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London Attack Stokes Tensions Over Race, Religion, Immigration

The attacker, Khalid Masood, was a Muslim convert, born and raised just outside London under the name Adrian Russell Elms and a father of three

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A police officer lays flowers on Whitehall around a photograph of police officer Keith Palmer who was killed in the March 22 terror attack in Westminster, near the Houses of the Parliament in central London on March 23, 2017 (VOA)
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London, March 25, 2017:  As police race to identify what motivated a 52-year-old British-born father to carry out Wednesday’s attack at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, a debate is simmering over issues of identity, religion and immigration — hot topics in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union.

With police and press helicopters still buzzing overhead, thousands of Londoners gathered Thursday night in Trafalgar Square to grieve for the victims but also to express determination that life in the city will carry on as normal.

Musharaf Ahmed was one of hundreds of Muslims attending the vigil.

“These attacks — they don’t have any space in Islam,” he said. “Islam teaches the opposite. Islam teaches peace. The meaning of Islam is peace.”

The attacker, Khalid Masood, was a Muslim convert, born and raised just outside London under the name Adrian Russell Elms.

Masood, a father of three, had previous convictions for violence but no history of terrorism.

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The Islamic State group claimed online that its propaganda inspired the attack. The head of the London Metropolitan Police Counterterrorism unit Mark Rowley said Friday major questions remain unanswered.

“What led him to radicalize?” he asked. “Was it through influences in our community, influences from overseas or through online propaganda?”

Those questions echo the same deep concerns in the wake of the London bombings in July 2005 also carried out by British citizens. Who is to blame? The state, or the community? Professor Lee Marsden of the University of East Anglia has studied motivating factors behind past terror incidents.

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“I think it’s very easy to try to apportion blame,” Marsden said. “But the reality is with lone-wolf attacks, or when people are below the radar, these type of events can occur.”

The Westminster attack came at a volatile moment. Populist, anti-immigrant groups are energized by Britain’s exit from the European Union. Within hours of the attack, leaders of the far right UK Independence Party blamed immigration, even though the attacker was born in the UK.

“Groups which are in mainstream political life, particularly on the right wing of political parties, will use this event to try to pursue an anti-immigrant agenda,” Marsden said.

“As we saw in Brexit,” he added, “a lot of the debate around immigration was not specifically around Eastern European immigration which is clearly the main result of the European Union, but actually an opportunity to attack ethnic minorities within the country.”

Hayyan Bhaba, an adviser to the government on extremism, said it is vital to break down the divisions in British society. Engaging in conversation “between a lot of the frustrated communities” and having a positive dialogue can lead to “common ground,” he added.

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Analysts say those divisions extend beyond Britain and across Europe as the continent struggles with issues of immigration and integration.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo drew a link Thursday between the London attack and European Union migrant policy, claiming the assault vindicated Warsaw’s refusal to take in refugees.

(VOA)

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USA: Everything you want to know about Security Clearance; Find out here!

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas.

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Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, March 11, 2014. President Donald Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. We take a look at what that means.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance allows a person access to classified national security information or restricted areas after completion of a background check. The clearance by itself does not guarantee unlimited access. The agency seeking the clearance must determine what specific area of information the person needs to access.

What are the different levels of security clearance?

There are three levels: Confidential, secret and top secret. Security clearances don’t expire. But, top secret clearances are reinvestigated every five years, secret clearances every 10 years and confidential clearances every 15 years.

All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA
All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance. VOA

Who has security clearances?

According to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, about 4.2 million people had a security clearance as of 2015, they included military personnel, civil servants, and government contractors.

Why does one need a security clearance in retirement?

Retired senior intelligence officials and military officers need their security clearances in case they are called to consult on sensitive issues.

Also Read: Governments Across The World Request Apple for 30,000 Device Information

Can the president revoke a security clearance?

Apparently. But there is no precedent for a president revoking someone’s security clearance. A security clearance is usually revoked by the agency that sought it for an employee or contractor. All federal agencies follow a list of 13 potential justifications for revoking or denying a clearance, which can include criminal acts, lack of allegiance to the United States, behavior or situation that could compromise an individual and security violations. (VOA)