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- By Andrew LebovichAndrew Lebovich is a Sahel consultant and researcher with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, based in Dakar, Senegal.
Must read: The Washington Post and ProPublica this week published a major two-part report on the possible Pakistani military connections with the militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, focusing on American David Coleman Headley and key LeT leader (and Pakistani military officer, according to some officials) Sajid Mir (Part 1, Part 2).
KSM to stay where he is, for now
The Washington Post reports this weekend that staunch congressional opposition and other political concerns about the viability of civilian terrorism trials will likely delay any civilian prosecution of 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed until at least after the 2012 presidential elections (Washington Post). After U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week said a decision on KSM’s trial would come "soon," several Democratic and Republican members of Congress, as well as New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, condemned a possible trial for the current Guantánamo Bay inmate and others in New York’s federal court.
This opposition will likely only increase when Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January; likely incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon said in a speech this week (The Weekly Standard):
The simple truth is that relaxing our Guantanamo policy puts Americans at risk…My position is simple: No more mirandizing terrorists. No more trials in downtown Manhattan. No more terrorist transfers to Yemen. The American people need a new terrorist detainee policy.
The Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes agreed with McKeon’s call for a new policy on terrorism detentions "that protects the homeland, respects the rule of law, and upholds our high ideals," but also critiqued the "unfair" rhetoric and tone of the speech, some of which he said was "almost entirely nonsense" (Lawfare Blog).
The Chicago Tribune reports on the increasingly slim chances that the government will buy the Thomson Correctional Facility in Illinois, designated last year as the new internment facility for the remaining inmates at Gitmo (Chicago Tribune). And a member of the Afghan High Peace Council has said he will propose a plan for talks with the Taliban that involves freeing several former Taliban leaders from Gitmo so they can participate (Telegraph).
Ghailani deliberations at a standstill
Jury deliberations in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the former CIA and Guantánamo detainee charged with involvement in the 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings, appear to be at a standstill after a juror asked to be removed from the panel due to her views on the case (LAT). The juror wrote to Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, "My conclusion is not going to change…I feel (I am being) attacked for my conclusion" without indicating her decision on Ghailani’s guilt (WSJ). Kaplan reminded the jurors of his previous instructions before ordering them back to deliberations; if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, Kaplan could have to declare a hung jury and order a new trial. Kaplan also denied a defense motion for a mistrial after reading aloud the juror’s letter to the court (VOA).
The British government agreed to an out-of-court settlement with a dozen ex-Guantánamo detainees, including Binyam Mohamed, over their mistreatment while in American custody (BBC, Guardian, NYT, Washington Post). The group could receive several million pounds in the arrangement, with the terms of the deal expected to be announced later today (Telegraph, AP, Telegraph).
Al-Muhajiroun leader sentenced in abstentia, arrested
Lebanese security forces Nov. 14 arrested radical preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, who once led the now-banned British radical organization al-Muhajiroun, two days after a court sentenced him to life in prison in abstentia (AP, NYT). While original reporting indicated that Mohammed was arrested without a struggle, later reports indicate that he was taken into custody after a brief car chase and exchange of gunfire between Lebanese forces and Bakri ‘s security guards (LAT, Daily Star). Bakri , who before his arrest said he would not spend a day in jail, was on trial for alleged incitement and support for Fatah al-Islam, the extremist Sunni Muslim group that fought the Lebanese army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, located in northern Lebanon, in 2007 (AJE).
Trials and Tribulations
- A San Diego resident, Nima Ali Yusuf, was arrested last Friday and indicted Nov. 15 (available here) on charges that she attempted to provide material support in the form of money and personnel to the Somali al-Shabaab militant organization, in addition to charges that she made false statements to the FBI (AP, AFP, FBI). Yusuf is the fourth person arrested in San Diego for allegedly assisting al-Shabaab this month.
- The Article 32 military court hearing to determine whether or not Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan will stand trial for last year’s deadly Ft. Hood shootings concluded Nov. 15, with the defense choosing not to present any evidence (AP).
- The Texas Board of Psychologists is currently evaluating a professional misconduct complaint lodged against Dr. James E. Mitchell, a key CIA consultant who helped design the agency’s "enhanced interrogation" program after 9/11 (NYT). The board could strip Mitchell’s license to practice in Texas if he is found to have violated his professional obligations in crafting and allegedly helping implement the program.
- Since June New York City has nearly tripled the number of closed-circuit cameras designed to monitor for terrorist activity, meaning 1,500 out of a planned 3,000 cameras are currently in place (Bloomberg).
- The Los Angeles Times details the 72 Department of Homeland Security "fusion centers" across the country that are designed to share threat information and intelligence across local and national agencies, but in practice deal with far more than terrorism, raising privacy and efficiency concerns (LAT, LAT).
- The Commercial Appeal this week has a detailed profile of Carlos Bledsoe (also known as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad), currently awaiting trial in February for allegedly killing one soldier and wounding another outside of an Arkansas Army recruiting station last year, constructing a picture of Bledsoe from court documents and letters written to their correspondent over several months (Knoxnews.com).