ISIS Defeated In Raqqa As 'Major Military Operations' Declared Over

ISIS Defeated In Raqqa As 'Major Military Operations' Declared OverUS-backed forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa say “major military operations” in the city have ended and that the jihadists have lost control of their self-declared capital. The development marks a decisive victory in the fight against ISIS, though US officials said there were still pockets of resistance in the city.

“Major military operations in Raqqa are finished but they are now clearing the city of sleeper cells — if they exist — and mines,” Talal Salo, spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, told CNN. The SDF is a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters.

“The situation in Raqqa is under control and soon there will be an official statement declaring the liberation of the city.” The defeat of ISIS in Raqqa is a symbol of the terror group's decline — it now controls a small strip of territory along the Euphrates river in northern Syria.

The city became the de facto capital of the terror group's self-proclaimed “caliphate” following a sweep of territorial gains in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Can ISIS ever be eradicated? – Foreign fighters swelled the ranks of ISIS in Raqqa, which it used as a base to launch terror attacks around the world. A sustained effort to retake the city began in early June, in an operation led by the SDF and backed up by coalition air strikes. The SDF announced the final phase of the operation at the weekend.

In the past few days, the SDF said it had cleared ISIS fighters from the National Raqqa Hospital and Paradise Square, the infamous area in the center where ISIS jihadists carried out public beheadings and crucifixions. The terror group's black flag was hauled down from Raqqa's stadium, its last hideout in the city, on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

“The SDF have taken casualties in the past hours and we expect there will still be pockets of ISIS fighters in the coming days,” coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon told CNN. In a sign that the SDF operation was nearing a conclusion, coalition air strikes had eased off in the past week.

There was only one US airstrike in Syria Monday, but …

Virginia Man Sentenced for Lying to FBI about Friend's ties to ISIS

Virginia Man Sentenced for Lying to FBI about Friend's ties to ISISA Woodbridge man was sentenced to prison Friday after lying to FBI agents when asked whether he knew any ISIS supporters, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Michael Queen, 28, was sentenced to 2 years in prison for obstructing justice and making false statements involving international terrorism, attorney’s office spokesperson Joshua Stueve said. Queen operated a gaming center in Fairfax with another defendant, Soufian Amri, who will be sentenced later this month on similar charges.

A third man, Haris Qamar, was arrested last summer after he attempted to join ISIS in the Middle East, according to court filings. After he was unable to travel, Qamar reportedly sent money to ISIS and took videos of Washington-area landmarks for use in ISIS publications to encourage lone-wolf attacks.

In the weeks before Qamar’s arrest, Queen was questioned by agents about whether he knew anyone who was trying to join ISIS. He reportedly gave the name of a Hindu acquaintance. Later, in a taped conversation between Queen, Amri and a third person, Queen reportedly said, “I’m never going to throw a Muslim underneath the bus to try to do the right thing,” according to court filings.

Qamar was arrested days after that recording and sentenced in February to more than eight years in prison. The indictments of Queen and Amri were announced in April.

Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock Is New Model For Isis Attackers In U.S.

Vegas ShooterThe Islamic State, also called ISIS, may or may not have had anything to do with the Las Vegas attack that killed 58 innocent Americans and injured 500 on Oct. 1, but one thing is certain. The crumbling Islamic caliphate has been offered a propaganda cherry by the FBI.

By claiming credit for Paddock’s grandiose attack at the same time the FBI has been silent on the shooter’s motive, this gives a window of opportunity for an ISIS propaganda coup, according to national-security experts. Muslims urged to 'reach the kuffar in the car and shoot them'

In the world of international terror, propaganda success means new recruits and new violence against Western targets – and ISIS appears to be positioning itself for both post Vegas.

For example, just this weekend ISIS used the Vegas attack in a chilling appeal for “lone wolves” to take sniper shots at American motorists traveling down highways and to lay small bombs in rural roadways.

In the seventh part of its English-language “Knights of Lone Jihad” series, ISIS drew from the Las Vegas attack and its carefully planned carnage to suggest new operations for lone wolves, reports Site Intelligence Group, a respected chronicler of what it calls “extremist” activity around the world whether right wing, left wing or Islamic.

