Facebook auto-generating pages for Islamic State, al-Qaida

Sigh….

In the face of criticism that Facebook is not doing enough to combat extremist messaging, the company likes to say that its automated systems remove the vast majority of prohibited content glorifying the Islamic State group and al-Qaida before it’s reported.

But a whistleblower’s complaint shows that Facebook itself has inadvertently provided the two extremist groups with a networking and recruitment tool by producing dozens of pages in their names.

The social networking company appears to have made little progress on the issue in the four months since The Associated Press detailed how pages that Facebook auto-generates for businesses are aiding Middle East extremists and white supremacists in the United States.

On Wednesday, U.S. senators on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will be questioning representatives from social media companies, including Monika Bickert, who heads Facebooks efforts to stem extremist messaging.

The new details come from an update of a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the National Whistleblower Center plans to file this week. The filing obtained by the AP identifies almost 200 auto-generated pages — some for businesses, others for schools or other categories — that directly reference the Islamic State group and dozens more representing al-Qaida and other known groups. One page listed as a “political ideology” is titled “I love Islamic state.” It features an IS logo inside the outlines of Facebook’s famous thumbs-up icon.

In response to a request for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told the AP: “Our priority is detecting and removing content posted by people that violates our policy against dangerous individuals and organizations to stay ahead of bad actors. Auto-generated pages are not like normal Facebook pages as people can’t comment or post on them and we remove any that violate our policies. While we cannot catch every one, we remain vigilant in this effort.”

Facebook has a number of functions that auto-generate pages from content posted by users. The updated complaint scrutinizes one function that is meant to help business networking. It scrapes employment information from users’ pages to create pages for businesses. In this case, it may be helping the extremist groups because it allows users to like the pages, potentially providing a list of sympathizers for recruiters.

The new filing also found that users’ pages promoting extremist groups remain easy to find with simple searches using their names. They uncovered one page for “Mohammed Atta” with an iconic photo of one of the al-Qaida adherents, who was a hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. The page lists the user’s work as “Al Qaidah” and education as “University Master Bin Laden” and “School Terrorist Afghanistan.”

Facebook has been working to limit the spread of extremist material on its service, so far with mixed success. In March, it expanded its definition of prohibited content to include U.S. white nationalist and white separatist material as well as that from international extremist groups. It says it has banned 200 white supremacist organizations and 26 million pieces of content related to global extremist groups like IS and al-Qaida.

It also expanded its definition of terrorism to include not just acts of violence attended to achieve a political or ideological aim, but also attempts at violence, especially when aimed at civilians with the intent to coerce and intimidate. It’s unclear, though, how well enforcement works if the company is still having trouble ridding its platform of well-known extremist organizations’ supporters.

But as the report shows, plenty of material gets through the cracks — and gets auto-generated.

The AP story in May highlighted the auto-generation problem, but the new content identified in the report suggests that Facebook has not solved it.

The report also says that researchers found that many of the pages referenced in the AP report were removed more than six weeks later on June 25, the day before Bickert was questioned for another congressional hearing.

The issue was flagged in the initial SEC complaint filed by the center’s executive director, John Kostyack, that alleges the social media company has exaggerated its success combatting extremist messaging.

“Facebook would like us to believe that its magical algorithms are somehow scrubbing its website of extremist content,” Kostyack said. “Yet those very same algorithms are auto-generating pages with titles like ‘I Love Islamic State,’ which are ideal for terrorists to use for networking and recruiting.”

Source: Facebook auto-generating pages for Islamic State, al-Qaida

‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Of the many articles on Jack Letts, I picked this one, given the Conservative’s implementation revocation provisions is C-24. During parliamentary hearings on C-24 (and the subsequent repeal under the Liberals in C-6), the risk of “beggar the neighbour” approaches between countries was raised by Audrey Macklin among others.

So no surprise that it has happened, and from an overall security perspective, offloading a suspected terrorist to another government, does not increase security. That Britain did so, when Letts only has a formal connection to Canada, having been raised and grown-up in the UK, only makes it worse.

Conservative leader Scheer did not include citizenship issues when he unveiled his immigration policy a few months ago:

The Conservatives on Sunday renewed their condemnation of the Liberal government’s position on citizenship rights for terrorists, following news that U.K. officials had stripped former ISIL member Jack Letts — known as “Jihadi Jack” — of his British citizenship.

Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus did not commit to overturning a policy introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 that would prevent Canada from making a similar move, but said the Liberal government must fight to keep Letts out of the country. 

“The idea that anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed is naïve and dangerous to the safety of Canadians,” Paul-Hus said in a statement on Sunday. Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Sunday confirmed reports that the United Kingdom had revoked Letts’ citizenship, saying in a written statement that Canada was “disappointed” by the move, and accusing Britain of trying to “off-load their responsibilities.”

The move means that if Letts is deported, he would become the sole responsibility of Canada.

The issue might have set off a behind-the-scenes diplomatic row between the two countries, according to media reports and private emails from Canadian consular officials unearthed by the National Post. It could also refuel debate over whether Ottawa should be allowed to revoke dual citizens of their status as Canadians if convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by British media, is being held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The longtime U.K. resident, now 24 years old, converted to Islam at a young age and eventually left the country to join the extremist organization, eventually settling in the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2017.

His entire family are dual British-Canadian citizens, including his father, John Letts, who was born in Ontario, and his U.K.-born mother, Sally Lane.

In June, Letts’ parents were found guilty of funding terrorism after they wired their son money in a bid to help him escape an ISIL-controlled region of Syria.

The court heard that a member of Letts’ mosque in the U.K. had warned the parents that their son might have been radicalized, and that they should take away his passport as a way to protect him. But Letts and Lane reportedly ignored the advice and bought him a plane ticket to Jordan in 2014 for a “grand Middle East adventure,” according to one recollection of events.

According to media reports, Letts became known to authorities after a spate of violent Facebook posts, in which he said he would “happily kill each and every one” of the members of a British military regiment of which a former schoolmate was a member.

There is no clear evidence whether Letts personally carried out any violent acts during his time with ISIL.

