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Domestic terrorist threat ‘metastasizes’ in US, says FBI director

WASHINGTON – The FBI director on Tuesday warned senators that domestic terrorism was “metastasizing across the country,” reaffirming the threat of racist-motivated extremists while largely avoiding any tough questions about the actions of the office ahead of the Capitol siege .

Director Christopher A. Wray, who had remained largely out of public sight since the January 6 riot, condemned supporters of former President Donald J. Trump for ransacking the Capitol, killing five and dozens of wounded among the police. .

“This attack, this siege, was criminal behavior, outright, and it was behavior that we, the FBI, consider to be domestic terrorism,” Wray said. “It has no place in our democracy.”

He also revealed that the number of domestic terrorism investigations at the FBI had risen to 2,000 since he became its director in 2017. The Capitol Riot was part of a larger threat that had dramatically increased these. past years, Mr. Wray said.

He did not shatter investigations along an ideological divide, but the New York Times reported that agents opened more than 400 domestic terrorism investigations last year as violence erupted during racial justice protests. , including about 40 cases concerning possible members of the extreme left. anti-fascist movement known as antifa and 40 others in Boogaloo, a far-right movement seeking to start a civil war. The FBI also investigated white supremacists suspected of threatening protesters.

Mr. Wray’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was his first before Congress since the assault on Capitol Hill. He was free from drama after similar testimony last year, when Mr Trump – who appointed Mr Wray to his post – attacked him for detailing the threat from far-right extremists and fueling a false narrative according to him. which the anti-fascists were the real danger. . In contrast, the Biden administration has made the fight against domestic terrorism a priority.

Following last year’s violence, the FBI and the Justice Department decided to increase the threat posed by anti-government and anti-authority extremists such as militias and anarchists. Yet office officials rated the threat lower than that presented by racially motivated violent extremists like the neo-Nazis.

The FBI and the Department of Justice make these decisions based on violent attacks such as shootings or bombings and use the levels to decide where to focus resources.

Mr Wray pointed to another alarming trend: The number of white supremacists arrested in 2020 had nearly tripled since he took over as head of the FBI three years earlier.

White supremacists have killed dozens of people in the United States since 2015, opening fire at a black church in South Carolina and synagogues in Pittsburgh and California, and targeting Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in Texas.

The political implications of the threats became apparent during the hearing. While Republicans condemned the attack on the Capitol, some were quick to point out last year’s unrest in Portland, Oregon, and other cities, highlighting destruction of property and attacks on the police. In a spasm of violence, a self-proclaimed antifa supporter gunned down a pro-Trump protester in Portland in August.

Yet it was the first murder in more than 20 years by what the bureau calls “violent extremist anarchist.”

Mr Wray has repeatedly said in response to questions from Democratic senators that those associated with the antifa were not involved in the assault on Capitol Hill and that the rioters were genuinely supporters of Trump, not mistakenly posing as them.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Democratic chairman of the committee, accused the Trump administration of downplaying the threat from white supremacists while fueling a narrative that left-wing anarchists such as those who identify with the antifa posed the greatest danger to the country. .

Echoing the litany of mass shootings, Mr Durbin added, “Let’s stop pretending that the threat of antifa equals the threat of white supremacy.”

Capitol police largely took responsibility for the January 6 attack. Its interim leader, Yogananda D. Pittman, admitted to Congress that authorities had not done enough to thwart “the terrorist attack.”

Indeed, there were several indicators of the potential for violence on January 6. Federal law enforcement officials knew that members of militias such as the Oath Keepers and far-right groups such as the Proud Boys were planning to visit Washington, some potentially armed. Many supporters of QAnon, a dangerous conspiracy theory that has emerged as a possible threat of domestic terrorism, were also scheduled to attend a protest rally where Mr. Trump spoke before the attack.

In addition, the FBI office in Norfolk, Virginia produced a report a day earlier warning of possible violence and mentioned people sharing a map of the tunnels at the Capitol complex. However, the information was not verified and part citing a warning of an impending “war” appeared to come from a single thread online.

