THE NEW TARGETS FBI Stings Zero In on ISIS Sympathizers. Few Have Terrorist Links.

Trial and TerrorTrial and Terror
Part 3
The U.S. government has prosecuted almost 800 people for terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Most of them never committed an act of violence.

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BOSTON POLICE CAPT. Robert Ciccolo was one of the first responders to the Boston Marathon bombings. When his 23-year-old son, Alexander, who had converted to Islam and given himself the name Ali Al Amriki, began telling his father he was “not afraid to die for the cause,” Ciccolo became alarmed. Alexander had a history of mental illness, and his interest in Islam had become an obsession. In October 2014, Ciccolo contacted the FBI about his son.

The federal agents could have monitored Alexander, or perhaps confronted him. Instead, as the bureau does in most such cases, agents launched an investigation. They found Alexander’s Facebook page, listed under his nom de guerre. There was a photograph of a young man in a wooded area wearing a head covering and holding a machete. “Another day in the forest strengthening myself,” the caption read. Another photo on his Facebook page appeared to show a dead American soldier. “Thank you Islamic State!” read the caption.

As part of a sting, an FBI informant contacted Alexander and offered to provide him with guns for an attack. After Alexander collected the weapons on July 4, 2015, FBI agents arrested him and charged him with terrorism-related offenses. As he was being processed at a detention center, he stabbed a nurse with a pen, causing a minor injury. His case made national news, and FBI Director James Comey told reporters that Alexander Ciccolo’s was among several plots related to the Fourth of July holiday that were foiled by counterterrorism agents. “I do believe that our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely in connection with July 4,” Comey told reporters during a July 7, 2015, briefing.

Alexander Ciccolo is among 63 men and women who have been arrested in FBI stings targeting ISIS sympathizers, according to an analysis of federal terrorism prosecutions by The Intercept.

Demonstrating the evolving threat of terrorism in the United States, alleged ISIS sympathizers are now the primary targets of FBI stings, upstaging Al Qaeda, the Shabab, and all other terrorist groups. The first ISIS case in the United States culminated in an arrest in March 2014, and the number quickly grew. Fifty-eight people were charged in 2015 for alleged ISIS affiliations. In 2016, 32 FBI cases involved ISIS sympathizers, compared to just one each that year involving Al Qaeda and Shabab sympathizers.

But as with earlier FBI stings that primarily targeted Al Qaeda sympathizers, most of the targets of the bureau’s ISIS stings are aspirational, not operational.

In the majority of ISIS stings, targets were not in direct contact with ISIS representatives and did not have weapons of their own, government evidence showed. Instead, these targets were inspired by online propaganda to join ISIS and either made arrangements on their own to travel to Syria or were aided by FBI informants or undercover agents in their attempts join ISIS or plot attacks inside the United States.

BOSTON, MA – JUNE 24: Boston cab drivers rallied this morning before attending a hearing, chaired by Capt. Robert Ciccolo, seen here, with Boston Police Hackney Division at Roxbury Community College regarding a proposed fare increase. (Photo by George Rizer/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Capt. Robert Ciccolo chairing a hearing at Roxbury Community College. Photo: George Rizer/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
After Alexander was arrested, FBI agents read him his Miranda rights. He then sat for an interview with FBI agents Paul Ambrogio and Julia Cowley.
Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, he refused to talk about the guns, but he defended ISIS as a just organization, even as he demonstrated his ignorance about the group. The FBI recorded the interview.

“ISIS claimed responsibility, right, for a lot of beheadings?” Ambrogio asked. “There’s someone who names himself Jihadi John and he beheads people, right? He does it in an online way so that people can see it. So what’s your feeling about that? They represent themselves as ISIS; they’re ISIS. What’s your feeling?”

“The people that you see being executed are criminals,” Alexander answered. “They’re criminals. They’re the lowest of the low.”

According to his family, Alexander, a high school dropout, had battled off and on with alcohol addiction. He was also admitted to a psychiatric institution when he was a teenager.

As a child, he went back and forth between the homes of his father, a stern cop who did not respond to requests for comment for this story, and his mother, something of a free spirit. Alexander followed in his mother’s footsteps.

“I raised him Catholic; he was baptized Catholic,” said Shelley MacInnes, his mother. “He stayed with his Catholic beliefs for quite a long time. I would say he is a very religious person and very spiritual, but as he got older, I think he started searching.”

Alexander Ciccolo first gravitated toward Buddhism and spent time at the Grafton Peace Pagoda in Petersburgh, New York. In 2012, he and other members of the Peace Pagoda walked around Lake Ontario to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear power. A photograph from the time shows him wearing a green V-neck T-shirt and holding a handwritten sign that reads: “Peace walk for no more Fukushima.”

Shortly after, he returned to Massachusetts and announced that he would become a Muslim. “One day we were out having dinner, and he went to the bathroom,” MacInnes recalled. “He ran into an imam. … He was so excited. ‘Mom, you’re aren’t going to believe what just happened.’”

Alexander became fixated on Islam and ISIS, and he would talk often with his parents about his newfound beliefs. “He’s always been an investigator, never takes anything at face value,” MacInnes said. “As far as ISIS goes, my personal opinion is that he was investigating the validity of that organization, rather than taking the media’s answer for it.”