Citing private emails from Global Affairs Canada, the National Post reported last October that Canadian consular officials had been in contact with Letts’ parents for months. The officials went as far as to discuss possible escape routes for Letts out of Syria, and assured his parents they were “working diligently on your son’s file,” according to the emails.

But their tone shifted abruptly in early 2018, the emails show, leading the family to believe that British officials had struck down those efforts behind closed doors.

The diplomatic spat could refuel a long-standing debate in Canada. Because international law prevents governments from making anyone “stateless,” only people with two passports can have their citizenship stripped.

In 2014, former prime minister Stephen Harper amended the Citizenship Act to allow Canada to strip the status of any dual citizen who is found guilty of terrorism, among other things. The Liberal government under Trudeau reversed that decision in a bill that passed through the Senate in 2017.

Some experts say efforts by Britain are counterproductive and run afoul of human rights laws.

“I think there’s a real question here as to whether Britain is violating international law by doing this, and whether Canada could seek to hold the U.K to account,” said Audrey Macklin, a human rights law professor at the University of Toronto.

Macklin said moves to render people stateless can in turn stymie efforts to snuff out terrorist organizations.

“If you are serious about global co-operation in combatting terrorism, you would realize that citizenship stripping is inimical to that,” she said. 

Trudeau is due to meet the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, at a Group of Seven meeting in France that starts on Aug. 24.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Toronto earlier this month. The two ministers discussed Letts during the visit, yesterday’s statement from Goodale’s office said.

“While we are disappointed in their decision, we do not conduct tit-for-tat diplomacy. Canada and the U.K. continue to work closely together on a number of issues, including the situation in Hong Kong,” the statement added.

Source: ‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Sensible commentary by Doug Saunders:

The Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka have not only brought horror to the island’s tiny, impoverished Christian community and threatened an end to the country’s decade of unsteady peace. They’ve also struck fear in the governments and security agencies of many countries, including Canada, which have been struggling to deal with a steady trickle of their citizens seeking to return home from Syria and Iraq.

We don’t know whether reports are true that two or more of the Sri Lankan terrorists had gone to Syria to fight with the terrorist army that calls itself Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh), and returned after that organization’s self-proclaimed caliphate was crushed and defeated last year. It is clear, however, that the attacks are linked to a desire among some of that organization’s former fighters to bring revenge to their own countries.

There are currently several hundred European, U.S. and Canadian alleged IS fighters being held in northern Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (the number of Canadians may be as low as 10). Whether they should be returned to their home countries is the subject of an intense international debate.

Some have suggested stripping them of their citizenship – which was a legal option, rarely if ever applied, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government – thus making them the responsibility of some other country. Others wonder why we should be responsible for investigating and trying Canadians who allegedly have committed grave crimes abroad; in other circumstances, they’d be tried and sentenced in the place where their crimes took place.

But they are, ultimately, our problem. They aren’t foreign – almost all the Canadians accused are Canadian citizens born here to Canadian families, and their radicalization took place here, in the dark corners of Canadian society. To attempt to dump them on another country, or on a poor and struggling Kurdish-led Syrian democracy movement that has already been betrayed by Canada and its allies, would be both immoral and dangerous.

There are good reasons why nobody is eager to see them returned. The probability of any returned foreign fighter committing violence is low – a 2015 study found that only 0.2 per cent of returned fighters, or one in 500, had been charged with terrorism offences. The return of IS fighters has not produced the wave of attacks that many had anticipated. But the few who do maintain their violent commitments are noted, in the words of a study published last year by the United Nations Security Council, for their “increased lethality, both as attackers and as attack planners,” making them responsible for “some of the most lethal terrorist attacks.”

But the flaw in the citizenship-stripping approach becomes apparent when you take a close look at those who have dual citizenship, and would therefore be eligible.

Typical of them is Syrian detainee Jack Letts, who holds both Canadian and British citizenship. Neither Canada nor Britain wants him back. Political leaders in both countries have suggested revoking his citizenship – and thus dumping his case, and the considerable security and justice costs associated with his case, on the other country.

As a result, he waits in Syria. If he is guilty of atrocities or war crimes – and simply being a member of IS could qualify as one – neither country is willing to expend the investigative and judicial resources to prove it and bring him to justice. If he is innocent, as he claims, neither country is willing to try to clear him.

The Kurds have made it clear that they do not want hundreds of people such as him on their hands. Ilham Ahmed, a leader of the Kurdish-led SDF, says it is straining their resources just to hold people such as him. “We have provided the support we can by arresting them and detaining them in prisons, but who is going to take them to court?” she told the Financial Times. “Who is going to [be] carrying out the prosecution?”

Another horrific news story this month illustrated the risk of not taking these people back. Germany is currently trying a 27-year-old woman from Lower Saxony known as Jennifer W. for allegations that she, as an IS “morality policewoman” in Syria, tortured a 5-year-old Yazidi slave girl to death. Prosecutors consider themselves lucky to have found a phone containing what they say are incriminating messages.

If kept in Syria or foisted on another country, she would never have been charged. Trials such as hers are expensive, difficult and risky, but the expense is necessary, and the risk would be greater if these people were left at large. Some of them may be the world’s worst people, but they are our people. If they are truly to be brought to justice, or at least kept under watch so they pose less danger, it is far more likely to happen here.

Source: Canadian extremists returning from Syria are a big problem – but they’re our problem

White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise

Of note:

Many scholars of terrorism see worrying similarities between the rise of the Islamic State and that of white nationalist terrorism, seen most recently in the carnage in El Paso, Tex.

“The parallels are stunning,” said Will McCants, a prominent expert in the field.

And they are growing more notable with each new attack.

Experts say that the similarities are far from a coincidence. White nationalist terrorism is following a progression eerily similar to that of jihadism under the leadership of the Islamic State, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have suddenly grown so frequent and deadly.

In both, there is the apocalyptic ideology that predicts — and promises to hasten — a civilizational conflict that will consume the world. There is theatrical, indiscriminate violence that will supposedly bring about this final battle, but often does little more than grant the killer a brief flash of empowerment and win attention for the cause.