The FBI provided the report to the Capitol Police, although its former boss, Steven A. Sund, said he never rose through the ranks.

Mr Wray said FBI officials relayed information from Norfolk on at least three occasions to other law enforcement agencies. He said he only saw the report after the riot, but his handling was typical of this intelligence.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked what Capitol Police officials should have done if they had seen the Jan.5 report.

“I really want to be careful not to be a wheelchair quarterback,” Wray said. He later said he did not have a “correct answer” as to why Mr. Sund had not received the report.

With the signs pointing to violence or worse on January 6, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, insisted on Mr. Wray as to why the FBI had not “sounded the alarm in a more visible and loud manner “.

Mr Wray said the office had for months released intelligence reports related to domestic terrorism – some specifically related to the election – publicly and to other law enforcement agencies such as the Capitol Police.

He said the office was reviewing his actions but agreed that the insurgency was not an “acceptable outcome”.

“We’re aiming to beat a thousand,” Mr. Wray said.

But it was clear that federal law enforcement underestimated the potential for January 6 violence among Trump supporters, many of whom presented themselves as supporters of law enforcement.

The focus on antifa among Mr Trump and some of his cabinet officials and the relocation of law enforcement sources this past spring and summer may have contributed to the FBI ignoring of growing anger among supporters of Mr. Trump over the false allegations of electoral fraud that resulted in the storming of Capitol Hill, current and former law enforcement officials have said. Mr. Trump himself had pushed this conspiracy theory, influencing his supporters with the baseless idea that the election had been stolen.

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Biden cancels Trump’s terrorist designation for Houthis in Yemen

WASHINGTON – The State Department said on Friday it would lift a terrorist designation against Houthi rebels in Yemen that the Trump administration had issued in its final days, revoking sanctions that President Biden’s aides feared would hurt more. millions of hungry people than rebels.

Three officials familiar with the move said the Biden administration informed Democrats in Congress on Friday night that it would forgo the nomination, which served as President Donald J. Trump’s final blow to main Houthi boss Iran. .

Caught in widespread poverty and civil war, around 80 percent of Yemen’s population of 30 million lives in areas under Houthi control. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in November that Yemen was “in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has known in decades.”

Connecticut Democrat Senator Christopher S. Murphy said in a statement removing the terrorist designation “would save lives.”

“The designation did not impact the Houthis in any practical way, but it did prevent the delivery of food and other essential aid inside Yemen and would have hindered effective political negotiation,” said Mr. Murphy.

A State Department official said the lifting of the designation did not excuse the conduct of the Houthis, including attacks on civilians and kidnapping of Americans. But, the official said, keeping the rebels on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The terrorist designation had been in place for just under a month. It was never clear that this would inhibit the rebels who toppled the Saudi-backed government in Yemen in 2014 and, according to some analysts, did not pose a direct threat to the United States.

But it had a chilling effect on commercial food importers and aid workers who feared criminal penalties if their goods fell into the hands of the Houthis. The rebels control the capital, Sana, and parts of the strategic port city of Al Hudaydah, where much of the world’s humanitarian aid is unloaded.

“We want to make sure that we do nothing to make the lives of the long-suffering people of Yemen worse off,” Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said Friday afternoon before the appointment was made. lifting.

The reversal was widely expected. Last week, on his first full day in office, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said a revision of the terrorist designation was “the priority of my book.”

Officials said the terrorist designation was lifted before it could have widespread effect. Had it remained in place, the relatively decentralized rebel movement would have been denied financial support and other material resources channeled through US banks or other US institutions.

But the main boss of the Houthis is Iran, which has continued to send its support despite being hampered by severe US economic sanctions, making the designation’s effect on the Houthis more symbolic than scorching.

