The LWOT: Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty; Supreme Court upholds “material support” law
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Shahzad enters guilty plea in Times Square bombing
Shahzad enters guilty plea in Times Square bombing
Faisal Shahzad pled guilty (plea available here) June 21 to 10 charges related to the failed detonation of a car bomb in Times Square, including several that carry mandatory life sentences (NYT, Telegraph, AP). Shahzad told the court that he had received money and five days of explosives training from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) during a 2009 trip to the Pakistan, after a friend helped connect Shahzad to the group. Shahzad referred to himself as a "Muslim soldier," and said:
"[U]ntil the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that."
The New York Times’s Andrea Elliot this week detailed Shahzad’s radicalization, and his quest to strike U.S. targets. Elliot reports that Shahzad was particularly disturbed by the Pakistani security forces’ storming of the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007 (NYT). Shahzad’s plea has renewed efforts to add the TTP to the State Department’s list of banned terrorist organizations (CNN).
"Material support" law upheld by the Supreme Court
In a 6-3 decision (available here) June 21, the Supreme Court ruled that third parties cannot provide any expert advice or training to terrorist organizations, even if the work is meant to resolve conflict or turn terrorist groups towards nonviolence. The decision overturned lower court rulings and upheld the constitutionality of the federal law prohibiting giving so-called "material support" for terrorism (NYT, Guardian, CSM, LAT , FP). The lawsuit was filed by the University of Southern California’s Humanitarian Law Project on behalf of groups who sought the right to provide international law training and conflict resolution advice to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers (LTTE) (AP). The material support law was first passed in 1996 and strengthened under the USA Patriot Act. It has been used to prosecute approximately 150 people since 9/11 (Reuters).
Chief Justice John Roberts, who penned the majority opinion, wrote "foreign organizations that engage in terrorist activity are so tainted by their criminal conduct that any contribution to such an organization facilitates that conduct." Council on Foreign Relations fellow Matthew Waxman notes (CFR):
Viewed in the broader context of post-9/11 government powers, this case is yet more indication not only that liberty-security balances have shifted but that the Obama administration is not likely to shift them back…With Congress unwilling to appear weak on terrorism and courts not pushing back much on the legal powers used by the Obama administration, don’t expect the president to voluntarily further roll back the powers he inherited.
Gitmo may get first conviction under Obama
The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reports this week that negotiations are taking place for a plea deal in the case of Guantánamo Bay detainee, and one-time cook for Osama bin Laden, Ibrahim al-Qosi (Miami Herald). Qosi, who has been imprisoned since 2002, allegedly also served on a Taliban mortar crew and as an occasional bodyguard for bin Laden. The deal will reportedly allow Qosi to eventually return to his native Sudan, and would be the first guilty verdict issued by U.S. President Barack Obama’s revamped military commissions system.
Abdulrahman al-Hadlaq, the head of Saudi Arabia’s extensive terrorist rehabilitation program, announced this week that, of 120 former Guantanamo detainees to pass through the program, about 25 have returned to militancy (Reuters, AJE). One reason Hadlaq cited for the continued radicalism of some prisoners is their treatment while at Gitmo.
The Obama administration is reportedly considering partially lifting the self-imposed moratorium on repatriating Yemeni Gitmo detainees, after a federal judge ruled in favor of detainee Mohammed Odaini’s habeas plea (Washington Post). 90 Yemeni detainees remain at the prison and, of that group, 59 have been provisionally cleared for repatriation. Some detainees could be freed and others tried or imprisoned upon their return, but they remain at Gitmo due to security conditions in Yemen.
Trials and Tribulations
- A Justice Department official has told Congress’ Illinois delegation that the government intends to purchase the Thomson Correctional Facility, whether or not Congress blocks White House attempts to move Guantánamo detainees to the prison (LAT).
- A bail hearing was held June 21 for four men accused of attempting to bomb several New York synagogues and plotting to shoot down military aircraft (AP). There is no word on when the presiding judge will rule on the bail motion.
- Five Washington D.C.-area men arrested in November in Pakistan on terrorism charges have been convicted, in a closed, juryless court, of making contact with militant groups and plotting attacks in Pakistan. They were sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine (AJE, Washington Post).
- Three former Gitmo detainees sent to Slovakia for resettlement are currently on a hunger strike to protest their living conditions at the camp where the government is holding them (AP).
- On June 23, a Canadian court convicted the last two members of the so-called "Toronto 18", a group of men arrested in 2006 for allegedly planning fertilizer bombings in Ontario (Jurist).
- In an effort to combat radicalization among Germany’s Muslims, the German government will soon offer a multilingual hotline for those wishing to leave radical organizations, which they can call for assistance and advice (ABC).
- Pakistani authorities this week released a Colorado man detained last week in Chitral with a sword, pistol and night-vision equipment, who told authorities he was hunting Osama bin Laden (AP). Unrepentant, Gary Faulkner gave a must-watch interview to CNN upon his return (CNN).
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