The LWOT: Patriot Act renewed just before deadline

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.   

Patriot Act provisions renewed just before deadline

President Obama signed a four-year extension of three controversial Patriot Act provisions into law just before the midnight deadline last night, after Senate leaders made a deal with Republican Sen. Rand Paul to allow several proposed amendments to be put up for a vote, including one to make it more difficult for authorities to obtain firearms purchase records (LAT, Washington Post, AFP, Bloomberg, WSJ, CBS/AP). The provisions, which passed the Senate 72-23 and then the House 250-153, allow for "roving" wiretaps of multiple phone lines, the investigation of non-American "lone wolf" suspects not linked to any extremist organization, and the collection of all "tangible" items linked to a terrorist investigation, including business and other records (AP). The extension drew criticism from some Democrats, though amendments tightening restrictions on the provision that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee were blocked from coming up for a vote (Politico).

Two Senate Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, said yesterday that the Obama administration has a "secret" and far-reaching interpretation of the Patriot Act that goes well beyond standard readings of its limits, especially the ability to seize business and other records (NYT).

Also yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a $690 defense spending bill despite a veto threat from the White House due to several bill provisions, including one that would limit President Obama's ability to try Guantánamo Bay detainees in the U.S. or transfer them abroad, and another that updates the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and would allow the president to target "associated groups" of al-Qaeda and the Taliban not involved in the 9/11 attacks (AFP, AP, Politico, LAT, National Journal). A statement from the White House called the limits on detainee transfers, "a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical Executive branch authority" (Lawfare Blog).

Rana trial continues in Chicago

David Coleman Headley testified for a third day yesterday in the trial of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, accused of supporting Headley's reconnaissance of targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and faced tough cross-examination from Rana's lawyer about what details Headley actually told Rana about the plot (WSJ). Headley also acknowledged that he had no proof that "Major Iqbal," the man Headley calls his handler from the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), actually was a member of the agency .

Headley told the court, however, that he was trained by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) in safe houses in the Pakistani city of Lahore (Express Tribune). He also provided new detail about a follow-on plot to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark, which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, and told the jury that he was no longer proud of his role in the Mumbai attacks (Globe and Mail, AP, AFP). In testimony the previous two days Headley discussed the role the ISI played in choosing targets for the Mumbai attacks, especially the Chabad House, described scouting trips to Copenhagen as part of the plot against the Jyllands-Posten, and said Rana praised the Mumbai attacks (WSJ, PBS, AFP, Reuters, Chicago Tribune, ProPublica, NYT, AP). For more on the Rana trial and the Mumbai attacks, sign up for the AfPak Daily Brief (FP).

CIA to get access to bin Laden compound

Under an agreement reached earlier this week between CIA deputy director Michael Morell and Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, a team of forensic specialists from the CIA will be allowed starting today to examing Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (Washington Post, CNN, WSJ, Guardian, Telegraph, AP). The team will reportedly be looking for hidden documents with special equipment that can peer into walls and under floors.

Kirsten Grieshaber and Kimberly Dozier report that documents captured during the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden reveal that he knew of plans to attack Europe last year, and was in contact with al-Qaeda operative Younis al-Mauretani, who has reportedly been linked to a Moroccan arrested in Germany last month for allegedly planning a terrorist attack in that country (AP). And the New York Times reports that other documents recovered in the raid show that bin Laden and al-Qaeda operations chief Atiya Abdul Rahman discussed making a truce with Pakistan in exchange for protection for bin Laden, though officials say there is no evidence the deal was ever actually proposed (NYT).

NATO this week announced the capture in southern Afghanistan of a German-Moroccan man they say is an al-Qaeda facilitator, as part of a raid in early May in which 10 militants were killed, including a Frenchman, a Saudi and a Pakistani (NYT). The man has reportedly told his interrogators that foreign fighters are "converging" on Pakistan in order to fight in Afghanistan (ABC). 

The leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel, released a tape in commemoration of bin Laden's death on May 26, saying the killing will fuel anger in the Muslim world and adding, "We are all Osama" (AP). And the FBI has reportedly been able to pull a fingerprint and forensic evidence off of the bomb used by Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his failed attempt in December 2009 to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit, evidence they say links the bomb to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's principal bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri (AP, NPR).

