The LWOT: Kenyan receives life sentence for grenade attack, al-Shabaab membership

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Kenyan receives life sentence for attack, al-Shabaab membership

Elgiva Bwire Oliacha was handed a life sentence in prison after he pleaded guilty in a Kenyan court on October 26 to involvement in a grenade attack on a Nairobi bus station that killed one person, and claimed that he is a member of the Somali militant group al-Shabaab (APReutersAFPLATAJEBBCTel). Kenyan police discovered several grenades, guns, and ammunition in Oliacha's possession when they arrested him on October 25, just one day after the grenade attack. Al-Shabaab called on October 27 for massive attacks in Kenya following Kenyan forces' invasion of Somalia two weeks earlier in an effort to "destroy" the insurgent group (BloombergNYTBBC).

The trial of Massachusetts resident Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, began at a U.S. District Court in Boston on October 27 (APNPRCNN). Mehanna's lawyers say that his distribution of jihadist propaganda was merely an exercise of his First Amendment right to free speech, while prosecutors argue that Mehanna had plans to receive jihadist training and carry out terrorist attacks. The trial has raised questions about the line between talking about terrorist activity and conspiring to act on these thoughts (CNNLawfare).

Maryland teenager Mohammad Hassan Khalid pleaded not guilty on October 24 to allegations he helped a convicted terrorist known as "Jihad Jane" raise money and attempt to recruit people to wage jihad in Europe and South Asia (AP). Former Southern Illinois University student Olutosin Oduwole was convicted on October 26 of attempting to make a terrorist threat for a note that police found in his car threatening a Virginia Tech-like shooting spree if people didn't donate a total of $50,000 to a PayPal account (AP).

And lawyers for Maj. Nidal Hassan, who is charged with a shooting spree that killed 13 at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, submitted a request in court on October 27 for a jury consultant and another expert to analyze negative pretrial publicity (AP). The defense attorneys argue that both experts would help prevent stereotypes of Muslims connected to terrorism and the extensive media attention to Maj. Hassan's trial from impacting the jury's decision.  

Democrats oppose detainee provisions in defense bill

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with eleven other Democratic senators, voiced their opposition to provisions in a defense bill requiring the military custody of terrorist suspects and limiting the government's ability to transfer detainees from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility to the United States, in an October 21 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (APPolitico). The senators argue that the provision, which the Obama administration also opposes, denies the intelligence and law enforcement communities the "flexibility" they need to "effectively interrogate, incarcerate and bring terrorists to justice." Republican Senators, on the other hand, generally support such hardline provisions; 45 of the party's 47 senators voted last week for a (narrowly defeated) amendment that would categorically prohibit alleged terrorists from being tried in U.S. civilian courts (NYTPolitico).

Military defense lawyers for the alleged terrorist mastermind of the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri want to know if their client will be "meaningfully acquitted" or "if at the conclusions of this proceeding, the United States intends to hold the defendant, even if acquitted" (AFPPolitico). If al-Nashiri is to be held regardless of the outcome, the lawyers want jurors to be told before the military trial that even if he is acquitted, the War on Terror legal system permits the U.S. government to detain him forever because he is "allegedly" a terrorist (APMiami HeraldLawfare).

Patriot Act sees opposition on 10-year anniversary

On October 26, the day the Patriot Act turned 10 years old, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice to force the government to clarify its interpretation of Section 215 of the Act, which gives the FBI the power to demand any "tangible thing" related to an investigation (WSJ). This part of the Patriot Act has been the subject of controversy in the past over whether it gives the government the ability to collect intelligence on American citizens beyond what is constitutionally acceptable. The FBI has increasingly been seeking court orders to access personal email and Internet usage information from Internet service providers who refuse to release customer data without a judge's approval (Post). The requests for information are made under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

A Muslim rights group, Muslim Advocates, is also calling for reform of the Patriot Act, which has been accused of denying Americans their right to free speech (CNNNPR,Post). The AP's Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman reported on October 26 that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) keeps files of information on New Yorkers who change their names from ones that sound Muslim or Arab to more Americanized monikers (AP). The department wanted to keep tabs on potential terrorists who had changed their names in order to remain under authorities' radar.

Lawyers for convicted terrorist Jose Padilla asked a federal appeals court judge on October 26 to reinstate their client's lawsuit against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for Padilla's alleged torture at a naval base in South Carolina (AFPAP). And lawyers for an alleged al-Qaeda facilitator known as Abu Zubaydah filed suit against Lithuania in the European Court of Human Rights on October 27 over the torture their client was purportedly subjected to at a CIA-run detention facility in Lithuania (AP).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Two successive bomb blasts near a music store and restaurant in a predominantly Shi'a neighborhood in Baghdad on October 27 killed at least 32 people and wounded dozens more (PostAFPLATBBCTel).
  • Philippine troops launched a vigorous attack on October 25 on an encampment of militants belonging to a splinter of the country's armed separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers and at least 15 rebels (NYTBBCAFPAP).
  • The U.S. Air Force has reportedly been using a remote civilian airport in southern Ethiopia to launch drone attacks on militants in neighboring Somalia as the United States' drone program expands further (Post).



