The LWOT: British arrest 12 in terror sweep; Ghailani to file appeal

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PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Editor's note: This is the last Legal War on Terror Brief until after the New Year.

Must read: Dana Priest and William M. Arkin investigate the immense counterterrorism surveillance apparatus that authorities have set up at the federal, state and local level, one that reportedly collects data on thousands who have not been accused of a crime (Washington Post).

UK police arrest 12 in three-city terror sweep

Editor’s note: This is the last Legal War on Terror Brief until after the New Year.

Must read: Dana Priest and William M. Arkin investigate the immense counterterrorism surveillance apparatus that authorities have set up at the federal, state and local level, one that reportedly collects data on thousands who have not been accused of a crime (Washington Post).

UK police arrest 12 in three-city terror sweep

In a series of carefully-organized early-morning raids Dec. 20, British authorities arrested 12 men on suspicion of plotting an "al Qaeda-inspired" bomb attack in the UK (NYT, AFP, WSJ, LAT).The men were from Cardiff, Stoke-on-Trent and London, and reportedly included several men of Bangladeshi origin. The alleged plot was in its early stages, but top British counterterrorism official John Yates said that the arrests were necessary to "ensure public safety" (NPR, Telegraph, CNN). Officers who carried out the raid were reportedly unarmed, indicating that the threat of attack was not imminent.

Under current British counter-terrorism laws, the men can be held for up to 28 days without charge (AP). The arrests marked the largest anti-terror operation in Britain since last April, when 12 men were arrested after a British intelligence official was photographed with a dossier containing information on the group; they were later released due to insufficient evidence.

Ghailani’s lawyers appeal conviction against him

Lawyers for former CIA and Guantánamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, convicted last month for his role in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, are appealing the verdict in his case (NYT). The lawyers argue that the ruling against their client, the first Guantánamo detainee tried in federal court, is inconsistent given the jury’s other findings. Ghailani was convicted of conspiracy to damage U.S. government buildings or property, but was acquitted of all other charges related to the bombings (Reuters, NY1). The verdict sparked an intense debate over the feasibility of closing the prison at Guantánamo and civilian trials for accused terrorists captured abroad.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters this weekend that the Senate would likely back a one-year ban on money for civilian trials for Gitmo detainees or their transfer to custody in the United States, passed again by the House on Dec. 17 (Politico, Politico). Adam Serwer reports that Senate Democrats reportedly agreed to the ban in order to win Republican support for an end to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which prohibited openly gay individuals from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (TAP). And a nonpartisan legal think tank, the Constitution Project, announced the formation of a task force composed  of former congressional, military and government leaders to study U.S. detainee policy (AP).

Rep. King elaborates

In a Dec. 19 op-ed in Newsday, incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King (R-NY) elaborated on his intentions, announced last week, to hold hearings into the "radicalization" of Muslim American communities, writing (Newsday):

The great majority of Muslims in our country are hardworking, dedicated Americans. Yet a Pew Poll showed that 15 percent of Muslim Americans between 18 and 29 say suicide bombing is justified. I also know of imams instructing members of their mosques not to cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating the recruiting of young men in their mosques as suicide bombers. We need to find the reasons for this alienation.

King’s call has been condemned by several Muslim advocacy groups, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the proposed hearings were inappropriate  and that he did not agree with King’s statements (AP, NYDN). At Salon, meanwhile, Justin Elliot digs into the vocal support King once gave to the terrorist group the Irish Republican Army, a group King reportedly did not break with until 2005 (Salon).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A bomb ripped through a bus security checkpoint Dec. 21 in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 3 (including the bomber) and wounding 26 – mostly Ugandans returning home for Christmas (BBC, WSJ, AJE). Authorities suspect the involvement of the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.
  • In an important change, the Obama administration put into effect Dec. 7 a regulatory shift allowing lawyers to represent individuals present on a Treasury Department terrorism list pro-bono, without having to obtain a special license from Treasury (AP).
  • Danish authorities have filed a "preliminary terror charge" against Chechen Lors Doukaev, who accidentally detonated a bomb in a Copenhagen hotel bathroom Sept. 10 (AP).
  • Oregon authorities have announced that 19-year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, arrested late last month in a sting operation after allegedly trying to set off a bomb at Portland’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, is being held in isolation from other prisoners (AP). And a lawyer for Tarek Mehenna, accused of providing material support to a terrorist group and attempting to fight abroad (amongst other charges), filed a motion Dec. 20 seeking bail for her client and the sealing of over 2,000 pages of internet communications between her client and others (Boston Herald).
  •  A U.S. State Department cable released this week by the website WikiLeaks reveals that in December 2009, a Yemeni official warned the U.S. Embassy in the country that the lone guard outside Yemen’s holding facility for radioactive material had been removed from his post, and that the one security camera on-site had been broken for six months (CBS, Guardian).
  • The Telegraph reports that a spin-off group of the banned al-Muhajiroun still operates openly in Luton, nearfrom where Taimour Abdelwahab al-Abdaly, who set off a suicide bomb in Stockholm Dec. 11, lived in the U.K. (Telegraph).
  • A Canadian court has lengthened the sentence of Momin Khawaja, convicted in 2008 of supporting a plot by British terrorists to bomb targets in that country in 2004, from 10 years to life in prison (BBC). Another court raised the sentences of two men convicted for their participation in the so-called "Toronto 18" plot, broken up in 2006 (AP).

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