LAPD helping raise money for two girls orphaned, injured in Woodland Hills car crash
by Susan Abram
WOODLAND HILLS - A fundraising effort for two young girls whose parents died in a car crash last week in Woodland Hills has been launched, with proceeds going to help pay for their medical bills.
Officers with the LAPD's Topanga Division started the fund drive Tuesday to help get the word out about the girls' needs.
"We want to be able to do what we can for the girls," said LAPD Senior Lead Officer Sean Dinse, speaking at a launch event held at Safir Mediterranean Cuisine on Ventura Boulevard.
"When someone is in need, we want to be there for them," added Officer Amir Abolfazlian. "They will have ongoing medical needs."
Dino, 46, and Leila "Rosa" Milon, 45, died and their daughters were critically injured last week in a car crash in a residential Woodland Hills neighborhood. An investigation is continuing, police said, but it appeared that Dino Milon, who was driving the Toyota RAV 4, may have sped down a steep hill near the 20400 block of West Califa Street, run a stop sign, and then swerved to avoid another car, causing his vehicle to tip on its side. The Toyota then rammed a parked Ford F-250 pickup and flipped upside down, Los Angeles police have said. | See photo gallery.
The two girls, Nila 12, and Iyla, 10, survived but were brought to Northridge Hospital Medical Center in critical, unstable condition.
Since then, they have made progress in their recovery, but they face many reconstructive surgeries, as well as rehabilitation, said the girls' cousin, Pareesa Nindra.
"They will definitely survive," Nindra said.
One girl has already asked for her mother, the family said, but the family has been advised by medical experts to wait until the children are physically stronger before they are told of the crash.
The girls also celebrate birthdays on Saturday and Sunday.
Edward "Saeed" Pourhassan, Dino Milon's brother, said the family, including his mother in Iran, remains in shock at the tragedy of it all.
He said his brother, who had just completed a law degree, was not the kind of person who would put his wife and daughters at risk. The family had lived in Woodland Hills for more than 10 years, and in California far longer.
"He would have never endangered his family," Nindra said. "He was also the kind of individual who would go to extra lengths to help anyone in need."
"Our major concern is how to tell the girls what happened," Pourhassan said.
But Pourhassan also said he and the family are grateful for the police, the community support and the care at the hospital.
"We're really thankful," he said. "We are getting so much support. We have two girls now without parents."
Money raised also will go toward the burial services, which will be held Thursday at Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth.
Anyone who would like to make a donation may do so at Chase Bank, account number 3039987387 or call Abolfazlian at 818-631-5432.
9/11 Libya consulate attack leads to Oct. 10 congressional hearing
by Larry Margasak
WASHINGTON - Leaders of a House committee said Tuesday that U.S. diplomats in Libya made repeated requests for increased security for the consulate in Benghazi and were turned down by officials in Washington.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz said their information came from "individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya."
Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.
The lawmakers said they plan a hearing on Oct. 10. They asked Clinton whether the State Department was aware of the previous incidents, and whether the level of security that was provided to the U.S. mission met the security threat, and how the department responded to requests for more security.
Referring to the Sept. 11 attacks, the letter said, "It was clearly never, as administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest."
The State Department has declined to answer questions about whether extra security was sought by officials in Benghazi ahead of the Sept. 11 attack. Clinton did, however, discuss security on Sept. 18, when asked whether measures were appropriate.
"Let me assure you that our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world," she said.
"In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound. And with all of our missions overseas, in advance of September 11th, as is done every year, we did an evaluation on threat streams. And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent."
She added that diplomats "engage in dangerous work, and it's the nature of diplomacy in fragile societies and conflict zones to be aware of the necessity for security but to also continue the important diplomatic work that has to go on.
"There is risk inherent in what we do and what these brave men and women representing the United States are up against every single day," Clinton said, "and we do our very best to limit that risk by ensuring that our security protocols reflect the environments in which diplomats work and the threats that they are presented with."
Senate panel criticizes anti-terror data-sharing centers
The scores of 'fusion centers' across the country threaten civil liberties while doing little to counter terrorism, a two-year study by a Senate subcommittee finds.
WASHINGTON — A federal domestic security effort to help state and local law enforcement catch terrorists by setting up more than 70 information-sharing centers around the country has threatened civil liberties while doing little to combat terrorism, a two-year examination by a Senate subcommittee found.
The so-called fusion centers were created in 2003 after the Sept. 11 commission concluded that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies needed to collaborate more in counter-terrorism efforts.
Funded by federal grants, the fusion centers were intended to share national intelligence with state and local law enforcement and to analyze potential terrorist activity detected by police. Homeland Security Department officials have credited the centers for helping uncover terrorist plans, including a 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway.
But the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in a 146-page report released Tuesday that reviewed intelligence reports from fusion centers between April 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010, "could identify nothing that uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution any fusion center made to disrupt an active terrorist plot."
Senate investigators concluded that Homeland Security liaisons to the centers "forwarded 'intelligence' of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens' civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism."
