The LWOT: New data released on FBI terror investigations; Saudi accused of terror plot pleads not guilty

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

New data on expanded FBI domestic intelligence investigations

Charlie Savage this weekend reported on an FBI document obtained by the New York Times showing that in a four-month period not long after the Bush administration loosened rules on domestic intelligence gathering by the FBI, from Dec. 2008 to Mar. 2009, 11,667 people or groups were the target of "assessments" for criminal or terrorist activity, with 8,605 assessments finished and a resulting 427 "intensive investigations" opened (NYT). According to the guidelines, instituted under then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, FBI agents can initiate a criminal or national security assessment with, "no particular factual predication" though investigations cannot be based on "arbitrary or groundless speculation."

The New York Times also looks this week at the increasingly powerful and globally-focused office of the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (NYT). Bonus: The Georgetown University Law Center has compiled a comprehensive collection of legal documents and law journal articles related to state secrets (Georgetown Law).

Saudi accused of terror plot pleads not guilty

Saudi terrorism suspect Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari pled not guilty in a Texas federal court on Mar. 28 to the charge that he attempted to build and deploy an explosive device against targets that may have included locations in New York and the Dallas home of former U.S. president George W. Bush (NYT, BBC, AP). Aldawsari, a college student in Texas at the time of his arrest, came to the attention of authorities after allegedly attempting to acquire large quantities of phenol, which can be turned into an explosive when combined with two other chemicals that Aldawsari had already reportedly purchased.

A U.S. federal judge said last Friday that the May 2 trial for Kareem Ibrahim, charged as part of an alleged plot to bomb fuel arteries at John F. Kennedy International Airport, will continue despite Ibrahim’s repeated refusal of food, water, and insulin, which the judge described as possible "malingering" (Bloomberg, NY Post).

The Associated Press this weekend reported on allegations that a Somali man, Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane, helped smuggle several members of the Somali militant group al-Shabaab into the United States from Mexico (AP). And an affiliate of the Chicago Sun-Times interviews Ibraheim Mashal, an American Muslim and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who is suing the government in part over claims that he was put on a no-fly list to pressure him into becoming an informant (The Beacon News).

Finally, the Washington Post previews the hearing scheduled to be held today by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) into the civil rights of Muslim-Americans, while CNN takes an in-depth look at growing feelings of mistreatment amongst Muslims living in some heavily Muslim suburbs of Detroit (Washington Post, CNN).

Militant groups seize weapons amidst unrest 

An explosion ripped through a weapons factory in the southern Yemeni province of Abyan on Mar. 27 after it was taken over and looted by militants, killing at least 124 people, including women and children (WSJ, NYT, AJE). While Yemeni security officials said the men who seized the facility were linked to al Qaeda, locals told journalists that the men were instead part of the country’s active southern secession movement (BBC). The deadly blast comes as U.S. intelligence officials report that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) could be close to launching a new terrorist attack (Washington Post).

And in an interview published Mar. 28 in the Francophone magazine Jeune Afrique, Chad’s president Idriss Déby alleged that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has made statements in support of the anti-government rebels in Libya, had seized surface-to-air missiles from Libyan stocks and taken them back to the Ténéré, an isolated region in northern Niger (AFP, Jeune Afrique).

Polish prosecutors want to interview Gitmo detainees

Polish prosecutors have filed a request to interview two Guantánamo Bay detainees who were allegedly held and tortured at a CIA prison camp located in Poland, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, as part of their investigation into reports of detainee abuse at the facility (AP). The Polish government has officially granted al-Nashiri "victim status" as part of the probe.

And the D.C. Circuit Court on Mar. 28 dismissed the habeas petition of an Algerian Guantánamo detainee, Farhi Saeed Bin Mohammed, who was repatriated to Algeria in January against his wishes (Lawfare Blog).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Russian authorities on Mar. 28 said that they had arrested two suspects in the January suicide bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, in a raid on a camp in the region of Ingushetia that also killed 17 alleged militants (AP, BBC). Russian prosecutors on Mar. 29 formally charged Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov with organizing the bombing  (AP).
  • Pakistan announced Mar. 29 that it will allow Indian investigators to travel to Pakistan to investigate the 2008 Mumbai attacks, after long-planned two-day talks this week (Reuters, BBC, AFP).  
  • In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the head of Europe’s police coordination agency, Europol, called on the European Union to do more to fight terrorism financing, an effort that he suggested would be headed by Europol (WSJ).
  • Officials in Iowa last week canceled a planned anti-terrorism drill based around a scenario in which teenagers linked to white supremacists opposed to illegal immigration engage in a school shooting, after protests from groups opposed to illegal immigration and an anonymous telephone threat (AP).
  • Israel’s parliament on Mar. 28 passed a bill that would strip the citizenship of any Israeli convicted of charges spying, committing treason, or "aiding the enemy" in a time of war (Haaretz).

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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