As part of its lobbying campaign against Iran, the Trump administration sought to reduce the military reach from Tehran to Yemen, where it had sent weapons and other assistance to Houthi fighters. Mr. Trump’s crackdown on the rebels has also firmly planted the United States on the side of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war in Yemen, providing intelligence and billions of dollars in weapons over congressional objections. .

On Thursday, Biden said he would end US support for Saudi Arabia in its intervention in Yemen, following accusations of indiscriminate bombings that killed civilians and other military atrocities that could constitute war crimes.

Mike Pompeo, who oversaw the terrorist designation as Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, accused the Houthis of a Dec. 30 attack on the civilian airport in the Yemeni city of Aden, which killed 27 people , as proof of the Houthis’ capacity for terror. No one claimed responsibility for this attack, and Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are active in the region.

But the terrorist designation was rushed before the Trump administration could adopt clear legal protections for importers and aid workers to ensure that goods could continue to reach Yemen. The vast majority of food in Yemen is imported.

“This purely counterproductive designation had caused months of uncertainty, as aid organizations, banks and importers of essentials like food and fuel were left in limbo,” said Scott Paul, head of policy. humanitarian aid from Oxfam America.

He said it is the humanitarian consequences of the terrorist designation – not the behavior of the Houthis – that “justify this reversal.”

Edward wong contribution to reports.

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Canada officially declares the Proud Boys a terrorist group

OTTAWA – Canada officially designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity under its criminal law on Wednesday, a move that could lead to financial foreclosures and allow police to treat any crime they commit as terrorist activity.

Government officials said Wednesday they believe Canada is the first nation to label the Proud Boys as a terrorist group. The events of the last month in Washington, they added, contributed to this decision, which was already under consideration.

One official, who spoke on condition that he not be identified, said that while the information gleaned from the attack on the Capitol in Washington was a “contributing factor, it certainly was not the motor force”.

Members of the Proud Boys, an all-male far-right organization that hailed street brawls as part of its founding idea, played a leading role in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Since the attack, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, has pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare the Proud Boys a terrorist group.

He was one of 13 groups added to the government’s terrorism list, including three other far-right or neo-Nazi groups: the Russian-based Imperial Russian Movement, and the Atomwaffen Division and The Base, which largely operate in the United States. United. The other groups added to the list are affiliated with Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

Officials stressed that the designations should not lead to short-term arrests. “Just because you’re on the list doesn’t mean all of a sudden you’re going to be charged with a crime,” said one.

But the official added that any crime committed by members of the group can now be the subject of terrorism charges under criminal law. These potential crimes include providing a terrorist group with funds or other assistance – such as purchasing Proud Boys accessories or clothing, although displaying or wearing them publicly does not violate any law.

In its designation, the government said members of the Proud Boys “espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and / or white supremacist ideologies and associate with white supremacist groups.”

The government has not indicated how many chapters of the Proud Boys are active in Canada. In 2017, five members of the Canadian Armed Forces were part of a group of Proud Boys that disrupted an Indigenous ceremony in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada Day. They were disciplined but not charged by the military.

The Proud Boys was founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, who was born in England but raised in Ottawa and helped found the Vice media empire. Vice sought to distance himself from both Mr. McInnes and the Proud Boys.

During protests, Canadian members of the Proud Boys often carry the Red Flag, a flag containing the Union Jack in one corner that was Canada’s official banner until it adopted its maple leaf flag in 1965. Group members are used to engaging in acts of violence. street clashes with leftist activists known as the antifa.

Some Canadian media have reported that Proud Boys chapter websites in several Canadian cities disappeared last month following the events in Washington. It seems that they were removed by the groups themselves rather than by the service providers.

Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from New York.

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The Pentagon warns its adversaries that domestic terrorist threats will not deter it from foreign threats.

As thousands of National Guard troops continued to flow into Washington ahead of inauguration day, the Pentagon on Sunday sent another strong signal to Iran and other potential adversaries in the Middle East not to not harness the country’s attention to domestic terrorist threats to carry out attacks against Americans in the region.

