The LWOT: The “Al Qaeda Seven” Revealed; Supreme Court Hears Foreign Torture Trial

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Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Obama aides to recommend military tribunal for KSM

The Washington Post reports that Obama administration aides recommend that the alleged 9/11 plotters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, face military tribunals. The recommendation would overrule Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to try the plotters in civilian court, and could allow the White House to soothe congressional opposition to closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

When asked about the decision Marine Corps Col. Jeffrey Colwell, the current chief defense counsel for the Defense Department's military commissions office, said any reversal on civilian trials for the plotters would mark, "a sad day for the law." He continued:

Obama aides to recommend military tribunal for KSM

The Washington Post reports that Obama administration aides recommend that the alleged 9/11 plotters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, face military tribunals. The recommendation would overrule Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the plotters in civilian court, and could allow the White House to soothe congressional opposition to closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

When asked about the decision Marine Corps Col. Jeffrey Colwell, the current chief defense counsel for the Defense Department’s military commissions office, said any reversal on civilian trials for the plotters would mark, "a sad day for the law." He continued:

I thought the decision where to put people on trial — whether federal court or military commissions — was based on what was right, not what is politically advantageous.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has reportedly been in talks for months with South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham over a similar deal on detainees. Graham reportedly offered his support for closing Guantánamo in exchange for administration support for legislation that gives investigators the explicit right to delay Mirandizing a suspected terrorist, authorizes sending most senior al Qaeda figures to trial before military commissions, and gives the United States the right to detain some suspects indefinitely.

Keep America Safe asks who the "al Qaeda Seven" are, Fox gets the answer

This week, the conservative political action committee Keep America Safe went after the Obama administration for continuing to withhold the names of seven of the nine Justice Department employees who served as defense lawyers for Guantánamo Bay detainees — the so-called al Qaeda Seven.

The PAC, helmed by former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth, released a Web video criticizing Attorney General Holder and asking, "Whose values do [the lawyers] share?" A banner reading "DOJ: Department of Jihad" could be seen in the background.

In February, Holder had released the names of two of the lawyers in question — Neal Katyal and Jennifer Daskal. On Wednesday, Fox News identified the others. Three were hired and confirmed during George W. Bush’s administration. Talking Points Memo also revealed that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell Giuliani, represented Guantánamo detainess in habeas cases filed in the District of Columbia.

A Justice Department spokesman called the insinuation that government employees sympathize with terrorists "offensive."

The Washington Independent‘s Spencer Ackerman interviewed the head of military commissions under President George W. Bush, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who said:

It is absolutely outrageous [for the PAC] to try to tar and feather [the Justice Department lawyers] and insinuate they are al Qaeda supporters. You don’t hear anyone refer to John Adams as a turncoat for representing the Brits in the Boston Massacre trial.

Torture case could have far-reaching implications

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Samantar v. Yousef, a case that might determine whether foreign officials are immune from lawsuits in the United States.

A group of Somalis brought a civil case against former Somali Defense and Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar, now living in Virginia. They claim his deputies tortured them during the regime of Somali strongman Mohamed Siad Barre. One court ruled the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act protects Samantar; an appeals court overturned that ruling, finding that the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 allows suits against him.

Returning to the battlefield

A former Afghan Guantánamo detainee, Abdul Qayyum, is believed to be a leading candidate for the No. 2 position in the Afghan Taliban. Qayyum reportedly lied about his connection to the Taliban in order to be released to an Afghan jail, which set him free in December 2007.

His rise to power could bolster recent Defense Department claims of a relatively high recidivism rate among released Guantánamo detainees. But analysis last year from the New America Foundation’s Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann questions the Pentagon’s calculations, placing the true recidivism rate at just four percent.

As for the Taliban’s former No. 2: Pakistani officials reportedly said Pakistan will not turn over Mullah Baradar to the Afghan government or U.S. forces in Afghanistan for interrogation.

Ex-military interrogator on the offensive against torture

A former senior military interrogator, who writes under the pseudonym Matthew Alexander, picks apart former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen’s book Courting Disaster over at Slate, criticizing the author’s lack of experience with military or interrogation issues and calling the book "nothing more than the defense’s opening statement in a war crimes trial." Thiessen, now blogging at the National Review, has not responded.

The New America Foundation will host Alexander on March 10 for a discussion on effective interrogation techniques, deradicalization, and counterterrorism.

Trials and Tribulations

  • Pakistani police filed a "charge sheet" against five Americans detained on suspicion of terrorist activity since December. The men are expected to be formally charged in a hearing March 10.
  • On Feb. 27, President Obama signed into law a one-year extension of three controversial Patriot Act provisions, without new restrictions on when and how they can be applied.
  • A German court sentenced the four members of the so-called "Sauerland cell" to up to 12 years in prison for plotting a "monstrous bloodbath" against U.S. targets in Germany.
  • The Supreme Court declined this week to weigh in on a lower court ruling that effectively barred Uighur detainees at Guantánamo from being released into the United States while they await resettlement in third countries.
  • Legal fees from lawsuits filed by Binyam Mohamed and five other former Gitmo detainees against the British government for complicity in their abuse are expected to total $45 million.
  • Najibullah Zazi, who pled guilty to plotting to bomb targets in New York last week, is reportedly helping to identify foreign co-conspirators, including some believed to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
  • Spanish judge Eloy Velasco accused Venezuala’s government of cooperating with the Basque terrorist group ETA, providing connections between ETA and Colombian rebels.

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