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Mikhail Gorbachev, first and last president of the Soviet Union, is defiant at 83 over his role in the breakup of the Soviet Union and its ongoing fallout. Pascal Dumont / MT
Ivan Nechepurenko, The Moscow Times.
Many people who send letters to the first and last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, still write on the envelope: “To the Secretary General of the Communist Party, Kremlin.” The Russian postal service is used to this and redirects the mail to the Gorbachev Foundation, headquartered in a modern building about seven kilometers north of the Kremlin.
Some of those letters are harshly critical of Gorbachev, who is regarded as a traitor by many Russians who regret the demise of the Soviet Union and the shocking economic transformation that followed. Some of the more vitriolic missives even encourage him to commit suicide. But at 83, Gorbachev is defiant and determined.
“I live and will continue to live according to my conscience and principles. Everyone else can go crazy,” he told The Moscow Times in an extensive interview this week.
Despite saying he is “already a part of history,” Gorbachev said he cannot simply observe passively what is happening in Russia today.
“I need to participate, and I will. Nobody will shut my mouth, even though people wanted me to emigrate. I don’t want to leave, let those people leave,” Gorbachev said, banging his hands on the table for emphasis.
Gorbachev, who in recent months underwent treatment at a hospital in Moscow, said he has been reported dead at least 10 times.
“I am called a traitor because I destroyed so many nuclear arms. The second treachery is that we built good relations with the U.S.,” he said.
For those who address their letters to Gorbachev at the Kremlin, time has clearly stood still. And today, when President Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the West find themselves at odds once again, the time when secretary generals in the Kremlin were engaged in an ideological rivalry with the West seems closer than ever.
Seeds of Discord
During the festivities marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this month, Gorbachev warned that the world risks a new Cold War. As someone who worked his way up through the Communist Party at a time when the Soviet Union and the U.S. were ready to destroy each other in a nuclear war and who then worked hard to eliminate divisions in Europe and the world at large, Gorbachev is better qualified than most to offer insight into the strikingly similar issues the world faces now.
Today, Gorbachev argues that the problems in Ukraine and the world at large are in part due to errors made during the collapse of the old system.
“What is happening now in Ukraine is in many ways due to the mistakes of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Once they decided to dissolve the union, they should have agreed on territories and borders,” Gorbachev said.
“Crimea was Russian, and most people in Crimea voted in favor of joining Russia [in the recent referendum]. I supported this move from the beginning, and I am half-Ukrainian. I worry about what is happening in Ukraine. … It might not be a scientific fact, but we are the same people,” he said.
Gorbachev believes that the Soviet Union collapsed mainly due to the political self-interest of local leaders — above all, the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who, Gorbachev said, wanted to “get rid” of him.
Gorbachev has never communicated with Yeltsin since. “There was nothing to talk about with this usurper who went behind my back,” Gorbachev said.
Gorbachev says he supports Putin, despite having criticized previously. Pascal Dumont / MT
The Gift of Hindsight
At the same time, Gorbachev does not believe that the Soviet Union should have been preserved in its old form as a repressive state.
“We could not live like we did before, when people would make a joke and find themselves in jail the next day. There were so many problems, but society did not discuss them,” he said.”
“People had been breaking each other’s bones in lines for Italian shoes in our country,” he said.
Gorbachev said the union should have been preserved “with a new essence that would consist of independent sovereign states.”
The West, according to Gorbachev, used the resulting chaos in Russia to its own advantage.
“The West, especially the Americans, applauded Yeltsin. A half-suffocated Russia was ideal for them. Much of the mess we are in today is due to what happened then,” Gorbachev said.
“The main thing is that trust has now been broken. Everybody was losing because of the Cold War, and everybody won when it ended,” he said, referring to the ongoing rift between Russia and the U.S.
The U.S. felt triumphant and justified to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, Gorbachev said.
“It is true that the spirit of these German unification agreements were broken because we agreed that NATO infrastructure would not expand into East Germany, which creates a certain spirit. When they began to accept new countries into NATO in the 1990s. That violated the spirit of the agreements,” he said.
