The LWOT

The LWOT: Chicago cab driver pleads guilty to material support charge

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Chicago cab driver pleads guilty to material support charges

A Pakistani-American Chicago cab driver, Raja Lahrasib Khan, pleaded guilty on February 6 to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism for attempting to send money to Pakistan-based terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, who Khan believed was taking orders from Osama bin Laden (APBloombergReuters). Khan was arrested in March 2010 after his son was detained at an airport in London with $700 that an undercover FBI agent had given Khan for delivery to Kashmiri. And a 27-year-old Somali-American, Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, pleaded guilty on February 6 to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism for raising money in his community to help send men to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, on the pretense that the money would go to a local mosque or help orphans (ReutersAP). Mahamud, who was indicted in June 2011, is the seventh man to plead guilty out of a total of 18 Somali-Americans charged in Minnesota's ongoing investigation into recruitment for the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group.

An Uzbek refugee arrested on January 21 accused of providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorism for planning to travel to fight on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Jamshid Muhtorov, pleaded innocent in a court appearance on February 9, and complained that he had been held in solitary confinement and prevented from speaking to his wife or hiring an attorney (AP). And jury selection began on February 7 in the trial of seven members of a militia called the Hutaree, which opposes government regulation of firearms and explosives, accused of plotting to kill police officers in an attempt to start a wider war against the U.S. government (ReutersAP). The men were arrested in March 2010, and face charges of conspiracy to rebel against the government, as well as weapons charges.

A U.S. District judge ruled on February 8 that lawyers for Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who is accused of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, may neither see nor repress secret government documents that suggest Hammadi is "an agent of a foreign power," evidence that clearly refutes Hammadi's defense that the government has failed to demonstrate probably cause in Hammadi's connections to international terrorism (AP).

The FBI said on February 6 that it is seeing an increased risk of terrorism from the "sovereign citizen" movement, adherents to which reject all forms of government authority, often refusing to pay taxes, use U.S. currency, or even have state-made license plates on their cars (AFP). Though the movement has not historically engaged in regular acts of violence, the number of convictions in sovereign citizen cases has been on the rise in recent years, and authorities are keen to prevent a repeat of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Meanwhile, a report released by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security called jihadist terrorism "a miniscule threat to public safety" and says that cases of violent extremism involving radical Islamists in the U.S. are decreasing (NYT).

Gitmo arraignments could take place this spring

The Pentagon's top legal official, Bruce MacDonald on February 3 rejected a deadline extension requested by lawyers for five Guantánamo Bay detainees, meaning that the alleged terrorists -- including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- could be arraigned in the next few months (AP). James Connell, the lawyer for an alleged accomplice to the 9/11 attacks known as Ammar al-Baluchi, filed suit against Guantánamo commander Rear Adm. David Woods, for Woods' directive to prison staff to examine mail sent from attorneys to their clients (AP). Connell argues that the reading of privileged attorney-client mail is equivalent to illegal "intelligence monitoring" of American citizens.

An Italian appeals court on February 6 overturned the conviction of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Mohamed Ben Riadh Nasri, a Tunisian man who was sent to Italy in 2010 and had been convicted of terrorism by a lower court (AP). And the Times' Charlie Savage on February 8 examined the weak evidence supporting the continued detention of Obaydullah, one of 18 Afghans remaining at Guantánamo (NYT). A report released by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee found that around 27% of former Gitmo detainees have been "confirmed or suspected to be presently or previously engaged in terrorist activities," and that it remains very difficult for the United States to ensure that released detainees do not return to militancy (ReutersNYT).

Nine jailed in UK terror plot

Nine British Muslim men were sentenced on February 9 to between five and 17 years in prison for their various roles in plotting to detonate a bomb in the restrooms of the London Stock Exchange, and to set up a terrorist training camp in Kashmir (APTel,BBCReutersAFP). Britain's Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) on February 6 ruled that an extremist Muslim cleric who has been held without charge for six and a half years, Abu Qatada, should be released on bail, despite the government's belief that he still poses a terrorist threat (AP).

Umar Patek, the Indonesian suspected of constructing the bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, will go on trial in Jakarta on February 13, and could face death by firing squad if he is convicted (AP). Patek was arrested in Abbottabad, Pakistan in January 2011 and was extradited to Indonesia in August.

Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed perpetrator of massacring 77 people in the Norwegian capital of Oslo last year, told a court on February 6 that he thinks he deserves a medal of honor for his efforts to prevent "an Islamic colonization of Norway" (APCNN). Breivik was remanded back into custody after his last pre-trial detention hearing.

Manning to face court martial

The U.S. Army Military District of Washington announced on February 3 that Pfc. Bradley Manning will face a full court martial for allegedly leaking thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the transparency watchdog website WikiLeaks (Reuters). Manning's charge of aiding the enemy could bring him the death penalty, but prosecutors have said they intend to ask for a life sentence instead.

Civil rights organizations from across the United States on February 3 sent a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requesting an investigation into the New York City Police Department's recommendation of increasing surveillance operations around Shi'a Muslim mosques based solely on the congregants' religions (AP). In Canada, human rights groups and opposition politicians responded with outrage to a document obtained by Canadian media revealing that the government ordered Canada's spy agency not to discard information acquired through torture, on the grounds that it could be used if Canadian lives are in danger (AFP).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a statement posted to jihadist websites on February 9 that Somali militant group al-Shabaab has officially joined the al-Qaeda network (ReutersBBCAPCNNLATAJE).
  • Ethiopian Prime Minister  Meles Zenawi said on February 8 that his government may pardon some of the 150 politicians and journalists that have been detained under the country's anti-terrorism law since 2009, but denied that authorities were using the law to stifle dissent (Reuters).
  • Carol Rosenberg reported on February 8 on the Navy's efforts to "go green" at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, by using solar powered lights and having Navy police ride bicycles instead of using cars (Miami Herald).

