Islamic terrorism: It's not what many think, new report suggests

Islamic terrorists didn’t kill anybody in the United States last year.
 
There were plots here and there, whose stories were contorted by idiosyncrasy rather than stereotype. ... The feds arrested a man they said wanted to bomb the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon with a remote-controlled model airplane. There was the would-be fashion model who worked at a 5th Avenue Saks and was accused of wanting to wipe out a Manhattan synagogue. And who could forget the (as friends described him) pot-smoking, whiskey-slurping, key-losing used-car salesman accused of conspiring with Iran to hire Mexican drug cartels in an assassination attempt on the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States? 
 
Yet there would be no second 9/11 in the United States in 2011, nor any Islamic terrorist killings of any kind, according to a report released Wednesday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

There were roughly 14,000 murders in the U.S. last year, according to the report, but the 20 American Muslims indicted in suspected terrorist plots — out of the 2 million Muslims in the United States — were not responsible for any of them.
 
“The scale of home-grown Muslim American terrorism in 2011 does not appear to have corroborated the warnings issued by government officials early in the year,” noted the report’s author, Charles Kurzman, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Janet NapolitanoLast February, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took to the bully pulpit in Washington to announce, “In some ways, the threat facing us is at its most heightened state since" the Sept. 11 attacks,  as The Times reported

The federal government’s security apparatus has ballooned since 9/11 — the Department of Homeland Security, which was created after the attacks, now has more than 230,000 employees — largely to combat a specter of Islamic terrorism whose face in the United States has changed over the last decade. "The terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly," Napolitano said in her remarks.
 
Kurzman’s figures show the Al Qaeda model, in which transnational groups of foreign-trained and foreign-funded extremists cross borders to commit high-profile attacks, has largely been outpaced by a sloppier and less successful run of home-bred freelance terrorists inspired by YouTube and Internet message boards, if inspired by foreign influence at all.
 
“Very few of the cases of Islamic terrorism in the United States have had any connection with Al Qaeda or its affiliates,” Kurzman said of the last few years of data, speaking in a phone interview with The Times. The data amount to 33 deaths in 12 domestic Islamic terrorism attacks since 9/11, including the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks.

“The fear and concerns that many have had in the days and months after 9/11 about sleeper cells and trained killers waiting to strike has not materialized in the decade since then. … Most of the cases involve fringe individuals or small groups who are not connected with foreign terrorist organizations or with other plots in the United States," Kurzman said.
 
Life has also changed for many international groups traditionally identified by the U.S. government as major proponents of terrorism. Al Qaeda has seen its leadership decimated by the death of Osama bin Laden and its effectiveness crippled as the U.S. continues its aggressive use of clandestine raids and drone strikes. And the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah has flirted with adopting nonviolence tactics, as has the Palestinian group Hamas, inspired by the "Arab Spring’s" example. 

As Kurzman’s report notes, Islamic extremism continues to exist in the United States, though he said in an interview that the numbers were too small to make many generalizations about the cases compiled in his report. “Some of the folks on these lists are frankly bizarre in their beliefs even within revolutionary Islamic circles,” he said.
 
Not included in Kurzman’s report are instances of non-Islamic terrorist plots in America, which, by one interest group’s reckoning, outnumber Islamic plots 2 to 1.
 
A January report by the Muslim Public Affairs Council counted 119 violent plots against people by non-Muslim Americans versus 52 plots by American and foreign Muslims since 9/11. The council also identified eight non-Muslims who had or tried to get biological, chemical or radiological weapons.
 
Ideological violence in the United States has never been the exclusive domain of Islamists. In November, the FBI arrested four Georgia men in their 60s and 70s accused of a bioterrorist plot based on “saving the Constitution." Further, radical environmentalist and animal rights groups have caused uncounted millions of dollars in damage in ecoterrorism over the years.
 
And then there’s Jared Lee Loughner, a non-Muslim charged with perpetrating perhaps 2011’s greatest act of domestic horror during the attempted killing of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. His ideology was originally misconstrued as conservative before analysts realized it was too obscure and incoherent to be called much of anything at all and, as The Times reported yesterday, he is still not yet considered fit for trial. 

Then there are the political -- and occasionally violent -- protests; a case in point is the small-scale anarchist street violence that some say has arisen in Oakland as part of the Occupy protests there. Few would call this terrorism, but just what definition of domestic “terrorism” is Kurzman using, anyway?