The LWOT: Basque separatist group renounces violence

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.

Basque separatist group renounces violence

On October 20, the Basque militant organization ETA that is believed to be responsible for over 800 deaths since its inception in 1959 declared an end to its armed campaign for a Basque homeland, and asked for talks with the Spanish and French governments (Guardian, BBC, Reuters, AP, WSJ, AFP, AJE, NYT). While Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero welcomed the announcement as a "victory for democracy," Defense Minister Carme Chacon said today that talks with ETA are not an option (BBC, AP). Interior Minister Antonio Camacho praised the "tireless and unstoppable work of the police and civil guard" in defeating the militant group (CNN).

Al-Awlaki son killed in drone strike

The family of American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed on September 30 by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, has spoken out against his targeting and that of his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was killed in another drone strike against suspected militants on October 14 (AP, AP, Post). The family also released Abdulrahman's birth certificate in response to reports that he was actually a 20-something-year-old militant (Post). An intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity indicated that the U.S government would not have targeted the militants if they had known an American teenager was with them (Post).

Internal FBI documents made public on October 20 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) show that the Bureau has in recent years collected information on the basis of religious, ethnic and national-origin aspects of American communities (NYT). The ACLU also alleged in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that these activities are illegal and unconstitutional, while the FBI maintains that it is not investigating Americans based "solely" on religion, race, or ethnicity, but using these characteristics as factors in investigations.

The AP's Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo reported on October 17 that many questions remain unanswered concerning the role of a CIA clandestine officer in the New York Police Department's (NYPD) intelligence branch (AP). While the CIA has claimed the operative is receiving management training, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said his CIA guest does not have access to any investigative files, which would make it difficult for him to manage the handling of cases.

Minnesota women convicted on terrorism-related charges

A federal jury in Minnesota on October 20 convicted two Somali-born women, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, on multiple charges over allegations they funneled over $8,600 to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab between September 2008 and July 2009 (AP, Reuters, CNN, AFP, WSJ). The evidence presented by the prosecution included hundreds of hours of phone conversations between the two women and militant leaders in Somalia obtained through an FBI wiretap, which is reportedly sparking mistrust of the government in Minnesota's Somali community (AP).

Also on October 20, federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania filed charges against Mohammad Hassan Khalid, an 18-year-old Pakistani immigrant from Maryland, and Ali Charaf Damache, an Algerian currently detained in Ireland, for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists (AP, Reuters, CNN, BBC). Khalid was 15 years old when he allegedly began communicating online with convicted terrorist Colleen LaRose, known by her Internet handle as Jihad Jane, and began efforts to recruit people to wage "jihad" in Europe and South Asia. Damache married LaRose's coconspirator Jamie Paulin-Ramirez in 2009 and allegedly tried to recruit men to fight with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (AP).

Top pentagon lawyer speaks on detainee legislation

On October 18, the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense Jeh Johnson warned against the "over-militarization" of counterterrorism policy, pointing out the role that law enforcement agencies must play as well (Post, Miami Herald, WSJ). Johnson was speaking at the Heritage Foundation on the Pentagon's objection to further legislation on the handling of suspected terrorist detainees, and he reiterated the Obama administration's intention to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

CNN's Jenifer Fenton reported on October 17 that the United States has struggled to produce definitive evidence of al-Qaeda or Taliban links to many Guantánamo detainees, who fear they will be held indefinitely because of this (CNN). And the U.S. Senate voted today to block a Republican attempt to keep the United States from prosecuting suspected terrorists in civilian courts (Post).

British teenagers apprehended in Kenya

Two 18-year-old Britons, Mohamad Abdulrahman Mohamed and Iqbal Shahzad, were arrested by Kenyan security officials near the border with Somalia after Mohamed's father alerted authorities to his fears that the young men planned to enter Somalia to "fight a holy war" (Tel, BBC, Guardian). Police in Nairobi today also arrested and charged two Somali doctors, as well as a Muslim cleric on the United Nations designated terrorist list, with being members of the Somali militant group al-Shabaab (Reuters, AP).

A member of the Irish terrorist organization the Real IRA, Michael Campbell, was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison in Lithuania today for attempting to purchase weapons and explosives he planned to use in attacks on targets in London (AP, Tel, Guardian, AFP, Reuters). Campbell was arrested in January 2008 after he met with a Lithuanian agent posing as an arms dealing, following a six-year undercover operation.

Trials and Tribulations

  • Two Swedish journalists pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in Ethiopia on October 20, after being arrested by the Ethiopian government in July while traveling with a banned separatist group (Guardian, Reuters, AP).
  • Indonesian police announced today that they had arrested all five suspects in connection to a suicide bombing at a mosque in West Java in April (Jakarta Post).
  • The alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, Umar Patek, reenacted for police on October 20 the assembly of the bombs he used in the attacks (AFP, Jakarta Post, AP).

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