The LWOT: WikiLeaks: Saudi citizens “most significant” terrorism funders

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TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks reveal role of Saudis in terrorist financing

Despite progress in blunting the movement of money destined for terrorist groups, U.S. State Department cables released by the website WikiLeaks reveal concern among officials of the continued flow of money to groups like al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Taliban, and Hamas (AJE, Bloomberg). While the cables cover various means terrorist groups use to raise money, from tours of Scandinavia to bank robberies in Yemen, cables from Washington expressed concern about the role of Saudi citizens in funding these groups, especially during the Hajj pilgrimage and the holy month of Ramadan (CNN).

According to one cable signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," though countries like Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also reportedly pose problems in policing terrorist financing (Guardian, WSJ). Other cables noted Saudi improvement in prosecuting terrorism financiers, while senior administration officials privately expressed divergent opinions of the financial strength of al Qaeda and its affiliates (NYT).

Separately, Jordan has stepped up efforts to protect the Jordan-headquartered Arab Bank PLC, currently facing lawsuits in New York over payments from the bank that allegedly went to support the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorist groups (WSJ).

WikiLeaks lists foreign sites, Assange arrested in London

WikiLeaks this weekend also released a State Department list of key infrastructure sites whose loss "could critically impact" the national security and public health of the United States, ranging from Bauxite mines in Guinea to a snake-bite anti-venom manufacturer in Italy to a hydroelectric dam in Canada (NYT, BBC, AFP). The lists’ release prompted concern that the sites could become targets for terrorist attacks.

In other documents, diplomats reported that Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh offered the United States an "open back door" for dealing with terrorists in his country, while others detailed the sometimes frustrating relationship between Saleh and American officials (Guardian, Washington Post). Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister faces a parliamentary inquiry due to a leaked cable implying a Yemeni coverup of American airstrikes in Yemen (Reuters). And an unreleased cable given to the New York Times reportedly notes that 23 Australians, many of them women, were added to a U.S. terrorism watch list this year due to their activities in Yemen (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

After threatening to release over 250,000 remaining classified State Department documents in the event of legal action against him, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to U.K. authorities on Dec. 7 to face a Swedish arrest warrant for suspicion of rape (NYT, Washington Post, LAT, CNN, AJE, BBC, Guardian).

Headley interrogations provided new Mumbai details

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said that during interrogations with Indian agents in early June 2010, Mumbai attack plotter David Coleman Headley identified the voices of three out of four "handlers" who supervised and coordinated the devastating attacks on India’s economic hub allegedly perpetrated by the militant LeT organization (WSJ). Pillai said that despite information given to Pakistan on those responsible for attacks this summer, he believed that Pakistan is making "no progress" towards their arrest; Pakistani officials say they have been unable to identify the six names of attack planners given to them by Indian officials.

Tawwahur Hussain Rana, accused of helping cover Headley’s trips to Mumbai to scout targets for the attack, is scheduled to face trial in Chicago starting February 14, 2011 (Fox, AP). And a State Department cable from June 2009, released by WikiLeaks, claimed that LeT plotted to assassinate the Hindu nationalist minister of India’s Gujarat state, and scouted possible training camp locations in India (Telegraph).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Jerry Markon tells the story of a former FBI informant currently suing the Bureau, who claims he was asked to spy on a California mosque, and "entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses" (Washington Post). His behavior and comments while undercover prompted mosque-goers to report the informant to the FBI, on the suspicion that he was a terrorist.
  • New York magazine this weekend profiles Evan Kohlman, the jihadi internet watcher who has become a go-to "expert witness" for the prosecution in federal terrorism cases, but has amassed serious criticisms of his work along the way (New York).
  • Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment (available here) last Friday against a San Diego man, Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, for conspiring to provide material support to the Somali al-Shabaab group (AP, WSJ, Sign On San Diego). Mohamud allegedly conspired with three other San Diego men already indicted in the case, Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud and Issa Doreh. And the AP writes about the two lives and personalities of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, arrested in a sting operation after he allegedly tried to explode an inert bomb during Portland, Oregon’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony (AP).
  • Several Guantánamo Bay detainees, including Omar Khadr, have filed petitions related to several provisions about relocating detainees to third countries derived from a 2008 judge’s ruling (Lawfare Blog). And the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo, Col. Morris Davis, is battling to get his job back at the Congressional Research Service a year after he says he was fired for writing two op-eds criticizing the Obama administration’s detainee policies (LAT).
  • Greek security forces raided several purported terrorist safe houses this weekend, reportedly seizing weapons and explosives, and arresting at least 10 members of a suspected left-wing group (AP, AFP).
  • Saudi officials told Al Jazeera this week that interrogations of alleged al Qaeda operatives rounded up in recent months reveal that the group planned to send "poisoned gifts" to the offices of Saudi government and security officials, as well as members of the media (AJE).
  • The AP looks at how anti-terrorism measures have changed New York City in obvious and also subtle ways, especially as the holidays approach (AP). And Benjamin Weiser this weekend spoke to six jurors from the 2001 trial of four defendants convicted of plotting to blow up the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, as they reflected on the conviction, on one count of conspiracy in the same case, of former CIA and Gitmo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (NYT).
Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.

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