The question of the promise allegedly made to Russia by the West not to expand NATO eastward is often mentioned by Putin in his foreign policy speeches, with NATO expansion used to justify Russia’s actions on the world stage.
Gorbachev said that when he was in office the issue of expansion was not discussed, as Eastern European countries had not signaled any desire to join NATO.
“The main idea was that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact would gradually transform from military-political into political organizations,” he said.
“We pledged not to aim to seek military superiority over each other. Is this the case now? No. We destroyed so many weapons, tanks and so forth, and now it is all coming back,” he said.
The tense relations between Russia and the U.S. are also created by certain groups in both countries in favor of confrontation, Gorbachev said.
“There is the same type of public both in the U.S. — including the military-industrial complex that cannot imagine its life without weapons and war — and here in Russia too. Every U.S. president feels obliged to wage a war during his term or, even better, two — as the saying goes. I am serious. It’s not a joke. This idea has survived, and that is very bad.”
Putin the Statesman
Gorbachev, who on Thursday presented his new book about his life after leaving the Kremlin, said he supports Putin and ranks him with the political leaders of his own rule, such as then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“He is a statesman. I can say one thing: Despite all the criticism, I strongly supported him, especially during his first term, because Russia was disintegrating. He has done a lot. I said the president is successful. I criticized him too because you have to criticize leaders,” Gorbachev said.
He accused Putin of saying “what suits him” about the Soviet Union’s collapse, which Putin famously described as the 20th century’s greatest geopolitical tragedy.
“Doesn’t he know how it all happened? He knows, but says what suits him,” Gorbachev said, adding that Putin is currently “under attack” by media that are “not free.”
“There are no free media, either in Russia or the West. Everybody is dependent and works for the benefit of their own states. That is beyond doubt. For instance, I was in a hospital, where I had to do everything as prescribed. This reminds me of the press: It is free, but follows orders,” he said.
Tom Mudd clears snow from the roof of his house on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in Cheektowaga, N.Y. A new blast of lake-effect snow pounded Buffalo for a third day piling more misery on a city already buried by an epic, deadly snowfall that could leave some areas with nearly 8 feet of snow on the ground when it’s all done. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Carolyn Thompson, The Associated Press.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Roofs began to creak and collapse and homeowners struggled to clear waist-high drifts on top of their houses Thursday as another storm brought the Buffalo area’s three-day snowfall total to an epic 7 feet or more.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo begged drivers “pretty, pretty please” to stay off slippery, car-clogged roads in western New York while crews tried to dig out. Some areas got close to 3 feet of new snow by Thursday afternoon.
Things could quickly get worse: Rain and temperatures as high as 60 were forecast over the weekend, raising the specter of flooding and an even heavier load on roofs, where the snow could absorb the downpours like a blanket.
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, and released by the New York National Guard, an airman with the New York Air National Guard shovels snow off the roof of the Eden Heights Assisted Living Facility in West Seneca, N.Y. A new blast of lake-effect snow pounded Buffalo for a third day piling more misery on a city already buried by an epic, deadly snowfall that could leave some areas with nearly 8 feet of snow on the ground when it’s all done. (AP Photo/New York National Guard, Maj. Mark Frank)
More than 50 people were evacuated from several mobile home parks in suburban Cheektowaga and West Seneca because roofs were buckling. Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Timothy Roma said more than a dozen buildings and carports collapsed, as did a metal warehouse operated by a Christmas decorations company, where damage was estimated in the millions.
Local media reported that about 180 residents of a Cheektowaga assisted living facility were evacuated after staff members noticed the ceiling bulging under the weight of the snow.
Homeowners and store employees around the region climbed onto roofs to shovel off the snow and reduce the danger.
“It’s getting heavier,” said Cheektowaga resident Thomas Mudd Jr., who with his wife spent several hours shoveling 4 to 5 feet off his roof. “It’s supposed to warm up and we’re supposed to get rain on the weekend, which will make it even heavier. So I didn’t want my roof collapsing.”
