The LWOT: American indicted for terrorist incitement

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American indicted for terrorist incitement

A federal grand jury in Virginia on July 14 indicted Emerson Begolly (available here), the moderator of a popular jihadist Internet forum, on charges that he incited others to violence and posted links to bombmaking instructions (DOJ, CNN, WSJ, AP). Begolly, who was already in custody after allegedly biting and attempting to pull a gun on two federal agents, could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The L.A. Times reports that Carlos Bledsoe, a Muslim convert and admitted radical who allegedly shot and killed an American soldier and wounded another outside of a recruitment office in Arkansas in 2009, will be tried in a state court on criminal charges instead of facing federal terrorism charges (LAT). Bledsoe could receive the death penalty if convicted, which would make him the first person executed in the United States for an act of terrorism since 9/11.

A federal judge in Florida denied bail July 12 for elderly Pakistani imam Hafiz Khan, who is charged with providing support to the Pakistani Taliban (Miami Herald). The judge delayed deciding on the bail request of Khan's son Izhar, also accused of supporting the Pakistani Taliban (Miami Herald). And the Post this week has a lengthy profile of Somali-American activist Abdirizak Bihi, and his dedication to confronting radicalization in Minnesota's Somali community (Post).

Senators push back on civilian terrorism trials

A group of 23 Republican senators wrote a letter to U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta on July 12 protesting the government's decision to bring alleged Somali terrorist Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame to the United States for trial, out of concern that terrorism suspects could be acquitted or receive short sentences in American courts (AP, Bloomberg, WSJ, Politico). They also asked for more detail on the administration's detention policy for terrorism suspects, including the possibility of sending detainees to Guantánamo Bay. And AFP last week noted that the government is preparing for media coverage of the upcoming Guantánamo trials of the 9/11 plotters (AFP).

The Nation's Jeremy Scahill reported July 12 that the CIA is in effect operating a secret prison in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, training Somali counterterrorism personnel who run the facility and interrogating suspects along with French intelligence agents (Nation). The article also alleges that the CIA provided information to Kenyan authorities that led to the rendering of terrorism suspect Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan back to Somalia. Hassan's lawyers are reportedly planning to file a habeas petition on his behalf in U.S. courts (Lawfare Blog, Lawfare Blog). Anonymous government officials denied the report of a secret prison, but have acknowledged that CIA officers have flown to Somalia to interrogate suspected militants (CNN, ABC).

A report released this week by the organization Human Rights Watch calls on the American and foreign governments to investigate senior George W. Bush administration officials, including the former president himself, in relation to the administration's rendition, detention, and interrogation practices (Guardian, Post, National Journal).

Finally, the AP reports that federal investigators are looking closely at a former CIA official who oversaw a "ghost" detention program at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and pushed for the use of aggressive tactics in the interrogation of an Iraqi man, Manadel al-Jamadi, who eventually died in CIA custody (AP).

United Kingdom releases new terrorism strategy

The United Kingdom on July 12 released its new terrorism strategy, which focuses extensively on the threat posed by Internet radicalization, and the use of the Internet as part of terrorist plots (Guardian, BBC, FT, Independent, Tel). The document also warns that the threat from terrorism in Northern Ireland is increasing (BBC).

The British government this week reduced its terrorism alert level from "severe" to "substantial, as the country's parliamentary intelligence and security committee issued a report demanding more oversight authority over Britain's intelligence agencies (Tel, Guardian, Guardian). And Britain's Supreme Court ruled that secret evidence could not be used in terrorism cases in order to hide allegations of detainee abuse at Guantánamo and other foreign prisons (Guardian, Guardian).

Also this week, British anti-terrorism police arrested a Birmingham man on charges that he was spreading jihadist materials online (BBC, Guardian).

Bin Laden planned 9/11 anniversary attack

The Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Gorman reports today that according to documents recovered from his Abbottabad compound, Osama bin Laden was in the initial stages of planning an attack for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with his "operations chief" Attiyah Abd al-Rahman (WSJ). Gorman also reports that analysts who sifted through the trove of data recovered from the compound have found little actionable intelligence, though officials said the seized information revealed that bin Laden was aware of the 7/7 London transportation bombings, as well as a foiled 2006 plot to blow up passenger aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean (Tel, Reuters).

