The LWOT: US asserts right to target Americans; Shahzad appears in court
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Drones may target more Americans
Drones may target more Americans
In a May 18 speech, U.S. President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan reiterated the government’s right to kill Americans who join terrorist groups without judicial review (Reuters). Brennan said that the strikes were legal, and that the Obama administration was determined to prevent militants from "hid[ing] behind their U.S. passport." In this week’s must-read article, Reuter’s Adam Entous details the Obama administration’s escalating policy of targeted killings; he writes that, according to senior officials, one reason for the increase in drone strikes under Obama is confusion over how to deal with captured terrorists, in the wake of the announced closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention center (Reuters).
However, closing Gitmo may have just gotten more difficult. The House Armed Services Committee this week inserted a provision in the 2011 defense spending bill expressly prohibiting the use of Pentagon money to buy the Thomson Correctional Facility in Illinois, where the White House wants to move the remaining Gitmo detainees (WIND).
Shahzad gets his (delayed) day in court
Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad appeared in court for a brief pre-trial hearing May 18, over two weeks after his arrest (WSJ). Shahzad was informed of his rights, as well as the charges against him, but did not enter a plea. Shahzad has been cooperating with federal authorities since his arrest, and has waived his right to a speedy hearing before a judge (NYT). The U.S. Attorney’s office also submitted a letter to the court, explaining Shahzad’s status. (U.S. Attorney’s letter) The government may seek to alter laws requiring rapid hearings for terrorism suspects as part of a broader proposal to change how suspects can be questioned after their arrest (NYT).
U.S. officials confirmed this week that the recently-created High Value Interrogation group, composed of interrogation specialists, linguists and others largely from the FBI, Pentagon and CIA have aided in Shahzad’s questioning (LAT, Reuters). While there is no express prohibition on CIA employees interrogating suspects in American custody, the agency has reportedly avoided directly interrogating Shahzad (Politico).
As new evidence of Shahzad’s ties to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged, Pakistan announced the arrest of an army officer reportedly linked to Shahzad (LAT). The announcement came during a visit to Pakistan by CIA Director Leon Panetta and National Security Advisor James L. Jones (Washington Post, NYT). The two U.S. officials reportedly pushed Pakistani security officials for more aggressive military actions against militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, though Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mullen said yesterday the United States was not pressuring Pakistan to begin an offensive in North Waziristan (Dawn).
Senate Intel Committee releases scathing report on Abdulmutallab
On May 18 the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a harshly-worded report on the intelligence failures that allowed Christmas Day bomber Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board the flight to Detroit that he attempted to destroy (Committee Report). The report in particular blames the National Combating Terrorism Center (NCTC), created based on a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, for not pursuing and investigating evidence that could have prevented Abdulmutallab from boarding his flight (NPR). The report also found that the NCTC is not sufficiently organized or funded to pursue its mission of coordinating intelligence collected from all of America’s intelligence agencies (WIND).
And Adm. Dennis Blair on May 20 resigned his post as Director of National Intelligence after being asked to step down by President Obama (NYT).
One confesses, one charged with aiding al Qaeda
Khalid Ouazzani, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in St. Louis, Missouri, confessed May 19 to funneling $23,500 to al Qaeda. The U.S. attorney said that Ouazzani was not planning attacks in the United States according to reports (AP). He was arrested in February, and could face up to 65 years in prison for bank fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to provide financial support to a terrorist organization. In a separate case, former Brooklyn resident Sabirhan Hasanoff pleaded not guilty May 17 to charges that he planned to use his skills with computers to "modernize" al Qaeda (AP, Reuters).
A U.K. immigration court ruled that alleged al Qaeda plotter Abid Naseer cannot be extradited to Pakistan for trial, because of fears he will be tortured or illegally detained there (BBC). However, the court, basing its decision on secret evidence, found that Naseer was in fact an al Qaeda operative who poses a security risk to the United Kingdom. He and a co-defendant will likely have their movements and communications curtailed while they remain in the country (Guardian).
Trials and Tribulations
- British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced May 20 that a British judge would open an official investigation into whether or not Britain’s intelligence services were complicit in the torture of suspected terrorists (AFP).
- The first Gitmo detainee to face a civilian trial, Ahmed Khalfan Gailani, told a court-appointed psychologist that he would prefer a trial before a military commission, saying he felt a military trial would be fairer (AP).
- A Pakistani man in Chile was charged May 15 with possession of illegal explosives after attempting to enter the U.S. Embassy in Santiago with explosives residue on his person; he has denied the charges, and is free from custody while he awaits a full investigation into his case (AFP, Dawn).
- The United States will relocate two unnamed Gitmo detainees to the Maldives (BBC).
- Five Americans currently on trial in Pakistan on terrorism-related charges submitted statements to the presiding judge this week declaring their innocence, and stating their desire to return to the United States (Washington Post, Dawn).
- A Mauritanian court this week sentenced a man to six years in prison for links to an attack committed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that killed four French tourists in 2007 (AFP). 12 other men are on trial in the same case.
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