A man digs out his driveway in Depew, N.Y.,Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. The Buffalo area found itself buried under as much as 5½ feet of snow Wednesday, with another lake-effect storm expected to bring 2 to 3 more feet by late Thursday. (AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Derek Gee) MANDATORY CREDIT; TV OUT; MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; BATAVIA DAILY NEWS OUT; DUNKIRK OBSERVER OUT; JAMESTOWN POST-JOURNAL OUT; LOCKPORT UNION-SUN JOURNAL OUT; NIAGARA GAZETTE OUT; OLEAN TIMES-HERALD OUT; SALAMANCA PRESS OUT; TONAWANDA NEWS OUT
The storms were blamed for at least 10 deaths in western New York, mostly from heart attacks and exposure.
With roads impassable, driving bans in effect and the Buffalo Bills’ stadium buried in snow, the NFL decided to move the Bills’ Sunday home game against the New York Jets to Monday night in Detroit.
Earlier in the day, Cuomo said holding the game would jeopardize public safety.
National Guardsmen drove nurses to work their hospital shifts. State troopers helped elderly residents trapped in their homes. State officials assembled 463 plows, 129 loaders and 40 dump trucks from across the state.
Cars make their way through South Buffalo, N.Y.,Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. The Buffalo area found itself buried under as much as 5½ feet of snow Wednesday, with another lake-effect storm expected to bring 2 to 3 more feet by late Thursday. (AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Derek Gee) TV OUT; MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; BATAVIA DAILY NEWS OUT; DUNKIRK OBSERVER OUT; JAMESTOWN POST-JOURNAL OUT; LOCKPORT UNION-SUN JOURNAL OUT; NIAGARA GAZETTE OUT; OLEAN TIMES-HERALD OUT; SALAMANCA PRESS OUT; TONAWANDA NEWS OUT
Some Buffalo-area schools were closed for the third day, burning through snow days with winter still a month away.
A stretch of the New York State Thruway through western New York remained closed, with more than 300 truckers idled at truck stops and service areas, waiting for the highway to reopen.
With deliveries interrupted, some grocery stores reported running low on staples like bread and milk.
Thirty-seven inches fell on the town of Wales southeast of Buffalo late Wednesday and Thursday, for a three-day total of more than 7 feet.
Even for the Buffalo area — one of the snowiest and hardiest places in America — this was one for the history books. The three-day total is close to the nearly 8 feet that the region typically gets over an entire year.
Abbie J. Haie digs out her grandmother’s car at their home on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 in Edwards, N.Y. A new blast of lake-effect snow pounded Buffalo for a third day piling more misery on a city already buried by an epic, deadly snowfall that could leave some areas with nearly 8 feet of snow on the ground when it’s all done. (AP Photo/The Watertown Daily Times, Melanie Kimbler Lago)
“No matter how you cut it, this event will end up in the top five for the Lake Erie area,” said National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini.
Because the Buffalo area is so snowy, the building codes require homes and businesses to be able to handle up to 50 pounds per square foot on their roofs, which would be about as heavy as a slab of concrete 4 inches thick, according to Mark Bajorek, a structural engineer.
As anyone who has ever shoveled snow knows, its weight depends in part on how wet or fluffy it is, not just on how deep it is. But Bajorek said some buildings may be close to that limit now, with more precipitation on the way.
Karen McRae clears snow from her driveway on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in West Seneca, N.Y. A new blast of lake-effect snow pounded Buffalo for a third day piling more misery on a city already buried by an epic, deadly snowfall that could leave some areas with nearly 8 feet of snow on the ground when it’s all done. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Associated Press writer Michael Hill and Mary Esch contributed from Albany.
Snow covers a street at daybreak Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in south Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo-area officials are getting help from a neighboring county in their efforts to clear roads and provide emergency services during the snowstorm that has buried sections of western New York in more than 5 feet of snow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Homeowners opened their front doors to find themselves sealed in by sheer walls of white. Shovelers turned walkways into head-high canyons. A woman gave birth in a firehouse after the snow prevented her from reaching the hospital.
