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terrorism
October 23, 2018

On Monday evening, police in New York's Westchester County recovered and "proactively detonated" a suspicious device discovered in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist and conservative bête noire George Soros, The New York Times reports. The Bedford Police Department said it has handed the investigation over to the FBI, which tweeted Monday night that it is conducting an investigation "at and around a residence in Bedford." An employee of the residence "opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device," the police said in a statement. "The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police." Soros wasn't home at the time.

Soros, an 88-year-old Hungarian-born U.S. citizen who has given at least $18 billion of his fortune to his Open Society Foundations to promote democracy and human rights around the world, started donating to Democratic candidates during George W. Bush's presidency. "His activism has made him a villain to conservative groups and the target of anti-Semitic smears" and bizarre conspiracy theories, the Times notes. His home address, in Bedford's Katonah area, "is posted on pro-Trump Twitter accounts several times a month, including twice Monday," the New York Daily News adds. One of those posts Monday night said that the "only way we can stop them is to cut the head off the snake."

Soros, who once stated he doesn't "particularly want to be a Democrat," says his U.S. political contributions are in service of encouraging bipartisanship and countering the accelerating rightward drift of the Republican Party, the Times says. He gave more than $25 million to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates and causes in the 2016 election — or less than a quarter of the $113 million fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson has given to Republican candidates and causes in the 2018 election cycle. Peter Weber

June 5, 2017

Britain, which holds an election Thursday, is currently arguing over whether Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was home secretary, cut police funding to a dangerously low level, in light of recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. In the U.S., President Trump has reacted to the London Bridge attack with a renewed push for his "travel ban" and calls to "stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people," but he has yet to nominate an FBI director, a leader for the Transportation Security Administration, a Homeland Security Department official to take charge of securing America's cyber and physical infrastructure, a director for the National Counterterrorism Center, an assistant attorney general for national security, or, for that matter, an ambassador to Great Britain.

Trump's "counterterrorism strategy could be hindered by dozens of vacancies across the government," argues Politico's Andrew Restuccia. In all, 135 days into his presidency, Trump has nominated just 102 of the 559 key positions in his administration that require Senate confirmation, with 39 of those confirmed. Fifteen people are awaiting formal nomination — including billionaire Robert "Woody" Johnson, for ambassador to London — and Trump hasn't even started the process on 442 key nominees, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service's appointee tracker. All security-related departments have vacant deputy positions, and some of the numerous empty desks at the State Department may stay empty.

"This is a team sport," Max Stier, the head of the Partnership for Public Service, tells Politico. "It's critical to have a full team." Many of the positions are filled with career bureaucrats or diplomats who are experts in the field, so "in terms of an immediate response to an attack, the agencies will probably do fine," said Daniel Benjamin, State Department counterterrorism coordinator under former President Barack Obama. "The real problems come later, when the administration has to readjust strategy to deal with the threat, do the hard work of figuring out if there was a vulnerability in some security or immigration system, and then remedy it." You can read more about Trump's national security staffing issues at Politico. Peter Weber

August 11, 2016

Authorities in Canada say a 24-year-old man killed during a raid at his house on Wednesday was finalizing plans to detonate a homemade bomb in a public place.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Thursday that Aaron Driver, a known Islamic State supporter, died in the back seat of a taxi after he detonated an explosive device as police closed in on him. Police had said on Wednesday he was fatally shot by officers, but on Thursday they could not say if he died because of the explosive device or because he was shot, Reuters reports. The RCMP decided to raid Driver's home in Strathroy, Ontario, after they received "credible information," including a "martyrdom video" from the FBI. "The outcome if we had not been able to apprehend him, based on his actions when he was confronted, could have been significantly more dreadful," Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana said. "It was a race against time."

Driver converted to Islam in his teens, and was arrested last year after posting pro-ISIS messages on social media, using the alias Harun Abdurahman. He wasn't charged with a crime, but was placed on a peace bond and told to stay away from computers and not contact any members of ISIS or other militant groups. The video sent to the RCMP showed a man wearing a black balaclava, repeating a phrase from the Koran, pledging allegiance to ISIS, and warning that an attack would take place in a Canadian city within the next 72 hours. Catherine Garcia

July 28, 2016

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani proposed tagging Muslims on the government's terrorist watch list as a means of tracking their movements, NJ.com reports. Giuliani, who advises Donald Trump on terrorism and national security, said of the proposal, "I would think that's an excellent idea. If you're on the terror watch list, I should know you're on the terror watch list. You're on there for a reason."

People on the U.S. terrorist watch list don't get a trial or chance to defend themselves before being listed — an issue gun rights advocates have raised in their arguments that those on the watch list should not be banned from buying firearms.

Giuliani cited France as an example of such security measures; in the Normandy church attack Tuesday, one of the suspects was known to have twice attempted trips to Syria and was wearing a monitoring bracelet at the dictate of anti-terror officials. Jeva Lange

July 10, 2016

The son of assassinated al Qaeda ringleader Osama bin Laden released a video message Saturday entitled, "We are all Osama."

In the 21-minute speech, Hamza bin Laden promises revenge on the United States for all "those who defended Islam," though he also mentions his father's death. "We will continue striking you and targeting you in your country and abroad," he said, "in response to your oppression of the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and the rest of the Muslim lands that did not survive your oppression."

Hamza is in his mid-20s and is considered a new face for an aging terrorist organization overshadowed by the Islamic State. His whereabouts are unknown, but documents recovered from his father's compound suggest Osama bin Laden's aides were attempting to reconnect him with Hamza when Osama was killed in a 2011 raid by the United States. Bonnie Kristian

July 3, 2016

Iraqi officials report at least 126 people, including 25 children, were killed in two bombings in Baghdad Sunday. The larger of the two attacks, claimed by the Islamic State and perpetrated very early Sunday morning, killed at least 125 and wounded about 150 more by blowing up a pickup truck next to a busy shopping center.

"It was like an earthquake," said Karim Sami, a street vendor who survived the explosion. "I wrapped up my goods and was heading home when I saw a fire ball with a thunderous bombing. I was so scared to go back and started to make phone calls to my friends, but none answered."

The second bombing killed at least one person and injured five or more. ISIS fighters who "have suffered defeats at the battlefront are seeking to avenge their losses by targeting vulnerable civilians," said Jan Kubis, the U.N. envoy for Iraq. Bonnie Kristian

July 3, 2016

Saturday's deadly attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which left at least 28 people dead, was designed to target foreign nationals and the Bangladeshi elite.

The bakery and restaurant where the incident occurred is located in the capital city's diplomatic quarter, and local press reports suggest the terrorists sorted victims by nationality and religion. Three of the hostages who were killed were students at American universities.

Despite the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the attack, Bangladeshi authorities say all seven of the gunmen were homegrown militants, members of an illegal Islamic fundamentalist group. "They are members of the Jamaeytul Mujahdeen Bangladesh," said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan. "They have no connections with the Islamic State." Bonnie Kristian

April 10, 2016

The terrorists that planned the March attacks in Brussels had initially planned to target France instead, The New York Times reports the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said Sunday.

They apparently switched gears after noting the speed of the ongoing investigation into the November attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people across several sites. In Brussels, 32 people died in attacks at the airport and metro.

The targets of the new Paris attacks, the prosecutor said, were to be an unidentified Catholic association and La Défense, a large office complex northwest of the city. Julie Kliegman

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