The CIA admitted this week to having used a hepatitis vaccination program in Abbottabad as cover to try and obtain DNA from bin Laden's children, in order to confirm his presence in the city (CNN, Guardian, Guardian, NYT, AP, BBC).

Defense secretary Panetta told reporters while on his way to Afghanistan this weekend that the United States was "within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda" and that the elimination of 10-20 leaders in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and North Africa could disable the organization (NYT, CBS, Post, LAT).

The CIA took the unusual step this week of classifying the identity of "John" the formerly non-covert CIA analyst whose key role in tracking bin Laden was first revealed by the AP (Post). And Pakistan has reportedly offered to deport top al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Umar Patek, arrested in Abbottabad in January, to the Philippines (AP).

Trials and Tribulations  

  •  U.S. drones and aircraft reportedly targeted suspected al-Qaeda militants in Yemen July 14, killing a number of fighters but also possibly civilians ((NYT, CNN).  White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan met with Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh this week (CNN).   
  • Indian authorities are searching for clues in the near-simultaneous triple bombing of crowded areas of Mumbai July 13, attacks that killed 21 people (NYT, Reuters, AP, WSJ, Post, LAT). 
  • Turkish police arrested 15 alleged al-Qaeda members on July 14, and reportedly seized nearly 1,500 pounds of chemicals that could be used to manufacture explosives (NYT, WSJ, AP, ABC).   
  • Norway this week indicted the radical Iraqi cleric Mullah Krekar, the founder of the militant group Ansar al-Islam, for making death threats against Norwegian officials (AP).  
  • A Pakistani court on July 14 freed on bail a leader of the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Malik Ishaq, after 14 years in prison (Tel, AP). Ishaq is suspected of having masterminded a 2009 attack against Sri Lanka's cricket team while it was touring Pakistan.  
  • The European Commission on July 13 presented a plan to track terrorist financing in Europe, creating a parallel tracking system to the United States' that would conform more closely to European privacy rules for bank data (Reuters, NYT).  
  • Indonesian police raided an Islamic school on Monday, seizing "jihadist materials," weapons and explosives (CNN). And Malaysian authorities this week deported Indonesian terror suspect Agus Salim (AFP).   
  • Filipino authorities suspect Muslim militants are responsible for the kidnapping of two Americans this week in the country's  south (AP). 



The LWOT: Somali indicted after secret arrest, interrogation

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.

Somali indicted after secret detention aboard U.S. Navy vessel

The Obama administration on July 5 announced the indictment in New York of Somali Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame on nine charges, including allegedly providing material support to the terrorist groups al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), after Warsame had been held in secret for two months and interrogated aboard a U.S. Navy vessel (NYT, Post, LAT, AP, BBC, Tel, ABC, WSJ, AJE, CNN). Warsame, identified by U.S. officials as a key figure in al-Shabaab and a "conduit" between the two groups, was arrested April 19 in international waters between Yemen and Somalia and interrogated by the mixed civilian and military "High-Value Interrogation Group" for intelligence purposes, before being transfered to FBI custody for interrogations with a view towards criminal charges (LAT).

Reuters reports that Warsame sought to expand the "reach" of al-Shabaab, and the Post writes that he assisted and conspired with an American national and a U.S. resident; he reportedly waived his Miranda rights each day for seven days during his FBI interrogation (Reuters, AFP, Post). Though Warsame is said to have cooperated with interrogators, there is no indication of whether or not his information aided drone strikes carried out last month in Yemen (NYT). His secret arrival in New York July 4 and indictment, the first  transfer of a terrorism suspect to a civilian court from abroad, prompted an outcry from Republican Congressional leaders and has rekindled the debate about the interrogation and detention of foreign terrorism suspects (NYT, Post, LAT, ABC, Globe and Mail, Guardian, NPR, AFP).

