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entries tagged with: Terrorism

 

Lautenberg tries to close terrorism loophole

Sen. Frank Lautenberg has reissued his call to the U.S. government to close a significant loophole in gun-control legislation that allows terror suspects to buy weapons.

Lautenberg’s latest campaign against the loophole came in response to government officials — notably Dennis C. Blair, director of National Intelligence — confirming the likelihood of an Al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil in the coming months.

Last month, the senator asked the Department of Justice if its investigation into Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad showed that he appeared on terror watch lists. Muhammad, who allegedly shot and killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., in June, had previously been investigated by the FBI and recently claimed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. As of last Friday, Lautenberg had not received an answer.

On May 21, before the June 1 shooting, the U.S. Government Accountability Office had issued a report to Lautenberg, Rep. John Conyers Jr., chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Robert C. Scott, chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. According to the report, 963 cases of a known or suspected terrorist’s attempting to buy a gun were reported between February 2004 and February 2009. In 865 of those cases, or 90 percent, the suspect received clearance for the purchase. One application that was approved involved purchasing explosives.

“It is outrageous that terrorists are able to purchase guns in the United States,” Lautenberg said in a statement to The Jewish Standard last week. “Barring terrorists from buying guns is a common sense way to stay one step ahead of those who are plotting to harm us.”

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation and designated state and local criminal justice agencies use of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to research people buying handguns. The system checks a person’s criminal background only, however, and does not check if the applicant appears on a terrorist watch list.

According to last year’s GAO report, under Department of Justice guidelines, firearms and explosives applications are not automatically disallowed if the applicant appears on the terror watch list. To be disqualified the applicant must have a felony conviction, illegal immigration status, or other accompanying criminal record.

Furthermore, the Department of Justice has recommended legislation that would allow the attorney general discretion to deny applicants who appear on terror watch lists but do not otherwise have the criminal background that would stop their applications.

In response to the GAO report, Lautenberg introduced the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2009.

The bill would give the attorney general the authority to deny firearms or explosives licenses or permits to known or suspected terrorists when the attorney general has reason to believe such weapons may be used for terrorism. It also requires the attorney general to issue guidelines for how said discretionary authority will be used.

The bill, under discussion by the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary, allows an applicant to challenge a denial.

“My legislation would give the attorney general authority to stop those sales,” Lautenberg said in his statement. “The attorney general has expressed support for my legislation and I am fighting in Washington to ensure the terror gap loophole is closed as quickly as possible.”

 
 

Montclair State to host terror medicine symposium

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At the 2009 Symposium on Terror Medicine were, from left, Jill Lipoti, director of the division of Environmental Safety and Health–N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, Andrea Yonah, then-director of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, and Leonard Cole. Miriam ALLENSON

If a bomb were to go off at the corner market and you were lucky enough to escape uninjured, what would you do until first-responders arrived? Would you try to pull survivors out? Try to keep people calm? Would you defer to the professionals?

Some 200 people will hear the answers to such questions next week’s Symposium on Terror Medicine & Terrorism at Montclair State University.

“All of us will be asking these questions of ourselves during the symposium,” said Dr. Leonard Cole, an adjunct professor of political science at Rutgers University and a member of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Center for BioDefense executive committee that organized the symposium. A Ridgewood resident, he is the author of “Terror: How Israel Has Coped and What America Can Learn.”

This is the second year the university has sponsored the event, which is designed to change the way the public looks at terrorism preparation. The lineup of speakers includes a retired Israeli general and other Israeli military personnel, Israeli psychologists and social workers, first-responders, and Charles McKenna, director of New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness.

“Anyone who feels an attachment to Israel would be particularly interested in hearing about the Israelis’ experience,” Cole said. “Israel, after all, has unfortunately but necessarily become probably the world’s premier expert in response to terrorism attacks.”

Last year’s conference, at UMDNJ in Newark, attracted more than 200 first-responders and laypeople. Speakers included Dr. Donald Jenkins, retired U.S. Air Force trauma surgeon at U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan; Dr. Clifton Lacy, former New Jersey commissioner of Health and Senior Services and current director of the University Center for Disaster Preparedness at UMDNJ; and Richard Cañas, then-director of the N.J. Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

Israelis who attended included Tzipi Kahana of the Israel Police’s Division of Identification and Forensic Sciences and Estelle Rubinstein, deputy director of social services for Hadassah Hospital.