“I don’t get into this,” he admitted on the phone.

Kurzman just takes the reports of Islamic terrorism as he finds them and as they’re submitted to him, he said, which he admitted leads to him making a lot of “judgment calls as to whether they involve terrorism.”

It's more inclusive than not, Kurzman said. Trying to define non-Islamic terrorism, he said, is opening “a can of worms.”

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Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has spoken about the terrorist threat currently facing the United States. A new report suggests that threat may not be what many people think. Here, Napolitano testifies before the House Committee on Homeland Security last February. Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images 


NYPD investigation of Muslims: Civil rights groups ask for probe

   

The New York Police Department found itself under increasing pressure on Friday over how it has investigated Muslims as part of its anti-terrorism probes, with angry civil rights groups asking the state attorney general to look into the matter.

In a letter to state Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman, about 32 civil rights groups called for an investigation of allegations that the department uses religion as the sole criteria in deciding surveillance of Shiite mosques. The attorney general’s office did not immediately return repeated telephone calls for comment.

The Associated Press was the first to report on a May 2006 confidential intelligence document that recommended the department focus anti-terrorism intelligence operations on Shiite mosques. The news agency also reported on the city’s surveillance operations, which monitored and built databases about usual activities in Muslim neighborhoods.

The agency’s investigative report led to a call in October by several state senators for an investigation by the attorney general.

“The report details far-reaching operations by the NYPD that include surveillance of hundreds of mosques, businesses, nonprofits and individuals by using undercover officers known as ‘rakers,’ without evidence of any criminality or wrongdoing,” said the lawmakers, who mainly represent heavily Muslim areas in Brooklyn. “The department created files tracking daily life in bookstores, restaurants, barber shops and gyms as a part of a human mapping program."

“I am greatly troubled that the NYPD seeks to criminalize an entire faith tradition,” Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker said in a prepared statement. “The message seems to be if you are Muslim, you are guilty until proven innocent. New York, and Brooklyn in particular, is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the nation. We face serious security challenges; unfortunately this approach by the department may not only violate the law but also focuses resources on law-abiding citizens rather than targeting those who seek to do us harm.”

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have repeatedly insisted that the department does not target Shiite Muslims as a religious group but does follow what it considers to be legitimate investigative leads.

The dispute over surveillance follows other complaints from the Muslim community, particularly over a film, “The Third Jihad,” that was shown at police training sessions. Kelly appears in the movie, which  Muslims consider offensive.

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Mark Wahlberg apologizes for 'irresponsible' 9/11 comments

Mark_Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg has learned the hard way: Just leave 9/11 alone.

The star of the new movie "Contraband" found himself starring in a 9/11 controversy this week when he revealed that he had been scheduled to fly on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center -- and suggested that he could have single-handedly prevented the tragedy.

"If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn't have went down like it did. There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, 'OK, we're going to land somewhere safely, don't worry.'"

The comments, made to Men's Journal in a cover story article, met with swift criticism. It seemed especially cruel considering that the passengers on another hijacked jetliner -- United Flight 93 -- did indeed rise up against the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives and crash-landing near Shanksville, Pa., rather than allow the plane to fly into a target in the nation's capital.

Now, Wahlberg is trying to leave those 9/11 magazine comments on the cutting room floor, telling TMZ, "I deeply apologize to the families of the victims that my answer came off as insensitive, it was certainly not my intention."

He added: "To suggest I would have done anything differently than the passengers on that plane was irresponsible."

Many Americans likely tried to put themselves in that 9/11 scenario, imagining themselves getting the upper hand or taking revenge on the terrorists. But for Wahlberg to suggest that he could have somehow single-handedly stopped the hijacking, and then landed the plane safely in Manhattan (perhaps a la Captain Sully Sullenberger)? For many people, that was just too much.

And so Wahlberg become the latest celebrity to wade into treacherous 9/11 waters. Among them: Tony Bennett, Rosie O'Donnell and Jesse Ventura

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Army destroying last chemical weapons in Utah cache

Army destroying last chemical weapons in Utah cache

At 2:11 p.m. Wednesday, a tray carrying 23 projectiles packed with mustard agent was removed from a 1,500-degree furnace at a U.S. Army facility in Utah. The two-hour process stripped the mustard agent of its toxicity -- its ability to blister the skin and attack the respiratory system.

