“And then there were nine.”
See if you can figure out what all of these names have in common:
+ Heather Coffman
+ Ali Shukir
+ Amin Reza Niknejad
+ Joseph Hassan Farrokh
+ Mahmound Amin
+ Mohamed Elhassan
+ Mohamad Jamal Khweis
+ Mohammad Bilor
+ Jalloh Haris Qatar
+ Nicholas Young
“Heather Coffman” and “Nicholas Young” sound like run-of-the-mill “white names,” which, in northern Virginia, is not much of a surprise at all.
Then there are the names “Joseph Hassan Farrokh” and “Jalloh Haris Qatar,” which sound like quasi-Americanized, second-generation Middle Eastern names, the kind of names you’d heard at a posh prep school, perhaps.
And then the pattern really snaps into place: Ali, Amin, Mahmound, Mohamed, Mohamad, Mohammad.
Pay dirt. Just looking at the names, you might well assume the first four belong to one or two social circles, while the last six look like a single exchange-student group. And as thunder follows lightning, or smoke proves there is fire, so a cluster of names like Ali and Mohammad in one news story all but guarantee that the self-styled “religion of peace” is in the mix.
As the Washington Times recently reported, “law enforcement agencies have arrested nine Northern Virginia residents on charges of aiding the Islamic State since the terrorist group rose to power in Syria and Iraq in 2014.” The Northern Virginia Regional Intelligence Center issued profiles of the nine in a Dec. 21 report labeled “law enforcement sensitive.”
Such reports, the Washington Times explains, “are designed to help state and federal agents recognize trends in the types of individuals who are influenced by the Islamic State’s message” and how they communicate across terrorist networks. In other words, since law enforcement enforcement agencies aren’t allowed (by the PC Police) to officially use “ethnic” and “demographic” profiling in crime prevention, they are having to put even more emphasis on “social media profiling.”
Two decades ago, checking out or buying certain books (e.g., The Anarchist’s Cookbook, books about Charles Manson, Mein Kampf, etc.) was a commonly recognized way of putting yourself on a “government watch list.” Now, visiting certain websites or following and interacting with certain social media profiles is the new “watchdog” red flag.
For example, Somalis living in Minnesota seem to receive the most press attention in the U.S. for wanting to help or join the Islamic State. The FBI arrested six residents of Somali origin in April after they made arrangements to leave Minnesota for Syria. Last December, a 20-year-old man of Somali origin was arrested on accusations of leading a group of ethnic Somalis attempting to fight for the Islamic State.
How do authorities track people like that? They monitor their cellphone records, email contacts, post office records, and, of course, online social media activity. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube–all of these and more are the new “agora” (public square), so it makes perfect sense for the feds and cops to monitor them as seriously as they monitor any “real world ” neighborhood.
But to return to the Northern Virginia arrests: of the nine who were arrested, all but one were in their teens and early 20s.
Let that sink in: all but one of them perfectly fit the profile of savvy, heavy social media users. They are suspected of conducting terrorism planning through Twitter, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp and other platforms and apps, as well as on prepaid phones. This shows once again that social media profiles are the new form of “profiling” that law enforcement officials must rely on to keep us safe.
Look at how diverse the nine suspects were in terms of more traditional demographics: they included a police officer, a Starbucks barista, Army soldiers, bankers and a cabdriver; four of the nine graduated from Northern Virginia high schools, one with honors; two attended Northern Virginia Community College.
These were not outsiders, not social outcasts, not criminals, not mentally unstable–but they were all united by a desire to spread ISIS-inspired terror. All of them appeared to have opportunities via public education to become successful Americans but instead were charged with what amounted to a devotion to violent jihad.
Like in old horror movies, cellphones and laptops are like cursed objects for the 21st century: social media platforms funnel the demons of Islamic terror into our children’s minds like Tarot cards, Ouija boards, rabbits’ feet, magical old books, found footage, and witches’ brew channeled demons in the past.
“Local police are in a particularly difficult situation,” said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and researcher on Islamism who lives in Northern Virginia.
“They face a severe challenge by Islamists operating in the shadows of our open society. These mostly young male Muslims become radicalized either by Islamist imams at some of the thousands of mosques across America, at school, or over the ever-present internet sites that spew anti-West, anti-Christian hatred.”
Like all great con games, domestic jihadism is hiding in plain sight, literally planning dark ops in the light of America’s famously “open society.”
“Given our open society, detached parents and politically correct schools, local police in Northern Virginia understandably hesitate to rigorously pursue young Islamist wannabes,” Mr. Maginnis said.
+ + +
In closing, let’s look at some of the nine suspects in more detail–vigilance is our greatest weapon. These “normal Americans” would have been delighted to see you and me wounded or dead from an act of Islamic terror.
Ali Shukir Amin…
Honors student at Osbourn Park High School; wrote a pro-Islamic State blog; had a Twitter account with 7,000 tweets and instructed people on how to use bitcoin to hide money transfers and on how to travel to Syria. Pleaded guilty to providing support to the Islamic State; sentenced to 136 months in prison.
Joined the Army but was discharged after four months; later worked as a sales clerk. Operated multiple Facebook accounts to promote the Islamic State and shared terrorism contacts with possible recruits. Pleaded guilty to making a false statement concerning involvement in international terrorism; sentenced to 54 months in prison.
Attended Northern Virginia Community College; worked for Starbucks. Spoke openly of supporting the Islamic State and its violence. Pleaded guilty in October to aiding Farrokh and lying about his involvement in international terrorism.
Mohammad Bilor Jalloh…
Served as a combat engineer in the Virginia National Guard and worked for consulting firms. Met with Islamic State members in Africa and tried to buy firearms to carry out a Fort Hood-style massacre. Pleaded guilty in October to trying to help the Islamic State.
Attended Northern Virginia Community College; worked for Wells Fargo. Created 60 Twitter handles for Islamic State propaganda and stalked residences in Northern Virginia that were on the group’s “kill lists.” Was preparing to make a video encouraging people to carry out “lone wolf” attacks around D.C. Pleaded guilty to charges of helping the Islamic State.
Graduated from West Potomac High School and worked as a D.C. Metro police officer. Accused of stockpiling weapons at his home. Traveled to Libya and gave advice to Islamic State followers on how to avoid law enforcement monitoring. The oldest of the nine at 36, Young has not yet faced trial.