05/01/13: CNN reports Director of National Intelligence James Clapper believes an independent review of how the government handled its investigation of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the attack is a prudent step “to ensure that nothing was missed.” Clapper spokeswoman Shawn Turner said the DNI believes all of the agencies involved in collecting and sharing information “took all the appropriate steps,” but that the Intelligence Community inspector general, a watchdog that investigates risks, vulnerabilities, and deficiencies within sixteen intelligence-related agencies and departments across the government will lead a review. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with Boston police days after the April 15 bombings. His brother Dzhokhar, also a suspect, remains in custody and has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.
04/15/13: The Miami Herald reports a UN report released Monday said opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been increasing for a third year in a row and is heading for a record high. The boom in poppy cultivation is at its most pronounced in the Taliban’s heartland in the south, the report showed, especially in regions where troops of the US-led coalition have been withdrawn or are in the process of departing. Increased production has been driven by unusually high opium prices, but also indicates that Afghans are turning to illicit markets and crops as the real economy shrinks ahead of the expected withdrawal of foreign combat troops at the end of 2014. Afghanistan is by far the world’s largest producer of opium, last year producing 75 percent of the global crop.
03/29/13: The New York Times reports a former American soldier was charged Thursday with fighting alongside a terrorist group that is battling the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose ouster the United States has sought for nearly two years. The soldier, Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, who served in the United States Army from 2000 to 2003, is accused of entering Syria in January and participating in attacks on Assad forces led by the Al Nusra Front, which American officials say is part of Al Qaeda in Iraq, a designated terrorist group. Mr. Harroun, who posted reports about his time in Syria on Facebook and YouTube, was charged in Alexandria, Va., with “conspiring to use a destructive device outside the United States,” a crime that can carry a life sentence. He was arrested Wednesday after arriving at Dulles International Airport and made an initial appearance in Federal District Court on Thursday. According to an affidavit filed in the case, Mr. Harroun told an FBI agent, Paul Higginbotham, that he was part of an “RPGteam,” firing rocket-propelled grenades, which qualify as a “destructive device” under the law. The charge does not have any connection to terrorism, though more charges could be filed later.
03/18/13: The Miami Herald reports Mohammed Rashed, who pled guilty to an airplane bombing that killed a Japanese teenager in 1982, will be released from a US prison Wednesday due to his cooperation with other antiterrorism investigations. The release does more than spring loose a convicted terrorist. It also could deprive the government of a star witness in the event that Abu Ibrahim, a Palestinian master bomb-maker who authorities say orchestrated Rashed’s attack and similar strikes around the world, is ever captured. A former top lieutenant, Rashed could implicate Ibrahim as the architect of the attack and help establish his identity if prosecutors ever could bring him to the US to face justice. Once freed, Rashed may not continue cooperating, though the Justice Department says it has enough other evidence for a conviction.
03/17/13: Haaretz reports Bulgaria's new interim Prime Minister said Saturday he would not initiate any move to impose EU sanctions on the Islamist group Hezbollah, even though the country had implicated Hezbollah in a bombing at a Black Sea resort. Marin Raikov did not give a reason for his decision, but it will likely be seen as a concession to Bulgarian opposition groups, who have argued the country could open itself up to more attacks if it takes the lead in blacklisting Hezbollah. "Bulgaria will not initiate a procedure [for listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization]," Raikov told state media. "We will only present the objective facts and circumstances and let our European partners decide." Last month, then-Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said an investigation had linked Hezbollah to the Black Sea attack.
March 17, 2013 at 10:04 AM in Law Enforcement / Criminal Law, Terrorism / Counterterrorism, Politics, Diplomacy / Foreign Assistance, International Law / Law of War / Human Rights, Terrorist Finance / Material Support, Europe / Eurasia, Middle East / Northern Africa, Financial / Diplomatic Sanctions | Permalink
02/04/13: Reuters reports Israel arrested twenty-three Hamas members in the occupied West Bank on Monday, some of them lawmakers. Hamas said in a statement that lawmakers Ahmed Attoun, Hatem Qafisha, and Mohammed al-Talhad had been detained in the early hours of the morning, as well as several local leaders. An Israeli military spokeswoman would not confirm whether Hamas lawmakers had been arrested and did not provide any of the men’s names or say why they had been detained. “Twenty-five Palestinians were arrested, twenty-three of them belonged to Hamas,” she said. Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, won the last Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006. In 2007, after a unity government collapsed, it seized control of the Gaza Strip from Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.
