The LWOT: Lieberman criticizes Army, FBI over Ft. Hood; Possible fifth 9/11 cell revealed

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

Probe criticizes government, military failures before Fort Hood killings

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, headed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) released their-long awaited report on the Nov. 2009 killings at Ft. Hood (available here) Feb. 3, condemning the behavior of the Pentagon and the FBI in the run-up to the shootings, allegedly perpetrated by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan (NYT, Washington Post).

The report found that the FBI had ample evidence that Hasan was in contact with a "suspected terrorist" (whom news sources presumed to be radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged operational leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP), but did not share the information with the Army, and that the Washington Joint Terrorism Task Force failed to investigate further Hasan's alleged contacts (CNN). It also concluded that the Army knew of Hasan's "growing obsession with Islamic extremism," but "sanitized" reports about his behavior instead of disciplining or discharging him.

Probe criticizes government, military failures before Fort Hood killings

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, headed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) released their-long awaited report on the Nov. 2009 killings at Ft. Hood (available here) Feb. 3, condemning the behavior of the Pentagon and the FBI in the run-up to the shootings, allegedly perpetrated by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan (NYT, Washington Post).

The report found that the FBI had ample evidence that Hasan was in contact with a "suspected terrorist" (whom news sources presumed to be radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged operational leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP), but did not share the information with the Army, and that the Washington Joint Terrorism Task Force failed to investigate further Hasan’s alleged contacts (CNN). It also concluded that the Army knew of Hasan’s "growing obsession with Islamic extremism," but "sanitized" reports about his behavior instead of disciplining or discharging him.

A federal appeals court this week upheld the life sentence of Texan Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, convicted of plotting to assassinate then-President George W. Bush and having connections with an al Qaeda cell (Reuters, Courthouse News, Leagle.com).

A federal court next week will arraign Daniel Patrick Boyd, a Muslim convert arrested in July 2009 on charges that he and a group of others planned attacks on American troops and plotted to engage in militant operations abroad (AP).  And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week looks at the FBI’s aggressive interrogations of dozens of Somali taxi drivers in St. Louis after a November arrest of Somali man Mohamed Abdi Yusuf on charges that he helped raise money for the militant group al-Shabaab (Post-Dispatch).

And a new study conducted by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security has found that fewer Muslim-Americans were arrested on terrorism charges in 2010, and that nearly two-thirds of plots since 9/11 were stopped at an early stage (CBS, AFP).

New documents reveal possible fifth 9/11 cell

Newly-released documents from the website WikiLeaks have revealed details about a possible cell of three Qatari men believed to have entered the United States before 9/11 and conducted surveillance in New York and near Washington before leaving just before the attacks (Telegraph, Washington Post). The cable, from February 2010, urged authorities to add Emirati man Mohamed al-Mansoori to terrorism watch lists, saying he assisted the three men – whom hotel staff reported had pilot uniforms and information on flights in their rooms – during their time in the United States. However, an FBI spokesman said that the three men, "[are] not sought by us and they’re not 9/11 plotters" (Washingtonian).

New details of UK terror attacks and plots revealed

The public inquest into the 7/7 transit bombings in London, which killed 52 people, heard new testimony this week about the links between Pakistani militants and plot ringleader Mohammad Siddique Khan (Guardian, BBC, BBC). In the months before the bombings, Khan, who traveled to Pakistan for training, received a series of calls to four different phones from the country, communications that a Metropolitan Police detective testified were likely guidance from Khan’s handlers in the construction of the explosives used in the attacks (AFP).

The inquest also heard testimony this week that British intelligence agents had spotted Khan in the company of other suspected terrorists as early as 2003, but did not deem him a "high priority for further investigation," meaning Khan was not identified until after the bombings (Guardian). And for the first time, the British public saw pictures of the plotters’ apartment in the city of Leeds, used exclusively for bomb construction (Guardian).

