The LWOT: NYPD Watched Moroccan Immigrants - Report

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Report: NYPD watched Moroccan immigrants  

The AP on September 22 released another report on NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities, citing secret police documents that indicate the department's "Demographics Squad" investigated Moroccan communities in New York City without any suspicion of wrongdoing (AP). The operation, known within the NYPD's intelligence branch as the "Moroccan Initiative," allegedly involved monitoring and documenting details of Moroccan barbershops, gyms, and even homes, including some owned by U.S. citizens.

In a speech at Harvard Law School on September 16, top U.S. counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama, John Brennan, defended the legality of the administration's detention policy for suspected terrorists and use of drone strikes to target militants both inside and outside of so-called "hot" battlefields like Afghanistan (NYTCNNBloomberg,AFP). And on September 20, the Washington Post reported that the United States is building "a constellation" of secret bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula from which they can launch drone attacks on al-Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen and Somalia (Post).

Obama administration: Gitmo closed by Election Day

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the European Parliament on September 20 that the Obama administration intends make the utmost effort to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility before the 2012 presidential elections, but acknowledged the political difficulty of doing so (APAFP). Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said on Wednesday that this goal will be "very difficult" for the administration to achieve in the face of "congressional blocks" such as withholding funding to transfer detainees to the United States (Politico).

Detainees at Guantánamo have reportedly ended a protest that involved the captives smearing their own feces in the ventilation ducts in an attempt to force guards to change some of their procedures, though Guantánamo officials declined to comment on the particular demands (Miami Herald). One official attributed the protest's end in part to peer pressure from fellow detainees affected by the campaign. And Carol Rosenberg on September 19 reported on her conversations with new Gitmo commander Rear Adm. David Woods, as he becomes accustomed to his new post and looks ahead to the as-yet unscheduled capital trials of six detainees (Miami Herald).

Convicted terrorist to receive harsher sentence

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled on September 19 that a 17-year prison sentence handed down to convicted terrorist Jose Padilla in 2008 is too lenient considering Padilla's history of violence and training in an al-Qaeda militant camp (APNYTBBC,WSJCNNReutersBloomberg). Padilla was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to attack an American city with a radioactive "dirty bomb," but was convicted in 2007 on unrelated charges linked to supporting terrorism abroad.

Pakistani-born Tahawwur Rana, who was convicted of providing material support to the group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and is suspected of having planned an attack in Denmark, asked on September 19 for a new trial, with his attorneys claiming that he shouldn't have had to defend both plots in the same trial (AP). And the lawyer for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is accused of attempting to blow up an airliner destined for Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, filed a motion on September 20 to block the prosecution from showing videos of explosions created from the same chemicals used to make the bomb Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled in his underwear (ReutersAP).  

Prosecutors in the trial of three North Carolina men -- Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi -- accused of helping plot a terrorist attack on the U.S. Marine Corps base in Virginia began their case by playing a tape of the admitted ringleader Daniel Boyd boasting about the ease with which he could kill servicemen and their families (AP). One of the defendents, Hysen Sharifi, was allegedly present when Boyd made those remarks.

And one of the defense attorneys for Ahmed Ferhani, who is accused of plotting to blow up a Manhattan synagogue, said on September 20 that there is no conflict of interest in the fact that she briefly defended the undercover detective who helped build the case against her current client (NYT). She said she had no confidential conversations with the detective, and his case was dismissed at his first court appearance.

British police arrest 7 for alleged terrorist plot

British police on September 18 arrested six men in Birmingham on suspicion of plotting al-Qaeda-inspired attacks in the United Kingdom, and one woman on suspicion of failing to provide information related to the terrorist plots (BBCAPAFPGuardianWSJNYT,Reuters). Police have declined to identify the suspects, but the Telegraph reports that one of the 14 houses searched after the arrests is registered to convicted terrorist plotter Mohammad Irfan, who was released early from a four-year prison sentence in 2010 (Tel). Police said on September 22 that a seventh man had also been arrested that day on suspicion of involvement in the same plot (AFPAPReutersBBC). And Habib Ahmed, who was convicted of involvement in a British al-Qaeda-linked terror cell and sentenced in 2008 to ten years in prison, was recently released after serving less than three years (Tel).

A Norwegian judge ruled on September 19 that the admitted perpetrator of the July 22 Oslo bombing and shooting rampage that killed 77 people, Anders Behring Breivik, will remain in solitary confinement for another four weeks, a condition Breivik told the court is a "form of torture" (ReutersAFPCNNTelGuardianBBC). Meanwhile, Finnish authorities said on September 17 that a man and a woman of foreign origin were arrested in the capital city of Helsinki on suspicion of financing and recruiting for terrorism, but that any plans they had were not aimed at Finland (APReuters).