02/04/13: Al Jazeera reports Yemeni officials confirmed on Saturday that a ship intercepted last month off its coast was an Iranian vessel trying to smuggle explosives and surface-to-air missiles into the country. Officials in Washington said the seizure of the ship on January 23 was coordinated with the US Navy, and that the intercepted shipment was believed to have been from Iran and destined for insurgents in northern Yemen. A US official said Sunday the ship demonstrates “ever-pernicious Iranian meddling in other countries in the region.” The Yemeni government believes that Iran is supporting the Houthis, a Shi‘a insurgent group based in northern Yemen. Tehran denies any interference in Yemen’s affairs.
01/30/13: CNN reports two Iraqi men living in Kentucky received long prison sentences this week after being convicted of a series of charges involving a plot to help al-Qaeda. Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan were arrested last August in Bowling Green, Kentucky in a terror-related sting operation. After arriving in the United States, the men were monitored by federal authorities and told an FBI undercover agent they wanted to provide weapons and explosives to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Hammadi pleaded guilty in August to twelve counts, including four counts of aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq. Alwan pleaded guilty to twenty-three counts in December, including plotting to kill Americans overseas. Alwan, 31, was sentenced to forty years in federal prison. Hammadi, 25, got a life sentence.
01/27/13: The New York Times today features this piece by Charlie Savage discussing Brigadier General Mark S. Martins, the chief prosecutor of the military commissions system who is leading the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantánamo Bay detainees accused of aiding the September 11 attacks. General Martins is currently involved in a dispute with the Justice Department as to whether to defend a past conviction by those tribunals on a charge of conspiracy after that charge was invalidated by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a separate case. The dispute involves the thorny question, which has vexed national security law going back to the decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in 2006, as to whether conspiracy to commit a war crime is a standalone offense under the laws of war. On the other hand, Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare argues the dispute between General Martins and DOJ has less to do with substantive questions about the laws of war and as more about tactical legal positions. Both pieces are worth a read.
January 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM in Judiciary / Cases, Executive Branch, Law Enforcement / Criminal Law, Military, Terrorism / Counterterrorism, International Law / Law of War / Human Rights, Constitutional Law, Detainees / Guantanamo, Terrorist Finance / Material Support, Commentary / Opinion, Analysis | Permalink
01/27/13: The Miami Herald reports the United Arab Emirates says ninety-four people face charges for allegedly trying to overthrow the state as part of widening crackdowns on Islamist groups with suspected links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Sunday’s statement by official news agency WAM did not name the UAE suspects, but authorities have been arresting perceived dissidents for months. The crackdowns have brought complaints from rights groups and raised tensions with Egypt, which is led by Muslim Brotherhood member President Mohammed Morsi. UAE Attorney General Salem Saeed Kubaish siad the suspects built a secret network to plot the coup and raised money through real estate and other deals. He also claimed the suspects had links to the Muslim Brotherhood and others for expertise and financial support.
01/23/13: The New York Times reports a senior Algerian official said Tuesday that several Egyptian members of the squad of militants that lay bloody siege to an Algerian gas complex last week also took part in the deadly attack on the United States Mission in Libya in September 2012. The Egyptians involved in both attacks were killed by Algerian forces during the four-day ordeal that ended in the deaths of at least thirty-eight hostages and twenty-nine kidnappers. But three of the militants were captured alive, and one of them described the Egyptians’ role in both assaults under interrogation by the Algerian security services, the official said. If confirmed, the link between two of the most brazen assaults in recent memory would reinforce the transborder character of the jihadist groups now striking across the Sahara.
12/05/12: The Miami Herald reports a New York man pled guilty Tuesday to rare state-level charges that he plotted to blow up city synagogues. Ahmed Ferhani, 27, was one of two men arrested in a May 2011 weapons-buying sting. Authorities called him a homegrown terrorist out to avenge abuse of Muslims around the world. He envisioned posing as a Jew so he could infiltrate a synagogue and leave a bomb inside, prosecutors had said in court documents. “By targeting a synagogue ... I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims,” Ferhani said Tuesday in a prepared statement. Ferhani is expected to receive a ten-year sentence and then will likely face deportation.
10/15/12: The New York Times reports most of the arms Saudi Arabia and Qatar are shipping to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are reportedly going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster. That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments of the Syrian conflict that has now claimed more than 25,000 lives, casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States.
10/10/12: Al Jazeera reports Abu Hamza al-Masri pled not guilty Tuesday to terrorism charges in federal court after Britain extradited him to the US last week to face trial and a potential life sentence. Judge Katherine Forrest in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York set a trial date of August 26, 2013, for the Egyptian-born Islamist cleric often simply called Abu Hamza. He is accused of participating in a 1998 hostage-taking in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of three Britons and an Australian; he is also charged with providing material support to al-Qaeda by trying to set up a training camp in Oregon and with attempting to organize support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Al-Masri could face up to life in prison if convicted.