Army Central Command sent two B-52 bombers on a 36-hour round-trip show of force mission from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the Persian Gulf to deter any possible strike from Iran or his Shiite proxies in Iraq against US troops in the region. This was the fifth such bombing mission in recent months and the second this year.

U.S. intelligence agencies have been assessing for months that Iran seeks to target senior U.S. military officers and civilian leaders to avenge the death of Major-General Qassim Suleimani, commander of the elite Iranian Quds Corps force. Islamic Revolutionary Guards in an American drone. strike last January.

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of Central Command, said in a statement on Sunday that in addition to improving readiness, B-52 flights were delivering “a clear and consistent message to the environment. operational to friends and potential adversaries. “

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Pompeo puts Cuba back on terrorist sponsor list, constraining Biden plans

WASHINGTON – The State Department named Cuba as a sponsor state for terrorism on Monday in a last-minute foreign policy stunt that will complicate plans by the new Biden administration to reestablish friendlier relations with Havana.

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Cuba’s hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, as well as a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba’s support for the authoritarian leader. from Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Mr. Pompeo said the action sent the message that “the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and the subversion of American justice.”

The New York Times reported last month that Mr Pompeo was weighing the move and had a plan to do it on his desk.

The action, announced days before the end of the Trump administration, reverses a measure taken in 2015 after President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a vestige of the cold War.

Once in office, President Trump acted swiftly to undermine Mr. Obama’s policy of openness, much to the delight of Cuban American and Latino voters in Florida who hailed his aggressive stance on both Havana and its ally. socialist and anti-American, Mr. Maduro. .

Other Republicans applauded Mr Trump, saying Havana had failed to enforce policy reviews and continued to suppress dissent, breaking promises it made to the Obama administration.

U.S. officials say the plan to restore Cuba to the terrorist sponsor list was developed, breaking the standard process, by the State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, not its office. counterterrorism campaign, which would generally play a central role in such a decision. .

Monday’s designation said Cuba had “repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism,” according to the State Department’s criteria for adding countries to the list, which only includes three other countries: Iran. , North Korea and Syria.

The move automatically triggers US sanctions against Cuba – likely to have negligible effect, experts said, given the scale of US sanctions against Havana.

But the action could be a token deterrent for businesses, adding “just another among many disincentives to seek opportunities to export, import or provide services to Cuba,” said John Kavulich, president. of the Cuban-American Trade and Economic Council.

Mr. Pompeo’s statement cited Cuba’s refusal to extradite 10 leaders of the Colombian National Liberation Army, also designated a foreign terrorist organization, who have lived in Havana since 2017. The leaders visited Havana in 2017 for Cuba-organized peace talks to end a long-running insurgency in Colombia, and did not return home.

The National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for a bombing of a police academy in Bogotá in January 2019, which killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others.

Mr. Pompeo also cited the presence in Cuba of three fugitives accused or convicted of murder in the early 1970s, including Joanne D. Chesimard, 73, a former member of the Black Liberation Army now called Assata Shakur. , and who remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list for killing a New Jersey state soldier in 1973.

He also said that the Cuban government “was engaged in a series of malicious behavior throughout the region” and that its intelligence and security services “were helping Nicolás Maduro to maintain his grip on his people while allowing terrorist organizations to escape. operate.” He said the Cuban government has supported Colombian rebels beyond its borders and that its assistance to Mr. Maduro has helped create “a permissive environment for international terrorists to live and prosper in Venezuela.”

During the election campaign, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke of a return to Mr. Obama’s more open approach to Havana, pledging to “quickly reverse Trump’s failed policies that inflicted prejudices to the Cuban people and have done nothing to move forward. democracy and human rights. “

While the Biden administration may remove Cuba from the terrorism list, this will require a review process that could take months.

Ted A. Henken, associate professor of sociology at Baruch College in New York City, called the designation the Trump administration’s “final symbolic gesture” towards Cuba, as well as a reward for the Cuban community in exile and Latino voters sharing the same ideas. turned out in surprisingly high numbers for the president in November.

