The LWOT: Grand jury returns Shahzad indictment; Supreme Court rejects rendition lawsuit
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Grand jury indicts Faisal Shahzad on 10 counts
Grand jury indicts Faisal Shahzad on 10 counts
A federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York returned a 10-count indictment (available here) on June 17 of Faisal Shahzad for his alleged role in the failed May 1 Times Square car bomb attack, five more than the original criminal complaint. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the indictment, which states that Shahzad received $12,000 from the Pakistani Taliban as well as training in Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal region, demonstrates that "the Pakistani Taliban facilitated Faisal Shahzad’s attempted attack on American soil," and served as a reminder that the United States "face[s] an evolving threat that we must continue to fight with every tool available to the government" (Washington Post, AJE). Shahzad will be arraigned and enter a plea Monday (Guardian).
The indictment charged Shahzad with multiple terrorism- and weapons-related offenses — six of which carry carry the possibility of life in prison, including conspiracy to use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempting an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries (LAT, CNN). Other counts include transportation of an explosive and conspiracy to destroy property by fire and explosive, which carry potential penalties of 10 to 20 years, respectively, if Shahzad is found guilty (Justice Department).
Arar denied redress for treatment during rendition
The Supreme Court June 14 refused to hear the case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who has alleged that U.S. authorities held him in harsh conditions, and conspired with Syrian officials to torture him over his suspected links to terrorism (CSM). Arar was detained in 2002 in New York, and rendered to Syria, which returned him to Canada in 2003 after having cleared him of any links to terrorism. The U.S. government previously asserted that Arar’s suit should be dismissed due to national security concerns, and the court’s refusal to rule on the case upheld an appellate court decision that compensation for his ordeal could only be handled by legislation, rather than a court decision (Atlantic). Canada’s government awarded Arar over $10 million in restitution after an inquiry into its role in his treatment.
The European Court of Human Rights also reportedly agreed to hear the case of German citizen Khaled el-Masri this week, who was rendered and held in Afghanistan and allegedly mistreated by U.S. intelligence agents, before being released without charge in Albania in 2004 (UPI). The Supreme Court refused to consider Masri’s case in 2007, citing the need to protect state secrets.
Pentagon leaves the door open for reinstatement of Gitmo reporters
A Pentagon official wrote a letter to the lawyer of three journalists banned from covering hearings at Guantánamo Bay that left the door open for the ban to be lifted (Miami Herald, AFP). The reporters were banned after they published the name of a former interrogator testifying at a pre-trial hearing for detainee Omar Khadr, though his name had been publicly known for years. The official defended the original decision, saying that the reporters "were aware of which witnesses were covered by the protective order" when they identified the man. However, the official wrote that the reporters could be reinstated, as long as they write the Pentagon individual requests to be allowed back to Gitmo.
Role of informants questioned in Bronx Synagogue plot
The case against four men accused of placing dummy explosives outside of Bronx synagogues and plotting to fire a missile at U.S. military planes was thrown into doubt June 14, as a federal judge angrily ordered an indefinite delay while the prosecution decides which classified evidence to turn over to the defense. (WSJ, AFP). The delay was ordered after prosecutors were told to turn over a government document saying that the men, who have pleaded innocent and argued they were entrapped by an aggressive government informant, did not pose a threat (NYT). A bail hearing will be held for the men on Monday, and the judge told both sides they have until July 2 to file arguments on the defense’s request for dismissal.
Developments at the Justice Department
David Kris, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, implied at a Brookings Institution event on June 11 that the Justice Department was not discussing proposals to extend the time before a terrorism suspect must be brought before a magistrate, as has previously been reported (Politico). Kris said the administration was considering adding more "flexibility" into current rules, but also stated that Mirandizing a subject usually did not impact their willingness to talk.
Confirmation hearings for James Cole, nominated to become deputy attorney general, have been the scene of intense criticism from Senate Republicans over Cole’s past statements calling for treating terrorism suspects as criminals (Washington Post, Legal Times). In his hearing, Cole endorsed the use of both civilian courts and military commissions to prosecute alleged terrorists.
Trials and Tribulations
- Six Uighur men transferred to the island nation of Palau from Gitmo last year pleaded this week for help finding a permanent home off the island (AFP). There is no Uighur community on Palau, and the men would like to move to Australia, where some have wives.
- A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court heard arguments June 14 to decide whether former Justice Department attorney John Yoo can be sued for writing legal opinions permitting the harsh treatment applied to U.S. citizen and terror suspect Jose Padilla (Legal Times).
- Local authorities arrested Bajram Asslani June 17 in Kosovo after a federal criminal complaint filed in April linked him to eight Americans, including Daniel Boyd, arrested in July 2009 for allegedly plotting to attack U.S. military installations in the United States (AP). U.S. authorities are seeking Asslani’s extradition to North Carolina.
- A Colorado man was detained in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan’s Nuristan province on Tuesday, armed with a 40-inch sword, a pistol, night vision goggles, and Christian literature. He told police he was on mission to kill Osama bin Laden, claiming that "God is with me" (BBC, Reuters, AP).
- The New York Times this week has an extended profile of the two New Jersey men arrested last week for attempting to join the al-Shabaab organization in Somalia, revealing details about their personal lives, radicalization, and even the name of suspect Mohamed Alessa’s cat, "Princess Tuna" (NYT).
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