10/07/12: Al Jazeera reports Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan, two Muslim clerics who were extradited to the US from Great Britain, have pleaded not guilty to federal charges of providing terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Chechnya with financial aid, arms and personnel. The two suspects appeared in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut hours after being extradited along with three other suspects on Saturday. If convicted, the two men face life sentences. Abu Hamza al-Masri, Khalid al-Fawaz and Adel Abdul Bary, the three others extradited, appeared at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Al-Masri was formally arraigned for the eleven charges levied against him, but is not expected to enter a response until Tuesday.
10/03/12: The LA Times reports a two-year Senate investigation has found that a federal domestic security effort to help state and local law enforcement catch terrorists by setting up more than seventy information-sharing centers around the country has threatened civil liberties while doing little to combat terrorism. The so-called fusion centers were created in 2003 after the September 11 Commission concluded that federal, state, and local law enforcement should collaborate more in counterterrorism efforts. Homeland Security Department officials have credited the centers for helping uncover terrorist plans, including a 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway. But the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, reviewing intelligence reports for thirteen months in 2009 and 2010, “could identify nothing that uncovered a terrorist threat [or] a contribution any fusion center made to disrupt an active terrorist plot.”
09/05/12: McClatchy reports the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Tuesday upheld the first-of-its-kind conviction of a former Afghan Taliban member on federal narco-terrorism charges. Khan Mohammed was the first Afghan Taliban member to be tried in an American courtroom, and the first individual convicted under a 2006 federal narco-terrorism law. Mohammed failed to persuade the DC Circuit that his drug dealing couldn’t be linked to a specific act of terrorism. “Mohammed need not have planned for his drug proceeds to fund terrorist ends,” Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the three-judge panel. “It is sufficient that the proceeds went to a terrorist – him.” Prosecutors presented considerable evidence that Mohammed viewed drug dealing as a way to hurt the United States.
09/01/12: The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is deeply divided over whether to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network as a terrorist group, with some officials worried that doing so could complicate efforts to restart peace talks with the Taliban and undermine already-fraught relations with Pakistan. In early August, Congress gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thirty days to determine whether the group meets the criteria for designation as a foreign organization engaging in terrorist activity that threatens US citizens or national security. If Clinton says it does not, she must explain her rationale in a report due September 9. Acknowledgment that the group meets the criteria, however, would probably force the administration to take action, which the military strongly favors but some in the White House and State Department have resisted.
08/25/12: JURIST reports the Russian Justice Ministry announced Thursday that it has filed a formal request with the US government for a copy of the verdict of reputed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who in April was sentenced by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to twenty-five years in prison. The request serves as an overture for a larger request that Washington extradite Bout to Russia to serve out his sentence. Bout, 45, was convicted in November on four counts of conspiracy relating to his proposed sale of anti-aircraft missiles to drug enforcement informants posing as potential buyers for the guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which the US has designated a foreign terrorist organization. The US can refuse the request since Bout’s appeal is still pending.
08/23/12: The blog War on Terrorism reports an Iraqi citizen pled guilty to federal terrorism charges Wednesday in the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 24, pleaded guilty to all charges in a twelve-count indictment. He was charged with five counts of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and four counts of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a designated foreign terrorist organization. He also faced one count of conspiracy to transfer, possess, and export Stinger missiles and with two counts of making false statements in immigration matters. He now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison under the sentencing guidelines and a mandatory minimum of twenty-five years.
08/22/12: The Washington Times reports federal authorities Monday seized $150 million in connection with a civil money laundering and forfeiture complaint charging that a massive, international scheme in which entities linked to Hezbollah, including the now-defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), used the US financial system to launder narcotics trafficking and other criminal proceeds through West Africa and back into Lebanon. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele M. Leonhart and US Attorney Preet Bharara in New York said that from January 2007 to early 2011, at least $329 million was transferred by wire from LCB and other financial institutions to the United States for the purchase of used cars that were then shipped to West Africa. Cash from the sale of the cars and proceeds from narcotics trafficking went to Lebanon through Hezbollah-controlled money laundering channels.
08/17/12: The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports a lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to hold the bank Standard Chartered liable for the 1983 bombing of a US marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 241 American servicemen. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by families of the victims of the attack, alleges that the recently revealed claims that Standard Chartered helped Iran hide 60,000 financial transactions from US regulators also kept assets hidden from the victims. The plaintiff group was awarded $2.66 billion in damages from Iran by a federal court in Washington DC that found Iran liable in the bombing. The new suit alleges that Standard Chartered’s actions hid assets the plaintiffs could have seized to satisfy the 2007 ruling.