Even for Buffalo, a place that typically shrugs at snow, this was an epic snowfall — the kind of onslaught folks will be telling their grandchildren about.
The Buffalo area found itself buried under as much as 5½ feet of snow Wednesday, with another lake-effect storm expected to bring 2 to 3 more feet by late Thursday.
“This is an historic event. When all is said and done, this snow storm will break all sorts of records, and that’s saying something in Buffalo,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a visit to the city.
The storm came in so fast and furious over Lake Erie early Tuesday it trapped more than 100 vehicles along a 132-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway that remained closed Wednesday. People were marooned at homes, on highways and at work. Residents who can handle 6 inches of snow as if it were a light dusting were forced to improvise.
Snowdrifts create a beautiful setting as a man tries to dig out his driveway on Bowen Rd in Lancaster, N.Y. Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. A lake-effect snow storm dumped over five feet of snow in areas across Western New York. Another two to three feet of snow is expected in the area, bringing snow totals to over 100 inches, almost a years’ worth of snow in three days. (AP photo/Gary Wiepert)
Tom Wilson, of West Seneca, split a Salisbury steak frozen dinner with co-workers and tried his best to get some rest when he was stuck 36 hours at his warehouse job.
“I slept on a pallet. Then I slept on some office chairs, and then I went back to the pallet,” he said. “Then I found some sponges to lay on. I found one pack of sponges unopened. That looks like a pillow to me.”
“We tried to make popcorn with a two-by-four, two empty pop kegs, some charcoal and a dust pan,” he added. “It didn’t work.”
Trapped on a team bus on the Thruway for nearly 30 hours, the Niagara University women’s basketball team melted snow for water, posed with long faces for pictures that were posted online and generally tried to keep each other’s spirits up.
“I’m sure when it’s all done we’ll look back at it and remember how great a bonding experience it was. For now, I think everyone just wants to get home and sleep in their own beds,” said coach Kendra Faustin.
In a Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 photo, Brian F. Miller clears snow off his wife’s car on Boyd Street in Watertown, N.Y. Before he finished his wife announced from the porch that she didn’t have to go to work at the Jefferson County Courthouse due to weather. A ferocious lake-effect storm left the Buffalo area buried under 6 feet of snow, trapping people on highways and in homes, and another storm expected to drop 2 to 3 feet more was on its way. (AP Photo/The Watertown Daily Times, Justin Sorensen) SYRACUSE OUT.
How snowy was it? The National Weather Service said it was so bad that some of the spotters it relies on to update accumulation totals couldn’t get out of their houses to take measurements.
Bethany Hojnacki went into labor at the height of the storm and ended up giving birth in a Buffalo fire station after she and her husband couldn’t get to the hospital. Baby Lucy weighed in at 6 pounds, 2 ounces. Mother and child were later taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
Cuomo said Wednesday afternoon that all trapped travelers had been removed from their cars, though some truckers were staying with their rigs.
Asked by reporters how officials could allow people to be snowbound in cars for 24 hours, Cuomo cited a jackknifed trailer that prevented plows from removing fast-falling snow, and drivers’ own wrongheaded choices.
“What happened was, even though the Thruway was officially closed, people went on. We didn’t immediately block every entrance. It was a mistake,” Cuomo said.
In this photo provided by Chrissy Hazard , a dog looks at the snow that was blown in the back door of the home of Chrissy Hazard on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 in Cheektowaga, N.Y. A ferocious lake-effect storm that trapped people on highways and in homes under up to 6 feet of snow continued to bear down on the Buffalo area Wednesday even as another looming storm was expected to dump another 2 to 3 feet on the region. (AP Photo/Chrissy Hazard )
“Part of it is citizen responsibility,” he added. “If the road is closed, it’s closed.
The storm was blamed for up to six deaths in western New York, at least three of them from heart attacks. Erie County officials said a 46-year-old man was discovered in his car, which was in a ditch and buried in snow 24 miles east of Buffalo. It was unclear how he died.
Sunny skies returned to some hard-hit areas Wednesday, but workers were still trying to cart off the acres of snow. Lake-effect snow fell heavily on some northern New York areas east of Lake Ontario.