And with that, officials celebrated the destruction of the last hard weapons at the Deseret Chemical Depot, which once housed the Army’s largest cache of chemical agents.

By the end of the week, when officials burn the last of the depot’s skin and lung irritant, the Army will have destroyed about 90% of its chemical weapons, the Associated Press reported. It could take until 2021 to rid depots in Colorado and Kentucky of the final 10%.

Although the U.S. will miss an April 29 deadline to dispose of all its chemical weapons, as it vowed to do under an international treaty, it’s further along than other nations that have signed on. Russia, for example, has destroyed about half of its stockpile, the AP said.

Disposing of chemical weapons is a delicate task. For decades, the depot near Tooele, Utah, burned toxins in the open air, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. In the 1970s, chemical incineration was halted while researchers figured out more environmentally sound methods.

Since weapons destruction resumed in 1996, the remote depot has rid itself of 1.1 million munitions and 13,600 tons of chemical agents.

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Photo: Becky Webster positions a container filled with 170 gallons of nerve gas onto a pallet at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Tooele, Utah, in 2001. This week, the depot is destroying the last of its toxins. Credit: Douglas C. Pizac/Associated Press


TSA fighting back in case of the confiscated cupcake

Cupcake-ComparisonWere you among those rolling your eyes at the latest Transportation Security Administration flap, in which an agent confiscated a cupcake from a passenger in Las Vegas because the frosting was deemed a security threat? Well, the TSA would like you to hear the other side of the story.

But first, some background. The report, on its face, seemed outrageous: The TSA confiscated the cupcake last month at McCarran International Airport because there are strict limits on how much of a "gel-like" substance passengers can take aboard. In this case, the rich creamy frosting was deemed a gel-like substance, and there was too much of it.

The media made much of the killer-cupcakes story during the holiday travel season. "Cupcake Deemed 'Security Threat'" said one headline. The traveler with the offending cupcake, Rebecca Hains of Peabody, Mass., changed her Twitter bio to include "Cupcake Terror Expert!" and created a Facebook page called Rebecca and the Threatening Cupcake. It has 265 "likes" so far.

And Wicked Good Cupcakes, which made the questionable confection, got in on the fun. "Apparently we're a tasty terrorist threat," Brian Vilagie told the Boston Channel.

Now, the TSA is using its blog to weigh in on what it calls "Cupcakegate."

"I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill cupcake," TSA blogger Bob Burns wrote Tuesday. His post included the photos above to illustrate that this was not a traditional cupcake, but a cupcake-in-a-jar.

"If you’re not familiar with it, we have a policy directly related to the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 called 3-1-1 that limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage. Icing falls under the 'gel' category. As you can see from the picture, unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar."

Let's forget, for just a moment, that there's no such thing as too much frosting on a cupcake. Burns defended the TSA officer's right to confiscate the confection. He added that such a cute container is precisely why authorities should screen it more carefully.

Exhibiting a sense of humor, he wrote that "intelligence gathered from all over the world tells us ... that unless Wile E. Coyote is involved, the days of the three sticks of dynamite with a giant alarm clock strapped to them are long gone....When you think about it, do you think an explosive would be concealed in an ominous item that would draw attention, or something as simple as a cute cupcake jar?"

The TSA blogger points to two attempted attacks involving liquid or gel-like substances -- a 1995 plot to explode a dozen passenger planes bound for the U.S., and that foiled 2006 plot, which tried to use liquid explosives to blow up at least 10 jetliners.  

Hains told The Times on Tuesday she was surprised that the TSA bothered to respond to Cupcakegate. But she believes the comments only reinforce her belief that the TSA goes overboard too often -- as in this case.

"I think there just needs to be some common sense here," she said.  

She also wondered about the uniformity of TSA's screening practices, noting that she started her Boston-to-Vegas holiday travel with two cupcakes in a jar, and both made it through Boston's security screening. She and her husband ate one on the flight west. And they planned to eat the other on the flight back. (You have to pause and appreciate such sweet, tasty scheduling.)

When the cupcake-in-a-jar was flagged in Vegas, she offered to scoop the contents into a plastic baggie. Nope. Turns out the TSA was OK with her bringing a glass jar aboard -- just not all that potentially dangerous frosting.