The investigators also found that some local analysts had written inappropriate and potentially illegal reports about constitutionally protected activities of American citizens. Homeland Security officials prevented most from being disseminated.
The Homeland Security Department could not say for sure how much federal money had been spent on the centers, the subcommittee found, providing a range of $289 million to $1.4 billion.
Homeland Security officials took issue with the conclusions, saying they resulted from a "fundamentally flawed" investigation. "The committee report on federal support for fusion centers is out of date, inaccurate and misleading," said spokesman Matthew Chandler.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has lauded the centers, which are located in nearly every major metropolitan area. In March 2010, Homeland Security Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Caryn A. Wagner praised them as "the linchpin of the evolving homeland security enterprise."
The Senate report rebuts statements by Homeland Security officials that the centers helped uncover terrorist plots, including a 2010 attempt to blow up a sport utility vehicle in Times Square, saying that the same work would have been done through previously existing channels.
One of the most significant terrorism cases in which officials have claimed a success for fusion centers was that of Najibullah Zazi , an Afghan immigrant who traveled in 2009 from Colorado to New York City, where he has admitted that he planned to blow himself up on the subway around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Napolitano claimed in a speech in 2010 that "it was a fusion center near Denver that played the key role in 'fusing' the information that came from the public with evidence that came in following the suspect's arrest by the FBI."
But that claim was not true, the investigation found. The Colorado Information Analysis Center's involvement consisted of checking a few public databases and addressing media inquiries. The crucial role, the report said, was played by Colorado state troopers assigned to the center who were also assigned to help the FBI. The report found that the troopers would have been doing what they did whether or not there was a fusion center.
In preparing the report, the committee reviewed intelligence that had been edited to protect classified information. Homeland Security officials said that these redactions limited the investigators' ability to assess the usefulness of intelligence generated by local analysts.
One of the country's largest federally funded fusion centers covers most of Southern California. The Joint Regional Intelligence Center in Norwalk has more than 80 full-time staff members and stitches together information from 166 law enforcement departments.
Deputy Chief Michael Downing, head of the LAPD's counter-terrorism bureau, said his department had gotten "a lot of value" from the increased cooperation: "There's a lot of white noise, but there are occasionally gold nuggets."
In the last year, Downing said, the Norwalk-based center has helped start terrorism investigations by sharing information about Muslim extremist literature found in the back seat of a car during a traffic stop and about an individual who went into a youth group meeting at an Islamic center and tried to recruit young Muslims to "kill infidels."
He did not know whether any of these cases had led to a conviction.
In some cases, the investigation found, fusion centers have also made embarrassing intelligence errors.
Last year, for example, the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center in Springfield published a report asserting that a hacker in Russia had stolen an unknown number of user names and passwords to sensitive utility control systems and used that information to break into a local water district's computerized control system.
In fact, the "hacker" was a utility employee who had accessed the system legitimately while on a family vacation, the report found.
A spokeswoman for the center, Monique Bond, would not comment on the report, but said, "Fusion centers and the information shared by local, state and federal agencies enhances law enforcement's efforts in fighting everyday crime and homeland defense."
The subcommittee report also pointed to fusion center reports on activities protected by the U.S. Constitution.
One draft intelligence report examined a reading list from a Muslim community group: "Ten Book Recommendations for Every Muslim." Four were written by individuals with records in a U.S. intelligence counter-terrorism database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, known as TIDE.
"We cannot report on books and other writings of TIDE matches simply because they are TIDE matches," wrote a Homeland Security reviewer of the draft report. "The writings themselves are protected by the 1st Amendment unless you can establish that something in the writing indicates planning or advocates violent or other criminal activity." The report was not published.
Bronx community leaders praise new NYPD anti-gang initiative, argue more youth programs are also needed
NYPD Gang Division to double in size in intensive effort to stem shootings
by Daniel Beekman
Bronx community leaders applauded the NYPD Tuesday for vowing to combat the violent crews that have been shooting up the city's streets.
The NYPD will double the size of its Gang Division from 150 to 300 detectives and pursue the small, loose-knit gangs on social media websites such as Facebook, where their petty turf rivalries often break out, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced.
But neighborhood leaders also called for a holistic approach to the problem, including more extracurricular programs and more beat cops to deter street crime.
"From a police perspective, this makes sense," said Rev. Francis Skelly of Immaculate Conception Church in Melrose. "There are turf wars going on here.
"But the broader issue is these kids are doing this because they have time on their hands. We need to come up with more things for them to do - otherwise we'll just be arresting more kids."
In addition to enlarging the Gang Division, "Operation Crew Cut" will involve NYPD lawyers coordinating investigations with borough prosecutors, and certain precincts will assign up to a dozen cops to deal with turf wars.
“Crews are responsible for no less than 30 percent of shootings in New York City,” said Kelly.
There are more than 300 crews citywide and about 60 in the Bronx. In August, authorities busted 17 "Dub City" gang members for 14 revenge shootings over 16 months in Morris Heights. The Bronx hoods coordinated their deeds via Facebook and texting.
Skelly said Kelly is spot-on about the growth of such crews, especially in the many public housing complexes in Melrose.
