THe LWOT: KSM to stay put, for now; Ghailani deliberations stalled

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

Must read: The Washington Post and ProPublica this week published a major two-part report on the possible Pakistani military connections with the militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, focusing on American David Coleman Headley and key LeT leader (and Pakistani military officer, according to some officials) Sajid Mir (Part 1, Part 2).

KSM to stay where he is, for now

The Washington Post reports this weekend that staunch congressional opposition and other political concerns about the viability of civilian terrorism trials will likely delay any civilian prosecution of 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed until at least after the 2012 presidential elections (Washington Post). After U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week said a decision on KSM's trial would come "soon," several Democratic and Republican members of Congress, as well as New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, condemned a possible trial for the current Guantánamo Bay inmate and others in New York's federal court.

This opposition will likely only increase when Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January; likely incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon said in a speech this week (The Weekly Standard):

The simple truth is that relaxing our Guantanamo policy puts Americans at risk...My position is simple: No more mirandizing terrorists. No more trials in downtown Manhattan. No more terrorist transfers to Yemen. The American people need a new terrorist detainee policy.

The Brookings Institution's Benjamin Wittes agreed with McKeon's call for a new policy on terrorism detentions "that protects the homeland, respects the rule of law, and upholds our high ideals," but also critiqued the "unfair" rhetoric and tone of the speech, some of which he said was "almost entirely nonsense" (Lawfare Blog).

The Chicago Tribune reports on the increasingly slim chances that the government will buy the Thomson Correctional Facility in Illinois, designated last year as the new internment facility for the remaining inmates at Gitmo (Chicago Tribune). And a member of the Afghan High Peace Council has said he will propose a plan for talks with the Taliban that involves freeing several former Taliban leaders from Gitmo so they can participate (Telegraph).

Ghailani deliberations at a standstill

Jury deliberations in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the former CIA and Guantánamo detainee charged with involvement in the 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings, appear to be at a standstill after a juror asked to be removed from the panel due to her views on the case (LAT). The juror wrote to Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, "My conclusion is not going to change...I feel (I am being) attacked for my conclusion" without indicating her decision on Ghailani's guilt (WSJ). Kaplan reminded the jurors of his previous instructions before ordering them back to deliberations; if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, Kaplan could have to declare a hung jury and order a new trial. Kaplan also denied a defense motion for a mistrial after reading aloud the juror's letter to the court (VOA).

The British government agreed to an out-of-court settlement with a dozen ex-Guantánamo detainees, including Binyam Mohamed, over their mistreatment while in American custody (BBC, Guardian, NYT, Washington Post). The group could receive several million pounds in the arrangement, with the terms of the deal expected to be announced later today (Telegraph, AP, Telegraph).

Al-Muhajiroun leader sentenced in abstentia, arrested

Lebanese security forces Nov. 14 arrested radical preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, who once led the now-banned British radical organization al-Muhajiroun, two days after a court sentenced him to life in prison in abstentia (AP, NYT). While original reporting indicated that Mohammed was arrested without a struggle, later reports indicate that he was taken into custody after a brief car chase and exchange of gunfire between Lebanese forces and Bakri 's security guards (LAT, Daily Star). Bakri , who before his arrest said he would not spend a day in jail, was on trial for alleged incitement and support for Fatah al-Islam, the extremist Sunni Muslim group that fought the Lebanese army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared, located in northern Lebanon, in 2007 (AJE).

Trials and Tribulations

  • A San Diego resident, Nima Ali Yusuf, was arrested last Friday and indicted Nov. 15 (available here) on charges that she attempted to provide material support in the form of money and personnel to the Somali al-Shabaab militant organization, in addition to charges that she made false statements to the FBI (AP, AFP, FBI). Yusuf is the fourth person arrested in San Diego for allegedly assisting al-Shabaab this month.
  • The Article 32 military court hearing to determine whether or not Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan will stand trial for last year's deadly Ft. Hood shootings concluded Nov. 15, with the defense choosing not to present any evidence (AP).
  • The Texas Board of Psychologists is currently evaluating a professional misconduct complaint lodged against Dr. James E. Mitchell, a key CIA consultant who helped design the agency's "enhanced interrogation" program after 9/11 (NYT). The board could strip Mitchell's license to practice in Texas if he is found to have violated his professional obligations in crafting and allegedly helping implement the program.
  • Since June New York City has nearly tripled the number of closed-circuit cameras designed to monitor for terrorist activity, meaning 1,500 out of a planned 3,000 cameras are currently in place (Bloomberg).
  • The Los Angeles Times details the 72 Department of Homeland Security "fusion centers" across the country that are designed to share threat information and intelligence across local and national agencies, but in practice deal with far more than terrorism, raising privacy and efficiency concerns (LAT, LAT).
  • The Commercial Appeal this week has a detailed profile of Carlos Bledsoe (also known as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad), currently awaiting trial in February for allegedly killing one soldier and wounding another outside of an Arkansas Army recruiting station last year, constructing a picture of Bledsoe from court documents and letters written to their correspondent over several months (



The LWOT: Holder to announce 9/11 trial site "soon"; no verdict yet in Ghailani trial

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

Holder says KSM trial decision coming "soon"

In a press conference Nov. 10, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that a decision was coming "soon" over the location and venue of an eventual trial of 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (CNN, WSJ).  Holder created an uproar after announcing last November that KSM and the other four alleged 9/11 plotters would be tried in civilian court in lower Manhattan. He also testified in April of this year that a decision on a trial site would be made within weeks (Reuters, NYT). GQ has a lengthy profile of Holder in their upcoming issue (GQ).