The secret detention and arrest mark a new "hybrid" approach for the Obama administration towards terrorism suspects, fusing military detention and interrogation with civilian evidence gathering, while avoiding sending a new detainee to Guantánamo Bay (NYT, Post). However, this mixed approach raises questions about which evidence will be admissible in court and the government's detention authority (Reuters, Lawfare Blog, Lawfare Blog, Lawfare Blog).

In other new, the European Union's ambassador to the United States said this week that Europe was still open to accepting Guantánamo detainees, while the Post notes the increasing difficulty detainees have had with habeas petitions in federal court (Miami Herald, Post). And a British investigation into the possible abuse of terrorism suspects after 9/11 will reportedly investigate the United States' rendition of suspects to third countries for detention and questioning (AP, Toronto Star).

Ft. Hood shooting suspect to face court martial

Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, the commander of Ft. Hood, authorized a court martial and potential death sentence on July 7 for Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who stands accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at the base in 2009  (Reuters, AP, WSJ, AFP, AJE, Politico).

A jury in a Brooklyn federal court convicted American Betim Kaziu on July 7 of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, and plotting to attack U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans (Reuters, AFP, Bloomberg). Kaziu, who attempted to travel to Somalia and was arrested in Kosovo, faces possible life imprisonment when he is sentenced in early November.

A federal judge on July 7 denied a request to delay the October trial of Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of attempting to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear about Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009 (Reuters, Bloomberg, AP). And a federal judge in Florida said last Friday that he would decide later this month whether or not to grant bail to two Florida imams charged with providing funds and other support to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Miami Herald).

Also this week, the FBI publicly added a Canadian citizen and former Michigan resident, Faouzi Ayoub, to its list of most-wanted terrorists, after an indictment was unsealed charging Ayoub with plotting to detonate a bomb in Israel on behalf of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah (Toronto Star, AP).

The man who tracked bin Laden

The AP has a must-read story this week about a CIA officer, "John," who played a key role in tracking Osama bin Laden over much of the last decade (AP). The unnamed officer also reportedly played an important part in the capture of several major al-Qaeda figures, and was a force behind the uptick in drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas after 2007 and 2008.

Finally, the White House announced last Friday that it would nominate Matthew G. Olsen, currently the General Counsel for the National Security Agency, to replace Michael Leiter as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (CNN, Post, WSJ, AP). Olsen formerly directed President Barack Obama's Guantánamo Review Task Force, which evaluated the case of every remaining detainee at the prison when Obama took office in 2009.

Trials and Tribulations  

  • Nigerian security services announced the detention of over 100 members of the Muslim militant group Boko Haram on July 4, as the group has escalated its campaign of violence in the country's restive north (Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, AP, AFP, AFP, CNN).    
  • Canada's government this week officially listed the TTP as a terrorist group (Canadian Press).   
  • German prosecutors on July 7 charged 21-year-old Kosovar Arid Uka with killing two U.S. servicemen on a bus at Frankfurt Airport (NYT, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, AP).  
  • Mauritanian forces on July 5 fought off an attack by suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) near the country's border with Mali, reportedly killing up to 20 fighters (AFP, CNN, Reuters).  
  • U.S. officials warned July 6 that AQAP sought to stage attacks against airlines by "implanting" explosives in attackers (WSJ, Tel).
  • Norwegian authorities are reportedly planning to indict three men with alleged links to al-Qaeda who were arrested last year on suspicion of planning attacks in Scandinavia (Reuters). And a Danish court today extended by one month the detention of four men charged with planning an attack on a Danish newspaper that published drawings depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (Reuters).   
  • Italy on July 3 deported an Algerian, Yamine Bouhrama, following the end of his six-year prison sentence for membership in a terrorist cell (Reuters).  
  • Indonesian authorities arrested seven terrorism suspects this week based on allegations that they tried to smuggle weapons into the country (AFP).  
  • British security forces this week arrested a suspected member of the Basque separatist group ETA on charges that he allegedly attempted to kill the king of Spain in 1997 (Guardian, AFP, AP).   
  • A group of 17 men in Azerbaijan were sentenced this week to jail time ranging from five years to life in prison for their purported links to al-Qaeda (Reuters).