The LWOT: Ghailani faces life at sentencing today; Alleged al Qaeda figure could be deported to U.S.

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Ghailani faces sentencing, possible life in prison           

Former CIA and Guantánamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is scheduled to be sentenced at 11 am today, after Judge Lewis A. Kaplan last Friday upheld Ghailani’s conviction on one charge of conspiracy in the 1998 bombing of the American embassy in Tanzania (CBS, CNN, WSJ, NYT, Reuters, AP, AFP). Judge Kaplan dismissed as "without merit" defense claims that there was insufficient evidence of Ghailani’s guilt, writing, "if there was any injustice in the jury’s verdict, the victims were the United States and those killed, injured and otherwise devastated by these barbaric acts of terror, not Ghailani" (WSJ).

After losing the motion for a new trial, Ghailani’s lawyers switched tactics, asking Judge Kaplan for leniency in his sentencing, citing their clients’ alleged abuse while at CIA "black sites," his cooperation with federal authorities, and their claim that their client did not know the "details and scope of the conspiracy" to bomb the embassies until after fleeing Tanzania (WSJ). However, given public pressure and the evidence against Ghailani, whose case has become a lightning rod for critics of efforts to try former Guantánamo detainees in civilian courts, it seems likely that Kaplan will surpass the minimum 20-year sentence and instead sentence Ghailani to life in prison (AP).

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged last week that Guantánamo was not closing soon, but reiterated the need to close the prison to take away what he and other White House officials have termed a vital recruiting tool from al Qaeda (Miami Herald). House Armed Services chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-MO) warned President Barack Obama Friday not to make any changes in how "wartime detainees" are held without consulting Congress (NYT). Carol Rosenberg this week looks at why the effort to close Guantánamo has failed, putting some blame on Congress’ refusal to allow detainees to be resettled in the United States (McClatchy).

And the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims that documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show the  "unjustified homicide" of 25 to 30 detainees at military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo (CNN).

Top anti-terrorism official at Treasury to step down; Gulet Mohamed returns home

Obama’s top Treasury Department official for terrorism and financial crimes, Stuart Levey, tendered his resignation to the White House on Jan. 24 (WSJ, AFP, AP). Levey, who served for several years in the same post under President George W. Bush, molded the Treasury Department into a key player in the fight against terrorism, using financial pressure and sanctions to try to curb funding to terrorist groups, and helped enforce and strengthen sanctions against Iran and North Korea (Bloomberg). Obama has nominated Levey’s deputy, David Cohen, to take over when Levey leaves Treasury next month.

19-year old American Gulet Mohamed arrived at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC last Friday, after several weeks of detention in Kuwait, during which time he was questioned by American and Kuwaiti officials about his travels to Yemen and Somalia in 2009, and allegedly beaten by Kuwaiti interrogators (Washington Post, NYT, AP). He says that during questioning, FBI officials asked him to become an informant, an offer he refused (Washington Post). Mohamed was reportedly placed on a no-fly list and barred from returning to the United States, before finally being allowed back; there are believed to be up to 10,000 individuals on U.S. no-fly lists at the moment, nearly 500 of whom are Americans.

The Washington Post has a fascinating profile of the deep concerns about House Homeland Security Committee chair Rep. Peter King’s announced hearings on Muslim radicalization among King’s Muslim constituents (Washington Post). The Post spoke to participants in a community discussion at a mosque King helped dedicate in 1993.

Alleged al Qaeda operative can be deported to U.S.

A U.K. judge ruled last Friday that Abid Naseer, a British resident arrested originally in 2009 on charges of plotting to stage bomb attacks in Manchester before being released and then re-arrested, could be extradited to the United States to face terror-related charges (BBC, CNN). Naseer successfully fought off a previous attempt to deport him to Pakistan, despite being deemed an "al Qaeda operative" by a panel of judges based on secret evidence (AFP). He was named in a U.S. indictment last July  for alleged involvement in plotting attacks in the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway (DoJ).

Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May is reportedly ready to announce long-awaited changes to controversial British counterterrorism policies, including control orders and the length of pre-charge detention of terrorism suspects (Guardian). May has been attacked by the opposition Labour party for announcing the changes after the law governing pre-charge detention lapsed Jan. 24, reducing maximum pre-charge detention time to 14 days instead of 28 (Guardian).

And former Gitmo detainees are locked in a courtroom battle with Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies over the use of secret evidence in court (Guardian, Guardian).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A devastating suicide bombing struck the international terminal of Russia’s Domodedovo Airport outside of Moscow on Jan. 24, killing at least 35 and injuring at least 180 (NYT, Washington Post, AP, ABC). Russia has suffered a series of deadly bombings in recent years, though no one has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack. However, authorities reportedly suspect the involvement of a "black widow" suicide bomber, one of a group of women who have engaged in suicide bombings in Russia (Guardian).
  • NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston this week profiles Quintan Wiktorowicz, the renowned terrorism and radicalization expert and former official at the U.S. Embassy in London, who has just taken over as the senior director of global engagement at the National Security Council (NPR).
  • Mental health experts have submitted to military prosecutors their still-secret report on the competency to stand trial of Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 13 soldiers and wounding over two dozen others at a processing center at Fort Hood in November 2009 (CNN). If cleared to go to trial, Hasan could face the death penalty.
  • Egypt has reportedly arrested 19 Arabs "suspected of having links" to al Qaeda, allegedly on their way to join al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq (AP, AFP).
  • Turkish authorities have reportedly arrested Waleed Abdullah Ebrahim Al Barghash, number 50 on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85 most-wanted individuals suspected of connections to terrorism (Gulf News).
  • An Algiers court on Jan. 23 sentenced a man to a year in prison for making e-mail threats, allegedly on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), against the American and Canadian embassies to Algeria (AFP).
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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