Following its sting playbook, the FBI introduced to Alexander an informant posing as an ISIS sympathizer. The informant and Alexander met for the first time in person on June 24, 2015. The young man told the informant that he wanted to travel to another state and use pressure cooker bombs to attack two bars and a police station. Over the course of a week, his plan changed from bombing bars and a police station to attacking a university. He boasted that he knew how to use sniper rifles and had grown up with guns. “I know what I’m doing,” he said.

But Alexander didn’t have any weapons, aside from a couple of machetes. His only would-be bomb components were a pressure cooker purchased from Wal-Mart and some half-made Molotov cocktails.

That’s where the FBI stepped in again. The undercover informant provided Alexander with two assault rifles and two handguns. As soon as Alexander took possession of the guns, FBI agents arrested him, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction. He was also charged with being a felon in possession of firearms, owing to an earlier state conviction of driving under the influence.

BRIGHTON — Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda, left, Lauren Carlbon and Alex Ciccolo on their recent peace walk through Brighton. Ms. Yasuda and her fellow walkers are traveling 600 km around Lake Ontario to spread awareness about the dangers of nuclear energy and weapons. July 26, 2012. Alexander Ciccolo, right, along with Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda and Lauren Carlbon, on a peace walk through Brighton, Mass., July 26, 2012. Photo: Dave Fraser/Metroland Media/The Independent
WHETHER OUT OF mental illness, immaturity, or naiveté, Alexander Ciccolo professed support for ISIS, but it’s unclear whether he would have posed a threat had the FBI informant not encouraged him and provided him with weapons. In this way, Ciccolo’s case is prototypical of ISIS stings.

In these cases, the FBI provides encouragement and capacity to otherwise hapless individuals.

For example, in a similar case in April 2016, the FBI arrested a South Florida man who allegedly plotted to bomb a Jewish community center. An FBI informant gave James Medina, a homeless man with a history of making baseless threats of violence, the opportunity. It was in fact the FBI informant who first came up with the idea of crediting their attack to ISIS. Farther north, in upstate New York, Emanuel L. Lutchman, another homeless man, told an FBI informant that he had received directions from an overseas ISIS member and was planning an attack, using a machete and knives, on a New Year’s Eve celebration in Rochester. The FBI’s informant provided the $40 Lutchman needed to purchase the machete and knives.

In other ISIS stings, the FBI has encouraged and helped to facilitate the international travel of would-be ISIS recruits. An example is the case of Jason Michael Ludke, a Milwaukee man who made contact with an FBI undercover employee through social media. The FBI undercover employee, pretending to be affiliated with ISIS, encouraged Ludke and his friend Yosvany Padilla-Conde to join the terrorist group. The pair drove from Wisconsin to Texas, where they were arrested. According to Padilla-Conde’s statements after the arrest, they were under the impression that the FBI undercover employee was going to assist them in crossing the border into Mexico and then traveling to Iraq or Yemen. Ludke and Padilla-Conde are facing charges of material support for terrorists.

The analysis of terrorism prosecutions by The Intercept shows that federal judges have wrestled with appropriate punishments for those convicted of ISIS-related terrorism offenses.

Some defendants who were arrested before they had an opportunity to travel to Syria have received relatively lenient sentences. Mohammed Hamzah Khan, of Bolingbrook, Illinois, was arrested as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey at O’Hare International Airport. He received about three years in prison. Shannon Maureen Conley, who lived in Colorado, received about four years after she was arrested at the airport in Denver, on her way to Turkey.

At the same time, defendants whose support for ISIS consisted of online activity, such as distributing propaganda on social media, have received comparable sentences to, and in some cases more prison time than, defendants who tried to join ISIS on the battlefield. Heather Elizabeth Coffman, of Glen Allen, Virginia, used several social media accounts to communicate with FBI informants posing as ISIS agents. She was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. Ali Shukri Amin, who also lived in Virginia, admitted that he operated a pro-ISIS Twitter account and blog and provided instructions to ISIS supporters on how to use Bitcoin to avoid currency transfer restrictions. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

But the most significant prison sentences await those who, like Alexander Ciccolo, moved forward with terrorist plots in the United States, even if it was the FBI making them possible. Christopher Cornell, of Cincinnati, Ohio, plotted with an FBI informant to travel to Washington, D.C., and attack the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested as he was leaving a gun store. After pleading guilty to terrorism-related charges, Cornell was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Lutchman, who was involved in the purported plans to attack a New Year’s Eve celebration in upstate New York, pleaded guilty to material support and received a 20-year prison sentence.

It’s still too early to establish conclusive trends about the sentencing of ISIS defendants in U.S. District Courts. Of the 110 ISIS defendants charged, only 45 have been sentenced.

Yet the arrests of ISIS sympathizers continue at a steady clip, even when the targets of stings have proven themselves to be incompetent ISIS recruits.

An example is Mohamed Rafik Naji, of New York, who attempted five times to travel to ISIS territory but never made it. That’s when an FBI informant, posing as an ISIS affiliate, contacted him through Facebook.

The informant told him that ISIS needed someone to attack Times Square with a garbage truck. “I was saying if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck, and one drives it there to Times Square and crushes them,” Naji told the informant, repeating the idea. Naji was indicted in November 2016 on a charge of material support for terrorists, the 93rd person to be charged in federal court in an ISIS-related case.

Alexander Ciccolo is now undergoing psychological evaluation; his trial is pending. MacInnes, Ciccolo’s mother, believes he was an impressionable young man manipulated by the FBI and set up with weapons that he never could have obtained on his own. “I don’t think he even knew what his plan was,” MacInnes said.

