Must-read: Andrea Elliott has a lengthy profile of Yasir Qadhi, a popular salafi imam who sits on the fault lines of debate amongst some American Muslims about radicalization, jihad and Islam in the United States (NYT, NYT).
FBI indicts Canadian in Zazi plot
Federal prosecutors in New York on Mar. 15 unsealed a superseding indictment (available here) charging a Canadian man, Ferid Imam, with providing material support to al Qaeda and allegedly helping train and provide assistance to New York Subway plotters Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin (FBI, AFP, AP, WSJ). Medunjanin awaits trial in the plot, while Zazi and Ahmedzay have pled guilty to terrorism charges. Zazi reportedly identified Imam, who is accused of entering Pakistan in 2007 with another man in order to fight American forces in Afghanistan, as a weapons trainer in a militant camp in Pakistan's volatile tribal regions (CNN). The two men also face terrorism charges in Canada (Globe and Mail).
In congressional testimony Mar. 16, FBI Director Robert Mueller said that the biggest threat facing the United States today is from terrorism, and especially from al Qaeda and its affiliates (VOA). Also this week, a website leaked a purported FBI report detailing the construction of a bomb placed on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, WA (Spokane Spokesman-Review). The father of a man arrested in connection with the bomb plot, Kevin Harpham said his son was with him when the bomb was planted, but that his son had "racist beliefs" and could have helped construct the bomb (AP).
Lawmakers and lawyers spar over Gitmo
Top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee on Mar. 17, where he urged the committee to allow both civilian and military trials of Guantánamo Bay detainees, in part to reduce the chance that courts will interfere when detainees formally object to their imprisonment (AP). He also pushed back on proposed legislation by committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) that would revise the original authorization for the use of military force against terrorist groups and further limit civilian control over terrorism detainees (Miami Herald, Danger Room, The Atlantic). The New York Times this week examines McKeon's rising influence, and Benjamin Wittes looks closely at Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposed reforms of habeas standards in terrorism detentions (NYT, Lawfare Blog).
Also this week, the Court for Military Commission Review (CMCR) heard oral arguments in the appeal of al Qaeda propagandist Ali al-Bahlul, in a case that could have broad implications for the scope of military trials and their definition of "war crimes" (Lawfare Blog).
Diplomat warns of consequences of Libya instability
Hours before the U.N. Security Council voted to allow the use of force in order to protect Libyan civilians, U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that dictator Muammar Qaddafi could return to supporting terrorism and regional instability if he prevails over rebels currently holding out against government attacks in the country's east (VOA, Reuters, CNN). In order to support its claims of foreign leadership of the month-old rebellion, the Libyan government yesterday held a press conference with a captured man allegedly linked to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) (Telegraph, Financial Times).
The Wall Street Journal reports yesterday that the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has disrupted some counterterrorism partnerships and caused the U.S. to lose track of a number of former Guantánamo detainees sent back to the region (WSJ). And Egypt's ruling military council has released from prison the brother of al Qaeda no. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, detained since his extradition from the United Arab Emirates in 2000 (NYT).
Trials and Tribulations
- Federal prosecutors on Mar. 15 indicted Dani Nemr Tarraf, arrested in 2009, on charges that he attempted to buy automatic rifles and antiaircraft missiles for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah (Philadelphia Inquirer).
- Documents released by the website WikiLeaks this week indicate that American authorities in 2006 expressed serious concern that the growing number of sharia-compliant banks in Britain could be used as a conduit for funds for terrorist groups (Telegraph).
- Der Spiegel this week examines the role Internet communities of jihadi writers and sympathizers played in the radicalization of Arid Uka, who allegedly killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded two others in a shooting at Frankfurt Airport earlier this month (Der Spiegel).
- A Mauritanian court on Mar. 15 sentenced Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) member Mohamed Abdallahi Ould H'Mednah to death over the 2009 killing in the country's capital Nuakchott of American Christopher Leggett (AFP, Reuters, BBC). In a speech this week British security minister Pauline Neville-Jones said AQIM had made over £13 million from kidnapping Europeans, though she did not specify the time period in which the money was made (Telegraph).
- The European Commission on Mar. 17 requested greater transparency from the United States into a program that taps European banking data to track terrorism financing (NYT).
- Indonesian authorities accused the militant group Jemaah Islamiyya, linked to radical cleric Abu Bakir Bashir, of being behind a series of "book bombings" targeting moderate Muslims in the country (AFP, AP, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Morning Herald).