Both Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, have been removed from the National Intelligence list of terrorism threats – the most authoritative document produced by the National Intelligence Agency.
Fox News‘ On The Record with Greta Susteren reported late Tuesday on information found in the unclassified version of the report, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities 2015 (PDF), dated February 26, 2015. An annual report, this one was delivered recently to the U.S. Senate by National Intelligence Director Lt.-Gen. (ret.) James Clapper.
The document noted Iran’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners and de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.” Also noted was the fact that “Iranian leaders – particularly within the security services – are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran… Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses…”
The intelligence report added that Tehran’s “overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige and regional influence” have led it to “pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.”
Whether or not Iran would choose to do so it still not clear, according to the U.S. intelligence assessment. However, if the Iranian government decides to go ahead, there exist no “insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon,” American intelligence experts concluded, most likely to be delivered via intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News journalist Greta Susteren that he believes the removal of Iran and Hezbollah from the terrorist list was not a simple “format change” as reporters were told at a briefing, but rather a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to deceive the American public.
“What we’re having now is an Orwellian example of disappearing references to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from the terrorism report,” Bolton said, during an exchange with Susteren on Fox. “This was a concession, I think, by the administration relating to the nuclear negotiation. You will not find it in the signed deal.
“How many other concessions has the administration made that are not in the deal — that may not even be related to the nuclear program — in this desperate effort to get a deal?”
Meanwhile, Iran is moving to widen its sphere of influence in South America, where its diplomatic ties are already strong with Argentina and even warmer with Venezuela, which has the largest reserves of uranium in the Western hemisphere, outside of Canada.
Photos that flashed across Fox News during a report by Susteren showed a heavily guarded facility that was set up in Bolivia in 2011, allegedly with Iranian backing.
“There are elements of that facility which is supposed to be some type of military academy,” Susteren reported, “but is very heavily fortified. And the suspicion is that it’s being used by Iran as a way to have a footprint in Bolivia” which she described as “not a friend of the United States.”
Despite the disappearance of Iran from the terror map in the 2015 National Intelligence assessment, Fox journalist Cathern Herridge also noted that “the documents, the photos and Congressional testimony show that Iran is really effectively expanding its influence into South America, into our neighbor.”
In effect, Herridge said, Iran is “creating a launching pad into North America.”
Bolton concurred in his own remarks. “Look, Iran has terrorist networks all over this hemisphere,” he pointed out. “Remember, three years ago, the Justice Department indicted senior officials of the Revolutionary Guards Corps for conspiring to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington by infiltrating through the Mexican border.
“I think this is just another example of Iran’s activities.”
Canadian authorities nabbed a potential terrorist before he could carry out a plot to bomb the U.S. Consulate in Toronto, CTVNews reported Wednesday.
Jhanzab Malik, a Pakistani national holding permanent resident status in Canada, also allegedly planned to attack targets in the city’s financial district as well.
He was arrested on suspicion of “engaging in terrorism and being a danger to national security.” The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is claiming Malik has a “violent and extremist mindset” but has not charged him.
The suspect was ordered to be held on “security grounds” pending deportation following an immigration hearing on Wednesday. He appeared via video link from Lindsay, Ontario; it is not clear why he is being held for deportation rather than being charged under the country’s anti-terror laws.
The CBSA alleged that Malik befriended and attempted to radicalize an undercover RCMP officer; he showed him videos of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) beheading captives. He also claimed to be a friend of American-born Al Qaeda imam Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in Yemen by the U.S. in a 2011 air strike, according to CBC.
Malik originally entered the country on a student visa in 2004 but gained permanent status via his wife’s sponsorship five years later.
The CBSA has been tracking the suspect for some time; in 2013, he was questioned by Canadian border guards and then by intelligence officials at Pearson International Airport upon arrival from Libya, where he said he had been teaching.
Malik also claimed during that questioning to have been visiting Saudi Arabia – but it is now believed he received weapons, landmine and combat training at a terrorist camp in Libya.
The government is working to pass a new anti-terror bill that is expected to put teeth into Canada’s law enforcement abilities. The country is still on high alert following two terror attacks that took the lives of two Canadian soldiers.
Montreal police have launched a probe into what they are calling a hate crime after residents of an apartment house found their cars damaged and death threats in envelopes with a bullet for each. The ethnicity and religion of the owners of the targeted vehicles was not released.
The incident, which occurred in the parking garage beneath an apartment building on Côte St. Luc Road, was clearly directed at the Jewish community, however — the neighborhood in which the incident took place is known as a “Jewish area.” The vandalism was discovered late Monday night when the smoke alarm in the garage suddenly activated.
Four of the vehicles were branded with swastikas, albeit painted backwards, sprayed in red paint on the hoods. Five of the cars “had envelopes on them, and on the white envelopes there were swastikas on them,” said a resident in the building who requested anonymity. CBC News agreed not to reveal his family name. “The swastikas were huge. They covered pretty much the majority of the hood,” he said. His neighbor’s car had a smashed windshield. On the ground in front of the car lay a hatchet.
