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- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Norway’s anti-terrorism laws tested in conspiracy case
Mikael Davud, Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, and David Jakobsen pleaded not guilty in a Norwegian court on November 15 to charges of "conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack" for their alleged plot to bomb the offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (Deutsche Welle,Reuters, AP, BBC). The three men were arrested in July 2010 after allegedly purchasing bomb-making materials including acetone and hydrogen peroxide. Davud, the alleged ringleader of the plot, is also accused of training with al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan in 2008 and 2009, after which prosecutors say he kept in contact with the terrorist group and made "an agreement" to bomb the newspaper offices (Reuters). If convicted, the men could face up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors will have to prove there was a "conspiracy" with an international organization, because plotting an attack alone is not punishable under Norway’s terror laws (AP, Reuters).
Iran’s deputy foreign minister on November 14 denied a claim made by Bahrain’s public prosecutor the previous day that Bahraini authorities had apprehended a "terror cell" with links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (AP, CNN, Reuters, Guardian). Four of the suspects were arrested in Qatar, and the fifth detained in Bahrain, with an alleged plot to attack government and diplomatic buildings as well as a causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
A woman accused in the United Kingdom of failing to alert authorities to a potential terrorist plot, pleaded not guilty in court on November 16 to accusations that her estranged husband Ashik Ali told her it would be best for her if they did not get back together because he was planning to become a suicide bomber (Tel). Ali is one of eight people arrested in September as part a "major counter-terrorism investigation" known as Operation Pitsford, and indicted on various charges including fundraising for terrorist purposes, travelling to Pakistan for terrorist training, "planning a bombing campaign," and "stating an intention to be a suicide bomber" (AFP).
Friends testify against Mehanna
Hassan Masood, a former friend of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder in a foreign country, testified on November 14 that he drove Mehanna and two other to Logan International Airport in 2004 so they could travel to Yemen to receive training at terrorist camps (Boston Globe). Masood told the U.S. District Court in Boston that Mehanna, who is accused of translating and disseminating jihadist material online, attempting to train at a terrorist camp in Yemen, believed "there was an obligation for Muslims to stand up and fight against the invasion in Iraq."
Jason Pippin, a convert to Islam who travelled to Pakistan for terrorist training in 1996, testified on November 15 that he provided Mehanna’s associate Ahmad Abousamra, with contacts in Yemen who could facilitate their aim to seek terrorist training (Boston Globe). Daniel Maldonado, another former friend of Tarek Mehanna, testified on November 17 that Mehanna told him the 9/11 attacks were legitimate and that he was willing to fight U.S. soldiers in Iraq (Boston Globe, AP). Mehanna is also accused of lying to the FBI in 2006 about the location of Maldonado, who is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for training at a terrorist camp in Somalia.
U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo pleaded not guilty on November 17 to charges that he plotted to detonate two bombs in a restaurant frequented by soldiers from the nearby Fort Hood, TX Army base, and shoot any survivors (AP). Abdo was indicted on three federal charges in August and prosecutors brought six additional charges against him last week; he will be tried first on the newest charges, which carry longer sentences.
The four elderly Georgia men accused of an extremist right-wing bioterrorism plot appeared on November 15 at a hearing, during which their attorney attacked the credibility of the undercover informant who recorded the suspects talking about their radical political views and murdering government officials using the deadly toxin ricin (AP). The informant faces two charges in South Carolina of child pornography and child molestation, but has been released from jail on bond. The federal judge hearing the bioterrorism case denied bond for the four Georgia men on November 16 out of concern for the safety of government officials and employees (AP).
Malian citizen Oumar Issa pleaded guilty on November 15 in New York City to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization for agreeing in 2009 to traffic drugs through the Sahara desert for DEA agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to whom Issa said he had provided support to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) through drug trafficking in the past (AP).
FBI informant use attacked in court
Miriam Conrad, defense attorney for Rezwan Ferdaus, who is accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled aircraft packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol, attacked the FBI’s use of a drug-abusing former convict as an informant in its investigation of Ferdaus (NPR). Despite purchasing heroin, an act videotaped by the FBI, the informant was not reported, and was briefly terminated before being reinstated in the investigation. Conrad argues that Ferdaus’ plot was akin to a video game fantasy, and that without the informant and two undercover FBI agents – the only people in his "terror cell" – Ferdaus "would not have done anything" (Reuters, Local).
Politico’s Josh Gerstein reported on November 15 that a judge ruled last week against the Muslim Advocates group’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that seeks access to the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, which lays out the rules governing permissible tactics in FBI investigations, including surveillance, which has become a flashpoint issue in the government’s legal war on terror (Politico). And the Guardian’s Paul Harris reports on the growing concerns in the United States over potential entrapment by the FBI in terrorism investigations (Guardian).
Senators compromise on detainee provisions
The Senate Armed Services Committee on November 15 approved the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, including a controversial provision that would require military custody of all terrorism suspects affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, which has held up the bill for months and drew veto threats from the White House (CNN, Post,WSJ, Politico, Lawfare). The bill was altered from a previous version the committee approved in June that was blocked from a general Senate vote by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the committee in a letter that the new version still does not address all of the Obama administration’s concerns.
And the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force General Robert Kehler, said on November 16 that the United States military has developed a legal framework to govern offensive operations in cyberspace in an "area of hostilities" or battle zone (Reuters). The Pentagon is still working out the rules of engagement in cyberspace outside of official war zones.
Trials and Tribulations
- Lawyers for 11 of 12 men accused of involvement in the July 2010 bombings in Kampala, Uganda that killed at least 76 people requested the suspension of their clients’ trial because the men were purportedly tortured and illegally extradited from Kenya and Tanzania (AFP).
- Seven people in Indonesia, including the head of an Islamic boarding school and a teenaged student, may soon face terrorism charges for illegal possession of weapons and an as yet unclear bomb plot (Jakarta Globe). The school was the site of an explosion in July that killed one teacher believed to be in the process of assembling a bomb.
- The Netherlands Supreme Court on November 15 reduced the sentence of Nouriddin el-Fahtni, who was convicted of recruiting and indoctrinating Muslims to join his terrorist group, from eight years to seven years and four months (AP).