  An unidentified male in the images has his face obscured and digitally altered, according to an affidavit by HSI Special Agent Jim Cole, who has been working the investigation.

The male suspect is believed to have interest in the outdoors based on a book Animal Tracking Basics which appears in the background of the video.  Investigators say they believe the pictures were taken in February 2010.

ICE was releasing the pictures of Jane Doe in an effort to locate the child victims and rescue them.

“We are seeking the public’s assistance based on the concern of the minor children.  We are hoping someone comes forward who knows who this person is, or has seen her,” HSI Special Agent Jim Cole said in a telephone interview with ABC News.

Officials said the case is unusual since a majority of child pornography cases involve male suspects, not women.

Investigators ask that anyone with information contact the agency immediately.  One can call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423 or complete an online tip form at www.ICE.gov/tips.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr262012

FBI: 'No Specific Threat' One Year After Bin Laden Killing

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- American law enforcement agencies say they have "no credible information" of a terror attack in the United States tied to next week's one year anniversary of the May 2 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Even so, in an advisory issued late Wednesday and obtained by ABC News, FBI and Homeland Security officials warned of "renewed efforts to target Western aviation."

European law enforcement officials said stepped up security was being planned at major airports and transportation hubs over the next several days.

"While there is no credible threat, there is much preparation based on the common sense consideration of the date," said one intelligence official. 

Officials told ABC News there are several uncorroborated threats against U.S. interests, including some on the Internet, that are being investigated but so far have low credibility.

"We assess that such threats are almost certainly aspirational and are not indicative of actual plotting," the law enforcement advisory said.

The killing of bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs led to numerous calls for attacks on the United States to avenge the terror leader's death.

The law enforcement advisory acknowledged al Qaeda would regard an attack on the U.S. "as a symbolic victory that would  help reassert the group's global relevance following the major leadership losses and operational setbacks it has suffered over the past year."

American law enforcement officials tell ABC News they regard the al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia as the most likely to be able to carry out an attack on the United States.

The Yemen-based group known as al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has attempted two attacks against U.S.-bound aircraft, according to the FBI, and "represents an enduring threat to the West." 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

What Will Happen to the US If Israel Attacks Iran?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Obama is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday to try to talk him out of an immediate strike on Iran's nuclear sites.

But if Israel does decide to bomb Iran, what will it mean for the United States?

According to former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, Americans should brace for a painful impact.  Within a week of the first Israeli attack, says Clarke, a worst case scenario would bring soaring gas prices, terror attacks in U.S. cities, worldwide cyberwar, dead and wounded U.S. sailors, and the real possibility of broad American military involvement.

Gas Prices Could Double

According to U.S. government estimates, about 20 percent of the oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, bordered by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.  If Israel were to bomb Iran, oil prices would immediately go up.  If Iran responded by attacking oil tankers going through the Persian Gulf, says Clarke, gasoline prices for U.S. consumers could double.

"You could see very quickly Iranian commandos and their small boats attacking tankers, attacking oil platforms," said Clarke.  "You could see mines being laid in the Gulf."

The result, said Clarke, "would be a huge crisis in energy."  President Obama would tap the U.S.'s strategic petroleum reserve, alleviating some of the price rise.  The spike in prices "might not last long if the U.S. and its allies are able to take control of the Gulf," said Clarke.  "But that could take more than a week and under some scenarios it could take almost a month."

Terror Threat Against Americans

If Israel were to bomb Iran, American officials fear there could be a new wave of terrorism directed by Tehran, especially if the U.S. gets pulled in to the conflict.

"If we, the United States, we're bombing Iran, then I think they'd certainly want to try to do something on our homeland because we were bombing their homeland," said Clarke.

Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have already shown a willingness to act outside their own borders, both with deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s and the apparent attempted hits on Israeli targets in a number of countries earlier this year.

"Both have strong inroads in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, where they could strike Israeli, Jewish, and U.S. targets," said Clarke.

Israeli embassies and consulates and Jewish places of worship in the U.S. have been put on alert.

The World's First International Cyberwar

An Israeli attack on Iran would likely set off the world's first international cyber war.  Before striking, Israel will try to blind the air defenses of Iran and its neighbors with cyber warfare.  And the U.S. might end up using capabilities it has kept secret until now.

"The United States has a very powerful ability to cause this sort of disruption to electric power grids, communications networks," said Clarke.  "It hasn't done it because it doesn't like to expose its tricks as it's afraid once it does it, people will figure out how the United States does it.  But in a war with Iran, they would be willing to run that risk."

