The LWOT: Senate votes to keep detainee provisions

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Wonk watch: Congressional Research Service, "American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat" (CRS). 

Senate votes to keep detainee provisions

U.S. Senators voted 60-38 on November 29 to reject an amendment proposed by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) that would remove from the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 controversial provisions requiring military custody of suspects believed to be members of al-Qaeda or its affiliates (PostNYTAPAFP). The Obama administration has threatened to veto the massive bill over this and other detainee-related provisions that it believes restrict the government's ability to effectively combat terrorism. And the Senate voted again on December 1 to reject an amendment proposed by Senate Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would ensure that only suspected terrorists detained abroad would be placed in military custody, while those arrested on U.S. soil could be held by civil law enforcement (APHill). Senators will vote on several other proposed amendments before looking to pass or halt the bill.

Indian police arrest six alleged terrorists

Indian security forces in Delhi, Bihar and Chennai on November 30 arrested six suspected members of the Indian Mujahideen allegedly involved in three separate attacks: the 2008 Jama Masjid shooting in New Delhi, the Chinnaswamy Stadium bombing last year, and a bomb blast at a German bakery in Pune, also last year (TOI,The Hindu). Police said they discovered a large weapons cache in the outskirts of Delhi following the arrests, and that the suspects provided a wealth of information on the Indian Mujahideen (The Hindu). However, the group's alleged ringleader and bomb expert, Ahmad Siddi Bappa - also known as Shahrukh - is still at large (TOI).

The Belarus Supreme Court on November 30 sentenced two men, Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, to death for their roles in a bombing of a metro station in Minsk in April that killed 15 people, as the judge called them "an extreme danger to society" (Deutsche Welle, NYT, AP, Tel, Reuters). Relatives of the two men, as well as human rights activists, claim that they were framed by the government.

Amnesty International accused the government of Saudi Arabia in a report published on December 1 of drafting a "draconian and abusive" anti-terror law, which it allows it to prosecute peaceful dissent of its citizens as a "terrorist crime" (AJE, BBC, AFP, Reuters). The Saudi government said in a statement that the report used "inaccurate information" to come to those conclusions (BBC).

Somali refugee pleads guilty to terrorism charges

A 25-year-old Somali refugee in San Diego, Nima Yusuf, pleaded guilty on December 1 to providing material support to a terrorist group for sending money to men from Minnesota who had traveled to Somalia to join the militant group al-Shabaab (AP, AFP, LAT). Four men indicted along with Yusuf will go on trial in San Diego next year.

The trial of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of translating and disseminating jihadist material on the Internet, as well as traveling to Yemen in an attempt to receive terrorist training, continues in Boston, as a recording of Mehanna played to the court on December 1 revealed him saying his family knew he "didn't go [to Yemen] to graze goats" (Boston Globe). Defense attorneys sought to portray Mehanna as a scholar who was exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech by disseminating jihadist material, and argued on December 1 that it was Mehanna's friends - and key witnesses in the trial - Kareem Abuzahra and Ahmad Abousamra who wanted to find a terrorist training camp in Yemen, while Mehanna went along for his own religious and educational purposes (AP).

Federal prosecutors on December 1 requested a delay in the trial of juvenile suspect Mohammad Hassan Khalid, who is accused of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization by helping convicted terrorist "Jihad Jane" raise money and recruit others for jihad (AP). Prosecutors cited the complexity of the case.

Trials and Tribulations

  • A Canadian-Sudanese man, Abousfian Abdelrazik, was removed from a United Nations terror watch list that labeled him as an al-Qaeda associate on December 1 (AFP). Abdelrazik was placed on the list after visiting his mother in Sudan in 2003.
  • Philippine security forces on November 29 captured a suspected member of the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf Group, Hussein Ahaddin, who was wanted in connection to six bombings that have taken place over the last ten years, including one in 2002 that killed a U.S. Green Beret (AP).
  • Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a video released on December 1 that his terrorist group is holding a 70-year-old American aid worker, Warren Weinstein, who was kidnapped while working in Pakistan in August (Reuters, NYT, LAT).

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


The LWOT: Phone hacking linked to terrorist activity

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.

Phone hacking linked to terrorist activity

Police in the Philippines on November 23 arrested four people for their suspected involvement in a $2 million telephone scam targeting customers of AT&T that provided funds to a Saudi-based terrorist organization accused of funding the devastating 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (Guardian, Reuters, AP). The suspects were allegedly working on commission for a terrorist group that provided financial support to the Mumbai attackers and believed to be run currently by a Saudi national, but originally linked to Muhammad Zamir, a Pakistani national arrested in Italy in 2007 suspected of being a member of the South Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

German police on November 24 and November 29 arrested two new suspects identified as Andre E. and Ralf W. respectively, who are suspected of supporting the recently discovered neo-Nazi group believed to have committed at least 10 murders and multiple other attacks over more than a decade (AP, Tel, Deutsche Welle, AP, AFP). In 2002, Ralf W. became the deputy head of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NDP), a political party that an overwhelming 77% of Germans now want banned, according to a poll released on November 25 (Deutsche Welle, AFP). German Prime Minister Angela Merkel said in an emotional speech to parliament on November 23 that the government is "horrified by the extent of this hatred and racism," and that the discovery of the neo-Nazi group is "a danger to [Germany's] standing in the world" (Reuters). Reuters' Madeline Chambers digs into the impact that the acknowledgment of the right-wing extremist threat has had on Germany (Reuters).