Trevor Aaronson
April 20 2017, 7:15 p.m.

Find this story at 20 April 2017

Copyright https://theintercept.com/

Mossad Reportedly Turned French Spies Into Double Agents After Joint Syria Op

Le Monde reveals how Israeli espionage agency allegedly exploited a successful chemical weapons operation to get French counterparts to become sources; former head of French counterintelligence agency being questioned as suspect in case.

PARIS – An internal report written by French intelligence, parts of which were published in the daily newspaper Le Monde on Sunday, reveal efforts by the Mossad to develop relationships with French spies, “to the point of crossing the line of turning them into double agents.”
The audit report recommends investigating Bernard Squarcini, the head of the General Directorate for Internal Security until 2012, on suspicion of maintaining unauthorized and unreported ties with the Mossad’s Paris bureau chief at the time (identified in the report only by his initials, D.K.).

The background to all this was a joint operation launched by the Mossad and French counterintelligence agency in 2010 to collect intelligence about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical warfare plans. The operation, code-named Ratafia, aimed to recruit a senior Syrian engineer, who was meant to come to France to do additional training in chemistry and also to help recruit other engineers.
The Mossad and French agents would hold work meetings using assumed names, as is customary. The French agents, who belonged to three different counterintelligence units, were responsible for the operation in Paris, while the Mossad agents were responsible for the plot that would enable the Syrian target to leave the country for studies and to recruit others in the French capital.
Police officers guard the General Directorate for Internal Security headquarters in Levallois Perret, outside Paris, 2015.
Police officers guard the General Directorate for Internal Security headquarters in Levallois Perret, outside Paris, 2015.Christophe Ena / AP
But according to the report, the Israelis exploited the operation to persuade an unknown number of French agents to also serve as intelligence sources for Israel.
One of the French agents under surveillance was seen going up to the apartment of the Mossad’s Paris chief for dinner one Friday night. Later, he reported to his superiors that he was going to Dubai on vacation, when in fact he flew with his family to Israel, where he spent time with Mossad agents without permission and without reporting the meetings afterward.
In addition, according to the report, suspicious sums of money were deposited in the bank accounts of those French agents who were involved in the Ratafia operation.
The internal report calls for further investigation to understand what damage was done to the French intelligence service.
Le Monde also published details about the Ratafia operation. The paper claimed that the Mossad succeeded in recruiting the Syrian engineer and extracted information from him about Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The French daily said the operation enabled Israel to prove that the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Syria was being used to boost Assad’s chemical weapons program, which led to the cancellation of the agreement with the Syrians in 2011.
According to Le Monde, the Mossad’s interest in building relations with French spies was exposed because a different French espionage agency, responsible for information security, was keeping the agents under surveillance and photographed them with Mossad agents.
The paper said that all the Mossad agents involved were identified by their real names. The French filed a formal complaint, and two Israeli diplomats in the Israeli Embassy in Paris left their posts and returned to Israel. The Mossad chief, D.K., also returned to Israel following the French complaint.
According to the report, the two Mossad agents suspected of contacts with the French have left the service and are now private businessmen in Tel Aviv. But during 2016, the report noted, they made contact with Squarcini (the counterintelligence head they’d worked with) in Paris.
Squarcini, who is now being questioned as a suspect in the case, told investigators he met the two “totally by chance.”
A short time before the suspicions came to light, Squarcini himself launched an internal inquiry into whether the Mossad was trying to recruit French agents as sources. However, the agents he put under surveillance did not include those involved in the Ratafia operation, even though Squarcini was fully aware of the close ties that had developed between his people and the Mossad operatives, the report said.
An investigating judge appointed by the French filed an official request with Israel to question the two ex-Mossad agents who made contact with Squarcini in 2016. It isn’t clear if he received a response.
The judge is seeking to build on the internal investigative report and broaden the investigation into whether the Mossad infiltrated French intelligence under Squarcini.

Dov Alfon Mar 27, 2017 5:40 PM

Find this story at 27 March 2017

Copyright http://www.haaretz.com/

Associés dans l’opération « Ratafia », les espions français et israéliens se sont-ils espionnés entre eux ?

Le Mossad aurait tenté d’infiltrer le service de contre-espionnage
français dans le cadre de l’opération visant à lutter contre le
programme d’armes chimiques syrien, à partir de 2010.

Dans le monde de l’espionnage, si des services décident d’unir leurs
efforts, cela n’en fait pas pour autant des amis. Rien ne les empêchera
de s’espionner. Jamais. La preuve lors d’une opération qui a réuni, à
partir de 2010, la sécurité intérieure française et le service secret
israélien du Mossad pour lutter contre le programme d’armes chimiques
développé par le régime syrien de Bachar Al-Assad.

L’enquête de sécurité interne diligentée par la Direction centrale du
renseignement intérieur (DCRI, devenue Direction générale de la sécurité
intérieure en 2014) sur la tentative du Mossad d’infiltrer, à cette
occasion, le service de contre-espionnage français illustre ces
pratiques. Lorsque l’opération ayant pour nom de code « Ratafia »
débute, en 2010, c’est encore l’union sacrée pour prendre au piège un
Syrien qui doit effectuer des séjours en France. Il s’agit de l’amener à
livrer des secrets sur le programme d’armes chimiques syrien auquel il
appartient.