"I don't know that they even sell drugs," he said. "It's not organized crime. It's that they don't like the people in the other building and they have access to guns. It's kids killing kids over stupid stuff."
Heidi Hynes, executive director of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in rough-and-tumble Crotona, criticized recent budget cuts to youth programs.
"We disagree that policing is the answer," Hynes said. "The kids in Crotona need prevention, not policing. We want to keep them from getting in fights and shooting each other, not catch them after they shoot somebody.
"The kids need an administration that cares about poor kids."
Angel Caballero, executive director at Davidson Community Center in Morris Heights, said old-school foot patrols are the answer, not social media sleuths.
"I think the approach is too drastic," Cababello said. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel."
Arson In Toledo Mosque
TOLEDO, Ohio (RNS) Muslim worshippers are reeling from an arson fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, but are grateful for an outpouring of support from the local interfaith community.
"All the support we get is very welcome because if you are going through a tragedy and you have a friend who is holding your hand it means a lot," said S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for the United Muslim Association of Toledo.
Perrysburg Township police ruled that the Sunday evening (Sept. 30) fire was arson. Surveillance footage from the mosque shows a "person of interest" -- a white middle-aged male wearing a camouflage sweatshirt and hat -- at the mosque's entrance shortly before the fire, which was reported about 5 p.m.
Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center, said the suspect poured gasoline in the center of the main floor where men worship at the mosque. Women pray on the same main floor, but in an area separated by a low divider.
"It was set in the men's prayer area and the sprinklers turned out the fire. There is a lot of water damage from the sprinklers," Islam said. "The Islamic Center is uninhabitable for easily three months."
The Rev. Steve Anthony, executive director of Toledo Area Ministries, said he and his organization that represents 125 Christian churches and nonprofit agencies are outraged by the arson attack and will do what they can to help local Muslims.
"Any attack on a house of worship, no matter what faith, is deplorable and should be condemned," Anthony said. "And there's no room for that in a pluralistic society. We should respect each other's houses of worship."
Islam said there is no information yet on a possible motive for the blaze.
"It's difficult to draw a conclusion as to whether it's connected to world events, or a simple case of Islamophobia, or if this is someone who is a pyromaniac," she said. "Unless we find him and talk to him we don't know."
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which released a report on Sept. 18 showing a spike in anti-mosque attacks, announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
From the FBI
Help Us Catch a Terrorist --
U.S. Citizen Wanted for Supporting Al Qaeda
The FBI today announced a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of Ahmad Abousamra, a U.S. citizen from Massachusetts charged with traveling to Pakistan and Yemen to seek military training so he could kill American soldiers.
“Knowing that the public is the FBI's best ally in finding fugitives, today we're requesting your assistance to locate Abousamra,” said Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of our Boston office.
Abousamra is charged with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to al Qaeda. He was indicted in 2009 for taking multiple trips to Pakistan and Yemen in 2002 and 2004 to seek jihad training. He also traveled to Iraq with the hope of joining forces fighting against Americans overseas. Abousamra left the U.S. in 2006 and may be living in living in Aleppo, Syria with his wife, at least one daughter, and extended family.
Abousamra's co-conspirator, Tarek Mehanna, was convicted of terrorism charges by a federal jury in December 2011 and sentenced last April to 17.5 years in prison.
“Both men were self-radicalized and used the Internet to educate themselves,” said Special Agent Heidi Williams, a member of our Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Boston who has been working the case since 2006. “They came to it independently, but once they found each other, they encouraged each other's beliefs,” Williams said, adding that both Abousamra and Mehanna were inspired by the 9/11 terror attacks. “They celebrated it,” she said.
Abousamra is of Syrian descent and has dual U.S. and Syrian citizenship. He is 31 years old, 5'11” tall, and at the time of his disappearance weighed about 170 pounds. He has dark brown hair and brown eyes. He is fluent in English and Arabic, has a college degree related to computer technology, and was previously employed at a telecommunications company. Abousamra last lived in the U.S. in a prosperous Boston suburb and has family members in the Detroit, Michigan area.
One of his distinguishing characteristics is his higher-pitched voice, which can be heard on our website.
Today's announcement is part of a publicity campaign employing traditional and social media to seek the public's assistance. We are using social media to reach an overseas audience—information about Abousamra such as photos and audio clips can be found on the website and our Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter pages.
“Combining the reach and power of multiple media platforms is a powerful way to inform the public about our search,” DesLauriers said. “We believe publicizing Abousamra's photo and characteristics will lead to a tip about his whereabouts and, ultimately, to his arrest.”
Thomas Daly, a sergeant with the Lowell Police Department in Massachusetts and a task force officer on the Boston JTTF since 2002, said catching Abousamra “will close the chapter on this story. We had two people who were planning to harm U.S. soldiers overseas,” Daly said, referring to Abousamra and Mehanna. “These two were actively radicalizing others. We can only assume Abousamra is still on the same path and remains a threat to our soldiers overseas.”
We need your help. If you have any information regarding Ahmad Abousamra, please contact your local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. You can also submit a tip electronically on our website.