Iran would also attempt to hit back.  Said Clarke, "Iran also has a cyber command, which might try to retaliate by attacking U.S infrastructure such as the power grid, trains, airlines, refineries."

U.S. Navy Casualties in the Gulf

Should the U.S. become involved in the Israeli-Iran conflict militarily, says Clarke, it will be impossible to avoid American casualties.

"The Iranians have hundreds if not thousands of small boats, armed small boats, commando small boats, that will operate in the Gulf," said Clarke.  "They can get in, they can swarm a U.S. destroyer.  The Iranians now also have cruise missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles."

Clarke said there is a potential for the U.S. to sustain significant damage to a few ships and lose some sailors, just as it did during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.  Two U.S. ships were hit during that conflict, with a loss of nearly 40 American lives.

The U.S. Enters the War

According to Clarke, Israel can't do long-term, severe damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure, so its chief purpose in bombing Iran would be to trigger Iranian retaliation and draw the U.S. into the war to defend Israel, and to finish off what Israel started.

If Israel bombs Iran, Clarke says the cascade of events will lead to attacks on Israeli cities.

"Advisors to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak are saying that if Israel bombed Iran, the retaliation on Israel would be tolerable," said Clarke.  "But if Hezbollah in Lebanon launched thousands of extended range, improved accuracy rockets on Israel, hundreds of Israelis would die.  In such a small country, that would be devastating."

The casualties, in turn, would bring the inevitable call to Washington for help.

"You will very quickly see a phone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to the President," said Clarke, "and he will say to him, 'Only the United States, Mr. President, can find and destroy these mobile missile launchers.  Only you can save the lives of Israelis who are dying as I speak in our cities."

Clarke said that message would probably spur any U.S. president into action -- but especially one who is up for reelection within months.  "It's likely to get a yes answer from the president," predicts Clarke, "and bring the U.S. into the war." 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct272011

Loss of Life Possible in Major Cyber Attack, Warns Homeland Security

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that a major computer attack against critical U.S. infrastructure could result in a loss of life and massive economic damages.

“The network intrusion that shuts down the nation’s critical infrastructure … could cause loss of life but also a huge economic loss,” Napolitano said at a cybersecurity event sponsored by the Washington Post. “We’ve seen attempts on Wall Street, transportation systems, things of those sorts.”

Cybersecurity experts have long warned that hackers could target electrical grids and power plants, which could affect hospitals and water treatment plants.

Napolitano added that DHS offices had been probed in computer intrusions by hackers attempting to infiltrate the department’s systems. She declined, however, to comment on the details of the intrusions or specify if the intrusions had targeted her office.

Napolitano discussed a wide range of computer security issues at the event and urged Congress to push forward with cybersecurity legislation that the White House proposed in May. Napolitano said she hoped the legislation could gain strong bipartisan support.

“Cyber attacks are increasing in frequency, in complexity and in consequence,” Napolitano said. “In [fiscal year] 2011 alone, our U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, CERT, responded to more than 100,000 incident reports and released more than 5,000 actionable cybersecurity alerts and information products.”

Although the DHS secretary declined to address specific instances, there have been a slew of high-profile hacking intrusions in the past two years:

  • The FBI and U.S. Secret Service are investigating intrusions into computer systems run by NASDAQ-OMX, the parent company of the NASDAQ stock exchange, which were compromised last year.
  • Earlier this year RSA, the security division of the EMC Corp., suffered a computer intrusion that resulted in a breach of its firm’s intellectual property, Secure ID, which provides encrypted authentication services.
  • During 2009, groups in China were behind a highly sophisticated hacking of Google and more than 30 other companies that went undetected until January 2010.


“We are in a constant state of seeing activity against critical infrastructure,” said Greg Schaffer, DHS assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, who also spoke at Thursday’s event.

U.S. officials believe that China had been behind many of the infiltrations; members of Congress have recently mentioned this, but diplomatic and security officials are more reluctant to attribute the infiltrations to China.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep112011

New York City to Maintain High Alert Status after 9/11 Anniversary

Ben Edwards/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Senior New York City Police Department officials tell ABC News that they will maintain a high alert status through Monday and continue to assess the coverage needs after each of three daily tours.

Citizens, meanwhile, did their part, reporting an extremely high volume of suspicious packages and other possible threats, officials said.  And police welcomed the help.