Lorsque le Mossad obtient le soutien de plusieurs groupes de la DCRI et
d’agents de la DGSE, tous ses membres agissent sous de faux noms et une
dizaine d’entre eux sont des clandestins à l’exception de D.K., chef de
poste du Mossad à Paris. Selon les accusations de la DCRI, auxquelles Le
Monde a eu accès, le Mossad aurait profité du contact quotidien avec ces
agents français lors des séjours de la cible syrienne pour nouer des
liens jugés suspects.

L’un des agents français a ainsi été vu fêtant le shabbat avec le chef
de poste du Mossad à Paris, il est également parti faire du tir à Dubaï
puis a rejoint, en famille, ses camarades du Mossad à Jérusalem. Une
proximité revenant, selon la DCRI, à franchir la ligne jaune. Des
soupçons portent également sur le versement de sommes d’argent en
espèces et l’existence de cadeaux contraire aux règles internes.
Résultat, plusieurs agents français intégrés dans l’équipe conjointe
avec le Mossad se verront retirer leur habilitation secret défense et
seront mutés dans des services subalternes.

L’enquête interne de la DGSI se garde cependant de rappeler qu’un autre
groupe de la DCRI, chargé de contre-espionnage, s’est arrangé pour
prendre en photo, à leur insu, les agents du Mossad qui travaillaient
avec les Français. Un audit sera, enfin, déclenché sur l’utilisation des
fonds de l’opération « Ratafia » après la découverte de demandes de
remboursement de frais douteux.

Compromission

Cette enquête interne a été évoquée dans le cadre d’une information
judiciaire visant Bernard Squarcini, chef de la sécurité intérieure de
2007 à 2012. Soupçonné d’avoir pu utiliser les moyens d’écoutes de son
service à des fins personnelles, il s’est défendu en indiquant que le
bref placement sur écoute d’un fonctionnaire qui lui est reproché était
destiné à vérifier s’il n’avait pas été, à son tour, « touché » par ce
service étranger. Ce qui se révéla infondé. « Le service de sécurité de
la DCRI m’a informé qu’une entreprise de matériel côtoyait de très près
des personnels ex-RG affectés aux missions de surveillance
opérationnelle et qu’il s’agissait d’une tentative du Mossad ou de gens
considérés comme très proches d’infiltrer le service », a ajouté M.
Squarcini. S’il a évoqué la compromission de policiers de son service,
il n’a, en revanche, pas dit un mot sur l’opération « Ratafia » menée
avec le Mossad.

La DCRI fit part de ses griefs à la hiérarchie du Mossad à Tel-Aviv.
Deux membres de l’ambassade d’Israël à Paris furent priés de quitter la
France, dont D. K. Ils ont quitté le Mossad et se sont reconvertis dans
le privé. M. Squarcini a affirmé qu’il avait, par hasard, rencontré, en
2016, ces deux hommes venus en France pour affaires.

Fin décembre, les juges d’instruction ont émis, à l’attention de
l’Inspection générale de la police nationale (IGPN), deux commissions
rogatoires pour en savoir plus sur cette affaire. La première sur
l’enquête de contre-espionnage visant le Mossad et les relations
existant entre ce service et la DGSI, la seconde demande aux policiers
d’entendre les deux anciens du Mossad qu’aurait rencontrés M. Squarcini.

LE MONDE | 25.03.2017 à 11h26
Par Jacques Follorou

Find this story at 25 March 2017
Copyright http://www.lemonde.fr/

Nicolas Sarkozy embarrassed: A saga of Gaddafi, €50m, phone-taps and the French M15

Intercepted conversations imply that the former President was anxious to be kept informed over a probe into his alleged funding by the Libyan dictator

Nicolas Sarkozy badgered the head of the French security service for information on the progress of inquiries into his alleged funding by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, it has emerged.

Judges investigating the alleged illegal financing of the former President’s 2007 election campaign tapped two phone calls by Mr Sarkozy to the head of the French equivalent of MI5, Le Monde has reported.

As a result, Patrick Calvar, head of the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) was questioned as a “witness” in the case by the two judge last Friday, according to Le Monde?

The approaches made by Mr Sarkozy, and similar calls by the head of his private office, are not illegal. They imply, however, that the former President was anxious to be kept informed about an investigation that he has publicly dismissed as “absurd” and “infamous”.

The revelations also give weight to previous allegations that Mr Sarkozy has used his contacts as a former head of state in relation to a tangle of judicial investigations into his alleged financial misconduct.

Mr Sarkozy and friends will, on the other hand, point to the latest development as further evidence of what he claims is a “Stasi-like” persecution by the Socialist administration of President François Hollande. Last month it was revealed that the judges had bugged phone conversations between Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer. It now emerges that police officers working with the judges were also listening in two calls – in June last year and in January this year – between Mr Sarkozy and the head of the French internal security service.

Inquiries by investigating magistrates in France are entirely independent of the government of the day. Nonetheless, Mr Sarkozy alleged in a long newspaper article last month that the tapping of his phone had been inspired by the government and that his political opponents had been reading transcripts of his intimate, personal conversations.

Mr Sarkozy has been accused by one of Mr Gaddafi’s sons and several ex-Gaddafi aides of taking either €20m or €50m from the late Libyan dictator to fund his successful 2007 presidential campaign. No clear evidence to back the claims has emerged. One document leaked to the French press proved to be a forgery.