There are self-starter recruits who, gathering in social media’s dark corners, drive their own radicalization. And for these recruits, the official ideology may serve simply as an outlet for existing tendencies toward hatred and violence.

Differences between white nationalists and the Islamic State remain vast. While Islamic State leaders leveraged their followers’ zeal into a short-lived government, the new white nationalism has no formal leadership at all.

“I think a lot of people working on online extremism saw this coming,” said J.M. Berger, author of the book “Extremism,” and a fellow with VOX-Pol, a group that studies online extremism, referring to the similarities between white nationalism and the Islamic State.

In retrospect, it is not hard to see why.

The world-shaking infamy of the Islamic State has made it a natural model even — perhaps especially — for extremists who see Muslims as enemies.

A set of global changes, particularly the rise of social media, has made it easy for any decentralized terrorist cause to drift toward ever-grander, and evermore nonsensical, violence.

“Structurally, it didn’t matter whether those extremists were jihadists or white nationalists,” Mr. Berger said.

White nationalism in all forms has been on the rise for some years. Its violent fringe was all but certain to rise as well.

The feedback loop of radicalization and violence, once triggered, can take on a terrible momentum all its own, with each attack boosting the online radicalization and doomsday ideology that, in turn, drive more attacks.

The lessons are concerning. It is nearly impossible to eradicate a movement animated by ideas and decentralized social networks. Nor is it easy to prevent attacks when the perpetrators’ ideology makes nearly any target as good as the next, and requires little more training or guidance than opening a web forum.

And global changes that played a role in allowing the rise of the Islamic State are only accelerating, Mr. Berger warned — changes like the proliferation of social networks.

“When you open up a vast new arena for communication, it’s a vector for contagion,” he said.

The nihilism that increasingly defines global terrorism first emerged in the sectarian caldron of American-occupied Iraq.

A washed-up criminal from Jordan, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, exploited the chaos brought by the American-led invasion to slaughter occupiers and Iraqi Muslims alike, circulating videos of his deeds.

Al Qaeda, for all its religious claims, had, like most terrorist groups, killed civilians in pursuit of worldly goals like an American withdrawal from the Middle East.

But Mr. Zarqawi seemed driven by sadism, a thirst for fame and an apocalyptic ideology that he is thought to have only vaguely grasped.

Al Qaeda objected, fearing he would alienate the Muslim world and distract from jihadism’s more concrete goals.

Mr. Zarqawi instead proved so popular among jihadist recruits that Al Qaeda let him fight under its name. After his death, his group re-emerged as the Islamic State.

His group’s unlikely rise hinted at a new approach to terrorism — and sheds light on why white nationalist terrorism is converging on similar beliefs and practices.

Most terrorists are not born wishing to kill. They have to be groomed. Where past terrorist groups had appealed to the political aspirations and hatreds of its recruits, Mr. Zarqawi’s found ways to activate a desire for bloodshed itself.

The American-led invasion of Iraq had seemed, for many Middle Easterners, to turn the world upside down. Mr. Zarqawi and later the Islamic State, instead of promising to turn it right side up, offered an explanation: The world was rushing toward an end-of-days battle between Muslims and infidels.

In that world, Mr. McCants wrote in 2015, “the apocalyptic recruiting pitch makes more sense.”

This gave the group justification for attacks that otherwise made little strategic sense, like killing dozens of fellow Muslims out shopping, which it said would help usher in the apocalypse foretold in ancient prophecy.

Because the attacks were easier to carry out, almost anyone could execute their own and feel like a true soldier in the glorious cause.

Jihadism retained its core political agenda. But the things that made the Islamic State’s form of terrorism so infectious also made it less strategically rational.

With an ideology that said anyone could kill for the movement and that killing was its own reward, much of the violence took on a momentum of its own.

That, some scholars say, is what appears to be happening now with the extreme wings of the white nationalist movement rising globally.

Seeing a Global Race War

The ideological tracts, recruiting pitches and radicalization tales of the Islamic State during its rise echo, almost word-for-word, those of the white nationalist terrorists of today.

For the latter, the world is said to be careening toward a global race war between whites and nonwhites.

“The Camp of the Saints,” a bizarre 1973 French novel that has since become an unofficial book of prophecy for many white nationalists, describes a concerted effort by nonwhite foreigners to overwhelm and subjugate Europeans, who fight back in a genocidal race war.

So-called manifestoes left by the terrorist attackers at Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Tex., have warned of this coming war too. They also say their attacks were intended to provoke more racial violence, hastening the fight’s arrival.

Radicalization requires little more than a community with like-minded beliefs, said Maura Conway, a terrorism scholar at Dublin City University. While white backlash to social and demographic change is nothing new, social media has allowed whites receptive to the most extreme version to find one another.

Mr. Berger, in his research, found that these deadly messages, which have had mixed success in traditional propaganda channels in all but the most dire historical moments, can spread like wildfire on social media.

He termed the message one of “temporal acceleration” — the promise that an adherent could speed up time toward some inevitable endpoint by committing violence. And the “apocalyptic narratives,” he found, exploit social media’s tendency to amplify whatever content is most extreme.

As with the Islamic State’s calls for mass murder, this worldview has resonated among young men, mostly loners, who might have previously expressed little ideological fervor or experienced much hardship. It offered them a way to belong and a cause to participate in.

And, much like the Islamic State had found, social media gave white extremists a venue on which to post videos of their exploits, where they would go viral, setting off the cycle again.

In 2015, Mr. Berger wrote that the Islamic State had been “the first group to employ these amplifying tactics on social media.” But, he added, “it will not be the last.”

What should be done with foreigners who joined Islamic State?

Swiss perspectives:

Switzerland is one the many countries facing difficult choices in dealing with their citizens linked to the Islamic State. These are some of the options on the table, and the challenges involved.

US-backed Kurdish-led forces are currently holding tens of thousands of people linked to Islamic State in northern Syria after capturing the last IS stronghold in March. Rights groups are concerned about due process and prison conditions for IS detainees both in Syria and in neighbouring Iraq.