“I’ve lived in Montreal my whole life… I’ve never seen this before first-hand, never been a victim of it and just to have it happen literally in your own home, it just left me speechless,” he told CBC Radio One.
One of the envelopes contained a bullet together with a threatening note, another resident told CBC News. Police collected the rest of the envelopes as evidence, before they were opened. “I’m just shocked. This is a hate crime and you never expect it to happen in your community,” the resident said.
“While the intent of the perpetrator cannot be absolutely determined at this time, given what is happening globally, the fact that swastikas are involved, that there were threatening notes and this is a Jewish area, leads one to understand that this was not just an act of simple vandalism but a crime targeting the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, chairman of the security committee of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
Although police have not released all the details, Poupko told the Canadian Jewish News on Tuesday the notes were attached to all of the damaged vehicles. “They said something to the effect that ‘this bullet is for you,’ “ he told the paper.
The garage has no security surveillance cameras and there are no suspects, police said. Anyone with information is asked to call 514-393-1133.
The accidental discovery of a sophisticated underground “mystery tunnel” more than 20 feet long and reaching near the site of this summer’s Pan Am games is being investigated by Canadian security experts as a possible preparation for a massive terrorist attack.
Update: Police announced that they don’t think that whoever built the tunnel had criminal intentions, but a former intelligence official commented, “What worries me now is we may never know who was behind that thing.”
Officials and the media are doing their best not to use the world “terror,” but no one has been able to come up with even an illogical explanation why anyone else would build a tunnel, 10 feet deep, 8 feet high and more than 20 feet long, complete with lights and a generator and near a site that will be top security when it is used n the summer.
The tunnel’s location near the site for this summer’s Pan Am tennis games immediately raised the alarm bells among security officials.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that a government worker discovered the tunnel while he was walking in a wooded area and noticed a hole in a fence near the Rexall Center, where the Pan Am tennis games are to be staged.
Official played down any immediate threat, and one official told CBC, “The threat level, as per the federal government, remains at medium level.”
However, since the games are to be held in the summer, it is obvious there is no threat now.
CBC quoted former assistant director of intelligence Ray Boisvert as saying, “First and foremost is the question around the context of the tunnel — where it is positioned? How deep was it? How accessible was it? And what sort of things could be sent through that tunnel, being people or material.”
The possibility of the tunnel being used as a drug lab has been ruled out, but the closes anyone came to using the word “terror” was Boisvert, who told the CBC:
I would think that they would want to have some level of assurance that this was not targeting the Games or targeting any other facility around there.
It is estimated that it took several weeks to build the tunnel. Whoever built it was careful to remove excavated earth to avoid detection.
A Canadian-based business family is not waiting for a terror attack before tightening security: the Ghermezian Brothers have already taken measures to prevent an attack. The four brothers – Eskandar, Nader, Raphael and Bahman – own a construction and real estate empire in addition to the shopping malls developed by the family patriarch, Jacob Ghermezian, who died in 2000.
The preparations came in response to a call to jihad against “American and Jewish-owned” shopping malls made in a video by the Al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab over the weekend.
The Jewish Iranian-Canadian family is known for having developed some of the world’s largest shopping malls, and is no stranger to the need for security; its West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada has already put security measures into place to prevent an attack.
Edmonton Deputy Police Chief Brian Simpson told CTV News, “West Edmonton mall is very safe; I also feel that this community is very safe,” Jewish Business News reported.
In Bloomington, Minnesota, the family’s Mall of America stands out as the largest shopping mall in the United States – which made it one of the top targets for al-Shabaab. The terror group even provided the coordinates for its “Muslim brethren” in the West to more easily be able to find the shopping mall, in order to be able to attack it.
The Somali al-Shabaab terror group linked to Al Qaeda has called on Muslims in the West to “answer the call” and attack “American and Jewish-owned” shopping malls in the UK, US and Canada.
In the 77-minute video the speaker, whose face was covered, said, “We call upon our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers wherever they are,” said a speaker wearing a military jacket, face covered.
Suggesting the Mall of America – the largest mall in the United States – the speaker displayed coordinates for the site on the screen. The “twin cities” of S. Paul and Minneapolis are home to the largest population of Somali immigrants in the U.S. More than a few are known to have traveled from there to the Mideast and Africa to fight with radical Islamist terrorists.
The threat has become a raison d’etre for America’s Department of Homeland Security, which was slated for shutdown this week.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday that the propaganda video released Saturday by al-Shabaab, made clear “why I need a budget.” The video also called for attacks on Oxford Street in London and two Westfield Malls in Stratford and White City as well as Canada’s West Edmonton Mall in Alberta – the largest shopping mall in North America.
In an interview over the weekend on CNN, Johnson said “It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’s inability to fund homeland security in these challenging times.”