Nonetheless, according to Le Monde, Mr Sarkozy personally phoned the head of the DCRI, Mr Calvar, to ask whether the security service was helping in the investigations. In one call, according to the leak, he was especially keen to know whether the DCRI had questioned Mr Gaddafi’s personal interpreter, Moftah Missouri.

In June last year – just before the first of Mr Sarkozy’s calls – Mr Missouri told a French TV documentary that Mr Gaddafi had informed him “verbally” of a €20m payment to the future French president.

According to Le Monde, the DCRI head, Mr Calvar, refused to tell Mr Sarkozy whether his agency was investigating the Libyan allegations or not. He also refused to comment when questioned by the judges last Friday, saying DCRI business was a “state defence secret”.

JOHN LICHFIELD Author Biography PARIS Thursday 03 April 2014

Find this story at 3 April 2014

© independent.co.u

Out of Office, Sarkozy Is Still Front and Center

PARIS — The scandal, intrigue and occasional vaudeville of Nicolas Sarkozy’s five years in the presidency made for great headlines, and French journalists once fretted that politics under his successor, François Hollande, who pledged to be a “normal” president, might prove unbearably dull.

But that fear overlooked the court cases, judicial investigations and general whiff of malfeasance that would trail Mr. Sarkozy and his lieutenants out of the corridors of power and, it now appears, entangle even Mr. Hollande.

The current president’s tumultuous love life has made for a bit of public drama in recent months, with reports that he had a mistress and slipped off to trysts via motor scooter. But the French no longer seem much to care, if they ever did, and a knot of holdover scandals from the Sarkozy era are now making for the best reading. Through a bizarre sequence of government missteps, by the weekend they had become as much a crisis for Mr. Hollande as for Mr. Sarkozy.

The almost universal expectation that Mr. Sarkozy will make a bid for the presidency in 2017 has only heightened the drama.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira with wiretapping memos that suggested she was better informed than she had claimed. Credit Philippe Wojazer/Reuters
Chief among the affairs is the allegation, now under investigation by two special magistrates, that Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign received as much as 50 million euros, or about $70 million, in illegal funds from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya.

This month, the newspaper Le Monde revealed that investigators had tapped the phones of Mr. Sarkozy, two of his former ministers and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, beginning last year. The practice is not illegal, though lawyers have called the surveillance of Mr. Herzog’s phone a possible violation of attorney-client privilege. Mr. Sarkozy appears to be the first former French president to have his private conversations monitored by investigators.

He has denied the claims of Libyan financing, made by former loyalists to Colonel Qaddafi and one of his sons, and says they are meant to damage him in revenge for the international military intervention he helped orchestrate in Libya in 2011 that led to Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster and death.

It is unclear if the phone-tapping did anything to corroborate the claims, but it has led to unrelated suspicions involving Mr. Sarkozy and a well-placed magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, who is believed to have served as his informer in the courts.

In their recorded conversations, Le Monde reported, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Herzog discussed an investigation into whether Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign received illegal funding from Liliane Bettencourt, the 91-year-old L’Oréal heiress who is France’s richest woman. Some of the evidence in that case is being used in yet another case implicating Mr. Sarkozy, this one involving a $550 million state payout in 2008 to Bernard Tapie, a colorful businessman with a checkered past.

Mr. Sarkozy had been kept quietly informed about a court’s plans for the evidence by Mr. Azibert, according to Le Monde and government documents. Mr. Azibert, who is nearing retirement, is said to have intimated that he might like some assistance in obtaining a post in the seaside principality of Monaco, and Mr. Sarkozy said he would help, in exchange for information.

An investigation into breach of judicial secrecy and influence-peddling has been opened, and the homes and offices of Mr. Azibert and Mr. Sarkozy’s lawyer have been searched. Mr. Azibert was recently hospitalized, and there is speculation he might have attempted suicide.

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Inauspicious as this may seem for Mr. Sarkozy and the right, it is the center-left government of Mr. Hollande that is now on the defensive. After first insisting that they had learned of the phone-tapping only through the news media, government ministers including the justice minister, Christiane Taubira, admitted they were informed as early as last month.

The French judiciary is not entirely independent of the executive branch, and it is not uncommon for the minister of justice to be apprised of judicial investigations, especially if celebrities or public officials are involved. But the government, and Ms. Taubira in particular, were not altogether forthcoming about their knowledge of the case. Their political opponents, who presumably should be on the defensive, have pounced.

Jean-François Copé, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement, Mr. Sarkozy’s party, has called for Ms. Taubira’s resignation.

Ms. Taubira has refused, and has insisted she did not lie. At a news conference last week, she said that she had indeed been told about the tapping last month, but that she had been given no information about what it revealed. But the internal papers she strangely chose to flash before reporters to prove her point were captured in news photographs, and closer observation of the documents suggests Ms. Taubira was far better informed than she claimed.

Mr. Copé and his party renewed their attacks. But those sallies have been widely viewed as a diversionary tactic, considering that Mr. Copé is embroiled in a scandal of his own. According to the newsmagazine Le Point, Mr. Copé gave a sweetheart contract to a company run by two friends to organize rallies during Mr. Sarkozy’s unsuccessful 2012 campaign. The party spent $11 million with the firm, more than one-quarter of its entire declared campaign spending, paying double the going rate for several of the services provided, Le Point reported last month.

Because French political parties depend heavily on public funding, much of that money would have come from taxpayers.