British Members of Parliament on November 24 held a debate at Westminster Hall over the case of Babar Ahmad, who has been held without charge in the United Kingdom for seven years fighting extradition to the United States and is accused by U.S. prosecutors of being a fundraiser for terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Chechnya through a website he managed from London but was technically based in the United States (BBC). The MPs learned that the U.S. evidence in the case could only legally be used in an extradition, but not in a U.K. trial, and that British prosecutors have not seen all of the existing evidence, making charging Ahmad with an offense in the United Kingdom potentially very difficult (BBC).

Mehanna friends continue to testify in trial

Daniel Maldonado, a former friend of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of providing material support to a terrorist group and attempting to travel to Yemen for terrorist training, testified in Mehanna's trial for the third day on November 22, telling the court that Mehanna had encouraged Maldonado not to travel to Somalia for terrorist training in 2006 (Boston Globe). Another former friend of Mehanna, Kareem Abuzahra, testified on November 28 that he and Mehanna travelled with a third man - Ahmad Abousamra - to Yemen in 2004 to obtain terrorist training, saying waging jihad against the United States was their "duty" (Boston Globe). Abuzahra also told the court that the men had discussed shooting civilians at a U.S. mall, attacking a U.S. Air Force base, and shooting prominent U.S. officials (AP).  

The attorney for Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who is accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States by detonating a bomb at a restaurant, plans to challenge the prosecution's assertion that Arbabsiar confessed to the plot and freely handed over information on Iran's role in it (NYT). Arbabsiar waived his right to have a lawyer present, and confessed during the 12 days that he was detained before his hearing, a move his lawyer said should elicit "deep concern about the voluntariness of consent."

A federal judge in Massachusetts on November 27 denied bail to Rezwan Ferdaus, who is accused of plotting to fly remote control airplanes packed with explosives into the U.S. Capitol building and the Pentagon, citing Ferdaus' "views and seeming dedication to his cause" (AFP, Reuters, Boston Globe, AP). 

U.S. looks to maintain custody of Iraq detainee

On November 22, the United States handed all of its remaining detainees in Iraq over to Iraqi security forces, except for one alleged Hezbollah commander, Ali Mussa Daqduq, who U.S. troops may hold until the end of the year according to a 2008 security agreement with Iraq (WSJ). The Obama administration wants to bring Daqduq back to the United States to face a military trial for allegedly masterminding the 2007 kidnapping and murder of five U.S. servicemen in Iraq, but if negotiations fail Daqduq will come under Iraqi control, and U.S. officials fear he may be released or transferred to Iran, which has also expressed interest in getting custody of him.

The United States Senate on November 28 looked at over 100 proposed amendments to the embattled National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which the Obama administration has threatened to veto over provisions requiring military custody of terrorist suspects and limiting the administration's ability to transfer detainees from Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. (WSJ). Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on November 23 said in a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein that the existing provisions "would introduce unnecessary rigidity" into the government's effort to defend the nation's security (Politico). FBI Director Robert Mueller added in a letter sent to lawmakers on November 28 that the bill could hamper "ongoing international terrorism investigations" (AP). And Lawfare Blog's Benjamin Wittes looks at the pros and cons of an amendment proposed by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) that would neutralize the bill's provisions concerning detainees (Lawfare).

Finally, the Council for American-Muslim Relations (CAIR) on November 25 asked the FBI to investigate posts on an anti-Islam website that call on Christians to "kill every Muslim twice" and bomb mosques, mentioning one Northern Virginia mosque in particular (AP). The manager of the site, Bare Naked Islam, identified herself as a New York City resident called Bonni, and said "wishing for all mosques to be blown up is not a threat in my opinion."

Trials and Tribulations

  • Police in Palu, Indonesia arrested three suspected terrorists and seized several weapons on November 25 as part of an ongoing investigation (Jakarta Post).
  • The Helsinki District Court on November 22 ruled to keep a suspected terrorist of Somali descent in custody during the run-up to his trial (Local). The unnamed suspect is accused along with three others of financing terrorism and recruiting terrorists for Somali militant group al-Shabaab.
  • A senior Jordanian official said on November 27 that Jordan's King Abdullah II had pardoned 46 prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges, all of whom have served at least half of their sentences, in a "gesture of good will" (AP).

Spencer Platt/Getty Images