“Because the Israelis have had much more hands-on experience, they have developed protocols and approaches that can only be helpful to us in the United States,” Cole said. “Fortunately for us, the Israelis are eager to share their knowledge.”

When an Israeli 8-year-old, for example, sees an unattended backpack or package in the schoolyard, that student is much more likely to say something to a teacher or other authority figure than an American 8-year-old.

“We in the U.S. have not absorbed that kind of behavior as a normal matter of activity,” Cole said.

He pointed to the apparent terror attack rehearsal in New York’s Times Square, in which a car with a homemade explosive inside was left running. Public vigilance led to the car’s discovery before any damage could be wrought.

“For weeks afterward there was a lot of public assessment about how prepared we were or would have been had there been an actual explosion,” Cole said.

The New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, the umbrella group that represents the interests of New Jersey’s 12 federations in Trenton, is not an official sponsor of the symposium but has lent its muscle to promoting it.

“The security concerns of the community are always of the utmost in our minds,” said State Association executive director Jacob Toporek. “Anything we can do to support the effort and strengthen the effort is something the State Association and the federations are interested in.”

The symposium has also received letters of support from state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37), U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9).

“We are reminded daily of threats from terrorism and disaster, and this forum will go a long way toward making us better prepared to deal with them,” Rothman wrote the organizers earlier this year.

Gov. Chris Christie has also agreed to be the honorary chair of the symposium. Cole was noncommittal about whether it would become an annual event, but noted that the response has been positive so far and he expects attendance to eclipse last year’s.

What: Symposium on Terror Medicine & Security

Where: The Conference Center at Montclair State University in Montclair

When: Wednesday, Sept. 22

Sponsors: UMDNJ-Center for BioDefense The Program on Terror Medicine and Security

New Jersey EMS Task Force

Israel Consulate General in New York

UMDNJ-Center for Continuing & Outreach Education

New Jersey-Israel Commission

New Jersey Department of State

For more information on the conference, visit http://ccoe.umdnj.edu/terrormedicine.

N.J. Homeland Security to host confab

The N.J. Department of Homeland Security & Preparedness was scheduled to host a conference in New Brunswick today for local, state, and federal law enforcement and emergency management officials. Topics were to include terror financing, protecting critical infrastructure, and cyber security.

Richard Clarke, former White House Homeland Security adviser and international cyber security expert, will give the keynote address.

For more information, call (609) 588-7250.

 
 

Itamar’s mayor comes to Englewood, speaks of Fogel family

First-responder addresses students about massacre, settlement life

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Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith, mayor of Itamar, the west bank settlement where five members of the Fogel family were murdered March 11, shows students a slide show about life in the town. Photos by Jerry Szubin

Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith was in synagogue last month when he saw, he said on Tuesday, “three times, a white light” surrounding Udi Fogel, who was killed, along with four family members, the next day.

“Martyrs of Israel, those who give their lives for Israel, have the highest place in heaven,” Goldsmith said.

The mayor of Itamar, where the Fogels were murdered, shared this and other details about the west bank settlement with the eighth-grade class at The Moriah School in Englewood. He also spoke at several other area schools, including Torah Academy of Bergen County and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva for Girls, both in Teaneck.

A student asked, “Are you scared to live in Itamar?” Goldsmith answered, “People are brave and strong, but they are cautious. They carry guns and lock their doors. The important thing is to go on living and be happy.”

Goldsmith opened his presentation with a video that provided a snapshot of family life in Itamar. It featured residents talking about their work, growing crops like cucumbers, and also showed a recent event for disabled children. One resident said, “This cucumber grows from the very same soil our ancestors grew [crops] on.”

Afterward, Goldsmith told the children, “We are here to show you Eretz Yisroel is alive. You’ve seen stories of tragedy … but when you open a siddur on Shabbat [you will see] HaShem says, ‘I will stop the desecration, take my people and bring them back to our land…, and make the desert bloom.’”

Leah Goldsmith, his wife, spoke to the children about making aliyah. Though she believes it is God’s will that Jewish people are to be “collected back,” she also believes that it requires effort on the part of Jews. “No bird with wings will come to get you,” she said.

She told the eighth-graders that she and her husband first met as seventh-graders growing up in Flatbush. Together, she said, they have built their life in Israel.

“Eretz Yisroel is a real place,” she said. “When we got there it was rocks and empty. Today it is green, and the land is giving its blessing.” She added, “Each of you has an important role, and we welcome you all to come and visit.”

