Cities around world tighten security amid New Year’s Eve terror attack fears

by Mark Tran and agencies

London, Paris, Moscow, Brussels, Ankara, Madrid and New York among cities taking extra precautions for end-of-year celebrations

Brussels has cancelled its official celebrations, Paris called off an annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées and London increased the numbers of firearms officers on the streets as authorities across the world stepped up security measures for New Year’s Eve.

Belgian police detained six people during house searches in Brussels on Thursday in an investigation into an alleged plot to carry out an attack in the city. Earlier in the week two other people were arrested on suspicion of preparing attacks on “emblematic sites” in Brussels during the celebrations. Another man was questioned over links to last month’s Paris attacks.

Authorities said a firework display and festivities that attracted 100,000 people last year would not go ahead after revealing the alleged jihadi plot.

“Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for tomorrow [Thursday] evening,” the mayor, Yvan Mayeur, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. “It’s better not to take any risks.”

In Paris, where 130 people were killed by extremists last month, the annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées has been called off and 11,000 police, soldiers and firefighters will patrol the French capital. In all, 60,000 police and troops will be deployed across the country.

However, France’s biggest public gathering since the atrocities will still go ahead on the Champs-Élysées.

“The people of Paris and France need this symbolic passage into the new year,” said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of the French capital. “After what our city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world,” she told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine, is to release a special issue one year after the attack in which 12 of its staff were killed by jihadis. The 32-page double issue – featuring a selection of drawings by the cartoonists who died in the attack, as well as by current staff and messages of support – will be released on 6 January. Nearly a million copies will go on sale.

Moscow’s Red Square, traditionally a place where people gather to ring in the new year, will be closed. “It’s no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists,” the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said recently.

In London, thousands of police, including increased numbers of firearms officers, will be on duty. Scotland Yard said there would be about 3,000 officers across central London as a fireworks display brings in 2016.

Metropolitan police spokeswoman Supt Jo Edwards said: “New Year’s Eve is a major celebration in the diary and the Met has been working with colleagues to ensure celebrations run smoothly and the event is safe and enjoyable for everyone who attends.”

In Madrid, 600 police will be deployed to Puerta del Sol square, where the number of revellers has been limited to 25,000.

In Turkey, officials said two Islamic State suspects, reportedly both Turks, were planning to stage suicide bombings in the centre of Ankara. Turkey has been on a high security alert since October, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, killing 103 people in the worst attack in the country’s modern history. According to the private NTV television, counter-terrorism police arrested the pair in the Mamak district on the outskirts of the capital.

“They are suspected of being affiliated with Islamic State and were planning an attack on the new year in Ankara,” a Turkish official told AFP.

The two intended to stage an attack in Ankara’s main Kizilay square, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing the prosecutor’s office.

In New York city, where 1 million gather in Times Square every year, officials said 6,000 officers, some plainclothes, would be on hand to watch over celebrations. Bill de Blasio, the New York mayor, said the security measures this year would be “more extensive than ever” and include more than 500 police trained in preventing terror attacks.

“We’ll have a huge number of police out on New Year’s Eve, including a lot of our new anti-terror force, the critical response command,” he said.

In Somalia, the government has banned celebrations of Christmas and New Year for fear of attacks. In Germany, which has received 1 million refugees this year, many shelters have banned firecrackers and pyrotechnics to protect people from reliving the trauma of wars they fled.

Sydney kicked off the global celebrations with its biggest fireworks display ever. Despite safety concerns, a million-plus crowd watched the extravaganza from the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the chimes of midnight began their move across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally the Americas.

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Lawmaker: Immigration Officials Didn’t Fully Vet Tashfeen Malik’s Visa Application

LOS ANGELES ( — A Republican lawmaker in Washington, D.C., raised questions Tuesday about the issuance of Tashfeen Malik’s visa and said immigration officials failed to thoroughly check her application. Malik was one of two shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack.

Eight months before the second San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook, brought his fiance, Malik, to the U.S., he applied for a finace visa for her.

In the document, dated Dec. 31st, 2013, Farook, an American citizen, wrote that he met Malik “through a matrimonial website.” He wrote that “after several weeks of emailing, we decided to meet each other” at the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 3, 2013. It was “on this day that we got engaged.” He signed the document on Jan. 20, 2014.

Immigration officials told CBS News they asked for and received proof visa stamps that both were at the Hajj.

But House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said some serious mistakes were made in the process of issuing Malik’s visa.

In a statement, Goodlatte wrote: “It is clear that immigration officials did not thoroughly vet her application. In order to obtain a fiance visa, it is required to demonstrate proof that the U.S. citizen and foreign national have met in person. However, Malik’s immigration file does not show sufficient evidence for this requirement.”

“Visa security is critical to national security, and it’s unacceptable that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not fully vet Malik’s application and instead sloppily approved her visa,” according to the statement posted on Goodlatte’s website. “The House Judiciary Committee is working on a bill to strengthen visa processing security and protect national security.”

“What is worse, the immigration official reviewing Malik’s application requested more evidence to ensure the two met in person, but it was never provided and her visa was approved anyway,” Goodlatte wrote.

“Even if Farook and Malik were in Saudi Arabia at the same time, this does not provide evidence that they met in person,” Goodlatte wrote.

Among the evidence the couple submitted for the visa application were copies of pages from their passports, showing visas to enter Saudi Arabia and stamps in Arabic.