It starts out: “May Allah facilitate more attacks like this to our brothers who are preparing to hit in their own lands the nations that fight the Muslims. You can carry many attacks on groups …

MSU Alum Named Commander Of Coalition In Fight Against The Islamic State

MSU Alum Named Commander Of Coalition In Fight Against The Islamic StateA Montana State University graduate who now serves as a lieutenant general in the U.S. Army was recently named commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, an international coalition fighting the Islamic State.

Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, a three-star general who is a 1984 graduate of the College of Letters and Science, commands a coalition of 73 nations and partners. The coalition is tasked with defeating the Islamic State in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and ensuring conditions are favorable for subsequent operations, with a goal of increasing stability in the region.

It’s a role he welcomes, despite the challenges and complexity of the mission, which is unique, he noted, in that the coalition is working by, with and through local partner forces in Iraq and Syria. “Iraqis are liberating Iraqis, and Syrians are liberating Syrians,” Funk wrote. “The liberation of more than 33,000 square miles and freedom for more than 6.5 million civilians is the result of the power of 73 coalition nations and partners.” 

He added that the mission also spans to defeating the Islamic State’s ideology by supporting good governance and security, “preventing the next version of ISIS from developing.”

Funk has been deployed numerous times, leading soldiers in combat during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, twice in Operation Iraqi Freedom, once in Operation Enduring Freedom and now twice in Operation Inherent Resolve.

Funk’s family and the desire to serve the nation motivate him in his work, he wrote. “I learned the value of service to this nation by watching my father, an MSU alum as well, as he served his country for over 32 years,” Funk wrote. “I am indebted to this country for what it has given me and my family and want to give back to a nation that has given us so much.”

Funk’s father, retired Lt. Gen. Paul “Butch” Funk, served in the U.S. Army for more than three decades and …

Florida's Governor Declares State Of Emergency Ahead Of Richard Spencer Speech

Florida's Governor Declares State Of Emergency Ahead Of Richard Spencer SpeechWhen Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida last month, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. On Monday, he did the same thing in Alachua County, ahead of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Scott said in a statement. “This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”

“I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent,” Scott declared in his executive order, noting that Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell had requested the state's assistance. The order will make it easier for various agencies to coordinate a security plan for Thursday's speech at the university.

The school had denied an earlier request from Spencer to speak in September, citing imminent threats against Gainesville and the university following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Spencer was a headliner at the “Unite the Right” rally there that spurred clashes between white supremacists and protesters, leaving dozens injured. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man drove his car into a group of protesters.

But state's flagship university had to let Spencer speak on campus eventually. As a state entity, the administration explains in an extensive Q&A, “UF must allow the free expression of speech. We cannot prohibit groups or individuals from speaking in our public forums except for limited exceptions, which include safety and security.”

The university's president, W. Kent Fuchs, urged students and staff to avoid the event. “[D]o not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking,” he wrote. “By shunning him and his followers, we will block his attempt for further visibility.”

No campus group invited Spencer to speak, and the university is not hosting or sponsoring the event. Spencer's group, the National Policy Institute, is paying the university $10,564 for facility rental and security. The speech and accompanying protests are also a major expense: The university as well as state and local agencies expect to spend more than $500,000 to provide additional security.

And the University of Florida can't demand that Spencer pay the full cost of protecting him, because of a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement. In that decision, the university explains, “the Court clarified that the government cannot assess a security fee on the speaker based upon the costs of controlling the reaction of potential hostile onlookers or protestors,” under legal doctrine known as the “heckler's veto.”

“It's flattering, I guess,” Spencer told the Tampa Bay Times, regarding Scott's executive order. “I am in the same genre as hurricanes and invading armies.”

A university spokeswoman told the newspaper that the order will …

Stay Safe – 5 Steps To Protecting Your Digital Home

Stay Safe 5 Steps To Protecting Your Digital HomeMore and more of our home devices – including thermostats, door locks, coffee machines, and smoke alarms – are now connected to the Internet. This enables us to control our devices on our smartphones, no matter our location, which can in turn save us time and money while providing convenience and even safety. These advances in technology are innovative and intriguing; however, they also pose a new set of security risks.

SIMPLE TIPS – The Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign encourages you to follow these simple steps to secure your connected devices.