The initial presentation was followed by a slide show. It showed pictures of the Fogel home, which terrorists broke into on March 11, and also images of the family members who were killed: 3-month-old Hadas, 4-year-old Elad, 11-year old Yoav, and their parents, Udi and Ruth.

Goldsmith said that the murderers broke through the electrical fence that surrounds Itamar. Although the fence is monitored by video camera, the attackers chose a blind spot in the camera’s vision, he said, concluding that they were planning the operation and studying the community, possibly “for months.”

The fence is also wired to detect motion. When it senses something, the town’s security force “sends a Jeep,” Goldsmith said. In this instance, the town’s security force did detect motion and security guards did arrive. But they did not see anyone and assumed the disturbance was due to wild animals that live in the area.

Goldsmith stressed the attackers’ stealth and calculation.

“The terrorists locked the door on the inside and began to massacre the family,” he said. He described the widely reported details of the assaults. Afterward, Goldsmith said, “they ran out a window. They didn’t notice the [other] children [who were] sleeping, or they would have killed them, too.”

Goldsmith explained that he is on the “response team,” a security force in Itamar. Members have special radios they use to alert one another to any disturbance.

“I took my rifle and vest and told my wife Leah to lock the door,” he said. “I walk into the house and I don’t want to look,” he said with a sigh.

He did not share graphic details.

After seeing the devastation, he said, “we ran from house to house to make sure everyone is OK.” Since then, he added, “it’s been one long day … even here in America now.”

He stressed his belief that Itamar is on the “front lines” of fighting to protect the Jewish state.

“People say ‘the settlers,’” he said, seeming to imply that that is used as a derisive term. “But we are here for all of you. Because Israel is there for all Jews around the world.”

He also said that Itamar has sustained a disproportionate number of casualties in attacks on Israelis.

“In the last decade, 22 people of Itamar were murdered for the land of Israel,” he said.

One child asked, “Why did [the killers] go to one house and then just leave and not go on to other houses?”

Goldsmith speculated, “They wanted to do this savagely and quickly. If they had made noise, they would not have gotten away.”

Several boys asked questions about the identities of the perpetrators and whether and how they will be caught.

Goldsmith responded, “God willing, Israel has a very strong army and we’ll catch them.”

This reporter asked if this view of the settlers articulated by Goldsmith — as being on the front lines and protecting other Israelis and Jews worldwide — is part of the belief system that enables Itamar’s residents to live in such a dangerous place.

Goldsmith replied, “No doubt in the world now, there is a struggle between good and evil. The same forces that destroyed the Twin Towers are threatening democracy throughout the world. Unfortunately, this evil is against people who want to live in peace. The people of Itamar represent the Jewish people around the world. We have to drive in bulletproof buses.… We are the ones being targeted on the front lines.”

Leah Goldsmith added, “The media depict where we live as some faraway Oz.… Yes, we are on the front lines, but if you look at a map of Israel, we are actually in the center.”

She later told this reporter, “I am proud to be a settler and to use the term,” adding that in her view, the halutzim — pioneers who created small Jewish communities throughout Israel in the years before 1948 — were in a sense “settlers.”

In a one-on-one interview, Moshe Goldsmith told this reporter, “The deed to the land of Israel is the Bible. When push comes to shove, if we are true believers we have to accept the word of the Creator.”

Asked if there is any truth to the claim that some settlers have antagonized Palestinians, Goldsmith replied, “What happens is [that critics of Israel] take sporadic incidents. The fact that they can name them shows how few they are. Arab terrorists who attack Jews are numerous. You can’t compare the numbers.”

He said that when people feel they are under siege, they may act wrongly. But, he stressed, “even people [in the settler community] who become enraged, they don’t murder.”

He added, “We have no problem with people who want to live in peace. We have a problem with people who sanctify death.”

He said that in his view, in the big picture, “We are the ones being abused. We have given blood for peace and Iran, Hezbollah, and [other extremists in the Arab world] continue [to threaten]…. You have to be blind not to see the truth.”

After the event, several students shared their thoughts about the attack on the Fogel family.

“The first time I heard I was in class learning Torah, when the rabbi showed us a video of CNN,” said Jeremy David, 14. “I was shocked. How could I not know this? Who could kill a 3-month-old baby? I felt a mix of shock, fear, and guilt for not knowing.”

“About the Fogel family, it was sad and uncalled for what happened,” said Jason Goldberg, 14.

“It was unfair; they were innocent people,” said Dan Poleyeff, 14.

“Those terrorists are cowards because they went after kids,” added Benny Weisbrot, 13.

 
 
 
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