The LWOT: British court convicts Awlaki-linked terror plotter; Texas terror suspect to plead not guilty

The LWOT: British court convicts Awlaki-linked terror plotter; Texas terror suspect to plead not guilty

Must-read: The website Public Intelligence has released a 2006 FBI report on terrorist training and recruitment in three post-9/11 terrorism investigations in Lackawanna, NY, Portland, OR and Northern Virginia (Public Intelligence). 

British court convicts major terrorism plotter

A British court on Feb. 28 convicted former British Airways IT specialist Rajib Karim of four terrorism charges, with the jury finding that Karim collaborated with radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to plot the possible downing of a U.S.-bound aircraft as well as a potential attack on BA’s computer servers (CNN, Guardian, Bloomberg, WSJ, AP). Karim, who now faces life in prison, reportedly began communicating with Awlaki in 2009 using heavily-encrypted email messages that took counterterrorism agents nine months to crack (BBC).

Security agents testified that in the messages, Awlaki urged Karim to stay in the United Kingdom instead of trying to engage in jihad abroad, and asked him for information on x-ray machines used in British airports, as well as the possibility of putting a package or a man with a package on board an airplane (Telegraph). Awlaki also reportedly emphasized the importance of attacking the United States, even if larger attacks were feasible in the United Kingdom.

In another important ruling last week, a British court dismissed the appeal of convicted British terrorist Rangzieb Ahmed, who claimed that he was tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of British authorities (BBC, Guardian, FT).The Telegraph reports that a young British man convicted last week of disseminating terrorist propaganda, Mohammed Gul, had also contacted other extremists in search of bomb components (Telegraph). And finally, the BBC reported last week that only one in four people arrested on terrorism charges in the United Kingdom last year was eventually charged with a terrorism-related offense (BBC).

Texas terror suspect to plead not guilty

Saudi national Khalid Aldawsari briefly appeared in a Texas court Feb. 25, as a lawyer for the alleged terrorism plotter said that his client would plead not guilty to charges that he attempted to construct and use a homemade explosive (NYT, Reuters, CBS News, Fox34). Aldawsari was first reported to authorities by a chemical company and a shipping company who became suspicious of an order Aldawsari placed for phenol, which he allegedly intended to use in the construction of the explosive TNP.

The case has prompted some lawmakers, including House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-NY) to call for greater surveillance of foreign students fitting a certain "profile" (The Hill). King said:

[I[f you’re coming from Saudi Arabia and you want to major in chemistry… I think you should be able to monitor the Internet and be able to see what these people are doing." 

The Washington Post this weekend reports on the concern that King’s upcoming hearings on Muslim radicalization have prompted among several very different groups, ranging from Muslim leaders and their critics to counterterrorism professionals (Washington Post).

Former Gitmo detainee calls for rebellion in Middle East

In an audiotape released this weekend by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), former Guantánamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Rubeish called for Arab populations to overthrow their rulers and establish Islamic law (AP). Al-Rubeish, a key AQAP ideologue and religious leader, was released from Guantánamo in 2006 and was enrolled in Saudi Arabia’s terrorist deradicalization program before joining AQAP (Jamestown).

A Spanish court on Friday ruled that it would investigate allegations by former Guantánamo detainee, Lahcen Ikassrien, that he was tortured during his detention at the prison (AFP). In other news, the Texas board that oversees the granting of licenses to practice psychology in the state has dismissed a complaint against Jim Mitchell, who helped design the CIA’s interrogation program at Guantánamo (AP). And Carol Rosenberg this week reports on the four-person cellblock where convicted war criminals at Guantánamo are kept segregated from the rest of the prison population (Miami Herald).

Supreme Court to hear material witness lawsuit

The Supreme Court on Mar. 2 is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by American citizen Abdullah al-Kidd against former Attorney General John Ashcroft challenging the use of the material witness statute to hold al-Kidd without charge in 2003 (SCOTUS Blog). Al-Kidd was held under harsh conditions for 16 days under the statute, an experience he called "one of the most, if not the most, humiliating experiences of my life" in an interview this weekend (AP).

And American and British human rights lawyers on Feb. 28 publicly filed documents with the Gambia-based African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, asking the commission to take up the case of Mohammed al-Asad, who says he was seized in 2003 in Tanzania and moved to Djibouti and other CIA "black sites," before being released in 2006 without charge (Washington Post).  

Trials and Tribulations

  • The banned Kurdish terrorist organization the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced Feb. 28 that it was ending a cease-fire with Turkey, originally scheduled to last until June (WSJ). 
  • President Barack Obama signed into law last Friday a three-month extension of three controversial Patriot Act provisions (The Hill). The Senate will begin debate this week on extending the provisions further.
  •  A former member of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who last month attempted to throw an explosive at the French Embassy in Bamako, Mali escaped from prison Mar. 1 (AFP). And AQIM this weekend released three hostages kidnapped from the town of Arlit in Northern Niger last September – a Togolese, a Malagasy, and a French woman who suffers from cancer and whose husband remains in captivity with the group (Reuters).
  • Spanish police have arrested four members of the Basque separatist group ETA on suspicion of involvement in several terrorist attacks in the past few years (AP).