The LWOT

The LWOT: Four plead guilty to London Stock Exchange plot

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on foreignpolicy.com or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

Editor's note: Starting today, the LWOT will be published only once per week -- look for it in your inbox every Friday. Thanks for reading!

Four plead guilty to London Stock Exchange plot

Four British jihadists pleaded guilty on February 1 to an al-Qaeda-inspired conspiracy to detonate a bomb in the restrooms of the London Stock Exchange, while another nine men involved in the plot pleaded guilty to lesser charges (NYTWSJBBCLATAPAFP,Tel). The plots were exposed by undercover anti-terror police before they became operational, though the men were found in possession of an article entitled "How to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" from the English-language magazine Inspirepublished by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Telegraph has an interesting profile of the roles played by each of the four main terrorists, Mohammed Chowdhury, Shah Rahman, Abdul Miah and Gurukanth Desai (Tel).

And on February 2, two German Muslim converts, Christian Emde and Robert Baum, pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle into the United Kingdom a large amount of extremist material stored on a hard drive and laptop computer, including the same article found with the aforementioned terrorists, "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" (TelBBCReuters). The men were arrested in July in the English port town of Dover; they will be sentenced on February 6.

German prosecutors said on February 1 that authorities had arrested a man identified only as Carsten S, who is believed to be an accomplice of a neo-Nazi cell revealed in November, the Nationalist Socialist Underground, linked to the murders over the past ten years of nine immigrants and a police officer (Deutsche WelleAP). Germany's intelligence service received criticism for failing to uncover the dangerous, right-wing group sooner, and is now coming under fire for allegedly spying on the nation's leftist politicians (LAT).

Two convicted of al-Qaeda plot in Norway

Two men, Mikael Davud and Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, were found guilty and sentenced to seven and 3.5 years in prison respectively by the Oslo District Court on January 30 for plotting to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, which in 2005 printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad deemed to be offensive by many Muslims (AP). A third defendant, David Jakobsen, helped police during the investigation and was cleared of terrorism charges, but found convicted on one explosives charge.

A court in Istanbul, Turkey on February 2 charged the former head of Turkey's armed forces, General Ilker Basbug, with leading a terrorist group and plotting a coup to overthrow the government for his alleged involvement with a clandestine ultra-nationalist group supposedly linked to Turkish security forces (NYT).

The Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) announced on February 1 that Romanian police had arrested 20-year-old Razvan Manole Cernaianu for allegedly hacking into the websites of NASA and the Department of Defense among other U.S. government agencies, and posting secret material from the sites on his blog (MSNBC). 

Accused terrorist mastermind Henry Okah, who is charged with planning two bombings that killed 12 people during independence day celebrations in Abuja, Nigeria in October 2010, will face a South African court in October of this year, after a judge on January 30 delayed his case by nine months (AFPAP). Okah is believed by investigators to have planned the attacks from his home in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Former Gitmo detainee reimprisoned

Algerian authorities on January 16 convicted former Guantánamo Bay detainee Abdel Aziz Naji of "belonging to a terrorist group abroad" for allegedly working with Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and sentenced him to three years in prison (AP). A British legal charity, Reprieve, on January 31 denounced the Naji's conviction and said he'd been involved in humanitarian work in Kashmir, not terrorism.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials confirmed on January 31 that the United States is considering the transfer of five Afghan Taliban prisoners being held at Guantánamo to Afghan custody in an effort to bring the Taliban into peace negotiations (AP).

CIA officer to leave NYPD

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced on January 27 that a CIA officer who has been working as a special assistant to the NYPD's intelligence chief will leave the department in April (AP). Just a few months ago, the NYPD wrapped up an investigation into the relationship between the CIA and the NYPD, initiated after the Associated Press revealed that the two entities were working together to spy on Muslim communities in NYC.

Another exclusive report by the AP on February 2 revealed that the NYPD wanted to focus on Shi'a Muslim communities and the mosques their members frequent in order to uncover Iranian terrorists living in the Northeastern United States (AP). A secret NYPD intelligence report created in 2006 entitled "US-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City" obtained by the AP also recommends increased surveillance of the city's Palestinian population "due to presence of Hamas members and sympathizers and the group's relationship with the Iranian government."

The American Civil Liberties Union on February 1 filed suit against the Justice Department, Defense Department and the CIA for their failure to comply with a request filed in October by the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Post). The request was for the release of the Obama administration's legal and intelligence documents concerning the three American citizens killed in drone strikes in Yemen last year.

Trials and Tribulations

  • Israeli troops on January 31 detained a Palestinian man released in last October's prisoner swap in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, "on suspicion of activity that endangers the security of the area" (AFP).
  • A U.S.-backed airstrike in the Philippines on February 2 reportedly killed three of Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorists, including Jemaah Islamiyah leaders Zulkifli bin Hir (aka Marwan) and Abdullah Ali (aka Muawiyah), and Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail (AP).
  • Jordan's military prosecutor on Friday charged ex-parliamentarian Ahmed Oweidi Abbadi with inciting the public against King Abdullah II of Jordan (AP).