The Spanish Interior Ministry said on September 20 that police had arrested a Cuban man in Mallorca the previous day on suspicion of recruiting for and praising al-Qaeda in over a thousand radical videos he allegedly posted on YouTube (APCNN). And the Saudi Arabian state news service said on September 19 that it will soon be trying 41 suspects on charges that they formed an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group with plans to attack U.S. troops in Kuwait and Qatar (Reuters).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Mexican authorities on September 21 dropped terrorism charges they had levied against a man and a woman who had created panic in the state of Veracruz by posting fake warnings of impending attacks by drug cartels on Twitter (AP).
  • Outgoing U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen on September 22 said that the militant Haqqani Network suspected of carrying out an hours-long siege on the U.S. embassy in Kabul last week is a "veritable arm" of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) (LATNYTCNNWSJ). For more on this story, see the AfPak Daily Brief (FP).
  • Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) on September 21 claimed responsibility in a statement posted to a jihadist forum for a series of attacks in more than 18 Iraqi cities on August 15 that killed 74 people and wounded more than 300 others (AFP).
  • A militant separatist group, the Kurdish Freedom Hawks (TAK), claimed responsibility on September 22 for a bomb attack in the Turkish capital of Ankara on September 20 that killed three people and wounded over 30 (AJENYT,GuardianDeutsche WelleAFPAP). Turkish authorities say the TAK is a front group for the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), though the PKK itself has denied any involvement in the Ankara bombing (AP).

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The LWOT: Key al-Qaeda figure reported killed in Pakistan

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.

Al-Qaeda chief of operations in Pakistan reported killed

Anonymous U.S. officials said on September 15 that senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Hafs al-Shahri had been killed earlier in the week in the tribal areas of Pakistan, with some reports indicating that al-Shahri may have been one of four militants killed in a drone attack on September 11 (AFPReutersBBCTelAPCNNGuardianNYTPost). Officials also said that al-Shahri, who was in charge of the organization's operations inside Pakistan, may have been poised to take on the responsibilities of recently killed second-in-command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman.

Officials within the Obama administration and Congress have said that the White House is debating whether the U.S. may target low-level militants in Somalia and Yemen with drone attacks as it does in Pakistan, an expansion of the current policy of attacking "high-value individuals" (NYT). As the core of al-Qaeda weakens in Pakistan and the attention of counterterrorism officials shifts to affiliated groups, particularly in Somalia and Yemen, the result of this debate may help chart the course for America's continued war against al-Qaeda.

Study reveals new details about right- and left-wing terrorism

A study released on September 10 by the New America Foundation and Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Policy documents 114 incidents of non-jihadist homegrown terrorism in the United State since 9/11 (CNN). The database, which is searchable by case and includes an interactive map with case information by state, found that:

  • While no cases of jihadist terrorism since 9/11 have involved chemical, biological, or radiological weapons, at least five non-jihadist cases involved the presence of or attempts to acquire such materials;
  • More than a third of cases involved individuals motivated by an anti-government ideology;
  • Informants, cooperating witnesses, and undercover government agents were involved in more than half of right-and left-wing terrorist cases;
  • In both right-and left-wing terrorism and jihadist cases, families and social or religious communities were just as likely to provide authorities with tips that either let to arrests or aided investigations.

Four arrested on suspicion of terrorist plotting in Sweden

Swedish police on September 10 arrested four individuals believed to be plotting a terrorist attack in the city of Gothenburg, and evacuated an arts center as a precaution (NYTTelBloombergBBCReutersAPAJEDeutsche Welle). Court documents filed on September 12 revealed that three of the four men are of Somali origin, while the fourth is Iraqi -- they were identified as Kulan Mohamud Abel, Mahamud Abdi Aziz, Mohamud Abdi Weli, and Mahmood Salar Sami (CNNAPAFP).

The Spanish National Court today convicted Basque separatist Arnaldo Otegi on terrorism charges, and handed him a ten-year prison sentence for attempting to revive the banned political wing of the militant separatist organization ETA (AP). And attorneys defending Michael Campbell in his terrorism trial in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius claimed today that Campbell was framed by Britain's MI5, and that he is innocent of charges that he tried to buy weapons for the Northern Irish terrorist group the Real IRA from an undercover Lithuanian intelligence agent (AP).

Two suspects on trial in Uganda for the July 2010 Kampala bombings that killed 76 people were given sentences of 25 and five years, respectively, today after pleading guilty to terrorism and conspiracy charges (APReutersAFPBBC). Five other suspects were freed on September 12, including prominent Kenyan human rights activist al-Amin Kimathi (BBCAPWSJCNNReuters).

