An Israeli teenager arrested earlier this year for making a series of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the United States might not have been acting alone. According to recently unsealed court documents, Michael Kadar allegedly was offering a service in which he would make anonymous bomb threats on behalf of paying clients to a school or other institution of their choice.
The documents, highlighted in a series of tweets by Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, charge that Kadar used the deep web marketplace AlphaBay, which was shuttered by the federal government last month, to advertise his bomb-threat-for-hire service.
In an affidavit, an FBI official who investigated the case said documents recovered from Kadar’s computer following his arrest in March showed screenshots of bomb threats to the Jewish Community Center of Louisville, Kentucky, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington. A high school in Rohnert Park, California, also reportedly was targeted by Kadar.
The affidavit asserts Kadar kept the screenshots as proof to his clients that he had sent the messages.
Officials connected Kadar to an AlphaBay vendor with the handle Darknet_Legend, who was advertising a “School Email Bomb Threat Service.” His services were surprisingly affordable. Sending a single bomb threat cost $30 and sending a threat and intentionally framing someone else for it, $45.
The documents say the FBI is in the process of identifying who hired Kadar to send the threats. But reviews posted on Darknet_Legend’s vendor page were glowing.
“Amazing on time and on target,” wrote one client. “We got evacuated and got the day cut short.”
Kadar’s alleged threats came amid a wave that swept the country in early 2017. Over the span of a few months, 148 threats were made to synagogues, Jewish schools and Jewish community centers across the country. While none ultimately were carried out, nearly half of the 151 Jewish community centers in the U.S. received bomb threats.
Mosque bombing much more than a threat
The explosion that rocked a Bloomington, Minnesota, mosque Saturday morning thankfully didn’t cause any injuries, but it has left the local Somali Muslim community deeply shaken.
“We came to this country for the same reason everyone else came here: freedom to worship,” Yasir Abdalrahman, a member of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “And that freedom is under threat. Every other American should be insulted by this.”
Law enforcement officials believe an improvised explosive device was detonated in the office of the mosque’s imam as attendees were preparing for morning prayers in a nearby room. The Islamic center had been receiving threatening phone calls and emails with some regularity, but this was the first time it had been targeted with physical violence.
In the hours after the blast, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton arrived on the scene and presented a single rose to the imam.
“If the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack, and that’s what it is – it’s an act of terrorism,” Dayton said. “A criminal act of terrorism against the imam, who, thank the good Lord, was not present in his office as it would appear this person intended.”
While Dayton strongly condemned the attack, President Donald Trump has yet to directly mention it. When asked about Trump’s silence on the issue, White House adviser Sebastian Gorka told MSNBC that the attack was likely a hoax “propagated by the left.”
“This has empowered those who harbor anti-Muslim views,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said of Trump’s rhetoric and policies. “But he really needs to speak out against these type of things, because those who support him take his silence as tacit support.”
A report by the council shows a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents and a 44 percent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2016 over what was recorded the previous year.
Blood spilled in Portland as far right and left clash
A white supremacist rally erupted into violence Sunday as right-wing demonstrators battled anti-fascist protesters in Portland, Oregon’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Willamette Week – which has documented the racial strife that has plagued a city largely viewed as bastion of easygoing progressivism – reports the “Patriot Prayer” event was fairly small, with about 100 people on each side, but the fighting was especially intense:
Oath Keepers, members of a militia group that often attends right-wing protests, attacked antifa with pepper spray. Left-wing counter-protesters burned flags. Several frequent participants in Patriot Prayer protests, including a man named Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, were bloodied in the fight that kicked off the march.
Tiny later offered to give counter-protesters wounds of their own. Flashing the thick silver rings adorning his fist, he pointed to his bloody nose. “Do you want one to match?” he asked. “I can give you one.”
Law enforcement officers reportedly didn’t intervene to break up fights as they were happening. Instead, a Portland police spokesman told Willamette Week that officers waited until things died down a bit, concerned about further escalating tensions with their intervention.
The Portland Mercury has a pretty amazing series of photos and videos from the event, which show numerous physical confrontations from two sides that clearly showed up prepared for battle.
Writing in the New Republic, Bob Moser labels these far-right rallies “American Hate Theater” and chides counter-protesters for playing into the hands of their political foes.
“By confronting … the various breeds of white supremacists with fury and violence, we’re giving them better media attention and recruitment tools than the worst of the worst could ever hope to muster for themselves,” he wrote.
James Anderson, who runs the anti-fascist site It’s Going Down, argued the decision to give coverage to the far right in the first place isn’t made by the protesters, but the media.
“The media can choose if they’re going to give a platform to the alt-right,” Anderson said.
The goal of protests against alt-right rallies, he said, are relatively straightforward: “to make what they’re doing as hard as possible.”
Racist Reddit forums get a welcome makeover
The social news site Reddit long has played host to hate. Recently, a group of creative users began fighting back by converting forums previously devoted to enthusiastic discussions of white supremacy into satirical discussions of color, particularly the color white.
The formerly white supremacist r/whites subreddit, for example, now features questions about teeth whitening and debates over the fine line separating beige and gray. On the sidebar listing the subreddit’s rules, “THIS SUBREDDIT STANDS AGAINST HATE SPEECH” is written in all caps.
Reddit’s forums, called subreddits, are moderated by volunteer users. When all of a subreddit’s moderators are inactive for 60 days, other users can petition site administrators to take over. That’s how these subreddits were removed from the hands of white supremacists and placed under new ownership.
“It’s hilarious,” a moderator on r/whites responsible for the change told the Daily Beast. “What’s not to like?”
Corrections: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of an American Islamic relations group. It is the Council on American-Islamic Relations. An earlier version also misstated the name of the person who runs anti-fascist website It’s Going Down. His name is James Anderson.