The detainees are mostly Syrians and Iraqis but also include some 2,000 foreigners from more than 70 countries, as well as women and children being held in a separate camp that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described as “deeply sub-standard”. There are currently a dozen adults with links to Switzerland in northern Syria, and the United Nations this week called for fair trials for Islamic State captives and for countries to take responsibility for their nationals.

“Accountability, with fair trials, protects societies from future radicalisation and violence,” Bachelet saidexternal link on Monday. “Betrayals of justice, following flawed trials – which may include unlawful and inhumane detention, and capital punishment – can only serve the narrative of grievance and revenge.”

In northeast Syria, Swiss public television (RTS) interviewed a Swiss jihadist who has been detained by the Kurds since January 2018.

 How can justice be served?

One possibility is to have IS members tried by the local justice system set up by the Kurdish self-administration in northeast Syria, says Marco Sassoli external link, director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Another possibility is that the foreign fighters are sent back to their home countries.

The third possibility is to establish a kind of international tribunal, Sassoli told swissinfo.ch.

They could also be transferred to Iraq and judged there, which has already happened in some cases.

The Geneva Academy recently co-organised a conference on the issue with the NGO Fight for Humanity, which produced a report and recommendationsexternal link. But none of the options are simple.

Could foreign fighters be repatriated?

With the notable exception of countries such as the US and Russia, most Western governments – and their electorates – are not keen on the idea of repatriating these “combatants”. Some countries, including Britain, have stripped former IS members of their nationality.

Switzerland has said it will not actively repatriate its nationals, and Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has said she would prefer to see them tried where they are in Syria or Iraq, for security reasons.

Sassoli thinks the security fear is irrational.

“They are more dangerous in Syria than in a Swiss prison,” he says, because in Switzerland it is harder to escape and the political situation is stable, whereas the Kurdish area is a potential target for Syria and Turkey. He thinks repatriating nationals could be a good option if Western countries want to do “something special for their nationals”, but this option would have the disadvantage of being much further from the witnesses and the evidence.

“Active repatriation may only be examined for minors,” Swiss Foreign Ministry Spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltschinger told swissinfo.ch. “In this regard, the best interest of the child is decisive.”

The Swiss government has rejected calls to actively repatriate Islamic militants with Swiss nationality from Syria or Iraq.

What about an international tribunal?

The Swiss government has raised the possibility of helping to set up an international tribunal and says it supports creating such a court. It participated in a preliminary meeting on this in Stockholm earlier this month with eleven European Union countries, but Eltschinger said that “no decisions were taken”.

“Such a court would have to provide for the guarantees inherent to the rule of law, be appropriately organised, impartial and enjoy broad international support among Switzerland’s partners,” the foreign ministry spokesman said via e-mail.

He also cited disadvantages to support for such a court, including its complexity and the fact that such an operation is very expensive. In addition, he said, evidence may be difficult to access because it depends on cooperation with multiple states.

“Depending on the court’s location, there is a risk of a lack of independence and political influence,” Eltschinger said.

Could it be a UN tribunal? And where would the court be based?

Sassoli says a UN court is not going to happen, and a tribunal in a European country is also unlikely because of security concerns. He thinks another possibility for a treaty-based international or mixed tribunal would be in Iraq, because Iraq would agree to it, unlike Syria.

A Syria-based court “would be quite revolutionary,” says Sassoli, “because it would mean establishing a tribunal on the territory of a state which does not consent”.

Iraq is already holding trials of IS members, including some foreign ones. But there are concerns, particularly regarding the death penalty which exists in Iraq (and not on Kurdish territory). For example, 11 French nationalsexternal link have been sentenced to death in Iraq for belonging to IS. But it is likely that Iraq would agree to a mixed tribunal according to international standards and no death penalty in exchange for significant Western help with expertise and infrastructure.

What crimes would the suspects be tried for?

Another issue is what kind of statute an international tribunal would have. For Switzerland and other European countries, simply belonging to IS is a crime, but Sassoli says that for credibility an international court should try suspects for war crimes. And in terms of international standards, it should also try everyone involved in the conflict on an equal basis, i.e. not just foreign fighters and not just IS.

“Everyone – the Syrians, the Iraqis, the foreigners – has the same right to judicial guarantees and if they committed war crimes they must be prosecuted.”

Who has a right to try IS suspects?

The Kurdish authorities are appealing for international support to conduct trials under their own justice system and have repeatedly stressed that they lack the resources to secure and care for such a high number of dangerous detainees. Kurdish representative Khaled Issa, who participated in the Geneva conference, told Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA that the Kurds’ self-administration had a right to try IS suspects because “they were arrested on our territory, they committed their crimes on our territory and the victims are our families and infrastructure”.

But helping the Kurdish authorities to improve their justice system and prisons would constitute a kind of recognition for them, which is delicate.

“From the point of view of Syria, but especially of Turkey, these are terrorists and rebels,” says Sassoli. “Establishing a criminal tribunal is not like establishing a health clinic. In the public’s perception, this is something done by states.”

Source: What should be done with foreigners who joined Islamic State?

5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Of note:

Lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee questioned senior FBI and Homeland Security officials this week about their response to white supremacist violence.

This was the latest in a series of hearings, led by Democrats, to gauge the Trump administration’s commitment to fighting a threat that federal agencies deem the most lethal and active form of domestic extremism.

There were no bombshell revelations, but lawmakers did get a few details on some key questions.

Here are five takeaways:

There is no national policy to combat the far-right threat

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who led the hearing, started by asking what he called the fundamental question: “Do we have an overall strategic plan to counter and prevent the threat of white supremacist violence? I fear the answer is no.”

Raskin was right. After more than two hours of questioning, it was clear that, unlike the government’s quick and sweeping response to Islamist militant groups, there’s no comparable national strategy to fight white supremacist and other far-right movements.

Elizabeth Neumann, a senior threat prevention official at Homeland Security, told lawmakers that federal authorities were still adapting to the evolution of both far-right and Islamist extremists: They now self-radicalize online, with little or no direction from organized groups like al-Qaida, which had a clear hierarchy and staged attacks that took months or years to plan.