A British court on Feb. 1 heard allegations that Rajib Khan, a former British Airways employee on trial for terrorism charges, exchanged information and plotted an attack with Anwar al-Awlaki (WSJ, AP). In a series of coded emails, Awlaki allegedly encouraged Khan to use his job as a computer specialist to probe for "limitations and cracks" in airline defenses, and questioned Khan about "brothers" interested in involvement in a terrorist attack. Awlaki also reportedly requested information about airline systems and defenses (CNN). Prosecutors also allege that Khan discussed creating a "terror cell" with his brother, and spoke with Awlaki about infiltrating aircraft cabin crews to stage an attack on a U.S.-bound flight (Telegraph, BBC).

Also this week, the United Kingdom’s terrorism "watchdog," Lord Carlisle, said that new European human rights laws preventing the deportation of terrorism suspects to their homelands was turning the United Kingdom into a "safe haven" for terrorists (BBC, Telegraph, AP, Guardian).  And newly-released documents from the website WikiLeaks reveal concerns from Britain’s MI6 that the threat from home-grown terrorism and suicide bombers would plague Britain, "for years to come," and that Britain’s radicalization problem was seen as so severe that the U.S. State Department began funding anti-radicalization programs in the country (Telegraph).

Guantánamo prisoner dies of apparent heart attack

A 48-year old ex-Taliban commander, Awal Gul, died at Guantánamo Bay Feb. 3 of an apparent heart attack after collapsing in the shower following a workout (McClatchy, DoD, Center for Constitutional Rights). Gul had been held without charge for nearly eight years at the prison, and was designated by President Barack Obama’s Guantánamo task force as someone to be detained indefinitely. He is the seventh prisoner to die there since the camp opened in January 2002.

Tunisia’s interim government on Feb. 2 freed former Guantánamo detainee Abdallah Hajji, as part of a promise to free all political prisoners (Miami Herald). A psychology regulatory board this week decided not to take action against Ohio-based psychologist and professor Larry James, who is accused of witnessing but not trying to stop abusive interrogations at Guantánamo (AP). And Guantánamo’s iconic and heavily-photographed Camp 4 has been emptied for renovations (Miami Herald).

"JihadJane" pleads guilty

American Colleen LaRose pled guilty on Feb. 2 to involvement in a plot to murder the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, because of his cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog (WSJ, AP). The 47-year old LaRose, who went by the Internet handles "JihadJane" and "Fatima LaRose," engaged in lengthy conversations online with militants in South Asia and the Middle East, eventually joining them in Europe, before returning to the United States in November 2009. She also allegedly recruited single mother Jamie Paulin-Ramirez to the plot, though Paulin-Ramirez has pled not guilty to any involvement and faces possible trial May 2 (Guardian). LaRose could be sentenced to life in prison.

And a Danish court this week convicted a Somali man of attacking Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard with an axe due to Westergaard’s 2005 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, which appeared in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten (BBC, AFP, Deutsche Welle).

Trials and Tribulations

  • German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was abducted from Macedonia by the CIA in 2003 and allegedly tortured in a secret prison in a case of mistaken identity, will sue the Macedonian government today seeking recognition of his ordeal and damages (AP). 
  •  Mauritanian security forces on Feb. 2 disrupted an assassination attempt on the country’s president, Ould Abdelaziz, shelling an explosives-filled car and reportedly killing two to three members of A Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which claimed responsibility for the failed attack (AFP, AP, BBC, AFP). Authorities also arrested three alleged AQIM members, and engaged others near the country’s border with Senegal. 
  •  A new report from the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released this week accused Indian security forces of widespread human rights abuses perpetrated as part of counterterrorism operations (HRW, BBC).
  • Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced ahead of protests scheduled for February 12 that he would lift, in the "very near future" the state of emergency that has been in effect since 1992 (AJE). Algerian officials had previously said the state of emergency was necessary in its continuing fight to suppress Islamist militants. 
  •  Indonesian prosecutors this week levied several terrorism and terrorism financing charges against radical cleric Abu Bakir Bashir, charges that could result in the death penalty if Bashir is convicted (NYT, CNN). 
  •  A Canadian court on Feb. 2 heard dueling impressions of Sayfilden Tahir Sharif, charged with aiding a terrorism organization in Iraq and fighting extradition to the United States (The Canadian Press). A judge will rule on Sharif’s request for bail today. 
  • Belgian authorities have arrested two Pakistani men allegedly involved with a Spanish passport forging ring that reportedly provided false papers for Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Tamil Tigers, among other groups (AP).

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