JFK attack plotter convicted

A New York court on May 26 convicted Kareem Ibrahim for his involvement in a plot to blow up fuel arteries at JFK International Airport, the last of four plotters to be found guilty (FBI, BBC, Telegraph, Bloomberg, AP). The jury found Ibrahim, a former leader of Trinidad's Shi'a Muslim community, guilty on five charges, including providing religious and operational support to the plot, which was infiltrated at an early stage by an informant working for the government, eventually leading to a sting operation (CNN).

Five New Jersey men convicted in 2008 of plotting to attack the Fort Dix army base appealed their convictions this week, alleging that the government used illegal wiretaps to gather evidence, and that prosecutors showed prejudicial images -- including jihadist videos of beheadings -- to sway the jury unfairly against them (Courthouse News). And James Cromitie, the purported ringleader of a plot to attack synagogues in the Bronx and a New York Air National Guard base (later revealed to be a sting operation), asked a judge to grant him the minimum sentence possible in his case, 25 years in prison (Bloomberg). Cromitie and his three co-defendants were refused a new trial earlier this month. 

Prosecutor removed in Polish torture investigation

Poland removed one of two prosecutors investigating the alleged torture of detainees at a secret CIA prison in the country from the case May 24, citing an "administrative shuffle" (AP). The investigation focuses on two detainees currently held at Guantánamo, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, who say they were abused at the prison.

The U.S. military tribunal at Guantánamo denied the clemency appeal of Canadian detainee Omar Khadr, who pled guilty last year to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 and received eight years in prison in a deal with prosecutors (National Post, AP). Six years after being released from Guantánamo, the Australian government has finally returned Mamdouh Habib's passport, after he was given a "non-adverse security assessment" (AP). And a former U.S. government employee charged in Italy with taking part in the 2003 kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of Muslim cleric Abu Omar, Sabrina de Sousa, has filed a lawsuit to force the U.S. government to grant her diplomatic immunity, shielding her from prosecution if she travels to Europe (LAT).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The U.S. State Department on May 26 added the Caucasus Emirate -- a militant group based in the North Caucasus region -- to its list of banned terrorist groups, and the U.S. government put a $5 million bounty on the head of its leader, Doku Umarov (State, CNN, AFP, AP, WSJ).
  • Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakir Bashir on May 25 denied charges that he helped raise funds for the group Al Qaeda in Aceh, accusing the United States and Australia of being behind his arrest and trial (Sydney Morning Herald).  
  • An Irishman currently on trial in Lithuania for buying weapons for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) denied the charges this week, accusing British intelligence agencies of setting him up (AFP).
  • Australia's government is reportedly considering trying suspected Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek, captured in Abbottabad in January, for his alleged involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, 88 of them Australian (The Age).

Win McNamee/Getty Images


The LWOT: Mumbai terror trial focuses on Pakistani intelligence role

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.    

Mumbai trial focuses on Pakistani intelligence connection

The trial of Chicago-based Pakistani Tahawwur Hussain Rana for allegedly providing support to the 2008 Mumbai attacks began in earnest yesterday, as opening statements quickly gave way to the testimony of David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American originally named Daood Gilani who is the prosecution's star witness and has cooperated with Indian and American authorities since his 2009 arrest (NYTWashington PostAP,WSJReutersAJE). Headley testified in great detail about his role in scouting targets and preparing for the attacks, and described close cooperation between the group that perpetrated the attack, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), which many in the United States suspect of playing a "double game" on terrorism (ReutersGlobe and MailChicago Tribune).

Headley testified that the ISI provided "financial and military support" to LeT and told the jury that an ISI officer named "Major Iqbal" was involved at key steps of the attack planning, that Headley reported both to Iqbal and an LeT handler named Sajid Mir, and that Iqbal and a Pakistani navy "frogman" were intimately involved in choosing targets and the route that the LeT attackers took to reach Mumbai (ABCProPublicaTelegraph,BBC). Headley also described the support allegedly given by Rana, his childhood friend, to the plot, which Headley said included providing cover for him under the auspices of Rana's immigration firm to set up shop in Mumbai and travel freely in and out of India (NYTWSJAP). Rana's lawyer Charles Swift called Headley a "manipulative man" who had taken advantage of his friend, and argued that Headley was not a credible witness (TelegraphBBCAP). 