With an additional 2 to 3 feet possible by Thursday, the one-week totals for the Buffalo area will approach the average snowfall for an entire year: 93.6 inches, or close to 8 feet.
In this photo provided by Chrissy Hazard, Mark Hazard, his son Jason and Bryan Juda shovel out the snow from the home of Chrissy Hazard on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 in Cheektowaga, N.Y. A ferocious lake-effect storm that trapped people on highways and in homes under up to 6 feet of snow continued to bear down on the Buffalo area Wednesday even as another looming storm was expected to dump another 2 to 3 feet on the region. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Chrissy Hazard )
The highest snowfall total for the Buffalo area this time was 65 inches, recorded in Cheektowaga. National Weather Service meteorologist David Church said that forecasters haven’t determined yet how this storm ranks, but that 60 to 70 inches in 24 hours is probably in the top 5 for the region.
The heaviest 24-hour snowfall on record in the Lower 48 states is 75.8 inches, which fell at Silver Lake, Colorado, in 1921, according to the government.
The governor said it would take four or five days to clean up.
The Buffalo Bills offered $10 an hour plus game tickets for people willing to help shovel out the stands in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, in the snow belt southeast of the city.
Team spokesman Scott Berchtold said the team has an estimated 220,000 tons of snow to remove from the stadium before Sunday’s game against the Jets — more than ever before.
A massive band of lake effect snow moves through the south of Buffalo, N.Y. on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. Several feet of lake-effect snow paralyzed the Buffalo area Tuesday, forcing state troopers to deliver blankets and other supplies to motorists stranded on the New York State Thruway and adding an ominous note to a wintry season that’s already snarling travel and numbing fingers from the Midwest to the Carolinas. (AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Derek Gee)
The snow was heaped so high on the roof a Cheektowaga home that when it fell, the force blew in the back door, frame and all, and filled the living room with snow.
“It was a huge crash. … We actually thought that it was the roof coming down in the house,” said Chrissy Gritzke Hazard, who was home with her husband, five children and three of her children’s friends.
Amtrak passenger train service between Albany and the Buffalo area was suspended. And that old “Neither snow nor rain …” Postal Service motto? Mail delivery was interrupted in certain communities with driving bans.
The storm struck Buffalo on a day when temperatures dropped to freezing or below in all 50 states. At least a foot of fresh snow was expected in parts of Michigan through Friday, adding to deep snow on the ground.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, experts are caring for about 140 turtles stunned in a cold snap that left the reptiles stranded on Gulf Coast beaches.
Art Hauret pauses after he measures the nearly four foot accumulation of snow in his driveway on Summerfield Drive in Lancaster, N.Y. Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. A ferocious storm dumped massive piles of snow on parts of upstate New York, trapping residents in their homes and stranding motorists on roadways, as temperatures in all 50 states fell to freezing or below. (AP photo/Gary Wiepert)
Associated Press Writer Michael Hill contributed from Albany, N.Y.
A video posted online claims to show that Islamic State militants have killed the captured US aid worker (Peter) Abdul-Rahman Kassig.
BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group released a graphic video on Sunday in which a black-clad militant claimed to have beheaded U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig, who was captured last year.
The militant was standing over a severed head, but it was not immediately possible to confirm that it was Kassig, 26, who was pictured in the video. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video’s authenticity and the Kassig family said it was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
The video, which was posted on websites used by the group in the past, appeared to be the latest in a series of blood-soaked messages to the U.S. warning of further brutality if it does not abandon its air campaign in Iraq and Syria.
“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen, of your country; Peter who fought against the Muslims in Iraq, while serving as a soldier,” the militant says near the end of the nearly 16-minute video. He speaks in an audible British accent despite his voice being distorted to make it more difficult to identify him.
The video identifies the militant’s location as Dabiq, a small town in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, near the Turkish border.
The video also shows what appears to be the mass beheading of several Syrian soldiers captured by the group. The militants warn that U.S. soldiers will meet a similar fate.
