The LWOT: Awlaki-linked terror plotter sentenced to 30 years in prison; Brennan hits out at administration critics

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Awlaki-linked terror plotter sentenced to 30 years

A British court has sentenced U.K. resident and former British Airways employee Rajib Karim to 30 years in prison for plotting to blow up a jet (BBC, Guardian). Central to the case against Karim, whom the judge in the case described as a "committed jihadist," were 300 heavily encrypted emails between the defendant and radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (Telegraph). Karim and his brother originally contacted Awlaki to seek advice on waging jihad abroad, before Awlaki reportedly convinced Karim to keep his job with BA (Reuters, Bloomberg, AP). Karim and Awlaki discussed smuggling packages onto planes, the possibility of crashing BA’s computer servers, and getting a job as a member of a cabin crew during a labor strike.

In an interview for a BBC television special, the former director of Britain’s internal security organization MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, said it was impossible to win the war on terror through military means and expressed her hope that authorities were in communication with "people on the edges" of al Qaeda (BBC).

Brennan forcefully defends civilian trials, Gitmo closing

In an address Friday at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, chief U.S. counterterrorism adviser John Brennan sharply defended civilian trials for terrorism suspects, while also reiterating the need for military commissions and striking at Congressional restrictions on closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay (Politico, AFP, ProPublica). In remarks to reporters after the speech, Brennan additionally warned that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi might turn back to supporting terrorism in response to Western airstrikes designed to brunt his advances against rebels in the country’s east (NYT, WSJ).

The Pentagon last week published new rules for civilian and military defense lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees, which in part govern allowable public disclosures from attorneys and dictate how attorneys can communicate with clients previously held in CIA custody (Miami Herald). The rules drew a strong rebuke from the chief military defense attorney, Col. Jeffrey Colwell, who said the restrictions seemed to indicate that conversations between attorneys and their clients were being recorded, and that the new rules are, "going to slow everything down, tie our hands…Getting information to our clients is now going to take weeks instead of days."

Al-Jazeera looks ahead to next Monday’s habeas hearing in the D.C. Circuit Court for former Taliban minister and governor of Herat Khairullah Khairkhwa, whose release has been requested by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as part of Karzai’s reconciliation efforts with the Taliban (AJE).Larkin Reynolds last week summarized the little-covered appeal before the Court of Military Commission Review of Guantánamo detainee Salim Hamdan, convicted of providing material support to terrorism, which Hamdan contends is not a war crime and thus not within the purview of military commissions (Lawfare Blog). And Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to certify that no Guantánamo detainees will be transferred to the state’s Thomson Correctional Facility (AP). 

Trials and Tribulations

  • A Mauritanian court has sentenced two men, a Mauritanian and a Malian, to five years’ hard labor for their role in kidnapping an Italian couple in 2009 on behalf of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (AP). The group reportedly this week asked for a ransom of $127 million in exchange for four French hostages seized from the northern Nigerien town of Arlit last September, prompting a public refusal to negotiate in the case by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (Reuters).
  • An American citizen born in Algeria, Mohamed Omar Dehbi, has been cleared of terrorism charges by Spanish authorities after being detained last September on allegations of laundering money for AQIM (WSJ).
  • An FBI informant who played a key role in breaking up a 2006 terror plot by a group referred to widely as the "Liberty City Seven," Elie Assaad, was arrested this week in Texas on charges that he attempted to run a police officer over with his SUV after a failed traffic stop (AP).
  • The Associated Press this week compares the possible front-runners to succeed FBI Director Robert Mueller, whose 10-year term began just one week before the 9/11 attacks (AP).
  • An Egyptian official announced Mar. 20 that authorities had re-arrested Mohammed al-Zawahiri, the brother of al Qaeda no. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, less than a week after releasing him from prison (AP).

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