Mr. Copé declared himself a victim of hateful press and suggested the report was concocted to hurt his party before municipal elections later this month. He did not, however, deny it. A judicial investigation into the party’s campaign spending was opened this month.

In still another embarrassment for Mr. Sarkozy and the right, secret recordings made by a close aide to Mr. Sarkozy during his presidency appeared recently on a news website, Atlantico, and in transcribed form in an investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchaîné.

The recordings do not seem to reveal anything illegal, but Mr. Sarkozy and his wife, the singer and model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, can be heard discussing money — she paid the bills during his presidency, it seems — and Mr. Sarkozy’s advisers can be heard crudely insulting government ministers, as well as Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy.

It is unclear how the recordings were leaked. The aide who recorded the conversations, Patrick Buisson, a shadowy political operative with deep ties to the far right, initially said he had made the recordings for his own records. His lawyer later claimed the recorder had mysteriously switched on, repeatedly, unbeknown to Mr. Buisson.

Claiming a breach of his privacy rights, Mr. Sarkozy on Friday obtained an injunction requiring that the recordings be removed from the website and that Mr. Buisson pay him $14,000 in damages.

“Many French doubt, already, political officials’ sense of the public interest,” Le Monde wrote in a front-page editorial last week castigating the country’s political class. “These new developments can only reinforce their mistrust and disgust. In one manner or another, majority and opposition will pay the price.”

By SCOTT SAYAREMARCH 15, 2014

Find this story at 15 March 2014

© 2014 The New York Times Company

Sarkozy election campaign was funded by Libya

Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam threatens to publish details of bank transfers to punish French PM for backing Libyan rebels

Muammar Gaddafi’s son has claimed that Libya helped finance Nicolas Sarkozy’s successful election campaign in 2007, and demanded that the French president return the money to “the Libyan people”.

In an interview with the Euronews TV channel, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said Libya had details of bank transfers and was ready to make them public in a move designed to punish Sarkozy for throwing his weight behind opposition forces.

Last week, the Libyan government threatened to reveal a “grave secret” that would bring down Sarkozy, with Saif al-Islam calling him “a clown”.

The regime is furious at Sarkozy’s efforts to galvanise international action to impose a “no-fly zone” that would prevent Gaddafi from using air power against rebels based in Benghazi.

Asked what he felt about the French president’s so far unsuccessful efforts to muster support for military intervention, Saif said: “Sarkozy must first give back the money he took from Libya to finance his electoral campaign. We funded it. We have all the details and are ready to reveal everything. The first thing we want this clown to do is to give the money back to the Libyan people. He was given the assistance so he could help them, but he has disappointed us. Give us back our money.”

Libya has yet to release any incriminating evidence but officials hinted last night that they were preparing to do so.

A spokeswoman for the Elysée Palace told the Guardian she had no information or comment about the claim. But Le Monde later quoted a spokesman as saying: “We deny it, quite evidently.”

Libyan sources have separately told the Guardian substantial funds were paid into accounts to support Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007.

Well-placed sources in Tripoli made clear that the leak of this information was in retaliation for France’s leading role in the campaign to impose a no-fly zone and for its unique recognition of the rebel Libyan National Council. “Sarkozy is playing dirty, so we are playing dirty, too,” said a senior Libyan source.

The Guardian has been unable to confirm the Libyan claims independently.

French law places strict limits on party donations to candidates. Last year, Sarkozy was hit by a political scandal involving alleged illegal donations to his party funds by France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

Eyebrows were raised when Gaddafi visited Paris in late 2007 and was permitted to pitch his trademark bedouin tent in the gardens of the Hotel Marigny, the 19th-century mansion close to the Elysée Palace, which hosts visiting VIPs. That triggered a storm of adverse comment about the warmth of his reception by Sarkozy on international human rights day.

Ian Black in Tripoli and Kim Willsher in Paris
The Guardian, Wednesday 16 March 2011 12.01 GMT

Find this story at 16 March 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Toulouse gunman: French ‘stopped tracking’ Mohamed Merah

French secret services stopped tracking Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah, despite evidence of his extensive links to jihadists, including in the UK, leaked documents suggest.

Le Monde newspaper says it has seen notes from the domestic intelligence agency DCRI describing his successful efforts to conceal his movements.

The judge investigating the case said he was perplexed by the DCRI decision.

Merah killed seven people in March before being shot dead by police.

The victims included three soldiers and four Jewish people.

The leaked papers suggest there was more than just suspicion on the part of the French intelligence services, says the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris.

Merah had been tracked by the security services since 2006.
Profile issue

The report prepared for the French government and leaked to Le Monde cites a DCRI officer raising concerns about the man in March 2011.

The officer said Merah rarely left his home and was paranoid and suspicious. He had no internet in his flat, did not appear to have a mobile phone and always used public telephone booths.

Another note, on 26 April 2011, reported that Merah was violent to women for having shown disrespect to a Muslim.

The note said he glorified the murder of “Western infidels” in songs he composed, and he was photographed with a knife and Koran. He travelled frequently to the Middle East.

He had a long list of contacts to Islamist movements in the UK, the same leaked document says.

According to Le Monde, Merah was last questioned in November 2011 and had great difficulty explaining a visit to Pakistan where he had been training with militants.

Abel Chennouf was one of Merah’s victims

Just a week later, the DCRI suddenly stopped monitoring him.

Judge Christophe Teissier said he was surprised by the move.