The statement provoked immediate opposition from New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, and Rep. Peter King, the presumptive incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said, "I urge Attorney General Holder not to hold any 9/11 trials in New York or anywhere in the United States...These 9/11 terrorists should be tried before a military commission at Guantánamo [Bay]" (The Hill). King also pushed back against calls from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to investigate President George W. Bush's statements in his recently-released book that he personally authorized the waterboarding of KSM, saying, "In the big picture, to hold someone's head underwater, the chance of permanent damage is minimal and the rewards are great" (Politico).

Jury deliberations ended for the week with no verdict Nov. 11 in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former CIA and Guantánamo detainee to stand trial in a civilian court (NYT, BBC, AP). And Lawfare Blog features a fascinating discussion between the Brookings Institution's Benjamin Wittes and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Guantánamo and the Court's role in providing oversight of the executive branch during war (Lawfare Blog).

The most dangerous man on earth?

In a briefing with reporters on Nov. 10, a New York Police Department (NYPD) intelligence division officer told reporters that, given his links to several terrorism plots and attempts, radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki could be considered "most dangerous man in the world" (ABC). The U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has reportedly deployed more drone aircraft to Yemen to help look for Awlaki, and the U.S. government has reportedly sent additional intelligence assets to the country (CNN). Yemen is requesting ramped up U.S. counterterrorism aid, though questions abound about the government's ability - and willingness - to battle Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) (AP, TIME).

The Telegraph and others report this week on the alleged increased cooperation between AQAP and al Qaeda's core, including reports that Saif al-Adel, a key al Qaeda leader reportedly released from house arrest in Iran in April, helped plan last month's failed parcel bomb attacks (Telegraph, NPR). And CNN profiles Pakistani militant Ilyas Kashmiri, who allegedly met twice with Mumbai attack planner David Coleman Headley, and is according to the article al Qaeda's "military brain" (CNN).

And reports this week indicate that the parcel bomb found on a cargo plane in England Oct. 29 may have been timed to explode somewhere off the east coast of the United States or Canada (CNN, Washington Post, NYT, AP, WSJ). Germany authorities reportedly wanted to check that parcel in Cologne, but did not receive information they needed to perform the search until after the flight carrying the parcel had left for England (Spiegel).

Trials and Tribulations

  • On Nov. 9 a San Diego judge denied bail to Isse Doreh, a Somali man arrested last week for helping funnel money to the militant al-Shabaab group (AP). The two men arrested with Doreh, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud and Basaaly Saeed Moalin, waived their rights to a court hearing and did not appear with Doreh on Tuesday.
  • While prosecutor John Durham cleared CIA officials this week of any wrongdoing in the 2005 destruction of "brutal" interrogation tapes of two high value detainees, the National Archives and Records Administration may open an investigation to see if the tapes' destruction violated the Federal Records Act, which prohibits destroying government records without the Archives' approval (CBS).
  •  A 118-page United States Army report on last November's Ft. Hood shootings, a crime for which Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan stands accused, found that no one action could have prevented the shootings (CNN). The report did, however, recommend increased army cooperation with terrorism investigative task forces and changes in how the army responds to shootings on bases, among other things.
  • Yemeni authorities have once again delayed the trial of American Sharif Mobley, accused of killing a Yemeni guard at a hospital in March after being arrested on suspicion of terrorism involvement (Reuters). The trial was delayed because the government could not find a qualified English translator to explain the charges to Mobley; the trial is now scheduled for November 21.
  • A 23-year old British member of the group Revolution Muslim has been arrested after posting a list of members of parliament who voted for the Iraq war online (BBC). A British student, Roshonara Choudhry, was sentenced to life in prison last week for stabbing a parliamentarian twice in the stomach.
  • U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May announced earlier this week that the government would review its counter-radicalization program, Prevent, which May said, "isn't working as well as it could" (Guardian).
  • More details are emerging about the five young French citizens arrested this week on terrorism charges, including that at least two were "ready to die", and only one of the five had actually been to Afghanistan, allegedly for training (BBC, Reuters). French authorities have arrested over 90 people this year over suspected terrorism links (NYT).
  • The Washington Post looks at the NYPD intelligence division's International Liaison Program, which has officers in 11 countries, an undisclosed budget, and no real government oversight (Washington Post).