The LWOT: Obama lifts Gitmo trials freeze, signs indefinite detention order

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Virginie Montet/AFP/Getty Images
Virginie Montet/AFP/Getty Images

Obama to revive Gitmo trials, codifies indefinite detention

Over two years after signing an executive order to close the prisone at Guantánamo Bay within a year and suspending military commissions, President Barack Obama yesterday lifted the administration’s freeze on new military trials and signed an executive order creating an indefinite detention regime for some of Guantánamo’s 172 remaining prisoners (WSJ, McClatchy, NYT, Reuters, ProPublica). Obama and aides reiterated that the President still planned to close Guantánamo, and that some detainees would face military trials and others civilian court, though the latter trials are unlikely in light of the congressional ban against detainee transfers to the United States (CNN).

The first three new military trials to take place will be for alleged U.S.S. Cole bomb plotter and waterboarding victim Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, alleged Saudi terrorist plotter Ahmed al-Darbi, and an Afghan named Obaidullah accused of hiding mines in his house (Guardian). However, Obama and other administration officials were silent on possible trial venues for the 9/11 plotters, especially Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The indefinite detention order establishes a review process every three years for at least the 48 detainees deemed impossible to put on trial but impossible to release, but does not extend beyond those held at Guantánamo (Washington Post). While Obama described the process – which will give detainees the chance to periodically challenge their status – as a step forward, the move was criticized by both civil libertarians and Congressional Republicans, albeit for different reasons (NYT, Miami Herald).

King hearings set to begin Thursday

A crowd of several hundred people and interfaith leaders gathered in New York this weekend under the slogan, "Today, I am a Muslim too," to protest a series of hearings scheduled to begin this Thursday on the radicalization of Muslim Americans (WSJ, Guardian, CNN, NY1). The controversial hearings will take place before Rep. Peter King’s Homeland Security Committee, and are set to occur throughout the next year and a half. King pushed back against criticism of the hearings this weekend, as the Washington Post’s Peter Finn looks at King’s past support for the Irish Republican Army (Washington Post, Washington Post).

In an effort to allay Muslim concerns about the hearings, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough spoke to a crowd at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society this weekend, saying that Muslims, "are not part of the problem, you’re part of the solution" (AP, LAT, Politico). McDonough told the crowd (NYT):

We have a choice…We can choose to send a message to certain Americans that they are somehow "less American" because of their faith or how they look…If we make that choice, we risk feeding the very feelings of disenchantment that may push some members of that community to violent extremism.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan moved a step closer to a military trial in the shooting deaths in November 2009 of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, after a U.S. Army Colonel recommended that Hasan face a court martial and the death penalty if convicted (AP). And Scott Shane reports that despite repeated efforts, videos from radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – who was allegedly in communication with Hasan before the Fort Hood shootings – are still readily available on YouTube and similar sites (NYT).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A lawyer for American Jamie Paulin-Ramirez announced this weekend that his client would plead guilty to charges of material support for terrorism linked to a plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks (Philadelphia Inquirer).  
  • Lawyers for Oregon terrorism suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud, accused of taking part in a plot to bomb Portland’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, in reality an FBI sting, have requested information on how the FBI trains agents for such operations (AP).
  • Police in Scotland today arrested a foreign national over alleged connections to Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, who died when his explosives detonated prematurely during a botched suicide bombing in Stockholm last December (Telegraph, Guardian, AP).
  • The former CIA officer who oversaw the investigation into the 1988 Pan-Am 103 bombing told reporter Michael Isikoff this week that he has "no doubt" Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi personally ordered the attack, which killed 270 people over Lockerbie, Scotland (MSNBC). 
  • The German newspaper Die Welt reported this weekend that security cameras at Frankfurt Airport were not working when 21-year old Arid Uka allegedly killed two U.S. Airmen on a bus there last week (Deutsche Welle). Uka’s family members and acquaintances have expressed disbelief at the shooting (NYT).
  • A co-ordinator of the "Toronto 18" plot broken up by Canadian authorities in 2006, Shareef Abdelhaleem, was sentenced last Friday to life with no chance of parole for 10 years, Canada’s strictest sentence, for his role in the plot (Globe and Mail).
  • Several hundred supporters of radical Islamist ideologue Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, currently on trial in Jordan, protested for his release in Amman on Mar. 6 (The Canadian Press).
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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