The LWOT: Government kill list approved by secret committee – Report

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

Report: Government kill list approved by secret committee

Report: Government kill list approved by secret committee

Reuters’ Mark Hosenball reported on October 5 that an undocumented subset of the National Security Council (NSC) is responsible for consulting lawyers and the military to ensure the United States is complying with international law when it makes the decision to kill a terrorist suspect (Reuters). Unnamed officials insisted that as far as they knew, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on September 30, was the only American citizen on the list, though they differed over whether President Barack Obama was required to approve or veto his targeting.

Al-Awlaki’s killing has sparked debate over whether it is legal for the U.S. government to target and kill U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism links, with many criticizing President Obama for not bringing the suspected al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric to trial (Post, Politico, Politico). Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare Blog explains the legal framework under discussion (Lawfare).

Civil rights lawyers on October 3 asked a federal judge to force the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to turn over documents related to its reported surveillance of specific communities without evidence of wrongdoing, and seven Democratic state senators for New York on October 5 called for an investigation into the reports, (AP, AP). New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly answered questions about the allegations against his department at a City Council meeting held on October 6 to determine whether more oversight of the NYPD is needed (NYT, AP). The subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles in the New York Times about Muslims in America, Sheikh Reda Shata, was reportedly among those targeted for surveillance, even as he hosted FBI agent talks at his mosque and threw parties for local NYPD officers (AP).

Not guilty plea in alleged Pentagon plot

Rezwan Ferdaus pleaded not guilty on October 3 to charges he plotted to fly model airplanes packed with plastic explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol and attempted to provide material support to al-Qaeda operatives to harm U.S. soldier abroad (Reuters, AP, CNN). Rezwaun’s was the latest of several recent terrorism-related arrests involving undercover FBI agents, and Ferdaus’ defense lawyer has said that the case against him was "orchestrated and facilitated by the government."

One of two women charged with funneling money to Somali militant group al-Shabaab, Amina Farah Ali, was held in contempt on October 3 during an appearance in court for refusing to stand for the judge, and an FBI agent testified in the same case on October 6 that investigations into the women began in 2008 (Reuters, AP). Ali and her co-defendant Hawo Mohamed Hassan, say they were only raising money for a Somali charity.

Jury selection ended October 6 in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is expected to go on trial October 11 for an alleged attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, 2009 (AP, TIME, CNN, AFP, Reuters). A female juror from the defendant’s home country of Nigeria was dismissed by the judge for unexplained reasons shortly after the selection was finalized.

A federal judge in Michigan on Wednesday remanded into custody Reed S. Berry, who is suspected of having links to terrorists and stands accused of attempting to crash into an FBI car following him as an increased security measure leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (AP). And a federal judge in Colorado ruled on September 29 to allow convicted terrorist Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, who is being held at a maximum-security prison in Colorado under "special administrative measures" (SAMs), to challenge the rules that severely restrict him from communicating with people outside the prison (NYT).

Gitmo provisions stall defense spending bill in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on October 5 said in a letter that he would not allow the National Defense Authorization Act to come to the Senate floor until certain provisions are amended, including one that requires all al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist suspects to be held at Guantánamo, and one that restricts the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees from the military facility to the United States, (Reuters, Politico).

Retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the legal authority heading the war court at Guantánamo, told lawyers involved in the 9/11 mass murder cases on October 3 that the trials will not begin until next year, after he stops accepting recommendations for or against a capital case on January 25, 2012 (Miami Herald). A military judge on October 4 set an October 26 arraignment date for Gitmo detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of coordinating in the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen that killed 17 American sailors (Miami Herald, CNN, AP).

In an interview with the new commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the AP learns that he plans to make significant changes to the transparency and fairness of the military commissions there, including restrictions on evidence gathered through coercive measures, and allowing family members of the Cole bombing victims to watch the trial on live video feed (AP).

Treason charges for Pakistani doctor

The Pakistani government commission investigating the May 2 U.S. raid that killed former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, suggested on October 7 that the doctor helped the CIA run a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad, Dr. Shakil Afridi, should be tried for high treason (AJE, Guardian, AP, BBC, CNN). The charge carries as possible death sentence.

A Spanish judge on October 1 released five Algerian men suspected of providing logistical and financial support to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), saying that there is not enough evidence to hold them (AP, CNN). A Greek man suspected of ties to the Revolutionary Struggle group handed himself in to police on September 30, and was scheduled to go on trial with seven other suspected members on October 5 (AP).

And lawyers representing the victims of a bomb blast at a popular café in Marrakesh in April that killed 17, asked the court on October 6 to sentence the nine suspects to death (AFP).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A massive suicide car bomb later claimed by Somali militant group al-Shabaab, was rammed into government buildings on October 4 in the Somali capital of Mogadishu where young students were awaiting their exam results near the education ministry, killing over 100 people and wounding close to 200. (LAT, AFP, AP, WSJ, Reuters).
  • Afghan intelligence officials said on October 5 that they had detained six suspects linked to a plot to assassinate President Hamid Karzai, including a university professor and one of President Karzai’s bodyguards (AP, NYT, AFP, BBC).
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Mouri al-Maliki has gained enough political support to ensure American military trainers will remain in the country following the December 31 withdrawal of U.S. troops, but they will not be afforded immunity if they commit crimes, a caveat the U.S. is resisting (AJE, AP, BBC, Politico).
Jennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

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