1. Secure your Wi-Fi network. Your home’s wireless router is the primary entrance for cybercriminals to access all of your connected devices. Secure your Wi-Fi network, and your digital devices, by changing the factory-set default password and username.

2. Enable stronger authentication. Always enable stronger authentication for an extra layer of security beyond the password that is available on most major email, social media and financial accounts. Stronger authentication (e.g., multi-factor authentication that can use a one-time code texted to a mobile device) helps verify that a user has authorized access to an online account

3. Keep a clean machine. Keep software up to date and install

Virtual Kidnapping: A New Twist on a Frightening Scam

Virtual KidnappingLaw enforcement agencies have been aware of virtual kidnapping fraud for at least two decades, but a recent FBI case illustrates how this frightening scam—once limited to Mexico and Southwest border states—has evolved so that U.S. residents anywhere could be potential victims.

Although virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme—one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death. Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.

Between 2013 and 2015, investigators in the FBI’s Los Angeles Division were tracking virtual kidnapping calls from Mexico—almost all of these schemes originate from within Mexican prisons. The calls targeted specific individuals who were Spanish speakers. A majority of the victims were from the Los Angeles and Houston areas.

“In 2015, the calls started coming in English,” said FBI Los Angeles Special Agent Erik Arbuthnot, “and something else happened: The criminals were no longer targeting specific individuals, such as doctors or just Spanish speakers. Now they were choosing various cities and cold-calling hundreds of numbers until innocent people fell for the scheme.”

This was significant, Arbuthnot said, because the new tactic vastly increased the potential number of victims. In the case he was investigating, which became known as Operation Hotel Tango, more than 80 victims were identified in California, Minnesota, Idaho, and Texas. Collective losses were more than $87,000.

The incarcerated fraudsters—who typically bribe guards to acquire cell phones—would choose an affluent area such as Beverly Hills, California. They would search the Internet to learn the correct area code and telephone dialing prefix. Then, with nothing but time on their hands, they would start dialing numbers in sequence, trolling for victims.

When an unsuspecting person answered the phone, they would hear a female screaming, “Help me!” The screamer’s voice was likely a recording. Instinctively, the victim might blurt out his or her child’s name: “Mary, are you okay?” And then a man’s voice would say something like, “We have Mary. She’s in a truck. We are holding her hostage. You need to pay a ransom and you need to do it 

Sen. Cruz And Rep. Gaetz Introduce Resolution Defending Israel, Condemning Unesco

Sen. Cruz And Rep. Gaetz Introduce Resolution Defending Israel, Condemning UnescoU.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today announced he will introduce the Senate companion to H.Res.570, a resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), reaffirming the deep historical connection between the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem.

The resolution also expresses support for the Israeli government’s protection of religious freedom for all faiths, and condemns the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the anti-Israel resolutions it has passed in recent years.

The U.S. State Department announced on Thursday that the U.S. would be leaving UNESCO because of its “anti-Israel bias.” Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, called the decision “brave and moral,” and indicated that Israel is planning to withdraw from UNESCO as well. The U.S., however, will remain an “observer state” in UNESCO. Sen. Cruz’s and Rep. Gaetz’s resolution urges the U.S., regardless of its UNESCO membership, to work with its allies and prevent future anti-Israeli resolutions from being adopted.

“The Trump Administration has

Free Speech or Terrorism: A “Clear and Present Danger”

A “Clear and Present Danger”

After the terrorist attacks in New York, Boston, Washington and elsewhere, Americans pulled together. But Americans still speak out voicing many different opinions. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. And most Americans support the idea of free speech. But since the First Amendment became part of the Constitution in 1791, American citizens have sometimes gotten into trouble with the government for speaking out. This has happened when a speaker was considered “too unpatriotic,” “too radical,” or “too dangerous.”

Who should have freedom of speech? Should it apply only to those who voice opinions most people agree with? Or, should it be for everyone, even for those who hold opinions that most Americans hate?

Also, what does freedom of speech really mean? Does it mean that someone should be able to say whatever he or she wants at any time or place? Or, should speech sometimes be limited by the law?

Sedition Act of 1798

Just a few years after the First Amendment was added to the Constitution, the federal government passed a law restricting freedom of speech. In 1798, Congress passed the Sedition Act. War seemed likely between the United States and its former ally France. Members of Congress were convinced that people sympathetic to France would try to stir up trouble for the new nation.