Hains, an assistant professor of communications at Salem State University in Massachusetts and author of a new book called "Growing Up With Girl Power," was probably the wrong person to mess with. After the cupcake-in-a-jar was confiscated, she proceeded to her destination -- but not before writing this little missive and sending it to Boing Boing. Needless to say, it went viral.

A funny aside: When Wicked Good Cupcakes learned of the flap, they gave Hains a dozen cupcakes to make up for her trouble.

What do you think about this showdown? Do you think TSA went too far? Or do you think Hains made too big of a deal out of this sweet controversy? 

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Photo comparison: Regular cupcake versus cupcake-in-a-jar. Photo credit: TSA


Doomsday Clock edges toward midnight: Hello? Anyone listening?

Doomsday_Clock
Doomsday is one minute closer, folks. 

The hands on the face of the symbolic Doomsday Clock have been repositioned to five minutes before  midnight -- signaling how close we may be to a global catastrophe unless we get our act together.

On Monday, the Doomsday Clock read six minutes before midnight. But on Tuesday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, self-tasked with informing the public about the pending threat from nuclear weapons, climate change and emerging technologies, decided to push the clock up a minute. It now reads five minutes before  midnight -- in recognition of a growing nuclear threat and damage from climate change.

"Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock," Lawrence Krauss, co-chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists board, said in a statement released Tuesday.

The statement added: "As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions."

The Bulletin was established in 1945 by the scientists and engineers who worked on the Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bomb. So the folks behind it are familiar with the effects of nuclear weapons -- and the potential for overwhelming destruction.

The use of the symbolic clock dates back to 1947, when the Bulletin used the imagery on the cover of its magazine. The clock struck a chord with the public -- at that time anyway. "The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe," the group's website says.

The clock's hands have jumped around quite a bit over the years. It launched at seven minutes to midnight. In 1953, alarmed scientists pushed it up to two minutes before midnight in recognition of the U.S. pursuit of the hydrogen bomb. 1999 was a good year for the clock: The hands were pushed back to 17 minutes before midnight in the wake of the end of the Cold War. Since then, as this timeline shows, the clock's hands have been in a near-steady march toward midnight.

The hands were pushed to five minutes before midnight in 2007 due to the perils of nuclear weapons. When the long-term prospects for life on Earth appeared to be improving, the clock moved back to six minutes before midnight. That was in January 2010.

"Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face," the scientists explained in a statement, adding, however, that "in many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed."

Now, the clock is back to five minutes before midnight.

The world still has about 19,500 deployed nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the world's inhabitants several times over, the scientists say. And unless global leaders throw their weight behind alternatives to carbon-emitting energy technologies over the next five years, "the world is doomed to a warmer climate, harsher weather, droughts, famine, water scarcity, rising sea levels, loss of island nations, and increasing ocean acidification," the group says.

The question is this: Is anyone listening?

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Photo: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists keeps watch over a symbolic Doomsday Clock. The closer to midnight it ticks, the closer humanity is to a global disaster. Credit: Getty Images


Florida man charged with plotting attacks to avenge Muslims

LxjkafpdA naturalized American citizen who was born in the former Yugoslavia has been charged with plotting to use explosives against heavily populated areas as part of a campaign for vengeance for misdeeds he says were committed against Muslims, federal officials say.

Sami Osmakac, 25, of Pinellas Park, Fla., near Tampa, was arrested Saturday. On Monday, in his first appearance in federal court, he was charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was kept in custody after he waived a hearing and bond, said Amy Filjones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, in a telephone interview with The Times.

If convicted, Osmakac faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the criminal complaint, Osmakac, who was born in Kosovo, recorded an eight-minute video explaining why he was planning the attacks.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a hotel room, the document says, Osmakac describes Muslim blood as more valuable than that of those who are not adherents of Islam, and he says he wants “payback” for wrongs done to Muslims. He is holding a pistol and has an AK-47 behind him, according to the complaint.

In a statement, U.S. Atty. Robert E. O’Neill thanked all of those who worked on the investigation, including unnamed members of the Muslim community.

“This investigation was also predicated, in part, by assistance from the Muslim community,” O’Neill said without giving details. “I would like to thank them as well.”