"Underwear bomber" prosecutors secure pre-trial wins

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, who is presiding over the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of attempting to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, ruled on September 15 that prosecutors will be allowed to use incriminating statements made by Abdulmutallab to federal investigators immediately after being detained (CNNReutersAPBloomberg). An FBI agent who questioned Abdulmutallab following the suspect's alleged attempt testified at a hearing on September 14 that the suspect was not read his Miranda rights immediately after his arrest because investigators believed he may have known of additional suicide bombers in the air, while a nurse testified that Abdulmutallab was not overmedicated during the questioning (BloombergBloombergAP).

Abdulmutallab's prosecutors requested in court filings on September 9 that they be allowed to show the jury video demonstrations of explosions caused by chemical mixtures similar to those found in the bomb the defendant allegedly hid in his underwear (AP). Judge Edmunds also ruled on September 9 that the jury will remain anonymous when proceedings begin next month (ReutersAFP).

A third member of a North Carolina family arrested and indicted on terrorism charges in 2009, Dylan Boyd, pleaded guilty on September 15 to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and faces up to 15 years in prison (LATAFPAPReuters). Prosecutors in the case of Michael D. McCright, who is accused of trying to run two U.S. servicemen off the road in Seattle in July, said on September 13 that McCright's phone records show he had attempted to call alleged terrorist plotter Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif three times just before the incident (AP). The servicemen were targeted as they left the same military recruiting center Abdul-Latif and accomplice Walli Mujahidh allegedly planned to attack.

And the judge in the case of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, agreed on September 15 to postpone the trial to give the defense team more time to prepare its case (AP).

Britain sentences Taliban recruiter

Former Taliban fighter Munir Farooqi was found guilty by a British court on September 9, along with Matthew Newton and Israr Malik, of preparing for acts of terrorism and soliciting to murder, after a year-long undercover police operation revealed the men's efforts to recruit others to fight against international forces in Afghanistan (APAFP,GuardianBBCTelIndependent). Farooqi was given four life sentences at Manchester Crown Court by Justice Richard Henrique, who called him "a very dangerous man," while a fourth defendant was acquitted.

A British student has recently received £20,000 (approximately $30,000) and an apology from police for his wrongful arrest and seven-day detention in 2008 after police were tipped off that he had downloaded an al-Qaeda training manual, which was in reality part of his research for a master's degree (GuardianBBCAP).

Military appeals court upholds sentence

A U.S. military appeals court on September 9 upheld the November 2008 conviction and life sentence of Guantánamo Bay detainee Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who delivered a 40-minute speech honoring Osama bin Laden during his trial (APMiami Herald). Al-Bahlul was alleged to have been Osama bin Laden's personal assistant and public relations secretary.

A tribal elder in Afghanistan said on September 10 that former Guantánamo detainee Said Amir Jan was arrested by Afghan and coalition forces on September 2 in the same raid that resulted in the death of fellow ex-detainee Sabar Lal Melma (AP). On September 10, Ernesto Londoño looked at the difficulties faced by one former Gitmo detainee who is now struggling to rebuild his life in war-torn Afghanistan, after having been branded an infidel by the Taliban for refusing to join their fight (Post).

On September 14, a representative of the Tunisian Justice Ministry said at a conference hosted by the British humanitarian group Reprieve that the country will soon send a delegation to the United States to lobby for the repatriation of the five Tunisians who remain at Gitmo (AP). And Carol Rosenberg reported on September 13 that the Gitmo remained calm and quiet through the 10th anniversary of 9/11, unlike past years that have seen taunts and paper airplanes flung at guards (McClatchy).

The U.S. House of Representatives on September 9 passed the Intelligence Authorization Act, after responding to the Obama administration's veto threat by dropping provisions that would have included a requirement that cables and memorandums on Gitmo detainees be revealed to Congress, as well as one requiring Senate approval of the President's appointed director of the National Security Agency (NYTPostPost). The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, approved on September 13 an intelligence authorization act that contains similar provisions to the original House bill (Reuters).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The U.S. State Department has added the Indian Mujahideen to its official list of banned terrorist organizations, freezing any assets the group may have in the United States and prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with the group (WSJReutersAFPCNNAP)  
  • Indonesian prosecutors on September 15 recommended in a Jakarta court that convicted terrorist facilitator, fund-raiser, and recruiter Abu Thulot be jailed for 12 years (AFPAP).
  • U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said on September 14 that the Pentagon believes al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is still in Pakistan (AFP).
  • Thai police said that five soldiers were killed on September 15 by a roadside bomb in Thailand's restive southern province of Pattani (AP).
  • September 16 marked a year since seven employees of the French energy firm Areva and a subsidiary were kidnapped in northern Niger by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (AFP). Four remain in captivity.

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