Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on foreignpolicy.com or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.
- By Jennifer Rowland and Andrew LebovichJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, where Andrew Lebovich is a policy analyst.
Report: NYPD watched Moroccan immigrants
The AP on September 22 released another report on NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities, citing secret police documents that indicate the department’s "Demographics Squad" investigated Moroccan communities in New York City without any suspicion of wrongdoing (AP). The operation, known within the NYPD’s intelligence branch as the "Moroccan Initiative," allegedly involved monitoring and documenting details of Moroccan barbershops, gyms, and even homes, including some owned by U.S. citizens.
In a speech at Harvard Law School on September 16, top U.S. counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama, John Brennan, defended the legality of the administration’s detention policy for suspected terrorists and use of drone strikes to target militants both inside and outside of so-called "hot" battlefields like Afghanistan (NYT, CNN, Bloomberg,AFP). And on September 20, the Washington Post reported that the United States is building "a constellation" of secret bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula from which they can launch drone attacks on al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen and Somalia (Post).
Obama administration: Gitmo closed by Election Day
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the European Parliament on September 20 that the Obama administration intends make the utmost effort to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility before the 2012 presidential elections, but acknowledged the political difficulty of doing so (AP, AFP). Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said on Wednesday that this goal will be "very difficult" for the administration to achieve in the face of "congressional blocks" such as withholding funding to transfer detainees to the United States (Politico).
Detainees at Guantánamo have reportedly ended a protest that involved the captives smearing their own feces in the ventilation ducts in an attempt to force guards to change some of their procedures, though Guantánamo officials declined to comment on the particular demands (Miami Herald). One official attributed the protest’s end in part to peer pressure from fellow detainees affected by the campaign. And Carol Rosenberg on September 19 reported on her conversations with new Gitmo commander Rear Adm. David Woods, as he becomes accustomed to his new post and looks ahead to the as-yet unscheduled capital trials of six detainees (Miami Herald).
Convicted terrorist to receive harsher sentence
A U.S. federal appeals court ruled on September 19 that a 17-year prison sentence handed down to convicted terrorist Jose Padilla in 2008 is too lenient considering Padilla’s history of violence and training in an al-Qaeda militant camp (AP, NYT, BBC,WSJ, CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg). Padilla was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to attack an American city with a radioactive "dirty bomb," but was convicted in 2007 on unrelated charges linked to supporting terrorism abroad.
Pakistani-born Tahawwur Rana, who was convicted of providing material support to the group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and is suspected of having planned an attack in Denmark, asked on September 19 for a new trial, with his attorneys claiming that he shouldn’t have had to defend both plots in the same trial (AP). And the lawyer for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of attempting to blow up an airliner destined for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, filed a motion on September 20 to block the prosecution from showing videos of explosions created from the same chemicals used to make the bomb Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled in his underwear (Reuters, AP).
Prosecutors in the trial of three North Carolina men — Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi — accused of helping plot a terrorist attack on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Virginia began their case by playing a tape of the admitted ringleader Daniel Boyd boasting about the ease with which he could kill servicemen and their families (AP). One of the defendents, Hysen Sharifi, was allegedly present when Boyd made those remarks.
And one of the defense attorneys for Ahmed Ferhani, who is accused of plotting to blow up a Manhattan synagogue, said on September 20 that there is no conflict of interest in the fact that she briefly defended the undercover detective who helped build the case against her current client (NYT). She said she had no confidential conversations with the detective, and his case was dismissed at his first court appearance.
British police arrest 7 for alleged terrorist plot
British police on September 18 arrested six men in Birmingham on suspicion of plotting al-Qaeda-inspired attacks in the United Kingdom, and one woman on suspicion of failing to provide information related to the terrorist plots (BBC, AP, AFP, Guardian, WSJ, NYT,Reuters). Police have declined to identify the suspects, but the Telegraph reports that one of the 14 houses searched after the arrests is registered to convicted terrorist plotter Mohammad Irfan, who was released early from a four-year prison sentence in 2010 (Tel). Police said on September 22 that a seventh man had also been arrested that day on suspicion of involvement in the same plot (AFP, AP, Reuters, BBC). And Habib Ahmed, who was convicted of involvement in a British al-Qaeda-linked terror cell and sentenced in 2008 to ten years in prison, was recently released after serving less than three years (Tel).
A Norwegian judge ruled on September 19 that the admitted perpetrator of the July 22 Oslo bombing and shooting rampage that killed 77 people, Anders Behring Breivik, will remain in solitary confinement for another four weeks, a condition Breivik told the court is a "form of torture" (Reuters, AFP, CNN, Tel, Guardian, BBC). Meanwhile, Finnish authorities said on September 17 that a man and a woman of foreign origin were arrested in the capital city of Helsinki on suspicion of financing and recruiting for terrorism, but that any plans they had were not aimed at Finland (AP, Reuters).
The Spanish Interior Ministry said on September 20 that police had arrested a Cuban man in Mallorca the previous day on suspicion of recruiting for and praising al-Qaeda in over a thousand radical videos he allegedly posted on YouTube (AP, CNN). And the Saudi Arabian state news service said on September 19 that it will soon be trying 41 suspects on charges that they formed an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group with plans to attack U.S. troops in Kuwait and Qatar (Reuters).
Trials and Tribulations
- Mexican authorities on September 21 dropped terrorism charges they had levied against a man and a woman who had created panic in the state of Veracruz by posting fake warnings of impending attacks by drug cartels on Twitter (AP).
- Outgoing U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen on September 22 said that the militant Haqqani Network suspected of carrying out an hours-long siege on the U.S. embassy in Kabul last week is a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) (LAT, NYT, CNN, WSJ). For more on this story, see the AfPak Daily Brief (FP).
- Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) on September 21 claimed responsibility in a statement posted to a jihadist forum for a series of attacks in more than 18 Iraqi cities on August 15 that killed 74 people and wounded more than 300 others (AFP).
- A militant separatist group, the Kurdish Freedom Hawks (TAK), claimed responsibility on September 22 for a bomb attack in the Turkish capital of Ankara on September 20 that killed three people and wounded over 30 (AJE, NYT,Guardian, Deutsche Welle, AFP, AP). Turkish authorities say the TAK is a front group for the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), though the PKK itself has denied any involvement in the Ankara bombing (AP).