According to the complaint, Osmakac was arrested after he allegedly bought inoperable explosive devices and firearms from an undercover agent. The investigation began in September when a confidential source contacted federal authorities after Osmakac entered the source’s business looking to buy Al Qaeda flags, officials say. Later contacts between the two were recorded by law enforcement officials.

Two months later, Osmakac allegedly asked the source for help in obtaining firearms and explosives for an attack.

The source put Osmakac in touch with an undercover FBI employee who said he was willing to sell automatic weapons, grenades and an explosive belt. Osmakac gave the undercover agent a $500 down payment for the weapons, officials say.

In a Jan. 1 meeting, officials say, Osmakac told the undercover agent he wanted to bomb nightclubs, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and a business in Tampa. He said he wanted to detonate a car bomb and use the explosive belt to go somewhere “where there’s a lot of people” and even take hostages.

Osmakac also suggested he would bomb bridges that link Tampa to neighboring Pinellas County, according to officials.

During the Jan. 1 meeting, officials say, the undercover FBI employee noted that Osmakac could change his mind and back out of the plot.

According to the complaint, Osmakac shook his head no and said, “We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?”

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Photo: Sami Osmakac, 25, has been charged with plotting to attack crowded locations in the Tampa, Fla., area. Credit:  Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

 


Texas girl mistakenly deported to Colombia reunited with family

Jakadrien Turner, 15, center, returned to the Dallas area Friday night after she was mistakenly deported to Colombia.
A Texas teenager deported to Colombia last year after claiming to be an illegal immigrant was reunited with family in Dallas on Friday.

The 15-year-old girl was the last person off the plane Friday evening, according to CNN's Jason Morris, who was on the flight.

Upon her arrival at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Jakadrien Lorece Turner was flanked by her mother, grandmother and law enforcement officers, according to the Associated Press.

"She's happy to be home," the family's attorney, Ray Jackson, told the AP, adding that the family would not be issuing any statements Friday night.

Jackson's staff did not return phone calls or email late Friday seeking further comment.

He told the AP that Jakadrien's family was "ecstatic" to have her back in Texas and they planned to "do what we can to make sure she gets back to a normal life."

Jakadrien's family has said she ran away in November 2010 and was arrested by Houston police on April 2, 2011, on suspicion of misdemeanor theft. At the time, she claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990--an identity that immigration officials now say was fabricated.

Houston police said in a statement that after a database showed she was not wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she was turned over to the Harris County jail and booked on the theft charge.

An ICE official told The Times that the teen claimed to be Cortez throughout the criminal proceedings in Houston and the ensuing deportation, in which an immigration judge ultimately ordered her back to Colombia. Officials at the Colombian Consulate in Houston interviewed her and issued her deportation documents, the ICE official said. It was unclear how that happened. Consulate officials did not return calls late Friday.

Officials at Colombia's Foreign Ministry have said they are investigating what sort of verification its consulate in Texas requested before giving the girl an expedited provisional passport as part of deportation proceedings, and how she was approved for training at a call center as part of the government's "Welcome Home" program.

Attorneys with the program made a sworn declaration in front of a notary pointing to "inexact information" that allowed her to receive work papers, the Foreign Ministry said.

"Those lawyers are no longer providing services to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the ministry said in a statement.

Jackson, the family's Dallas-based attorney, told CNN on Friday that they believe the girl's civil rights were violated when authorities allowed her to be deported.

"Somewhere the ball was dropped," Jackson said.

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Photo: Jakadrien Lorece Turner, 15, center, walks with her grandmother Lorene Turner, left, and mother Johnisa Turner, right, at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Friday night. Credit: Mike Fuentes/Associated Press

 

Continue reading »

'Excited' family awaits return of runaway teen from Colombia

JakadrienA 15-year-old Texas girl deported to Colombia in May after reportedly concocting a fake identity was headed back to the United States on Friday -- with her family anxiously awaiting her arrival, according to staff at her family's lawyer's office in Dallas.

Jakadrien Lorece Turner left Colombia on Friday and was on a flight to Dallas expected to arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport about 7 p.m., according to staff at the office of Dallas lawyer Ray Jackson.

Office staff were in contact with the girl through the U.S. Embassy in Bogota early Friday, and learned she was eager to reunite with her family.

