The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

Heck of a Job, Germany

Heck of a Job, Germany

Just what does a guy have to do to get deported by Germany?

The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market – a 24-year-old Tunisian migrant – was the subject of a terrorism probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported even though his asylum bid was rejected, a senior German official said Wednesday.

The suspect – who went by numerous aliases but was identified by German authorities as Anis Amri – became the subject of a national manhunt after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack that left 12 dead, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post. 

Meanwhile, a clearer portrait took shape of the suspect, including accusations that he had contact with a prominent Islamic State recruiter in Germany.

The Daily Mail reports, “He was put on a danger list shortly after arriving in Germany in June last year, which meant authorities considered him prone to extreme violence. Yet just how much surveillance he was under remains unclear.” Wait, somebody can be on a “danger list, prone to extreme violence” and not under surveillance?

The Wall Street Journal paints a thoroughly unnerving and depressing portrait of Germany internal counter-terrorism operations:

Successive mishaps in a separate case suggest the flaws in Germany’s antiterror effort run through the entire length of its security apparatus, from its long underfunded domestic intelligence to its police work and prison system.

In October, a police SWAT team stormed a flat in the eastern German city of Chemnitz in search of Jaber Albakr, a man suspected of planning a suicide bomb attack on a Berlin airport. He managed to flee on foot, partly because the officers’ tactical equipment was too heavy for them to catch up, security officials said at the time. Inside the flat, officers discovered large quantities of homemade TATP explosive.

Mr. Albakr was later caught in Leipzig–not by police but by Syrian refugees who restrained him and handed him over. Once he was detained, the Leipzig prison staff couldn’t immediately locate an interpreter to question him. When the prison’s psychologist finally interviewed him, she decided Mr. Albakr wasn’t a suicide risk. Two days after he was detained, Mr. Albakr’s lifeless body was found hanged in his cell.

Compared with France and the U.S., Germany is newer to facing the terror threat, a U.S. official said, adding more needs to be done in the country to overcome privacy concerns and allow deeper coordination among authorities on cases of interest.

Wait, how can any Western country be caught off guard by the “terror threat”? The 9/11 attacks were fifteen years ago! In the interim we’ve had the London bombings, the Madrid bombings, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Paris attacks including the Bataclan theater, the Brussels airport bombing, the Nice truck attack, the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults all over Germany and the Normandy Church attack. You’re telling me the land of the Munich Olympics, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and the Red Army Faction attacks in the 1970s has forgotten about the threat of terrorism?

The VA Inspector General, Still Digging Into Reports of Falsified Records

For all the flaws at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department’s Inspector General continues to periodically update the public on its investigations into reports of lengthy wait times and falsification of official records to hide those lengthy wait times. They have completed more than 90 investigations related to the VA scandal, and last night they released five more investigation reports in four states.

The good news is that in quite a few VA facilities, the inspectors couldn’t find evidence of falsified records or substantiate complaints. In Los Angeles, investigators found “no indication that any manager or employee was actively engaged in malicious behavior to alter, destroy, or manipulate records associated with patient appointments.”

The bad news comes in Canton, Ohio, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

In Canton, the inspector general found:

The investigation substantiated the allegation that clinic supervisor 2 directed medical support assistants to alter patient appointment records to meet goals established by VA. During the investigation, the supervisor took a voluntary downgrade to a subordinate position but this action was unrelated to the investigation. Emails, interviews, and other records showed numerous attempts by current VA management to properly train and enforce patient scheduling per VA regulations. Several VA employees indicated that, in the past under the former Cleveland director, the numbers were a game, with little communication or guidance, but since the current director took over, communication and guidance had improved and numbers were accurately reported.

VA OIG referred the Report of Investigation to VA’s Office of Accountability Review on February 27, 2016.

In Las Vegas, the inspector general’s report concluded:

The investigation determined that some medical support assistants were not scheduling appointments correctly because of confusion over the scheduling directive, incorrect information from coworkers, and incorrect information received during previous training. Several of the medical support assistants interviewed indicated that they were directed by supervisors to manipulate scheduling data.

VA OIG referred the Report of Investigation to VA’s Office of Accountability Review on February 29, 2016.

The President Will Be Safe and Secure, Anytime, Anywhere

One early mystery of the Trump era, solved:

A military airplane and two huge helicopters doing loops over Midtown Manhattan last week were conducting an “emergency relocation” planning mission in case they needed to extract President-elect Donald Trump during an emergency or attack, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The sight of the C-130 search-and-rescue aircraft and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters making passes over the heart of “no-fly” Manhattan for 40 minutes Tuesday, without warning or explanation, unnerved countless New Yorkers and tourists, many of whom took to Twitter and Facebook expressing post-9/11 concerns.

Sources told “On the Inside” that the flyovers were part of an “emergency relocation drill” designed to identify locations, primarily in Central Park, where a chopper could touch down near Trump’s home inside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, and safely evacuate Trump and others from the city.

“It was the military doing their homework,” one source said.

“They were making plans how to remove him, mapping plans and strategizing,” another source said.

Hear that, terrorists? No point in even trying now. Cancel the London Has Fallen scenario!

ADDENDA: You’ve been warned; the spoiler-filled Rogue One review comes tomorrow.

The Morning Jolt will be written by Jack Fowler (I think) on December 26 and 30.

Next week Greg Corombus and I begin our end of the year awards on the Three Martini Lunch podcast.

And in case you missed them, the preceding three episodes of the pop culture podcast feature the disturbing implications of Frosty the Snowman, why “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is more flirty than creepy and why Hallmark desperately needs to try something new with their cookie-cutter Christmas movies.