The LWOT: Chicago man arrested in bomb attempt; Government fights Gitmo release

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John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

Chicago man arrested in unusual terrorism plot

Federal authorities early Sunday morning arrested a young Lebanese man in Chicago, Sami Samir Hassoun, after he placed a fake bomb provided by the FBI in a trash bin near Chicago's Wrigley field (Chicago Tribune). The FBI paid an informant to befriend and record conversations with Hassoun a year and a half ago, and recorded him discussing plans to poison Lake Michigan, bomb the former Sears Tower building and assassinate Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. However, Hassoun had at one point told the informant that he did not want to cause any deaths; and while informants posing as "terrorists" gave Hassoun $2,700 to quit his job and focus on his plot, Hassoun indicated that he did not share an anti-U.S. ideology, and instead sought "revolution" against Chicago's leadership, as well as expressing an interest in the money he might make in exchange for engaging in a terrorist campaign (AP). Hassoun was charged September 20 with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, as well as attempted use of an explosive device.

Gitmo readies for trials, while Obama administration contests habeas ruling

Chicago man arrested in unusual terrorism plot

Federal authorities early Sunday morning arrested a young Lebanese man in Chicago, Sami Samir Hassoun, after he placed a fake bomb provided by the FBI in a trash bin near Chicago’s Wrigley field (Chicago Tribune). The FBI paid an informant to befriend and record conversations with Hassoun a year and a half ago, and recorded him discussing plans to poison Lake Michigan, bomb the former Sears Tower building and assassinate Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. However, Hassoun had at one point told the informant that he did not want to cause any deaths; and while informants posing as "terrorists" gave Hassoun $2,700 to quit his job and focus on his plot, Hassoun indicated that he did not share an anti-U.S. ideology, and instead sought "revolution" against Chicago’s leadership, as well as expressing an interest in the money he might make in exchange for engaging in a terrorist campaign (AP). Hassoun was charged September 20 with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, as well as attempted use of an explosive device.

Gitmo readies for trials, while Obama administration contests habeas ruling

A federal judge September 21 upheld the detention of a Kuwaiti man, Fayiz Kandari, who was originally designated an enemy combatant under President George Bush and whom the Pentagon accuses of having been an adviser to Osama bin Laden and an al Qaeda propagandist (Miami Herald). The still-classified ruling brings to 17 the number of Guantánamo Bay detainees whose petitions for freedom have been denied, versus 38 petitions granted.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. circuit court last Friday debated a lower court’s ruling freeing Mauritanian Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi, originally ordered free in March (AP). Slahi was named in the 9/11 commission report as a key al Qaeda figure who arranged travel to Afghanistan for several of the 9/11 hijackers; while Slahi acknowledges having joined al Qaeda in the early 1990s, he claims to have left the organization in 1992. While the panel appeared inclined to reverse the ruling and order a re-hearing of Slahi’s case, they still seemingly struggled over a fundamental issue in the case of Slahi and others, that it is often impossible to prove having left an organization like al Qaeda (Washington Post, AP).

Carol Rosenberg reports from Guantánamo that despite the possible indefinite detention of Slahi and 48 others deemed too dangerous to release but impossible to try in court, the prison camp’s commander has made no plans for indefinite detention there (Miami Herald). He told reporters that the camp’s planning is still guided by President Obama’s executive order passed last January ordering the camp’s closure; he estimated that this closure would take six-nine months to be completed once instructed to do so. Rosenberg also has put together a primer on the different setups for housing Gitmo’s remaining 174 detainees (Miami Herald).

And in a procedural hearing of a little-noticed case, a military prosecutor at Gitmo laid out the first firm details of the government’s case against Noor Uthman Mohammed, accused of having run the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan before 9/11 (Miami Herald). The court will decide in November if he meets the standards of an "alien unprivileged enemy belligerent," and is scheduled to be tried in February 2011.

Graham speaks out on proposed interrogation, detention reforms

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute September 20, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued for the need for a "hybrid" approach to fighting terrorism, which would allow more intense interrogation techniques than the army field manual and define the status of future terrorism detainees, with some tried in military courts (Washington Post). Graham also detailed his failed talks with the Obama administration to close Gitmo in exchange for changes in how terrorism suspects are detained and tried, and expressed his ardent opposition to trying the 9/11 plotters in civilian court (Politico, Legal Times).

Meanwhile, the trial of Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, the first former Gitmo detainee to be tried in civilian court, will soon begin with little fanfare and no additional security provisions (WSJ). The trial is an important test case for trying former detainees, as well as those imprisoned by the CIA as Ghailani was, in civilian court (NYT).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The defense attorney for accused New York Synagogue Bomb plotter James Cromitie continued to question the integrity of the government informant in the case, accusing him of perjury after jurors left the courtroom (NYT, AP, Bloomberg). At one point, angered by the informant’s failure to answer questions in a straightforward manner, Judge Colleen McMahon shouted at him, saying "I’m tired of your playing games with the questions" (NYT).
  • The Justice Department investigator general has found that between 2003 and 2006 the FBI improperly investigated left-wing activist groups, investigating some as part of terrorism inquiries with "little or no basis" and placing members of some groups on terrorist watch lists (Washington Post, NYT).
  • Dutch police detained a British man of Somali descent September 19 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on suspicion of links to "a foreign militant organization" (BBC, Tel).
  • Pakistani-American scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is scheduled to be sentenced September 23, after being convicted in February of attempting to kill her interrogators at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan (National). Siddiqui’s sentencing will likely provoke anger in Pakistan, where many accuse the United States of mistreating Siddiqui and have demanded her repatriation.
  • Plans continue on schedule for a February 2011 trial for Tawahhur Rana, the Chicago man accused of having provided support for David Coleman Headley’s trips to scout targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and plot to attack a Danish newspaper that published drawings of the Prophet Muhammad (AP).
  • The current issue of Granta contains a lengthy profile of Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, a portion of which appears this week in the Guardian (Guardian). And the New York Times this week profiled the NYPD’s small counterterrorism analysis squad, which helped track Shahzad down after his failed attempt (NYT).
  • Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano late last Friday refused to say whether or not the federal government would pick up the tab for security and other costs related to an eventual trial in Detroit of Christmas day bomber Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab (Detroit News).
  • French authorities have placed the country’s security forces on high alert this week after the abduction last week of French citizens in Niger, and an intelligence report that a woman was planning a suicide bombing in Paris (BBC, Newsweek).
  • Yemeni forces are currently besieging reported Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters in southern Yemen, though it now appears that earlier reports that radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was among the "surrounded" AQAP fighters appears untrue (AP, NYT).

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