“Our post-9/11 prevention capabilities, as robust as they are, were not designed to deal with this type of threat,” Neumann said.

She said Homeland Security was developing “a prevention framework” to be implemented in coming years, but she offered no details. Raskin, the lawmaker, said it was “very late in the game” to still be in the development stage of a national strategy, given the deadly far-right attacks in Charleston, S.C., Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Va. and elsewhere.

Neumann said the delay is partly because “things haven’t been institutionalized” through legislation, an executive order or a national security presidential memorandum focused on domestic terrorism. She noted that the Obama administration also lacked those tools.

“We know we’re not doing enough,” Neumann said.

Federal agents do take this seriously – even if the White House doesn’t

President Donald Trump consistently downplays the threat of white nationalist extremism, which he’s dismissed as “a small group of people.”

Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, bristled when lawmakers suggested that, given the apparent disinterest from the top, federal authorities might not be taking the far-right threat seriously enough. McGarrity bluntly stated, more than once, that racially motivated violent extremists are the deadliest and most active of domestic terrorists.

“We’re not playing with the numbers here,” McGarrity said. “We arrest more domestic terrorism subjects [before they stage an] attack in the United States than we do international terrorism.”

He said the FBI is using many of the same tactics historically used to thwart international groups like the Islamic State: working sources, staging undercover operations and asking courts to authorize wiretaps. McGarrity added that the FBI considers racially motivated extremists a transnational threat, and that the agency shares intelligence with counterterrorism partners overseas.

Homeland Security won’t say much about its prevention effort

In 2015, Homeland Security opened a small office devoted to an approach known as “CVE,” countering violent extremism. The idea is to use community partnerships and other tools to interrupt the radicalization process before it turns to violence. Critics call it ineffective, and say it leads to the stigmatization and surveillance of ordinary Muslims.

Under the Trump administration, the CVE-focused office lost about 90 percent of its old budget and about half its staff, and it’s been renamed twice to signal a shift away from community partnership work. (Some Muslim activists joke that scrapping CVE was the only Trump administration move they supported.)

But it might be premature to declare the government’s CVE program dead. Neumann said CVE-style prevention work will be part of a broad counterterrorism strategy that Homeland Security plans to have ready by this fall. But she gave few details about the program or what’s going on with the restructured office that’s supposed to handle it.

“There’s still more questions than answers at this point,” Raskin complained. “What are the office’s precise functions? Who’s in charge? How many personnel will be assigned to prevent white supremacy violence?”

Debate is heating up over a domestic terrorism law

If a U.S.-based suspect is accused of involvement with an international terrorist organization such as ISIS or al-Qaida, prosecutors have an array of charges to consider that aren’t available for most cases involving white supremacist suspects.

Without a domestic terrorism statute, said McGarrity of the FBI, authorities are restricted as to how much they can police speech and conduct that’s offensive, but protected under the First Amendment.

“The FBI does not investigate rallies or protests unless there’s a credible belief that violent criminal activity may be occurring,” he said.

In some quarters of Congress, support is building for a domestic terrorism statute, ostensibly to correct the double standard in extremist prosecutions. But several rights groups already have rejected the idea, arguing that enforcing existing laws is better than giving even more power to federal authorities.

This debate is one to watch in coming months.

It’s official: Black Identity Extremism is no longer a thing

In the early months of the Trump administration, a leaked FBI report warned about a new kind of homegrown threat: black identity extremists.

The warning reportedly came after six unrelated attacks on police around the country; the FBI portrayed the threat as “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” by people with “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans.”

The claim was widely endorsed by conservative news media outlets but viewed with equally widespread skepticism as a move reminiscent of the FBI’s demonization of black activists in the civil rights era.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked McGarrity if there’s a single killing the FBI could link to Black Lives Matter or similar activist groups. McGarrity’s reply: “To my knowledge, right now, no.”

Pressley continued her attack on “this absurd designation” until McGarrity divulged that the category had been retired at the FBI.

“The designation no longer exists?” Pressley asked, sounding skeptical.

“It hasn’t existed since I’ve been here for 17 months,” McGarrity answered.

To recap: The FBI created a new category of threat and two years later quietly abandoned it without explanation.

Source: 5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Government removes all mention of ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shia’ extremism from terrorism threat report

Sigh….:

The government has again revised a report that is supposed to update Canadians on the major terrorist threats they face, removing all references to Islamist extremism.

While the report, first released in December, had initially identified attackers “inspired by violent Sunni Islamist ideology” as the main terrorist threat to Canada, that line has now been cut.

All mentions of “Sunni” and “Shia” extremism were also taken out of the annual report, along with section headings on both types of terrorism.

The so-called Islamic State, Al Qaeda and their regional affiliates use terrorism to promote their versions of Sunni Islamist extremist ideology, while Hezbollah is a Shia extremist group.

But Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters Thursday he wanted the terrorist threat report to use language that “did not impugn or condemn an entire religion.”

“The issue here are people who engage in terrorist activity that actually defies the precept of their religion, so to allow their deviant behavior to be a criticism of a total religion or a total culture is just wrong,” he said.

“The idea, the objective here is to get language which is precise, which focuses on the issue that is being reported on in a clear and accurate way that does not impugn an entire community or an entire religion that is not responsible for the terrorist behavior.”

The government had already cut the term “Sikh extremism” from the report following complaints. A section heading on violence linked to the fight for an independent Sikh homeland is now gone.

The latest change was announced on Twitter and Facebook by Liberal MP Ruby Sahota, who wrote that she had worked with Goodale to “remove language” from the report.

The report no longer contains the terms ‘Sikh,’ ‘Shia,’ and ‘Sunni,’” she wrote. “Words matter. Our agencies and departments must never equate any one community or entire religions with extremism.”

But in a blog post Wednesday, former Canadian Security Intelligence Service analyst Phil Gurski likened the government’s repeated second-guessing of the report to a comedy routine.