Headley will continue his testimony today, and was profiled this week by Sebastian Rotella and PBS (APProPublicaPBS). Bonus read: Stephen Tankel, "Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mumbai and the ISI" (FP).

Egyptian named "interim" head of al-Qaeda: Former jihadist

A former commander in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who knew Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Noman Benotman, told journalists last week that Egyptian Saif al-Adel, a longtime al-Qaeda commander who is believed to have returned to Pakistan from house arrest in Iran last year, had been named the "interim" leader of al-Qaeda by a council of six to eight senior al-Qaeda figures based along the Afghanistan-Pakistani border (Der SpiegelCNNGuardianReuters).

Information seized from the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was killed has revealed a continued interest from the terror leader in planning high profile attacks against trains, aircraft and oil tankers, though Reuters reports that intelligence analysts have not found information on any imminent plots (APWSJWSJReuters). The Telegraph reports that information has been discovered linking bin Laden to the planning of an alleged Easter bomb plot in the British city of Manchester, a plot which led to a series of abrupt arrests in 2009 in Britain and the subsequent release of the suspects due to lack of evidence (Telegraph).

U.S. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh offered the Obama administration's legal justification for killing bin Laden last week in a post at the blog Opinio Juris, arguing that bin Laden's position as the leader of al-Qaeda made him a legitimate military target under the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed after the 9/11 attacks (Opinio JurisABC). And in an interview with the BBC last week President Barack Obama said he would order another raid into Pakistan if an al-Qaeda leader were found to be hiding there (BBC). For more on bin Laden's death, sign up for the AfPak Channel Daily Brief (FP).

Pakistani authorities last week announced the arrest of a Yemeni al-Qaeda operative, known as Abu Suhaib al-Makki, in the city of Karachi (McClatchyBBCCNNWSJ,GuardianReuters). Al-Makki was reported to have lived in Pakistan for 10 years, only to be arrested days after bin Laden was killed (Dawn). And the Iraqi army last week announced the arrest of Al-Qaeda in Iraq's (AQI) "military leader," Mikhlif Mohammed Hussein al-Azzawi, known as Abu Radhwan, as well as three other AQI operatives (ReutersAFP).

Afghan Gitmo detainee commits suicide

A 37-year old Guantánamo Bay detainee from Afghanistan with a long history of mental illness was found dead last Thursday after apparently hanging himself with a bedsheet in the prison's yard (Miami HeraldBBCReutersAFPAPMcClatchy). Little information is available about the deceased, known by the name Inayatullah, who was among the last detainees to arrive at the prison after his arrest in 2007, and did not undergo a combatant status review (Miami Herald). His lawyer says his name was Hajji Nassim and that he was a cell phone salesman in Iran near the Pakistani-Afghan border, though the U.S. military says he was an al-Qaeda figure involved in smuggling foreign fighters. His body was repatriated to Afghanistan this past weekend (Miami Herald).

The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear the appeal of Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr, who pled guilty last year to killing a U.S. Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 when Khadr was 15 (Courthouse NewsLawfare Blog). An Algerian former detainee held for nearly eight years at Guantánamo, Saber Lahmar, announced yesterday that he will sue former President George W. Bush in a French court over his detention (AFP). And British activist and former detainee Moazzem Begg was denied access this weekend to an Air Canada flight from London to Toronto because the flight might have been re-routed to the United States (AFP).

Patriot Act extended

Top congressional leaders last week worked out a deal to extend until June 2015 three key provisions of the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and another law, which allow the government to place "roving" wire taps, conduct surveillance on "lone wolf" terrorism suspects not linked to a terrorist group, and seize "any tangible thing" deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation (NYTAFPBloomberg).