“Additionally, Malik’s Saudi Arabian visa was good for only 60 days, so this would cast doubt on the claim that the two were in Saudi Arabia at the same time. And even if Farook and Malik met in Saudi Arabia, there is insufficient evidence in the file for USCIS to have made that determination,” Goodlatte wrote.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wrote in a statement: “Tashfeen Malik was subjected to numerous background checks…and those…did not reveal any derogatory information about Malik.”

What they did not know about, and was later discovered by the FBI, were Malik’s direct private messages about jihad and evidence that she and Farook had been showing signs of radicalization long before the couple was engaged.

These new developments came on a day when FBI Director James Comey met in San Bernardino with FBI agents and local law enforcement officers who responded to the San Bernardino terror attack and ultimately killed the two terrorists in a shootout.

The couple massacred 14 people and wounded 22 others during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2.

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9/11 forever changed the concept of immigration in the US

By Jake Flanagin

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States government implemented a series of policy changes that would forever change the country’s immigration landscape. Because all 19 of the men who carried out attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that day were foreign nationals—terrorists, it must be noted, who had all entered the country legally—detecting and preventing the entry of would-be terrorists became the central motivation for post-9/11 immigration policy.

As such, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which had overseen all immigration and permanent residency attainment from within the US Department of Justice (DOJ) since 1993, was dissolved in 2003. It was replaced by the broader infrastructure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was signed into existence by president George W. Bush directly following the 9/11 attacks in November of 2001.

Specifically, the functions previously carried out by INS were replaced by three subagencies of DHS:

  1. US Customs and Border Protection, which oversees customs and border security, under the auspices of which the US Border Patrol operates.
  2. US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees naturalization and the attainment of legal residency.
  3. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees enforcement of immigration laws in the US, as well as immigrant detention and deportations. ICE is also responsible for enforcing the notorious Secure Communities and 287(g) programs.

While intended to increase coordination and efficiency between agencies, the absorption of all immigration policy execution and enforcement within a single body like the DHS is troubling for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, it fundamentally alters the core American philosophy toward immigration, moving it away from one that is primarily welcoming to one that is largely deflective.

It also renders the average immigrant as guilty until proven innocent in many ways. Take the biometric tracking of foreign nationals on US soil, for example. Carried out through subagencies like the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM)—the most recent iteration of the hugely problematic National Security Entry-Exist Registration System (NSEERS)—biometric tracking required men from 25 predominantly Muslim countries to register their fingerprints and biometric data upon arrival in the US.

There is also the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to contend with. Though probably a necessary addition to the national-security arsenal, it has become a breeding ground for rampant discrimination and racial profiling.

 This re-situating of immigration policymaking has reflected a cultural shift in broader American society.  It’s not hard to see how this re-situating of immigration policymaking has reflected a cultural shift in broader American society. Since 9/11, the visibility of anti-immigrant sentiments has exploded to the extent that it is now a chief campaign platform for Republican presidential hopefuls. This is a major departure from conservative standard-bearers of pre-9/11 America; president Ronald Reagan was identifiably pro-immigration and pro-amnesty, after all.

Obviously, security agencies and law enforcement need to be kept abreast of the country’s in- and outflow of people. And perhaps the zealotry with which agencies like ICE operates (ICE deports more non-criminals than criminals) has helped prevent another domestic act of terror on the scale of 9/11 in the 14 years since. But to keep immigration oversight solely within the confines of a government department specifically engineered to combat terrorism is supreme overkill. And as with most cases of supreme overkill, in the process of rooting out a dangerous minority, it punishes scores of innocent people who could have otherwise had a positive impact on American society. It’s also fantastically expensive to deport people who don’t need to be deported—people who otherwise pay into flailing federal entitlement programs.

 Going forward, it would be better to revive the INS in some capacity, perhaps reinstating it under the DOJ (as immigration is, above all else, an issue of legality). Or perhaps, given the importance of immigration processing, it should have its own federal executive department. Canada, for instance, has a separate Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC),with its own minister in the Canadian cabinet. The Canadian Border Services Agency handles border-crossing from a security standpoint, and effectively pulls personnel from CIC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), with general border enforcement. The United States could implement a similar body, utilizing the resources of the State Department, DOJ, and DHS to ensure a fair-minded, non-discriminatory, but still security-conscious immigration system.
 Maintaining immigration as first and foremost an area of national security both squanders precious resources and dangerously subverts one of this country’s foundational messages: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Instead, the post 9/11 message has been: “Who are you? What do you want? How did you get here? Yeah, actually, get out.”

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Thousands of immigrants from many countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nepal and others have had their adjustment of status applications (I-485) and family petitions (I-730) put on hold by the immigration service due to the fact that they “appear inadmissible” due to 212(a)(3)(B). If you have contacted immigration regarding your application, you may have received a response similar to the following:

“Your case is on hold because you appear to be inadmissible under 212(a)(3)(B) of the INA, and USCIS currently has no authority not to apply the inadmissibility ground(s) to which you appear to be subject. Rather than denying your application based on inadmissibility, we are holding adjudication in abeyance while the Department of Homeland Security considers additional exercises of the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretionary exemption authority. Such an exercise of the exemption authority might allow us to approve your case.”

If you have received notice to this effect, you are not alone. More than 8,500 people, and possibly up to 10,000 people, are stuck in limbo because of this provision of law. This is obviously a huge problem.

Immigration Attorney Robert Perkins, also known as The Immigration Professor, is currently working on a solution to this issue. If you fall in this category because you appear inadmissible due to 212(a)(3)(B), please contact our office at 310-384-0200 to discuss your case with the attorney. For cases arising in Northern California, we are working in concert with the Law Offices of Jeffrey O’Brien so please contact them directly at (415) 438-0229 .