“It’s unwarranted on the basis of merits or evidence,” he said. “Cuba is a dictatorship that systematically denies basic rights to its citizens, but it has not been shown to engage in terrorist activities.”

“The designation is politically motivated for a national audience in the United States,” he added.

William LeoGrande, professor of government at the American University in Washington, noted that Mr. Trump’s numerous sanctions against Cuba meant that the new designation would have little additional effect.

Over the past two years, Cuba has been subjected to the toughest US sanctions in the past 50 years, which have contributed to rationing and deep shortages of basic necessities like medicine and food. Its economy shrank 11% last year, according to Alejandro Gil, Cuban Minister of the Economy.

Mr LeoGrande said the designation could hamper legal financial transactions involving US financial institutions, such as a US airline that pays the Cuban government a landing fee, as banks increasingly wary of surveillance additional of these exchanges from Washington.

Banking transactions through third countries could also be affected. During Mr. Trump’s tenure, European banks became increasingly reluctant to issue payments to Cuban state-owned enterprises. The island’s terrorism designation could further reduce risk appetite.

Mr. LeoGrande said the Cuban government would seek to avoid escalation of the conflict, anticipating that Mr. Biden would try to improve relations.

In the streets of Havana, the news was greeted with anger. “It’s a lie,” said Sergio Herrera, 45, a bicycle taxi driver.

“Trump’s neck is in a noose politically, and“ is looking for excuses, ”he said.

Michael Crowley reported from Washington, Ed Augustine from Havana and Kirk Semple from Mexico City.

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US to declare Yemen’s Houthis a terrorist group, raising fears of fueling famine

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will name the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization, four US officials familiar with the decision said on Sunday, deploying one of his last hard power tools against the enemy of the Saudi Arabia at the risk of exacerbating a famine in one of the poorest nations in the world.

It is unclear how the terrorist designation will inhibit the Houthi rebels, who have been at war with the Saudi-backed government in Yemen for nearly six years but, some analysts say, pose no direct threat to the United States.

Mr Pompeo will announce the appointment in his last full week as Secretary of State, and more than a month after meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who has begun military intervention with allies Arabs against the Houthis in 2015. This campaign killed civilians, destroyed infrastructure and worsened a humanitarian crisis that has left millions of Yemenis starving.

State Department spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment Sunday evening, and U.S. officials who confirmed the designation spoke on condition of anonymity because it had not yet been announced. The impending announcement was reported earlier Sunday evening by Reuters.

The inclusion of the Houthis on the department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations means that fighters in the relatively decentralized movement will be cut off from financial support and other material resources channeled through U.S. banks or other U.S. institutions.

But the main boss of the Houthis is Iran, which continues to send its support despite being hampered by severe US economic sanctions, making the designation’s effect on the rebels more symbolic than scorching.

For the rest of Yemen, however, the designation will certainly compound the devastation.

Experts said it would hamper humanitarian efforts to donate food and medicine to Houthi-controlled areas in northern and western Yemen, where a majority of the country’s 30 million people live, for fear that aid is seized by the rebels and used for profit. go back to humanitarian organizations. The rebels also control the capital, Sana, and parts of the strategic port city of Hudaydah, where much of the world’s humanitarian aid is unloaded.

The United Nations estimates that about 80 percent of Yemenis depend on food aid, and nearly half of all children are stunted due to malnutrition. On November 20, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that Yemen was “now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has known in decades.”

“I urge all those who have influence to act urgently on these issues to avoid disaster, and I also call on everyone to avoid taking actions that could make the already dire situation worse,” he said. then declared Mr. Guterres. “Otherwise, we risk a tragedy not only in the immediate loss of life, but with consequences that will reverberate indefinitely in the future.”

Some Houthi leaders had already been singled out for US sanctions linked to terrorism. The broader designation against the whole movement has been under scrutiny by the Trump administration for years.