"New Yorkers are being vigilant," said Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne.

As of Sunday morning, a total of 302 suspicious package calls were made since Friday, compared to 82 during the same time period last year.  There were also 1,679 reports of suspicious vehicles versus 1,206 in 2010.

With suspicious packages typically terror-related, callers worry it's a bomb, Browne said.

"But suspicious vehicles include myriad concerns -- like an unfamiliar car in front of a vacationing neighbor's house," he explained.  "That may be a burglar's."

Browne said police will maintain an aggressive stance on Monday.

"The plan since Thursday night has been to keep the current elevated posture in place through Monday," he said.  "It's something we assess after every tour."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Sep102011

9/11 Anniversary Plot: Terror Suspects Came From Inside U.S.

CIA.gov(NEW YORK) -- Officials told ABC News that the suspects alleged to be plotting a 9/11 anniversary terror attack began their journey to jihad inside the U.S., traveling to the al Qaeda stronghold in the tribal areas along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in the late summer before returning to the U.S. on Aug. 30 or Sept 1.

This more specific information comes from the same CIA informant who said three people were dispatched by al Qaeda to carry out a bomb plot in either New York City or Washington D.C., and has allowed the intelligence manhunters to dramatically narrow down the pool of names that could match the partial descriptions the informant provided.

ABC News reported Friday that one name may have been identified already—about a day after the hunt began in earnest. The hunt has included an analysis of flight logs and other documents.

The intelligence from the informant, who is considered reliable by the CIA, led to the national state of high alert over the possible terror strike on the anniversary of 9/11, but the informant's information itself may be secondhand, ABC News has learned.

Despite the secondhand nature of the source, the high quality of the information led authorities to deem the threat credible, if uncorroborated, and triggered the massive rapid police response in Washington D.C. and New York City, and the all-hands intelligence community and law enforcement manhunt.

"What's striking about this particular information is its clarity," a senior official told ABC News. "Usually intelligence comes in bits and pieces and officials have to connect dots. Here, I'm told, there were no dots to connect, there was so much detail in one place at one time. It was all laid out. If it's a plot, it is well-planned and there's an intention to go forward with it. If it turns out not to be real then it's definitely not. There is no middle ground."

With the anniversary less than 24 hours away, officials say they have no choice but to act as if the threat is real and the clock is ticking.

"Al Qaeda again is seeking to harm Americans and, in particular, to target New York and Washington," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday in New York. "We are taking this threat seriously. Federal, state and local authorities are taking all steps to address it."

It was only four days ago, on Wednesday in Pakistan, according to officials, that the CIA developed the information about a possible al Qaeda terror plot targeting the United States.

Three men, including at least one and maybe two American citizens, had allegedly travelled to the U.S. in mid-August, from Pakistan through Dubai, assigned to attack New York City or Washington D.C. with a vehicle bomb on Sept. 10, 11 or 12.

The intelligence was relayed to Washington and CIA headquarters late Wednesday night.

Early Thursday, at the White House, the president and the vice president received the first of several briefings on the threat.

Around 7 p.m. Thursday, as the president arrived to address Congress, the FBI and the CIA were in high gear.

"You use all the resources that we have, people are working 24/7 on this issue," said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, who was among the members of Congress briefed on the alleged threat. "Any time you get a reliable source and you're attempting to corroborate it or confirm it, you use all the resources that we have. People are working 24/7 on this issue."

Late Thursday night, the FBI and Homeland Security issued a bulletin to 18,000 law enforcement agencies detailing the threat, including explosives, small arms and poisons.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep082011

ABC News Exclusive: Napolitano on Al Qaeda, Homegrown Terror Threats

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Heading into the 10th anniversary weekend of the 9/11 attacks, the nation’s top counterterrorism officials have ramped up security measures, and are looking out for a “lone wolf.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told ABC News that “we don’t right now have intelligence that a big plot is in the works.”

But while there is no known specific plot by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, Napolitano warned, “now that differentiates from the lone wolf, the lone actor that we may not know about, who may already be in the United States and so it requires us to be vigilant and the public to be vigilant. ”

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Napolitano surveyed the state of U.S. defenses against al Qaeda.

While “core al Qaeda” in Pakistan and Afghanistan has deteriorated, she said, al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula has grown into a real threat.