“To my mind this is just political correctness and electioneering gone mad,” wrote Gurski, who also worked at Public Safety Canada, which produced the threat report.

“The inability to call a threat what it is makes it harder to identify and neutralize it.”

After the report prompted complaints, Goodale said he was confident it was “never intended to encompass or malign entire religions.”

He said he had asked officials to review the terminology “and make the appropriate changes to the language used throughout the government to describe extremism.”

The latest revision of the report contains no references to religions with the exception of terrorist group names such as ISIS and the International Sikh Youth Federation.

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus accused the government of playing politics and said he did not understand why it would “just erase this information critical for the security of Canada.”

Despite cutting references to Sikh, Sunni and Shia extremism from the annual report, Public Safety Canada continues to use the terms in its online list of outlawed terrorist groups.

Asked how the descriptions maligned communities, Goodale’s spokesperson Scott Bardsley said: “The impact of these terms may not be readily apparent to some who come from places of privilege, who seldom experience judgment based on skin colour or religion alone.”

Source: Government removes all mention of ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shia’ extremism from terrorism threat report

We can’t fight what we fail to label correctly: Phil Gurski

Agree. Fuzzy wording is not helpful and one can label in an appropriate, focused manner:

If you have never heard the comedy routine ‘The 2,000 year old man” by Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, you are really missing something. The original dates back to 1961 but it is still very, very relevant and very, very funny.

In one part, Mel Brooks, playing the 2,000 year-old man, says that WWII lasted longer than it should have and that was all Winston Churchill’s fault. Here’s what Mr. Brooks’ character had to say about that: “‘Ve must conquer da Narjies!’ Now, we were fighting and killing Nazis. We all left and went looking for Narjies!” Or another way to put it is that Churchill extended the war because he told everyone to defeat “the Nar-zis” and the troops stopped fighting the Germans and started looking for Narzis.

Sometimes I wonder if Public Safety Canada would be better run by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner (full disclosure: I worked as a senior policy advisor there, on secondment at CSIS, from October 2013 until my retirement from the civil service in April 2015). The department cannot seem to get the annual 2018 Terrorist Threat to Canada public report right. It has been changed at least twice since it came out and I am not so sure that more changes are not forthcoming.

What, then, has changed? Well, nothing more crucial than the way the department has chosen to describe the terrorist threat to Canada. Under pressure from certain groups – first Canadian Sikhs then Canadian Muslims (gee, is an election coming up perhaps?) – the phrases ‘Sikh extremism’, ‘Sunni Islamist extremism’ and ‘Shia extremism’ have been excised and replaced by anodyne phrases that are only partially reflective of the actual threat. In their place are ‘ extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India’ and ‘individuals or groups who are inspired by violent ideologies and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaida (AQ).’

Why the change? Clearly, in order not to offend Canadian Sikhs and Muslims by lumping them together with the very small number of their fellow co-religionists who have opted to use violence to get what they want, and use religion to justify their actions. What is the harm in that?

A lot as it turns out. These phrases are highly inaccurate both for what they say and what they fail to say. Let’s start with ‘extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India.’ What is wrong with that? To put it bluntly, they are all Sikhs – nary a Jew or a Seventh-Day Adventist among them. So, calling them ‘Sikh extremists’ is correct. Note that by doing so there is no intent, explicit or implicit, that all Sikh Canadians support this use of violence.

What about ‘individuals or groups who are inspired by violent ideologies and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaida (AQ)?’ Aside from the ridiculous insistence on ‘Daesh’ rather than Islamic State (Minister Goodale: Daesh is Arabic for ‘Islamic State’ by the way), this phrase is only partially accurate. I know from my days at CSIS that yes some Canadians are inspired by these terrorist groups but there is also a huge swathe that radicalise to violence in the name of greater Sunni Islamist extremist thought (Shia Islamist extremists are a different beast altogether) that has little or nothing to do with AQ or IS or any other terrorist group. Oh and guess what else? They are all Muslims – nary a Buddhist or an animist among them. Again, using the term ‘Sunni Islamist extremism’, which is what we called it when I was at CSIS, does not mean all Canadian Muslims are terrorists.

To my mind this is just political correctness and electioneering gone mad. Just as ‘trigger warnings’ seem to be everywhere these days, it seems that if any group of 3-5 Canadians say they are offended at something the government caves to their demands.

The inability to call a threat what it is makes it harder to identify and neutralise it. I sure hope that my former colleagues at CSIS are not swallowing this political pablum. And I sure hope that Public Safety doesn’t make more changes to the Public Terrorist Threat Report or before you know it we’ll all be chasing neo-Narzis while the real far right neo-Nazis run free.

The unlikely similarities between the far right and IS

Another article comparing extremists:

Far-right extremists in Britain have been accessing terrorism material published online by the Islamic State group, counter-terrorism experts have told the BBC.

They say neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists have been studying methods of attack shared by jihadists with their followers on the internet.

But we should not be surprised that they do share some similarities.

‘All-consuming hatred’

Since the middle of last year, MI5, the security service, has been tasked with helping the police tackle the growing threat from British far-right extremists.

Counter-terrorism officers have been using a range of methods, including phone taps, to gather intelligence on what the most violent individuals have been planning or aspiring to do.

In some cases, arrests have been made after suspects have been caught downloading child pornography. But officials say that neo-Nazis and other extremists have also been accessing material to plan attacks published by their ideological enemies, Islamic State.

This may seem strange, but it should not come as a surprise.

Their ideologies may be diametrically opposed to each other but there are some disturbing similarities between them, some of which are obvious, others less so.

Many white supremacists and violent Islamist extremists tend to inhabit a narrow-based world dominated by an all-consuming hatred and a total intolerance of anyone’s views but their own.

For the jihadists of IS, for example, this means treating not only non-Muslims as enemies but also Shia Muslims and anyone they see as co-operating with “the non-believers”.

Using the concept of “Takfir”, jihadists will declare even their co-religionists as “unbelievers” and “apostates” and therefore in their eyes a legitimate target.