The fact that Mr Pompeo is releasing it now, in the final days of the administration, is a sign of his determination to maintain his signature pressure campaign against Iran for as long as possible.

The United States accuses the Houthi rebels of being Iran’s proxy fighters, seeking to destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia by launching missiles over its border and hitting its oil fields. But a massive attack on two state-owned Saudi Aramco oil facilities in September 2019, which the Houthis said they carried out, seemed much more sophisticated than previous rebel strikes.

This suggests that Iran was directly involved, as the Trump administration has claimed, despite Tehran’s denials.

“The Trump administration could have leveraged its ties with Saudi Arabia over the past four years to move closer to a resolution to the conflict,” said Ariane Tabatabai, Middle East researcher at the German Marshall Fund, a think tank on public policies. recent interview in anticipation of designation. “Instead, the administration chose to cut the blank checks to the Saudi rulers.”

She predicted that the terrorist designation was part of a strategy to force the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to maintain a hard line on Iran – or risk the political consequences of having “to explain to national critics and regional partners why it is canceling the sanctions. “

The Trump administration has firmly supported Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war in Yemen, providing intelligence and billions of dollars in weapons over objections from Congress, despite indiscriminate bombing that killed civilians and other military atrocities which could constitute war crimes.

In October, the rebels freed two US hostages and the remains of a third in a prisoner exchange that also allowed around 240 Houthis to return to Yemen from Oman. The released Houthis included fighters captured by the Saudi-led coalition and officials who had traveled to Oman for international peace talks and were not allowed to return home.

Beyond the impending famine, the terrorist designation could also seal the fate of a huge rusty tanker moored off the west coast of Yemen.

Compared to a floating bomb, in part because of the accumulations of combustible gases it can carry in its tanks, the decaying ship, FSO Safer, is not far from Hudaydah Harbor. If it explodes or simply collapses, it could spill more than 1.1 million barrels of oil into the Red Sea, destroying its ecosystem in a spill four times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989.

About half a dozen Houthis are on board the ship, with a small crew of state-backed engineers from the crown corporation that holds the title, said Ian M. Ralby, managing director of IR Consilium. , a maritime security agency. Advice. The terrorist designation could prevent UN negotiators from working as quickly as possible with the Houthis to repair the ship or otherwise defuse the danger it poses.

“If we do not want to waste Yemen an entire generation,” said Ralby, “we have to give up this designation.”

Edward wong contribution to reports.

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Pompeo assesses intention to put Cuba on list of US terrorist sponsors

State Department officials have crafted a proposal to designate Cuba as a sponsor state for terrorism, a late-breaking foreign policy move that would complicate plans by the new Biden administration to ease increased US pressure on Havana.

Three weeks from the day of the inauguration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must decide whether or not to approve the plan, according to two US officials, a decision that would also serve as a thank you to Cuban Americans and other anti-Communist Latin Americans. in Florida, which strongly supported President Trump and his fellow Republicans in the November election.

It is not known if Mr. Pompeo has decided to go ahead with the designation. But Democrats and foreign policy experts believe Mr. Trump and his senior officials are eager to find ways to constrain President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s first months in office and make it harder for Mr. Biden to overthrow Trump. -will be policies abroad. In recent weeks, Trump officials have also sought to increase US pressure and sanctions on China and Iran.

The discovery that a country has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” as the State Department of a state sponsor of terrorism officially describes, automatically triggers US sanctions against its government. If added to the list, Cuba would join just three other nations: Iran, North Korea and Syria.

The Biden administration could act quickly to remove Cuba from the list. But that would require more than the presidential stroke of the pen. The State Department is expected to conduct a formal review, a process that could take several months.

A State Department spokeswoman said the agency was not discussing “deliberations or potential deliberations” regarding the terrorist designations. The White House did not comment.

Democrats attacked Cuba’s proposal on Tuesday, criticizing what they called an 11th hour foreign policy change that unfairly limits Biden’s incoming team.