The feeling is mutual, according to Jackson's staff.

"They just want to hold her," paralegal Crystal Cienfuegos said.

The girl's mother, Johnisa Turner, told the Associated Press she'll be meeting her daughter when she arrives in Dallas and said she has "a gazillion questions" for Jakadrien.

"I am very excited," Turner told the Associated Press. "I feel like a weight has been lifted. But at the same time, I won't just feel really, really good until I'm able to touch her."

Jakadrien's family has questioned why U.S. officials didn't do more to verify her identity, but U.S. immigration officials insist there was no sign the girl wasn't a Colombian woman who had immigrated illegally.

The teen ran away from home more than a year ago. When she was arrested in Houston on April 2, 2011, in connection with a misdemeanor theft, she reportedly claimed to be Tika Lanay Cortez, a Colombian woman born in 1990 -- an identity that turned out to be fabricated.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told The Times that the teen claimed to be Cortez throughout the criminal proceedings in Houston and the ensuing deportation process in which an immigration judge ultimately ordered her back to Colombia.

"Never during that criminal proceeding did she purport to be someone else, or say she was a U.S. citizen," said Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman. "There was nothing to invalidate her claim. This is someone who’s under oath in a criminal proceeding. The criminal justice system did not know she was a minor."

Gonzalez noted that a Colombian consular official interviewed Jakadrien and issued her travel documents before she was deported.

"The U.S. cannot deport someone without a country issuing travel documents,” Gonzalez said.

The Colombian consulate in Houston did not return calls about the case Friday.

Gonzalez said ICE worked with the U.S. State Department to facilitate Jakadrien's return home.

It was not clear if the teen might be charged upon her return in connection with falsifying identity in a criminal process.

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Photo: Jakadrien Lorece Turner, a Texas teen who ran away more than a year ago, posed as a Colombian illegal immigrant and was deported. She was located in Bogota last month by Dallas police, with help from Colombian and U.S. officials, and due home late Friday. Credit: WFAA-TV/Associated Press.


Deported teen masqueraded as immigrant, became Colombian citizen

Lxcmn5pd
A 15-year-old Texas girl who claimed to be an illegal immigrant and was deported to Colombia will be returning home to the United States on Friday, according to federal immigration officials.

U.S. Immigration officials said they were investigating the case of Jakadrien Lorece Turner, who ran away from her Texas home more than a year ago -- and was deported to Bogota. Turner was recently found there by Dallas police with the help of Colombian and U.S. investigators.

Turner was to leave Bogota on Friday and fly home. No other details were immediately available, according to an official from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“ICE is facilitating her return to the United States in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and local authorities,” Barbara Gonzalez, media secretary for the immigration agency said in a telephone interview from Washington. She gave no other details.

The Turner case has ignited a furor over how a 15-year-old could be deported, even if she claimed a false identity. In media interviews, her relatives have said that officials should have done more to make sure of the identity.

Her family has said that Turner left home in November 2010. Houston police have said she was arrested for misdemeanor theft and claimed to be a Colombian national.

ICE said it has confirmed those facts, but insists it followed procedure in such cases.

“Preliminary information suggests that after being arrested on state charges for theft by the Houston Police Department, the minor provided a false identity, representing that she was an adult from Colombia with no legal status in the U.S.,” according to an ICE statement of the case. “She maintained this false identity throughout her local criminal proceedings in Texas where she was represented by a defense attorney and ultimately convicted by the State criminal court.

“At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false,” ICE notes.

“Upon her conviction, she was referred to ICE where she continued to maintain a false identity during immigration court proceedings. As is standard protocol, criminal database searches and biometric verification were conducted and revealed no information to invalidate her claims. She was ultimately ordered removed from the U.S. by a Department of Justice immigration judge.”

After arriving in Colombia, the girl was given Colombian citizenship, according to ICE.

According to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the girl was enrolled in the country's “Welcome Home” program after she arrived there. She was given shelter, psychological assistance and a job at a call center, the agency said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.

When the Colombian government discovered she was a U.S. citizen, it put her under the care of a welfare program, the statement said.

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Photo: Jakadrien Lorece Turner ran away more than a year ago, her family said. Immigration officials say they're investigating the circumstances under which Turner was deported to Colombia after providing a false identity. Credit: Associated Press / WFAA-TV

 


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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