The judge said Merah’s profile was typical of a home-grown threat – he was independent, radicalised quickly, and did everything possible to conceal the support and training he was receiving.

In August, Le Monde said other documents it had seen showed Merah had made more than 1,800 calls to over 180 contacts in 20 different countries.

Merah was shot dead on 22 March after a huge manhunt culminated in a 32-hour stand-off with police at an apartment in Toulouse.

The Jewish victims included three children murdered at a school.

Merah’s rampage, from 11 to 19 March, terrorised the region.

19 October 2012 Last updated at 11:50 GMT

Find this story at 19 October 2012

BBC © 2012 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

Scooter terrorist Mohamed Merah ‘was not a lone wolf’: Secret files reveal killer’s sister had been watched by the French security services since 2008

The older sister of the Toulouse scooter killer, Mohamed Merah, had been under surveillance as a possible Islamist activist since 2008, it emerged yesterday. Souad Merah, 34, provided money, mobile phones and internet addresses to her brother in the months before his murderous attacks in the Toulouse area in March, the French radio station RTL reported.

Security files, made available to prosecutors last month, also reveal that Ms Merah had been under surveillance long before the killer was, RTL said. She was identified by French internal security services as a possible threat in 2008 – at the same time as another brother, Abdelkader, who has been in custody for six months.

Families of Merah’s seven victims called yesterday for Souad Merah to be arrested and questioned. Although she was briefly interviewed after the murders, the inquiry has concentrated on the possible role of Abdelkader, Merah’s older brother, in inspiring and assisting the killings.

Mohamed Merah, 23, died when police stormed his flat in Toulouse on 22 March after a 32-hour siege. In previous days, he had murdered three off-duty French paratroopers and three children and a teacher outside a Jewish school.

Merah, who filmed his murders, claimed to be working on behalf of al-Qa’ida. Security services believe he was a “lone wolf”, inspired by extremist Islamist teaching but acting independently or with the help of his brother. According to the files of the French internal security service, the DCRI, seen by RTL, his sister may have played, at the very least, a role in his conversion to radical Islam.

Souad Merah was under surveillance from 2008 as a follower of an extremist Salafist Islamic movement in Toulouse. She also visited Koranic schools in Cairo. She appears in French security service files in 2008 as a “follower of radical Islam” and in June 2011 she is listed as being “known for her links” to radical Salafists. In the months before the Toulouse killings, she provided Mohamed Merah with cash, mobile phones and the use of her internet address on several occasions, according to the files seen by RTL.

 

John Lichfield
Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Find This story at 4 September 2012

© independent.co.uk

 

 

Mohamed Merah, un loup pas si solitaire

Mohamed Merah n’avait pas de téléphone à son nom. Pour échapper aux surveillances de la police, l’auteur des tueries perpétrées les 11, 15 et 19 mars à Toulouse et à Montauban s’en était procuré un à celui de sa mère, Mme Aziri. La liste des appels fait partie des documents confidentiels de la Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI) transmis le 3 août aux trois juges de Paris chargés d’instruire le dossier.

Ces notes permettent de se faire une idée des liens que le djihadiste de 24 ans avait tissés à travers le monde, et elles mettent à mal l’argument avancé par l’ex-patron de la DCRI, Bernard Squarcini, selon lequel Mohamed Merah se serait “radicalisé seul” et qu’il n’appartenait “à aucun réseau” (Le Monde du 24 mars). Il semble que la police française n’ignorait quasiment rien du parcours du jeune djihadiste toulousain.

DES CORRESPONDANTS AU KENYA, EN CROATIE, EN BOLIVIE, AU BHOUTAN

Ainsi, l’une des 23 notes partiellement déclassifiées et dont Le Monde a eu connaissance, datée du 26 avril 2011, fait état de “1 863 communications relevées entre le 1er septembre 2010 et le 20 février 2011”. Durant cette période, celui qui n’est encore qu’un apprenti terroriste effectue un voyage dans plusieurs pays du Moyen-Orient et en Afghanistan. Il passe notamment 186 appels à des correspondants installés hors de France, dans 20 pays différents.

Le détail montre que Mohamed Merah a joint vocalement ou par SMS 94 numéros de téléphones localisés en Egypte, où se trouvait son frère Abdelkader, en Algérie, où demeurent son père et une partie de sa famille, mais aussi au Maroc, en Grande-Bretagne, en Espagne, en Côte d’Ivoire, au Kenya, en Croatie, en Roumanie, en Bolivie, en Thaïlande, en Russie, au Kazhastan, au Laos, à Taïwan, en Turquie, en Arabie saoudite, aux Emirats arabes unis, en Israël, et pour finir au Bhoutan, minuscule royaume enclavé en plein cœur du massif himalayen, où Mohamed Merah appelle neuf numéros.

Avec qui le petit voyou de la cité des Izards de Toulouse correspond-il à travers ces nombreux appels dans ces multiples pays ? Les enquêteurs de la DCRI ont sûrement identifié quelques-uns de ces interlocuteurs, mais les pièces transmises aux magistrats instructeurs, qui n’ont été que très partiellement déclassifiées par le ministre de l’intérieur, Manuel Valls, n’en disent rien.