Congress and President John Adams believed that the Sedition Act would help control pro-French troublemakers by forbidding criticism of the federal government. “Sedition” generally means the incitement of violent revolution against the government. The Sedition Act of 1798, however, went far beyond this. It required criminal penalties for persons who said or published anything “false, scandalous, or malicious” against the federal government, Congress or the president.

Twenty-five American citizens were arrested under the Sedition Act. Among them was a Congressman who was convicted and imprisoned for calling President Adams a man who had “a continual grasp for power.” Another citizen was convicted for painting a sign that read, “Downfall To The Tyrants of America.” Still another man was found guilty of sedition for saying that he wished that the wadding of a cannon fired in a salute to President Adams would hit him in the seat of the pants.

Despite the arrests and convictions, many people spoke out against the Sedition Act. The state of Virginia even threatened to secede from the United States over this issue. The act was never legally challenged before the Supreme Court. Instead, it simply expired in 1801. By that time Thomas Jefferson, a bitter political opponent of President Adams and the Sedition Act, had been elected President. He pardoned all those convicted under this law.

“Clear and Present Danger”

Another major attempt to regulate freedom of speech occurred during World War I. In 1917, Congress passed the Federal Espionage Act. This law prohibited all false statements intending to interfere with the military forces of the country or to promote the success of its enemies. In addition, penalties of up to $10,000 and/or 20 years in prison were established for anyone attempting to obstruct the recruitment of men into the military. In 1918, another law was passed by Congress forbidding any statements expressing disrespect for the U.S. government, the Constitution, the flag, or army and navy uniforms.

Almost immediately, Charles Schenck, general secretary of the American Socialist Party, violated these laws. He was arrested and convicted for …

“Next 9/11” Terrorist Plot Foiled

9/11 plotUnlike Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock, three Islamic terrorists made their motives abundantly clear.

“A trio of maniacal terrorists targeted women and children — hoping to make ‘an ocean out of their blood’ — in a failed attack they dreamed would be on par with 9/11,” wrote Denis Slattery Victoria Bekiempis and Graham Rayman in the New York Daily News.

The October 6 article, headlined “Terrorist plot targeting NYC concerts, subways and landmarks foiled by investigators,” identified the trio as Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian; U.S. citizen Tala Haroon, who lives in Pakistan; and Russell Salic, 37 a Philippine national.

Haroon told an undercover agent he wanted to “cause great destruction to the filthy kuffars by our hands.” The trio sought to create the “next 9/11” and the most eager was El Bahnasawy. As the CBC reported, in May of 2016, while in Canada, El Bahnasawy purchased bomb-making materials, including 18 kilograms of hydrogen peroxide, “a key ingredient in making improvised explosive devices,” along with batteries, thermometers, aluminum foil and Christmas lights.

That month, El Bahnasawy contacted Salic, whom he knew as “Abu Khalid” and “the doctor,” to seek funding for the operation. El Bahnasawy had also assembled maps of the New York subway system, explaining that he wanted to “blow up” lines 4, 5 and 6 and the number seven train. Targeting the “purple” and “green lines,” would make for an easy escape in “the vehicle.”

As the Daily News and other publications also reported, El Bahnasawy touted a photo of Times Square, and told his fellow terrorists, “We seriously need a car bomb at times square… Look at these crowds of people!” He also wanted to shoot up concerts “cuz they kill a lot of people.”

As the Toronto Star reported, Haroon said the subway trains made a “perfect target” and they should shoot as many passengers as possible, including women and children. “NY Needs to fall. It’s a must,” Haroon wrote to the undercover agent. The Star also noted that Salic told the others, “it would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter” people in New York City.

As NBC News explained, El Bahnasawy told the others, “We just need guns in our hands. That’s how the Paris guys did it.” Then, “when we run out of bullets we let the vests go off.”

The three Muslims timed the attack for June, in 2017 the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Canadian and U.S. authorities worked in tandem and the RCMP is on record that the public was never in danger.

In May, 2017, El Bahnasawy was arrested in New Jersey and last October pleaded guilty to seven charges including: Conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to

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