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Homeland Security News

A collection of open-source homeland security and terrorism news from around the world.
Date: Aug 3, 2021

A Bellingham woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to a terrorist attack and violence against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in northwestern Washington that investigators have suggested was motivated by opposition to the construction of a natural gas pipeline across British Columbia.

Samantha Frances Brooks and Ellen Brennan Reiche were each indicted with one count of terrorist attacks and other violence against a railroad carrier Dec. 9, 2020, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

They’re accused of putting a shunt on tracks near Bellingham in late November. Such devices consist of a wire strung across the tracks, mimicking the electrical signal of a train. The devices can cause trains to automatically brake and can disable railroad crossing guards, investigators have said.

Read more: AP

Islamist terrorist organisations including al-Qaeda, Islamic State (IS),and their supporter networks are increasingly exploiting open-source software to create “cloud platform” websites to store their content. These are password-protected websites that enable terrorist actors to share content via URLs. Many of these contain an extensive and regularly updated archive of terrorist material.

This trend is likely due in part to a broad improvement in moderation of terrorist content by mainstream tech platforms. Cloud platforms currently provide terrorist actors with a comparatively stable, centralised location in which to store their material. This is because the process of taking down cloud platforms is extremely challenging. As a result, content stored on cloud platforms canstay active without significant threat of being removed. Mostcloud platforms monitored by Tech Against Terrorism exploit open-source software developed by Germany-based company NextCloud.

Read more: Homeland Security Today

Andreas Vassilakos and Jose Luis Castanon Remy published “Illicit Activities Beneath the Surface Web: Investigating Domestic Extremism on Anonymous Social Media Platforms” in HOLISTICA Journal of Business and Public Administration. Dr Maurice Dawson, Illinois Tech assistant professor of information technology and management, and Tenace Kwaku Setor, assistant professor of information science and technology at the University of Nebraska Omaha, co-authored the paper.

The researchers examined online platforms such as Reddit and 4chan, where anonymous extremist rants and thoughts can be found easily. Domestic terrorists in California and New Zealand posted manifestos on these platforms before carrying out mass shootings. In each of these two cases, the shooters identified themselves as white nationalists and used these social media platforms to anonymously post their radical ideas and perceived viewpoints of population groups that conform to their own fanatic identities in political, ethnic, and social status.

Read more: Security Magazine

The Taliban have taken over a TV station in Afghanistan's strategic Helmand province, a source at the TV and radio station told CNN on Monday, marking the latest of a series of advances by the militant group in the country.

The Helmand TV station, located in the city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, is operated by state-run Radio and Television Afghanistan. Local journalists in Lashkar Gah say there is nothing currently being broadcast over the station.

In a text message to CNN, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said the group has taken over the station.

The incident comes as the United States has ramped up airstrikes against the Taliban in a bid to turn back the militants' advances on a number of key provincial capitals in Afghanistan, a senior Afghan security official said Monday.

Read more: CNN

Four law enforcement officers who responded to the Capitol insurrection have now died by suicide, a sobering toll which doubled on Monday, after Metropolitan Police confirmed two of the department’s officers who responded on January 6 recently took their own lives.

Officer Kyle DeFreytag served in the city’s 5th District and was at the Capitol to enforce curfew violations, Metropolitan Police confirmed. Chief Robert J. Contee III sent a message to the police force notifying personnel of DeFreytag’s death last month.

“I am writing to share tragic news that Officer Kyle DeFreytag of the 5th District was found deceased last evening,” Contee wrote in a mid-July message to the department. “This is incredibly hard news for us all, and for those that knew him best.”

Read more: WUSA 9