The LWOT: Protests greet Guantanamo anniversary; FBI interrogates American in Kuwait

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Gitmo marks nine years

Protesters on Jan. 11 commemorated the ninth anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, donning orange to demonstrate for the prison's closing in London, outside of U.S. Southern Command headquarters, and across the street from the White House (Washington Post, Miami Herald, VOA, AFP). 173 detainees remain at the prison nearly two years after President Barack Obama promised to close it within one year, with little sign of a movement towards closure anytime soon.

On Jan. 12, Federal Judge Richard Leon denied the habeas petition of an Algerian detainee, Abdal Razak Ali (also known as Saeed Bakhouche) who was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan along with "high-value" target Abu Zubaydah (AP, Miami Herald). Ali calls the case one of mistaken identity, but the judge ruled that it was unlikely Zubaydah would have lived for two weeks with a stranger in a small guest house along with ten associates, documents, and a device commonly used to make remotely-detonated bombs.

Gitmo marks nine years

Protesters on Jan. 11 commemorated the ninth anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, donning orange to demonstrate for the prison’s closing in London, outside of U.S. Southern Command headquarters, and across the street from the White House (Washington Post, Miami Herald, VOA, AFP). 173 detainees remain at the prison nearly two years after President Barack Obama promised to close it within one year, with little sign of a movement towards closure anytime soon.

On Jan. 12, Federal Judge Richard Leon denied the habeas petition of an Algerian detainee, Abdal Razak Ali (also known as Saeed Bakhouche) who was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan along with "high-value" target Abu Zubaydah (AP, Miami Herald). Ali calls the case one of mistaken identity, but the judge ruled that it was unlikely Zubaydah would have lived for two weeks with a stranger in a small guest house along with ten associates, documents, and a device commonly used to make remotely-detonated bombs.

In hearings this week, the prosecution in the case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghaliani, the former CIA and Guantánamo detainee and the first detainee to face a civilian trial continued to challenge defense requests to overturn Ghailani’s conviction on one charge of conspiracy to destroy U.S. government buildings and property or begin a new trial for their client, convicted in relation to the 1998 East African embassy bombings (AP, NYT). And a former Guantánamo detainee who joined Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) after his repatriation to Saudi Arabia in 2006 and reportedly turned himself in to Saudi authorities last year, Jabir al-Fayfi, gave new details about the plot to kill chief Saudi counterterrorism official Prince Mohammed bin Nayif in a televised interview (Asharq al-Awsat, Reuters).

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists will begin hearings Feb. 8 to determine if Jim Mitchell, who helped design the interrogation program used by the CIA after 9/11 and reportedly helped waterboard Abu Zubaydah, will be stripped of his license to practice in the state or otherwise disciplined for his actions (AP).

American interrogated over travels in Kuwait; Abdulmutallab seeks files

FBI agents reportedly interrogated American Gulet Mohamed in an intense session on Jan. 12 in Kuwait, where he is currently being detained due to suspicions about his travels to Yemen and Somalia last year (NYT). During the interrogation, the agents allegedly screamed "Anwar al-Awlaki" at Mohamed, and told him he would be watched if he came back to the United States. Mohamed’s attorney says he wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Jan. 12, protesting his client’s detention and the FBI agents’ questioning.

Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to ignite a bomb in his underwear aboard Northwest Flight 253 Dec. 25, 2009, has filed a motion through his court-appointed lawyer seeking his former attorney’s files on him (AP, DFP, UPI). The filing contends that the previous lawyers’ files could contain "expert" information showing that Abdulmutallab could not have carried out the attempted bombing.

David Kris, the head of the National Security Division at the Department of Justice, announced Jan. 13 that he is retiring, effective March 4, to take a job in the private sector (NYT, LegalTimes). Kris served during a period that saw a series of disrupted or failed terrorist plots against the United States. Confirmation hearings for his successor are expected to be contentious.  

Reacting to Arizona tragedy

In the wake of this weekend’s tragic shooting death of six and the wounding of 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in Tucson, Arizona, writers continue to grapple with the question of whether or not the shooting constituted an act of terrorism. Peter Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism for Britain’s Scotland Yard, writes (NYU):

So, the heart of the issue is, who is a terrorist and who isn’t?  In the UK the law says one thing, but prosecutorial practice and public sentiment says another. Terrorists are criminals and should be treated as such, we have always said. And yet many who commit crimes that fall within the definition of terrorism are neither prosecuted as terrorists, nor widely regarded as terrorists by the public.

In response to the shootings, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, refused to widen the scope of his planned hearings on radicalization and terrorism to include other security threats (Newsday). Writing last week about King’s upcoming hearings and past support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Amnesty International terrorism policy director Tom Parker, who survived an IRA bombing and worked for Britain’s MI5, commented (Amnesty):

I have no criticism of King’s support for a United Ireland, the political landscape in Northern Ireland is complex and all of the parties involved share some of the blame for the decades of violence that have ravaged the province. The Congressman is, of course, free to speak out in support of any political cause that takes his fancy.

However, as the survivor of an IRA bomb attack in Central London, I do have a real problem with his support for terrorism.

That problem is simple: if your test for whether or not terrorist violence is acceptable is whether or not you agree with the cause that it furthers, you will never have the moral authority to condemn such acts when they are carried out by others. The use of violence against innocents must be wrong in whatever form it takes. Take any other position and you are open, as Congressman King undoubtedly is, to charges of hypocrisy.

Trials and Tribulations

  • In a must-read story this week, the AP’s Kathy Gannon looks at the release by Pakistani authorities of Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a man suspected of links to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and named in a posthumous book by Benazir Bhutto as the bombmaker in an attempt on her life in October 2007, two months before she was assassinated (AP).
  • Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on Jan. 13 formally claimed the kidnapping of two French citizens killed during a rescue attempt in Mali, while questions swirled about how exactly the men died, and whether or not Nigerien troops killed during the raid were there chasing the kidnappers, or helping them (Telegraph, BBC).
  • Reports indicate that Britain’s coalition government has agreed to modifications of controversial control orders that will likely end house arrests of terrorism suspects, while maintaining some restrictions on movement and communications (BBC, Guardian, Telegraph). The review process for control orders has come under fire from the opposition Labour party, as well as members of the ruling coalition’s Liberal Democrats, who sought an end to control orders entirely.
  • A U.S. State Department official announced Jan. 11 that if Northern Sudan accepts the results of a referendum on Southern Sudan’s possible independence, the country could be removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism by July of this year (AP, AFP, WSJ).
  • Moroccan authorities announced Jan. 12 that they had arrested five soldiers who allegedly allowed weapons seized in a Jan. 4 raid across the fortified border into the Western Sahara region in return for money (AP, AFP).
  • Pennsylvania authorities allege that a man who is believed to have posted violent messages online and tried to bite two FBI agents communicated with pro-jihadi internet figure Zachary Chesser, who confessed last year to attempting to join the Somali al-Shabaab organization, as well as Colleen LaRose, who allegedly plotted to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks (AP).

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