This narrow-based intolerance, coupled with gratuitous violence, has been a major factor contributing to the inability of al-Qaeda, IS and other groups to appeal to a wider swathe of Muslim populations around the world.

Likewise in the UK and the rest of Europe, far-right extremists see as enemies all those who – in their eyes – have helped enable changes that they dislike, such as allowing inward migration from Asia and Africa.

In 2011, the Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik carried out his murderous attack in Oslo, not on Muslims or immigrants, but on youth members of a party he blamed for changing the racial mix of Norway.

‘Vile material’

White supremacists rail against a multicultural society.

So too do jihadists. They refer to Muslims living in the West as being “in the grey zone” and constantly urge them not to mix with the predominant non-Muslim populations in Europe.

Both far-right extremists and jihadists see themselves as righteous purists, yet they want very different societies.

What they do share in common is an often obsessive interest in extremely graphic imagery online, much of it encrypted but some of it circulated more widely for recruitment purposes.

Counter-terrorism officers have described some of this material as so vile that staff monitoring it have had to be given counselling.

In the years immediately after the 9/11 attacks of 2001, al-Qaeda made constant use of the imagery of planes going into the Twin Towers.

IS took this a stage further, shocking the world with its gruesome videos of hostages appearing to be beheaded on camera, as well as other atrocities such as men being thrown off high buildings after being “convicted” of homosexuality.

While these had the effect of alienating mainstream Muslim populations, they simultaneously attracted to the cause young men from around the world who often had criminal, psychopathic or sadistic dispositions.

During the IS self-declared caliphate between 2014 and 2019, its practice of enslaving Yazidi girls as young as nine for sex is known to have attracted paedophilic recruits from European countries.

Whitehall officials say far-right extremists have been sharing violent, satanic and occult images and videos, sometimes using gaming and music forums to recruit new members.

The aim, they say, is partly to desensitise people for the violence they believe is inevitable in a coming clash of civilisations.

Lack of cohesion

However, one area where the two groups do differ widely is in co-ordination and cohesion.

Broadly speaking, jihadists are united in wanting to see their ultra-strict version of Sharia Islamic law forcibly imposed on everyone under their rule.

But in Britain, far-right groups that have mostly splintered off from the now-banned National Action show little sign of working together.

Some aspire to what they see as racial purity, others want their own territory where only their own laws apply, while others are simply anarchists, bent on destroying “the system”.

Canada must bring home its own from the ruins of Islamic State

Almost completely silent on the challenges of successful prosecution. And there is a different in terms of letting them return to Canada and actively facilitating their return:

I despise Daesh (the Islamic State group) and its ilk. In fact, I have spent a better part of my life challenging their religious  interpretations and practices.

Yet, I believe that Ottawa must repatriate Canadians who answered the Daesh call, because this is the right thing to do if we truly believe in human rights and constitutional principles.

For children’s sake

We must learn from the recent death of Jarrar, the newborn son of British-born Shamima Begum, who left the UK as a 15-year-old. The baby died after London revoked Shamima’s citizenship and left them both to ostensibly stew in her hate.

Under British law, Shamima Begum was a child when she left. Now, a British baby is dead for his parents’ sins. As British MP Anna Soubry wrote, the UK breached its duty to Jarrar.

There are at least 32 Canadians being held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

The former Conservative MP rightfully argued that Shamima should have been brought to the UK, questioned, and had the law books thrown at her while her son should have been given the “protection and the support that a civilised country provides for all its children.”

Kurdish authorities say that 5,000 former alleged IS fighters and their families are being held in makeshift prisons in Iraq.

This includes 1,300 children. Russia repatriated 27 children in February. France has agreed to repatriate around 130 fighters and their families.

Belgians, who composed the largest number of Caliphate fighters per capita, are not feeling particularly welcome. Late last year, going against public opinion, a Belgian court ruled that the government must repatriate its citizens.

In a principled and courageous decision, the Solomonic judge ruled that bringing the children without their mothers – who were convicted in absentia – would violate their human rights. The judge also imposed a daily penalty of 5,000 euros per child against the government until they were returned.

Belgium’s migration secretary said: “We won’t punish young children for their parents’ misdeeds. They have not chosen the Islamic State.”

Unfortunately, an appellate court overturned the decision a few weeks ago and now 160 Belgian children are in limbo.

A mature debate

Canadian Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says the government has not decided what to do.

Canada needs to act before we read about Canadian children dying in Syrian camps.

Rather than having a mature  debate about bringing IS members to justice, our politicians appear to be gauging the public mood rather than stepping up

According to CBC, there are at least 32 Canadians being held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Dr Alexandra Bain of the Canadian group Families Against Violent Extremism (FAVE) claims that more than half of those held in Syria are under the age of five.

Rather than having a mature and constitutionally rooted debate about bringing Daesh members to justice and dealing with non-combatants as well as women and children, our politicians appear to be guaging the public mood rather than stepping up.

Leadership may require that you sometimes stand up to mobocracy (the whims of the majority) and it always means standing up for constitutionally entrenched rights – even for the detested.

Why bring them back?

Rather than following the examples set by Macedonia, Russia, France, etc, Canada caved into British “arm-twisting” and breached a deal with Kurdish authorities to repatriate Canadian citizens, according to a report by the Guardian.

These individuals went there for reasons ranging from ideological affinity, out of a sense of religious obligation, due to being brainwashed, the promise of adventure, the opportunity to create an Islamic utopia, out of empathy to relieve the suffering of others, while others were duped, forced or taken against their will.

Why should we bring them back?

First, as citizens, they have a right to come back to Canada. Though this does not impose an obligation on Ottawa to take proactive steps to bring back adults, a strong argument can be made that there is a mandatory duty owed to Canadian children.

Indeed, under the common law, our government through the courts have the parens patraie jurisdiction to look out for the best interest and welfare of our children. This is reason alone.

Setting a precedent

Second, contrary to what many people want, under international law we can’t just watch as these people are executed without due process, or held to rot even as evil as they are. Otherwise, as President Trump said correctly, if they are left alone they may continue to create havoc elsewhere.