“It’s another stunt from this president with less than 23 days to go,” Representative Gregory W. Meeks, a New York Democrat who is the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a telephone interview.

“He’s trying to put handcuffs on the new administration,” Meeks added.

The State Department removed Cuba from its list of terrorist sponsors in 2015, after President Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana for the first time since the Communist Revolution of 1959, which he declared. referred to as a relic of the cold war. In return for promises of political and social reform, Mr. Obama abandoned economic sanctions, relaxed restrictions on travel and trade, and reopened an embassy in Havana for the first time in decades. In 2016, he became the first US president to visit the island from Calvin Coolidge.

The Reagan administration first added Cuba to the terrorism list in 1982 for its support for leftist insurgents in Latin America. During Obama’s time, the State Department cited him as a “safe haven” for Basque separatists and Colombian rebels. But Obama administration officials ultimately concluded that no terrorist threat was posed by the aging Basques, nor by the Colombian rebels who joined the peace talks in Havana that led to a peace deal of 2016 with the Colombian government.

They were also prepared to accept that the Cuban government hosted some wanted fugitives in the United States, including Joanne D. Chesimard, 73, a former member of the Black Liberation Army. Ms Chesimard, now Assata Shakur, remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list for killing a New Jersey state soldier in 1973.

In a potential snapshot of a reenlistment, the State Department notified Congress in May that Cuba was among five countries it said were not fully cooperating with US counterterrorism efforts – the first time since 2015 that Cuba has not had not been certified as doing so. .

The notification cited Cuba’s refusal of a request by Colombia, a US ally, to extradite 10 leaders of the country’s National Liberation Army living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for a bombing. the bomb against a police academy in Bogotá in January 2019 that killed 22 people.

But Democrats said the idea that Cuba posed a terrorist threat to the outside world was a political fiction.

“It’s completely absurd. Cuba is not a sponsor state of terrorism, ”said Ben Rhodes, who, as Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, played a central role in negotiating the administration’s deal with Havana.

Mr. Trump denounced the deal as “terrible and misguided” and rescinded many of its provisions. On visits to South Florida, he boasted of opposing communism in Latin America and warned that Mr. Biden would not do so, a message that proved popular with Cuban Americans and other voters hostile to Havana.

As a candidate, Biden pledged to change US policy again, saying he would “quickly reverse Trump’s failed policies that have inflicted damage on the Cuban people and have done nothing to advance the democracy and human rights ”.

Cuba’s repressive government largely dashed liberalization hopes after the death of its revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, in November 2016. Havana continues to arrest and detain dissidents and quell a recent artists’ hunger strike and other activists in the capital, proof to many Republicans that his government does not deserve a cordial relationship from Washington.

Trump administration officials have also severely criticized the Cuban government’s support for Venezuelan socialist leader Nicolás Maduro, whom Trump has tried unsuccessfully for years to dislodge from power.

In an opinion piece published this month in The Miami Herald, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and an influential voice on Cuban politics, urged Biden to “stand with the dissidents” there. and urged him not to “go back to a situation. sided with Cuban politics – and threw a lifeline to the dictatorial regime of Raúl Castro.

U.S. officials say the plan to restore Cuba to the terrorist sponsor list was developed, breaking the standard process, by the State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, not its office. counterterrorism campaign, which would generally play a central role in such a decision.

Mr. Rhodes presented this evidence of a politically motivated process. “It’s a sign that they know they can’t put Cuba on the substantive list,” he said.

Critics say the Trump administration has started to politicize such designations, which are supposed to be a matter of national security. This month, the United States removed Sudan from its list of terrorist sponsors days before the African nation joined the list of Arab nations that have established diplomatic relations with Israel, a top priority for Mr. Trump.

The Trump administration recently cracked down on Cuban companies run or affiliated with the Cuban military. Last week, the Treasury Department blacklisted three of these companies.