08/12/12: BBC News reports Mexico has extradited to the United States a woman accused of setting up some of the first drug smuggling routes up the Pacific coast into California. Sandra Avila Beltran, dubbed Queen of the Pacific, has been handed over to the American authorities to face cocaine trafficking charges. Mexican prosecutors accuse her of having played a major part in the build-up of the Sinaloa Cartel in the 1990’s. Beltran, who has been in prison since 2007, denies any wrongdoing, but prosecutors she worked alongside Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, to build up one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations. She is the niece of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known in the 1980’s as the “Godfather” of drug trafficking into the US.
07/20/12: The Washington Post reports Congress wants the State Department to list the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terrorist organization or explain why it refuses to do so. The House gave unanimous approval late Tuesday to a bill forcing the Obama Administration to take a position, an action that follows Senate passage of the measure in December. The bill now goes to President Obama, who has not announced his position on the matter. The State Department has been studying since last year whether to add the Haqqani network to a list of foreign terrorist organizations, but has yet to render a decision. The State Department said last week that the administration already has designated a number of the group’s leaders as terrorists and imposed sanctions on them.
07/16/12: The War on Terrorism blog reports an Uzbek national was sentenced Sunday to fifteen years and eight months in prison for providing material support to terrorism, threatening to kill President Obama, and illegally possessing a weapon. Ulugbek Kodirov, who has lived in the United States since 2009, pled guilty in February to the charges in the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Kodirov entered the United States on a student visa in June 2009. His visa was revoked on April 1, 2010, for failing to enroll in school. Thereafter, he was unlawfully present within the United States. He was living in an extended-stay motel in Pelham at the time of his arrest.
07/07/12: The New York Times reports the Obama Administration on Friday stepped up pressure on a dissident Iranian group to complete a move from its longtime base in Iraq. The State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, suggested that the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, known as the MEK, could remain on the department’s list of terrorist organizations if it does not completely vacate Camp Ashraf, its location since 1986. Under a court ruling, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must decide by October whether to drop or renew the terrorist designation for the group. The Iraqi government has set July 20 as a deadline to close Camp Ashraf, which was given to the MEK by Saddam Hussein. Iraq is now deeply hostile to the group.
07/05/12: The Blog of Legal Times reports a federal judge in Washington has awarded $813 million to victims of the 1983 terrorist bombing at the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the latest in a string of large money judgments awarded against Iran for its role in the attack. US District Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth noted in his opinion that courts have issued more than $8.8 billion in judgments against Iran to date for its role in the bombing. “Iran is racking up quite a bill from its sponsorship of terrorism,” Judge Lamberth wrote. In this latest case, the court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in 2009 and appointed a special master to sort through the damages claims. Lamberth approved $183 million in compensatory damages and $630 million in punitive damages.
06/30/12: The Washington Post reports the Obama Administration imposed sanctions on a pair of informal money-exchange networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday in what officials described as the first use of the tactic to attack the financial underpinnings of Taliban militants who rely on the system to fund their insurgency. The sanctions announced by the Treasury Department were coordinated with similar measures adopted by the United Nations as part of a broad effort to slow the flow of cash used by the Taliban to pay salaries and purchase weapons for attacks in Afghanistan. These informal cash networks, commonly known as hawalas, have long been used by Taliban commanders and other militants to move funds back and forth across the Afghan-Pakistani border.
06/30/12: The New York Times reports a man being held in Britain has been indicted in Manhattan on charges that he helped to develop online propaganda for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. He is expected to be sent soon to New York. The indictment alleges that Minh Quang Pham, 29, traveled to Yemen and took an oath of allegiance to the affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), received training from the group and provided it with expert advice and assistance in photography and graphic design.
06/22/12: BBC News reports an Indonesian court has convicted a militant of making explosives used in the deadly 2002 Bali bombings and sentenced him to twenty years in jail. Umar Patek was found guilty of murder and bomb-making in connection with the Bali attacks, which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreigners. He admitted helping mix chemicals, but said he was not involved beyond that. Prosecutors did not ask for the death penalty after Patek apologized to victims and their families. Patek was found guilty of all six charges, some terrorism-related, that he was facing. He is the last key player to be tried in Indonesia in relation to the Bali attacks.
06/21/12: The Long War Journal reports the US State Department has added three leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram group in Nigeria to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT’s). Today’s designations mark the first time that members of the Nigerian terror group have been officially recognized as a threat to the United States, although the group itself has not been added to State’s list of terrorist organizations. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, was added to the SDGT list along with Khalid al Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kamba, both of whom “have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to the State Department press release.