We must set a precedent and send out a message to any of our citizens who may contemplate such actions in the future that there are consequences for such actions. This is best done by putting those who are culpable on trial.

Leaving Canada to participate in a terror group is an offence under the criminal code punishable to a term of up to 10 years. Indeed, as General Lord Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British army, told the Guardian about British fighters:

“They have to be put through due process and imprisoned if that is the right thing to do,” he said. “But I think it is also important that we treat them fairly with justice and tempered with a bit of mercy as well because I think the way we treat them may well have important significance for the way other people view our society.

“We don’t want to see others radicalised and going off overseas in the future. How we treat these people coming back – fairly but firmly – we’ve got to get it right.”

We have failed

Third, most of these individuals were born “here” and more importantly were radicalised “here” not “there”. We bear part of the responsibility because we – as a society – and our institutions failed in not preventing them from being radicalised and in the case of many women from being groomed as brides.

It is tempting to dehumanise them and easy to “other” them, but let us not forget that we extend full due process rights even to paedophiles, mass murderers and serial killers.

Fourth, some of these individuals may serve as resources to fight radicalisation after they have been de-radicalised, after serving time, if deserved.

As argued in a New York Times op-ed by Bryant Neal Vinas, America’s first Al-Qaeda fighter, these returning fighters “can be a strategic asset” to fight radicalisation if we play it right.

Fifth, western nations, including Canada, pursue criminals to the far corners of the world using extradition treaties and other means. Indeed, we have even engaged in extraordinary rendition and participated in torture of our own citizens when we thought it was necessary. Yet, now it’s too difficult to pursue these people?

Of course, it would be disingenuous to argue that traitors who engage in terrorism should be treated the same as other criminals, because the state interests are especially compelling. At the same time, the values engaged in this context – equality, freedom of speech, religion, and association – make it important that we tread in a firm but cautious manner.

It is high time that we engage in reasoned, nuanced and considered debate in a manner consistent with our well-established values, including justice, fairness and compassion.

We cannot base our decisions on emotion, populist fear, hatred or our whims, because then we are no better than them.

Source: Canada must bring home its own from the ruins of Islamic State

Is there an Austrian link to New Zealand mosque attacks?

More on the possible Austrian link:

The Austrian authorities are investigating possible connections after it emerged that the main suspect in the Christchurch mosque attacks made a donation of €1,500 (£1,293) to the far-right Identitarian Movement in Austria (IBÖ).

The suspect visited Austria from 27 November to 4 December last year, according to Austria’s Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, who said that potential links to Austrian extremists were being looked into.

Police have searched the house of the charismatic, social media-savvy IBÖ leader, Martin Sellner, who has done much to raise the profile of the Identitarians throughout Europe.

The group is hostile to multiculturalism, and claims to defend Europe against migrants, especially Muslims.

Mr Sellner has firmly denied any involvement with the 15 March attacks, which killed 50 people, but admits he received the donation and wrote an email of thanks.

In a video posted online, he said: “I am not a member of a terrorist organisation. I have nothing to do with this man, other than that I passively received a donation from him.”

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said the group will be dissolved if it is deemed to be a terrorist organisation.

“There must be no tolerance for dangerous ideologies in our country – no matter if it’s radical Islam or right-wing fanaticism,” he said.

The main suspect in the Christchurch mosque attacks, Australian Brenton Tarrant, also seems to have had a preoccupation with Austrian history – something the interior minister said was being investigated.

Austrian landmark

The suspect’s clothes and weapons were covered with writing and symbols.

One of the words daubed in white on a gun magazine was “Vienna”.

There was also a string of names of historical figures, including that of Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, the military commander of Vienna during the Ottoman siege of 1683.

Starhemberg and his company of 20,000 men defended the city against the 120,000-strong Ottoman army, which was eventually defeated by the combined forces of Poles, Habsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire.

The Battle of Vienna in 1683 is often cited by historians as the point where the Ottoman advance on Western Europe was stopped; the turning of the tide in the Muslim/Christian struggle for the control of Europe.

As such, it is a date celebrated by the far right, including, it seems, the Christchurch suspect, who is a self-confessed anti-Muslim white supremacist.

‘The Great Replacement’

The Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DOEW), which researches extreme-right activity, says there are “many rhetorical and ideological overlaps” between groups like the Identitarians and the suspected Christchurch attacker.

“The title of the attacker’s manifesto, The Great Replacement (which sees immigrants as a threat to “white” Western culture) was a slogan popularised by the Identitarians,” DOEW said on its website.

“Regardless of the outcome of the investigation,” DOEW says, the Identitarians seem to be sticking to their narrative “for the time being”. It points to an IBÖ statement from last week, which speaks of the “Great Replacement” and calls for “De-Islamification”.

The whole affair is uncomfortable not just for the Identitarians, but for Austria’s government as well.

Mr Kurz’s own conservative Austrian People’s Party is in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), making Austria the only country in Western Europe with a far-right presence in government.

FPÖ leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said on Wednesday that his party had “nothing to do with the Identitarians”.

However, Austrian media published photos of FPÖ politicians with members of the group, and Bernhard Weidinger from DOEW told the BBC that there were many links between FPÖ politicians and members of the IBÖ, who often attended each other’s events.

In 2016, before he became interior minister, Herbert Kickl gave a speech to a far-right conference in Linz, called Defenders of Europe. The FPÖ politician addressed his audience, which included Identitarians, as “like-minded people”, according to Austrian media reports.

The FPÖ has also long celebrated the Battle of Vienna victory of 1683. In 2010 it even published a comic, set during the siege, featuring Mr Strache as a knight saving Vienna’s cathedral from an Ottoman minaret.

And when Mr Strache and Mr Kurz presented their government programme back in 2017, shortly before the coalition was sworn in, they broke with tradition, and held the event on Vienna’s Kahlenberg mountain, where the Battle of Vienna took place.

Asked if there was any historical significance to the choice of venue, Mr Kurz said no.

But in a video blog, Mr Sellner hailed it as “a good omen”.

Source: Is there an Austrian link to New Zealand mosque attacks?