UN “COMPORTEMENT INQUIÉTANT”

Ces notes attestent également que le renseignement intérieur connaissait Mohamed Merah au moins depuis 2009, après s’être intéressé à son frère Abdelkader dès 2008. Abdelkader, 29 ans, mis en examen pour “complicité” et en détention provisoire à Fresnes depuis le 25 mars, mais aussi sa sœur Souad, 34 ans, étaient surveillés par les services. Les déplacements du premier en Egypte, où il suit des cours dans les écoles coraniques d’obédience salafistes, sont suivis à la trace. Ainsi, le 23 février 2011, les services allemands alertent leurs collègues français de son passage à l’aéroport de Francfort, en provenance du Caire et à destination de Toulouse. Même chose pour Souad, dont le départ pour Le Caire prévu le 30 novembre 2010 de l’aéroport Charles-de-Gaulle à Roissy est signalé à la DCRI.

Et, à cette occasion, Mohamed apparaît aussi sur les radars du renseignement intérieur. Mais ce n’est qu’en mars 2011, après son long voyage jusqu’en Afghanistan, qu’un dispositif plus serré est mis en place autour du jeune homme. Un fonctionnaire fait état d’une “surveillance au domicile de Mohamed Merah, 17, rue du Sergent-Vigné, appartement numéro 2, volets toujours fermés”. Dans son compte rendu, le policier souligne que la mission a réussi : “Il a été possible d’identifier formellement la présence de l’objectif.”

Durant cette période, les policiers ne lâchent pas leur “objectif”. Ils le prennent en filature et prêtent une attention soutenue à sa téléphonie. Mohamed Merah a un “comportement inquiétant”, estime l’un d’eux. “Le changement fréquent de boîtiers et de cartes SIM attribués à Mme Aziri (…) laisse supposer que la famille Merah souhaite brouiller les pistes”, suggère un autre.

Visiblement, les fonctionnaires de police qui se sont collés aux basques de Mohamed Merah pendant plusieurs semaines ne doutent guère des orientations de leur client. “Le comportement prudent et suspicieux de Mohamed Merah influe sur sa famille”, écrivent-ils, avant de préciser : “Le dispositif de surveillance dynamique engagé sur Mohamed Merah démontre qu’après une période de latence et d’observation, l’objectif amorce un rapprochement avec la mouvance salafiste toulousaine, en particulier avec [ici le nom est noirci pour préserver sa confidentialité] mais également et plus intéressant encore avec [là, deux noms sont noircis pour les mêmes raisons] tous deux partis récemment en Mauritanie.” Cet extrait d’une note d’avril 2011 nuance la thèse défendue par la DCRI et son ex-directeur Bernard Squarcini au lendemain de l’assaut contre le terroriste, selon laquelle Mohamed Merah se serait “autoradicalisé en prison [en 2009], tout seul, en lisant le Coran” (Le Monde du 24 mars).

LE MONDE | 23.08.2012 à 10h55 • Mis à jour le 23.08.2012 à 16h57

Par Yves Bordenave

Find this story at 23 August 2012

© Le Monde.fr

Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah ‘no lone wolf’

France’s Le Monde newspaper says it has seen confidential documents of the police investigation into Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah that suggest he was not working alone.

The papers showed he had made more than 1,800 calls to over 180 contacts in 20 different countries, Le Monde said.

Merah had also made several trips to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Merah, 24, killed three soldiers and four Jewish people in March before being shot dead by police.
SIM cards

Le Monde’s article cites confidential papers from the DCRI intelligence agency.

The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris says the papers obtained by Le Monde cast light on a young man who was much more than an angry petty criminal that had “radicalised himself” – as suggested by the DCRI earlier in the investigation.

Between September 2010 and February 2011 the former garage mechanic made hundreds of calls to countries including Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Kazhakstan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan and the UK.

Merah had become known to the intelligence services as early as 2009, after they had been following his sister, Souad, and his brother, Abdelkhadar, who are now both in police custody.

The papers show that intelligence services recorded a trip to a Salafist, or ultraconservative Sunni Islamist, school of obedience in Egypt.

In February 2011, German officials alerted French colleagues that Merah had travelled from Cairo, via Frankfurt, to Toulouse.

It was only in March 2011, after a long trip to Afghanistan, that Merah was placed under tighter surveillance.

One official quoted in the papers said Merah changed SIM cards, registered under his mother’s name, frequently, and suggested the family was trying to protect him.

Merah, who himself claimed to have al-Qaeda affiliation, was also reported to have contacted one known Salafist in Toulouse and two others who recently left for Mauritania.

Merah was shot dead on 22 March after a huge manhunt culminated in a 32-hour stand-off with police at an apartment in Toulouse.

The Jewish victims included three children murdered at a school.

23 August 2012 Last updated at 16:12 GMT

Find this story at 23 August 2012

BBC © 2012 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

‘Everything we could have missed, we missed’

“Everything that we could have missed, we missed”. A former French intelligence agent admits they should have caught Mohamed Merah before his Toulouse shooting spree which left seven people dead, including three children. Merah was killed after a bloody stand-off with police. His older brother Abdelkader is in custody facing charges of complicity to murder. But two months on and with no official documentation from authorities, many questions remain unanswered.

 

Latest update: 08/06/2012
Find this story at 08 June 2012

 

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Mohamed Merah: secret service informant?

Was Mohamed Merah a French secret service informant? So says a former head of an intelligence agency here in France. Also, an Italian paper says Merah travelled to Israel in 2010 – with the support of French spy agencies.

MEDIAWATCH FRANCE, Tues. 27/3/2012:
Latest update: 28/03/2012
By James CREEDON

Find this story at 28 Marz 2012

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