The LWOT: King hearings open with emotion, rancor; Man with white supremacist ties arrested in Spokane bomb attempt

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

King hearings open with emotion, rancor

The long-awaited and long-disputed first hearing of New York Congressman Peter King's House Homeland Security Committee into radicalization and law enforcement cooperation in American Muslim communities took place yesterday amidst major media attention, as the committee heard from three congressmen, two relatives of radicalized young men, the head of a small Muslim organization and a lone law enforcement official, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca (CNN, National Journal, NYT, BBC).

The nearly four-hour hearings were marked by deep emotions, first when Rep. Keith Ellison nearly broke down testifying about the sacrifices of a Muslim first-responder on 9/11 who died at the World Trade Center, and then when Melvin Bledsoe and Abdirizak Bihi testified about the radicalization of their son and nephew, respectively -- a process that ended with Mr. Bledsoe's son under arrest after allegedly shooting two soldiers at an army recruitment station and Mr. Bihi's nephew dead in Somalia at the hands of the militant group al-Shabaab (AFP, Telegraph).

King hearings open with emotion, rancor

The long-awaited and long-disputed first hearing of New York Congressman Peter King’s House Homeland Security Committee into radicalization and law enforcement cooperation in American Muslim communities took place yesterday amidst major media attention, as the committee heard from three congressmen, two relatives of radicalized young men, the head of a small Muslim organization and a lone law enforcement official, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca (CNN, National Journal, NYT, BBC).

The nearly four-hour hearings were marked by deep emotions, first when Rep. Keith Ellison nearly broke down testifying about the sacrifices of a Muslim first-responder on 9/11 who died at the World Trade Center, and then when Melvin Bledsoe and Abdirizak Bihi testified about the radicalization of their son and nephew, respectively — a process that ended with Mr. Bledsoe’s son under arrest after allegedly shooting two soldiers at an army recruitment station and Mr. Bihi’s nephew dead in Somalia at the hands of the militant group al-Shabaab (AFP, Telegraph).

The hearing also featured an intense focus from committee Republicans on the Muslim advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations – an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial – leading to a verbal confrontation between Rep. Chip Cravaak (R-MN) and Baca over the latter’s past and current interactions with the group (AFP, Washington Post, Washington Post). Ultimately, though, much of the hearing was spent arguing about the hearings themselves, with criticism heaped on the committee by some of its own members and little new information revealed about the radicalization process in America or Muslim community cooperation (Washington Post, NYT, Guardian). Note: The New America Foundation and Syracuse University have just released a report detailing new research into jihadist terrorism arrests and incidents in the United States since 9/11 and Muslim community cooperation with American law enforcement (CNN, NAF).

Also this week, the New York Times reports on Los Angeles Police outreach efforts to Muslim communities, while the Wall Street Journal examines the controversy around the Obama administration’s own outreach efforts (NYT, WSJ).And a new report sheds light on the industry springing up around "expert" counterterrorism training for local police (Public Research Associates, NPR, Guardian).

Man with white supremacist ties arrested in Spokane bomb attempt

The FBI on Mar. 9 arrested former soldier and reportedly "avid neo-Nazi" Kevin William Harpham in connection with a failed bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, WA (AP, WSJ, LAT, Spokesman-Review). While the incident has generated little attention nationally, federal authorities have described the device Harpham allegedly placed on a bench along the parade route as "sophisticated" and "viable" and consider the case an example of domestic terrorism (NYT).A grand jury will convene March 22 to decide whether or not to indict Harpham.

Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, a Colorado woman linked to a plot to train for and engage in terrorist operations in Europe and elsewhere pled guilty on Mar. 8 to one charge of providing material support to terrorists (CNN, LAT, Bloomberg). A federal grand jury this week also indicted Khalid Ali-M. Aldawsari, a Saudi national studying in the United States, for allegedly trying to construct a bomb made of several legal materials that can form the explosive TNP (Reuters, AP).

Finally this week, NBC New York profiles Mohammad Junaid Babar, the convicted terrorist linked to London’s 7/7 transport bombings who was freed after 4 ½ years in prison due to his "extraordinary" cooperation with law enforcement (NBC). According to a Nov. 2010 letter from prosecutors, Babar "still supports today the killing of American military service members on battlefields in Muslim countries."

Gitmo controversy brewing in House 

In response to President Obama’s decision Mar. 8 to codify indefinite detention of some detainees at Guantánamo Bay, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) put forward a more sweeping bill (available here) that would increase restrictions on detainee transfers and leave ultimate authority for the release of terrorism suspects to the Secretary of Defense, rather than the attorney general (AP, Lawfare Blog). The bill caused a stir in the normally non-partisan House committee, as ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA) accused committee Republicans of moving forward on the bill without input from the committee’s Democrats (The Hill).

The Los Angeles Times this week reports on the possible difficulties awaiting a military trial of alleged U.S.S. Cole bombing plotter Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was subject to a series of extreme interrogation measures in CIA prisons after his capture (LAT).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A British man was convicted this week under the country’s anti-terrorism law of selling CD copies of The Anarchist Cookbook and other materials he gathered on terrorist operations and the manufacture of explosives(Guardian, BBC, Telegraph).
  • A French court this week convicted in absentia Peter Cherif, charged with traveling to Iraq in 2004 to fight with Iraqi insurgents, sentencing him to five years in prison (The Canadian Press). And French police in the northern Pas-de-Calais region have arrested the suspected military commander of the Basque separatist group ETA (Al-Jazeera).
  • Philippine aircraft and troops staged an attack on a southern Philippine island Mar. 10 after remnants of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group were detected in the area (AP).
  • An Indonesian court ruled this week that after a delay, it will continue the trial of radical cleric Abu Bakir Bashir, accused of supporting and helping organize the terrorist group that called itself Al Qaeda in Aceh (CNN).

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