The LWOT: House, on second try, passes Patriot Act extension; American linked to 7/7 bomber released from U.S. prison
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House extends Patriot Act provisions
House extends Patriot Act provisions
Using a procedure allowing a simple majority to approve the bill, the House of Representatives on Feb. 14 passed a 10-month extension of three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, enacted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to ease restrictions on the monitoring of terrorism suspects (NYT, WSJ, LAT, Reuters). The vote, which looked much the same as one last week that fell seven shy of approval, will allow the FBI to seize "any tangible thing" deemed relevant to terrorism investigations, conduct "roving wiretaps" on multiple telephones, and investigate non-American "lone wolf" terrorism suspects not tied to any specific organization.
The Senate will vote on the provisions before February 28, when the current authorization is set to expire. However, their passage faces a tougher route in the Senate, where Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has expressed his desire for more oversight and tighter restrictions on surveillance if the provisions are extended (AFP, AP).
American linked to 7/7 attacks freed from U.S. prison
The Guardian revealed this weekend that a U.S. court in December 2010 quietly released Mohammed Junaid Babar, an American who pleaded guilty to five terrorism charges in 2004, after sentencing him to "time served" for his "extraordinary" cooperation with authorities (Guardian, Telegraph, NYT). Babar helped set up the terrorist camp in Northwest Pakistan where 7/7 ringleader Mohammad Siddique Khan trained, and also admitted to plotting twice to kill then-Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf as well as planning attacks against pubs, train stations and restaurants in the United Kingtom.
Upon Babar’s arrest he immediately began cooperating with American and British authorities, and he testified in prominent terrorism trials in Britain and Canada, in addition to spending the last two years on bail while he awaited final sentencing (Globe and Mail). However, a comment made by the judge during Babar’s sentencing has led some in England to conclude that Babar was a U.S. informant even before his arrest, prompting pressure on U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague to obtain an explanation regarding the circumstances surrounding Babar’s release (Guardian).
Awlaki backs Yemeni journalist, WikiLeaks
In an Arabic-language audiotape released on jihadi websites this weekend, a speaker believed to be radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki voiced support for Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Shai, who interviewed Awlaki in 2009 and was convicted by a Yemeni court of supporting the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) (Reuters, AP, AFP). Awlaki also compared the prosecution of Shai to U.S. efforts to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and criticized the Yemeni government for its support of U.S. military operations in the country.
And lawyers for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Jose Padilla, an American arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting a radiological attack and then held incommunicado in a Navy jail for nearly four years (AP, CSM). Padilla was transferred to the civilian court system in 2006, where he was convicted of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda.
Habib says Australians witnessed his torture in Egypt
A lawyer for Mamdouh Habib, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who last year reached a settlement in return for dropping a lawsuit against the Australian government, this week discussed a letter purportedly from an Egyptian intelligence officer claiming that Australian officials witnessed Habib being tortured after he was rendered to Egypt in 2001 (Sydney Morning Herald). The letter was reportedly shown to the Australian government three days before they reached the settlement deal with Habib. Habib also alleges that he was personally abused by then-Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, currently the country’s Vice President (The Australian).
The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan and Guantánamo detainee Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef was reportedly in England last week taking part in secret meetings aimed at sparking negotiations with senior Taliban leadership (Telegraph). Amnesty International last week called again for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee held at Guantanamo (BBC). And military lawyers for two Kuwaiti detainees, Fayez Al-Kandari and Fawzi Al-Oudah, announced Feb. 14 that the Kuwaiti government had formally requested their release from the prison (Kuwait Times).
Bashir trial resumes in Indonesia
The trial for hardline Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir resumed on Feb. 14, the third time Bashir has stood trial on terrorism charges (NPR, AP, RFI). Bashir, the alleged founder of the group Jemaah Islamiyah, is accused of raising money to found the group Al Qaeda in Aceh, as well as inciting others to donate in support of and engage in terrorist activities (Sydney Morning Herald). Bashir, who faces life in prison if convicted on all of the charges, asserted his innocence and told reporters, "I did nothing. I was only defending Islam."
Trials and Tribulations
- According to a report from McClatchy newspapers last week, FBI documents indicate that the bureau believes it has the authority to acquire records of international phone calls from the United States with little or no judicial oversight (McClatchy).
- The New York Times this weekend examined the planned bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Washington, disrupted when maintenance workers found a bomb in a backpack along the parade route (NYT). The attempted attack, though being investigated by anti-terrorism authorities, has received little national attention.
- U.S prosecutors have charged seven men, including two Americans, with offering to smuggle drugs and weapons for the Taliban in meetings with undercover federal agents (WSJ).
- A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has issued an arrest warrant for former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf, alleging that Musharraf was part of a "broad conspiracy" to kill former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007 shortly after her return to the country (AFP).
- A New York Times reporter this weekend writes about a visit to the Ingushetia town of Ali Yurt, the former home of Domodedovo Airport suicide bomber Magomed Yevloyev and a town that still seethes with anger over a violent raid by Russian security services four years ago (NYT).
- A Michigan court ruled Feb. 11 that a California man, Roger Stockham, will stand trial for an alleged plan to attack a Dearborn, Michigan mosque with "explosives" (Detroit News, Detroit Free Press). Stockham was arrested last month with a large quantity of commercial fireworkds outside of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
- British officials responsible for securing the 2012 London Olympics said on Feb. 14 that they were increasingly concerned about the threat to the games from terrorists associated with dissident Irish Republican groups (Telegraph).
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