The LWOT: Terrorism trial begins in Chicago; Florida terrorism suspect to plead not guilty

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INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Key terror trial begins in Chicago

Jury selection began yesterday in the case of Pakistani-born Chicago man Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of providing support to his old school friend David Coleman Headley while the latter scouted targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, as well as allegedly helping plot an attack against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (AP, WSJ, AFP, Chicago Tribune). The trial will likely to feature testimony from Headley, who pled guilty last year to avoid the death penalty.

Headley has reportedly told American and Indian investigators about extensive links between the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Division (ISI), and the Rana trial is expected to shed light on these long-suspected but never proven connections (AP, AP, WSJ, AFP, NYT, Bloomberg, NPR). For background on the ties between the ISI and LeT, see Stephen Tankel's New America Foundation paper "Lashkar-e-Taiba: Past Operations and Future Prospects" (NAF )

Key terror trial begins in Chicago

Jury selection began yesterday in the case of Pakistani-born Chicago man Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of providing support to his old school friend David Coleman Headley while the latter scouted targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, as well as allegedly helping plot an attack against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (AP, WSJ, AFP, Chicago Tribune). The trial will likely to feature testimony from Headley, who pled guilty last year to avoid the death penalty.

Headley has reportedly told American and Indian investigators about extensive links between the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Division (ISI), and the Rana trial is expected to shed light on these long-suspected but never proven connections (AP, AP, WSJ, AFP, NYT, Bloomberg, NPR). For background on the ties between the ISI and LeT, see Stephen Tankel’s New America Foundation paper "Lashkar-e-Taiba: Past Operations and Future Prospects" (NAF )

Florida terrorism suspect to plead not guilty

Septuagenarian Florida Imam Hafiz Khan will plead not guilty to charges that he helped funnel up to $50,000 to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and was denied bail in a court hearing yesterday (NYT, AFP). Khan and his son Izhar Khan will appear in court for a pre-detention hearing on May 23 — another son, Irfan, appeared in a Los Angeles court yesterday and was given a bond hearing later this week (Reuters, Dawn, AP, Miami Herald). The three were charged on May 14 (indictment available here) along with three people in Pakistan, including the elder Khan’s daughter Amina and 19-year-old grandson Alam Zeb, with conspiring over a three-year period to provide funding for the group and for a school Khan set up in the Swat Valley that is alleged to have recruited boys to fight for the Taliban (CNN, NYT, LAT, AP). Pakistani authorities yesterday reportedly arrested Alam Zeb, who had previously denied the charges to reporters (ET, Reuters).

The case has surprised many congregants at the elder Khan’s mosque, who described him as poor and apolitical (Miami Herald). The arrest was notable for the subtle differences from other terrorism cases in the behavior of federal agents during and after the arrest; agents waited until prayer was over to arrest Khan, and authorities informed community leaders of the arrests before they were made public (Miami Herald).

And in New York, doubts are emerging over two arrests last week in an alleged plot to attack synagogues, as anonymous federal law enforcement sources told the AP and WNYC radio that the FBI had doubts about how the NYPD had handled the case against Ahmed Farhani and Mohamed Mamdouh, and questioned how well terrorism charges against the two would fare in court (AP, WNYC). Mamdouh gave a tearful interview at Riker’s Island in which he blamed Farhani, a permanent resident from Algeria, for discussing acquiring weapons and attacking synagogues, while Farhani’s family asserted that he was innocent (NYDN, Gothamist). And the Wall Street Journal notes Farhani’s "lack of religious fervor" and absence of apparent connections to radicals (WSJ).

Panetta letter on "enhanced interrogation" leaked

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent yesterday obtained a letter written by CIA director Leon Panetta to Sen. John McCain on the role "enhanced interrogation" of CIA detainees played in the eventual tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden (Washington Post). He asserted that:

We first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002. It is also important to note that some detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques attempted to provide false or misleading information about the facilitator/courier…In the end, no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means.

The letter’s release came on the same day that several Bush administration officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and speechwriter Marc Thiessen publicly defended the role harsh methods played in finding bin Laden, with Thiessen stating that 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Muhammad "mocked" his interrogators by reportedly counting off the seconds until they would have to stop waterboarding him (Miami Herald, WSJ).

Reuters reports this weekend on the hazy paper trail indicating that Hassan Ghul, a supposed al-Qaeda faciliatator detained in Iraq in 2004, gave significant information about bin Laden’s courier before he was subjected to enhanced interrogation methods (Reuters). Ghul was released by Pakistan in 2007, and is believed to have returned to militancy. For more coverage see Katherine Tiedemann’s AfPak Channel Daily Brief here and here.

And the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, citing the state secrets privilege, rejected the appeal of five men who were attempting to sue a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, over the role the latter allegedly played in facilitating the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program (Bloomberg).

Bomb defused outside of Dublin

The Irish military has defused a small but "viable" pipe bomb on a bus near Dublin hours before the Queen of England’s scheduled visit to the city, the first by a British monarch since 1911, after reportedly being tipped off by an informant (NYT, AP, Reuters, CNN, Guardian, Telegraph). The discovery comes one day after British police closed off parts of Central London, including areas near Buckingham Palace, after receiving a bomb threat from suspected dissident Irish Republicans(Washington Post, AP, Telegraph, BBC, Guardian, Reuters). Cars will be banned in Dublin during the Queen’s visit, and Northern Irish authorities have detained former Irish Republican Army (IRA) member Marian Price, charging her with encouraging support for the terrorist group (Telegraph, Guardian).

And the British government’s independent terrorism reviewer David Anderson said yesterday that six men arrested last September on suspicion that they planned to attack Pope Benedict XVI were not involved in terrorism (BBC, Telegraph).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Deutsche Welle reports that Germany has restricted its intelligence sharing with the United States since a drone strike last October killed a German, referred to as Bünyamin E., in Pakistan’s tribal regions (Deutsche Welle).
  • Federal prosecutors are reportedly considering charging Spokane-area man Joseph Brice with providing material support to terrorists, after his arrest last week on charges of constructing an explosive device (Seattle Times). Brice allegedly posted bomb making videos on a jihadist-themed YouTube page, as well as videos of attacks in other countries.
  • A suicide bomber detonated himself near the city headquarters of Kazakhstan’s domestic security police this morning in the city of Aktobe, wounding several people (Reuters).
  • French authorities have filed terrorism charges against three Frenchmen and an Indian who allegedly wanted to travel to training camps along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (AP).
  • Indonesian security forces killed alleged militant commander Sigit Qurdowi and a bodyguard this weekend, after a series of arrests have netted 10 terrorism suspects since last month (Jakarta Globe, AP).
  • The Tunisian army arrested two suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a Libyan and an Algerian, in the country’s south on May 15 (Reuters, AFP). The men, the first AQIM members to be arrested in Tunisia, were allegedly in possession of an explosive belt and a homemade bomb, and tried to set off an explosive before being subdued.
  • Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika will reportedly soon release several thousand imprisoned Islamists from jail, reportedly as part of a bid for greater support and to draw to a close another legacy of Algeria’s brutal civil war (Reuters).
  • Chechen terrorism suspect Lors Doukayev pleaded not guilty to terror charges in a Danish court May 16, though he did plead guilty to possessing a handgun and a small bomb that he claims he had for self-defense (AP).

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