Pakistanis accused of terror support to remain in jail 

A Florida judge yesterday refused bail to two Florida imams charged with funneling money to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), ordering 76-year old Hafiz Khan and his son Izhan Khan to remain in jail until their trial (Miami HeraldReuters). Prosecutors provided more details about their case against the men, as well as that against another son, Irfan Khan, who last week was ordered held without bail in Los Angeles, and three others in Pakistan who are reportedly under house arrest (APAPReutersCNNMiami Herald). The Miami Herald has a lengthy profile of Hafiz and Izhar, and the confusion their arrest has caused in their respective communities (Miami Herald).

A New York grand jury last week indicted Algerian permanent resident Ahmed Ferhani for his alleged role in a plot to attack New York synagogues, while a lawyer for Ferhani's alleged co-conspirator Mohamed Mamdouh agreed to give prosecutors until June 2 to bring his case before a grand jury (APCNNCBS New York). Both men assert their innocence in the plot (in reality an NYPD sting operation), and intend to challenge the strength of the case, whose investigation was handled by local, rather than federal, authorities (WNYCNYDN).

CNN reported this weekend that the U.S. Army may soon announce a court martial for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 13 in a shooting rampage in November 2009 at Ft. Hood, Texas (CNN). A judge denied a motion in the case of accused Portland bomb plotter Mohamed Osman Mohamud that would have prevented FBI agents from discussing a piece of evidence with each other (The Oregonian). Carlos Bledsoe (also known as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad), who allegedly shot and killed a soldier in front of an Arkansas recruitment station in 2009, wrote a letter to a local judge saying he intended to set up a terrorist cell in the U.S. after being deported from Yemen in 2009 (AP). And a man held after Faisal Shahzad's failed attempt to bomb Times Square last May, Aftab Ali Khan, was ordered deported to his native Pakistan May 22 (AP).

In Washington State, the trial of suspected white supremacist Kevin Harpham for attempting to bomb a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in Spokane was delayed until August 22 to give the defense more time to prepare (Spokesman-Review). An Ohio couple, Hor and Amera Akl, pled guilty to attempting to send up to $1 million to the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah (AP). Finally, federal authorities have filed charges against an American convert to Islam and co-founder of the radical group Revolution Muslim, Younus Abdullah Mohammad (originally Jesse Curtis Moore) for making threats against the creators of the show "South Park" after the show aired an image purportedly of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit (CNN).

Report warns of radicalization in Indonesian jails

A report released last week by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that Indonesian jails are an "incubator" of terrorist operations and recruitment, where extremists can preach, mingle freely with others, and have easy access to cell phones and other forms of communication (BBCAFPJakarta GlobeAustralia Broadcasting CorporationSydney Morning Herald). The New York Times last week looked at the rise of Islamic "vigilante groups" in Indonesia, whose violence against minority sects and religions is often ignored by police (NYT). And Indonesian police alleged last week that the group said to be responsible for a deadly suicide attack on a police mosque last month was linked to the hardline cleric Abu Bakir Bashir and the group Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (Jakarta Globe).

Trials and Tribulations

  •  British authorities have relocated a British-Nigerian man known only as "CD" from London to the Midlands under a control order, after presenting evidence that the man was part of an extremist network in London, had attended a terror training camp in Syria, and had tried to buy firearms after his return (GuardianBBC).
  • A British court has prevented the deportation of a Tunisian man known as "MK" who was convicted on terrorism charges in Tunisia, while he appeals for asylum in the United Kingdom (Telegraph). The Guardian's Vikram Dodd yesterday interviewed a British Muslim man who says he was pressured by British anti-terrorism police to "spy" on other Muslims, and reports that Britain's "stop and search" anti-terror law was 42 times more likely to be employed on an "Asian" than a white person (GuardianGuardian).
  • Diplomatic cables released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks this weekend claimed that donors in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had given up to $100 million to charities and seminaries in Pakistan allegedly involved in jihadist recruitment efforts, including the recruitment of children (Reuters).
  • A Swedish newspaper this week reported that in 2009 Sweden's police security agency Säpo discovered two suspected American intelligence agents were conducting illegal surveillance of people with possible terrorist links in the country without informing the Swedish government (AFP).
  • The U.S. State Department on May 19 designated the Gaza-based Army of Islam as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (StateWSJ).