“We say to you, Obama…you claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago,” the militant said. “Here you are: you have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies,” he said, apparently referring to Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military.
“Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”
Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was providing medical aid to Syrians fleeing the civil war when he was captured inside Syria on Oct. 1, 2013. His friends say he converted to Islam in captivity and took the first name Abdul-Rahman.
Previous videos have shown the beheading of two American journalists and two British aid workers. The latest video did not show the person identified as Kassig being beheaded. Unlike previous videos, it did not show other Western captives or directly threaten to behead anyone else.
The group also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has been shown in several videos delivering long statements in English on the group’s behalf, perhaps under duress.
Kassig’s family said in a statement they were aware of the reports of the video and were awaiting confirmation from the U.S. government.
“The family respectfully asks that the news media avoid playing into the hostage takers’ hands and refrain from publishing or broadcasting photographs or video distributed by the hostage takers,” they said.
“We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause.”
The White House said the U.S. intelligence community was working to determine the authenticity of the video. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that if the video is authentic, the White House would be “appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American.”
The White House expressed its deepest condolences to Kassig’s family and friends, Meehan said.
The video emerged just minutes after President Barack Obama departed Australia for the U.S. The president was in Australia for the Group of 20 economic summit.
Kassig formed the aid organization Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, in Turkey to provide aid and assistance to Syrian refugees. He began delivering food and medical supplies to Syrian refugee camps in 2012 and is also a trained medical assistant who provided trauma care to wounded Syrian civilians. His friends say he helped train 150 civilians in providing medical aid.
The Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in a series of slickly produced, extremely graphic videos.
The group has declared an Islamic caliphate in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, which it governs according to an extremely violent interpretation of Shariah law.
The U.S. began launching air strikes in Iraq and Syria earlier this year in a bid to halt the group’s rapid advance and eventually degrade and destroy it.
The fight against the militant group adds another layer to Syria’s complex civil war, now in its fourth year, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The Islamic State group emerged from the remains of al-Qaida in Iraq and spread to Syria, where it battled both government forces and rebel groups as it carved out its self-styled Islamic state.
In June the group swept into northern Iraq, capturing about a third of the country, including the second largest city Mosul, and eventually prompting the U.S. to resume military operations in the country less than three years after withdrawing. In September the U.S. expanded the air campaign to Syria.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Brisbane, Australia and David Aguilar in Chicago contributed to this report.
Peter Kassig (26)
John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism, said cops have been studying videos where ISIS fighters urge would-be recruits to pick up a weapon like a knife or axe to wield as a tool of terror.
The recent hatchet attack on cops in Queens by jihad-inspired Zale Thompson is a prime example of the type of terror ISIS could inspire here, John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism, said. DCPI.
The NYPD is more and more worried that ISIS will inspire radicals in New York to conduct homegrown terror attacks, the top-counter terror cop said Wednesday.
John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism, said cops have been studying videos where ISIS fighters urge would-be recruits to pick up a weapon like a knife or axe to wield as a tool of terror.
“ISIS directed its supporters in the West to take up arms and kill its enemies,” he said at a City Council hearing. “The message is that you should do what you can with what you have.”
In one video, a militant holding up an AK-47 directs followers, “If you can’t come fight with us, and you can’t get one of these…simply go to your local store and get a knife or another weapon.”
The propaganda piece ends with an ominous graphic. “It says use what you have. And there’s a picture of an axe,” Miller said. “So the communications that are coming out in recent months are fairly concerning.”
The recent hatchet attack on cops in Queens by jihad-inspired Zale Thompson is a prime example of the type of terror ISIS could inspire here, Miller said.
NYPD, FDNY and Office of Emergency Management officials testifying at the hearing grappled with a host of frightening scenarios including terrorists using fire as a weapon to send city buildings up in flames or launching simultaneous attacks on subway cars.
But they said the city is well prepared.
Miller also discussed the demise of the controversial Demographics Unit, which had conducted surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods.
He said its operations were “a lot more cloak and dagger than was required,” referring to documents marked top secret.