A big reason al Qaeda is so potent, she said, was its leader, Anwar Alwaki.  Alwaki is an American Imam who became radicalized and is now operating his own terror group in Yemen.  Sources have told ABC News that Alwaki is intent on striking the U.S. in any way he can.

In fact, an ABC News analysis shows that Alwaki is either behind, or has inspired, 19 Americans who federal prosecutors say were homegrown radicals.

“He is at the top of the list, if not at the top,” Napolitano said of Alwaki when asked if he was a prominent threat.  “He knows Western ways, he kind of knows how to market to Westerners and we know that al Qaeda is trying to recruit."

Napolitano said Alwaki is using online magazines and videos to try to lure disaffected Americans into his violent ideology.

“You know the Internet is a powerful tool for good, for friendships, for commerce, for what have you, but it also can be used for evil,” the DHS secretary said.  “And we see it being used to recruit young Americans, not necessarily even young Americans, to a terrorist-type ideology.”

She added that one of the biggest changes she has seen as DHS secretary, “is the movement toward the home-grown violent extremist.  The person who for whatever reason decides to attack his fellow citizens.”

To combat the surge in homegrown terror, Napolitano said, “requires us to focus more on training local law enforcement, they’re the eyes out there.”  And she emphasized, getting the public engaged, through the “See something, say something” program, is key to stopping homegrown threats.  “The public,” she said, “are our other set of eyes.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug152011

Runaway Blimp Lands in Ohio Woman's Yard

Kim Steele/Photodisc/Thinkstock (file photo)(WORTHINGTON, Ohio) -- For about seven hours Sunday morning, an unmanned Hangar 1 Vodka promotional blimp was AWOL from Don Scott Airfield in Columbus, Ohio.

The incident required the notification of Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration.

It's believed that strong winds from a storm ripped the blimp from its moorings, sending it skyward.

Despite of the size of the Spector 19, Model A-60+ -- 128 feet from tip to tip -- no one was able to locate the missing aircraft, even with Ohio State University police officers and the Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers on the case.

Ultimately, the deflated blimp was found by a 94-year-old woman who looked out her window to see it draped across the backyard of her residential Worthington neighborhood home, only about two miles from where it broke free.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul222011

US 'Stronger and More Resilient than Ever Before' in Fighting Terrorism

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government in a new report obtained by ABC News says the nation “is stronger and more resilient than ever before” when it comes to fighting terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security report does acknowledge that “challenges remain,” but praises the information sharing now taking place between various federal agencies, law enforcement and international partners.

The report also cites improved aviation screening and cyber network protection efforts in the country’s fight against terrorism.  The report does, however, state that the nation needs to be vigilant because threats “persist and continue to evolve.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told ABC News Radio that today's information sharing, which didn’t exist on 9/11, is key because it offers “layered protection” for the American people in a sense that if one agency or law enforcement group fails to pick up a terrorist threat, other Department of Homeland Security partners are there to spot it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar312011

Mexican Drug Cartels Allegedly Plot to Shoot ICE Agents, Texas Rangers

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. counternarcotics officials recently discovered that Mexican drug cartels discussed plots to kill Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Texas Rangers who patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, disclosed the information during a hearing Thursday morning on how DHS is battling Mexican drug cartels.

A March 2011 law enforcement bulletin "warned that cartels were overheard plotting to kill ICE agents and Texas Rangers guarding the border using AK-47s by shooting at them from across the border," McCaul said.

U.S. officials could not ascertain how credible the threats were but were concerned enough that they alerted agents operating on the border.

The information is believed to have been derived from intercepted communications.

Asked about the bulletin, a DHS official said, "Out of an abundance of caution, we routinely share information that could impact our frontline personnel in order to ensure that they are aware of any and all threats."

Calls to the Texas Rangers were not returned on Thursday.

Last month two U.S. ICE agents were targeted by cartel members in a shooting that killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and wounded his partner, Special Agent Victor Avila.

McCaul, who has spoken with Agent Avila about the incident, said Thursday, "Both agents pleaded for their lives in Spanish, identifying themselves as United States federal agents. Members of the Los Zetas cartel responded by firing more than 80 rounds from automatic weapons.

"The shooting of Special Agents Zapata and Avila is a game-changer which alters the landscape of the United States' involvement in Mexico's war against the drug cartels," McCaul added at the hearing. President Obama and other top U.S. law enforcement officials have vowed the full force of the federal government to support local Mexican authorities hunting down Zapata's killers and attempting to bring them to justice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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