A recent report commissioned by the State Department found that staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana were sickened in 2016 by what was most likely a microwave weapon of unknown origin. The Cuban government has denied any knowledge of such attacks.

Pranshu Verma contribution to reports.

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Far-right groups behind most US terrorist attacks, report says

White supremacists and other like-minded groups have carried out the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States this year, according to a report by a security think tank that echoed warnings issued by the Department of Security interior this month.

The report, released Thursday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41 of 61 “terrorist plots and attacks” in the first eight months of this year, or 67 percent.

The discovery comes about two weeks after an annual Department of Homeland Security assessment warned that violent white supremacy was “the most persistent and deadly threat in the country” and that white supremacists were the deadliest of all. national terrorists in recent years.

Researchers at the think tank found that threats of violence were in part linked to this year’s mass protests and clashes with protesters from various factions. The report states that “far-left and far-right violence are deeply intertwined” and that far-left groups, including anarchists and anti-fascist organizations, are responsible for 12 attacks and plots so far this year, i.e. 20% of the total number, compared to 8% in 2019.

The CSIS report, which describes itself as a non-partisan center, found that far-left extremists most often targeted law enforcement, military and government facilities and personnel.

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The report highlighted several cases, including fatal shootings linked to protests and the arrest by the FBI of 13 men accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan, a Democrat. These cases, along with President Trump’s denunciations of left-wing activists and his refusal during a presidential debate to condemn a far-right group, have repeatedly raised fears of politically motivated violence this year.

“Part of the problem that we are seeing is that people coming together, whether for protests or other issues, in the cities, is that it has basically brought extremists from all walks of life nearby,” said Seth Jones, Director of Transnational. Threats project in the center. “We have seen people on all sides armed, and this raises concerns about the escalation of violence in American cities.”

The report also linked the threat of violence to the country’s busy politics, the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout. He warned that violence could increase after the presidential election due to growing polarization, growing economic challenges, concerns about racial injustice and the persisting health risks of coronaviruses.

He said if Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the election, white supremacists could rally, with targets likely to be blacks, Latinos, Jews and Muslims. A Republican presidential victory could involve violence from large-scale protests, according to the report.

There were encouraging signs. The death toll from domestic terrorism has been relatively low so far this year, compared to some periods in US history.

Five deaths have been caused by domestic terrorism in the first eight months of this year, compared to the past five years, in which the total number of deaths has ranged from 22 to 66.

The study attributed the lower number of deaths to effective intervention by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

The relatively low death toll resulting from a high number of terrorist incidents showed that extremists this year wanted to send messages through threats and intimidation, according to the report. Many incidents involved vehicles or weapons, so there was a high potential for deaths, but “an apparent lack of will,” he said.

Of the five deadly attacks this year, the report attributes one in Portland, Ore., To an activist affiliated with the cowardly far-left movement known as the “antifa”; one in Austin, Texas, to a man described as an “extreme right-wing extremist”; one in New Jersey to an “anti-feminist”; and two in California to a man linked to the so-called Boogaloo movement, an anti-government group whose members seek to exploit public unrest to incite a race war.

In an endnote, researchers said they had not classified the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which killed two protesters in August, as a terrorist attack. They said the person charged with the shooting, a teenager whose social media accounts showed strong support for the police, “had no clear political motive for the killings.”

Mr Jones said the number of small structured groups had increased over the past two years, as part of a larger increase in organized violence recently compared to the 1960s and 1970s, when attacks tended to be led by relatively decentralized extremists.

A continued increase in organized violence in the United States, perpetrated by groups with sophisticated training and fundraising structures, Jones said, would be “a development of great concern.”

Protesters have been targeted in a large percentage of attacks by far-right and far-left groups, according to the report.

Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University specializing in terrorism and insurgency, said the number of attacks directed against protesters was alarming.

“It is of fundamental concern that Americans who exercise their right to freedom of assembly and speech during protests are increasingly targeted.” said Hoffman, who was not involved in the centre’s report. “I think all Americans must find this worrying. This is not our country. “