Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

FBI and Homeland Security Concerned about Americans Becoming Terrorists

In Civil Liberties, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on July 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

After two arrests of alleged terrorists within the U.S., FBI and Homeland Security worried about “American bred terrorists:”

Antiterrorism officials are increasingly concerned about American-bred extremists who travel abroad for terror training and then return home, sometimes quietly recruiting followers over the years. Federal authorities have issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies around the country on the heels of the arrest Monday in North Carolina of a man whose devotion to the cause of violent jihad allegedly began 20 years ago.The internal bulletin — reviewed by The Associated Press — says the FBI and the Homeland Security Department are very worried about the danger posed by little-noticed Americans traveling abroad to learn terrorism techniques, then coming back to the United States, where they may be dormant for long periods of time while they look for followers to recruit for future attacks.

On Monday, the FBI arrested Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, charging he was the ringleader of a group of aspiring international terrorists.  The charges “underscore our ongoing concerns about individuals returning to the United States after training or fighting on behalf of extremists overseas,” said Justice Department spokesman Richard Kolko.

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Michael Hayden, Former CIA and NSA Director, Defends Bush Surveillance Program

In Civil Liberties, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on July 28, 2009 at 8:14 am

In an Op-Ed in the New York Times:

THE recent report of inspectors general on the President’s Surveillance Program operated by the National Security Agency has led some to make hasty and deeply flawed judgments about the value and legality of what was a critical part of protecting America from further attack after Sept. 11.  The program was crucial in addressing one of the most stinging criticisms of the 9/11 commission — the need to reduce the gap between foreign intelligence and domestic security. This was an especially difficult task, which helps explain both the program’s importance and its sensitivity. The program was lawful, effective and necessary.

The reflexive judgments to the contrary seem hasty at best. Although the inspectors general report notes that the compartmented nature of the program hurt its utility (it should be noted that restricting access to especially sensitive data is hardly a unique phenomenon in an intelligence community that forever has to balance using information and protecting it), it also notes that users of the information rated the program “of value,” “useful” and a “key resource,” albeit one that was most often used in combination with other intelligence sources.

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9/11 Commission “Reconvenes” as National Security Preparedness Group

In 9/11 News on July 25, 2009 at 9:40 pm

In a “getting-the-band-back-together” moment, former members of the 9/11 commission and the former head of Dept. Homeland Security form a new, supergroup called the National Security Preparedness Group:

Key members of the original 9/11 Commission are banding together to rekindle the sense of urgency felt after the 2001 attacks and pressure the government to act on the commission’s unfinished business.

The new group, headed by 9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, said Congress has adopted about 80 percent of the recommendations, made five years ago in the commission’s landmark report, but has left troublesome security gaps.

“I’m worried that 20 percent [of the recommendations] haven’t been addressed,” Kean said. “I’m also worried that among the 80 percent, things aren’t fully done.”

Among what they described as unfinished business failings were:

• Failure to enforce national standards for state driver’s licenses and other IDs, which the 9/11 Commission said are as important to terrorists as weapons.

• Lack of a system to determine if visitors to the United States leave the country.

• Lack of the ability of police, firefighters and others to communicate.

• No reform of a system that places oversight of the Department of Homeland Security in the hands of more than 80 congressional committees and subcommittes, sapping the department’s time and energies.

Their job is to pressure the government to adopt all of the reforms suggested by the original 9/11 commission.  DHS says they have made progress:

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and members of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) National Security Preparedness Group (NSPG) met today to discuss the Department’s progress in implementing the recommendations outlined in the 9/11 Commission Final Report released five years ago this week.

“The 9/11 Commission provided DHS a roadmap to create a safer and more secure America, and the Department is answering that challenge,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Today’s meeting marked the next step in continuing this critical dialogue and expanding our capabilities to protect our country.”  To view the Department’s full 9/11 Commission progress report, visit Progress in Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations.

What is the Bipartisan Policy Center?

The BPC acts as an incubator for policy efforts that engage top political figures, advocates, academics and business leaders in the art of principled compromise. In addition to advancing specific proposals, the BPC also is broadcasting a different type of policy discourse that seeks to unite the constructive center in the pursuit of common goals.


President Bush Considered Using Military to Arrest Alleged Al Qaeda Cell in Buffalo, NY

In 9/11 News, Official History, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on July 25, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Bush and Cheney considered using the military to arrest the Lackawanna 6:

Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.  Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants. Mr. Bush ultimately decided against the proposal to use military force.

A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests has few precedents in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.  In the discussions, Mr. Cheney and others cited an Oct. 23, 2001, memorandum from the Justice Department that, using a broad interpretation of presidential authority, argued that the domestic use of the military against Al Qaeda would be legal because it served a national security, rather than a law enforcement, purpose.  “The president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States,” the memorandum said.  The memorandum — written by the lawyers John C. Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty — was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked the department about a president’s authority to use the military to combat terrorist activities in the United States.

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Amnesty International: Saudi Arabia’s Post-9/11 Crackdown Abusive

In Saudi Arabia on July 22, 2009 at 9:27 am

Amnest International says that Saudi Arabia engaged in abuses of human rights after 9/11:

Saudi Arabia is holding more than 3,000 people in secret detention and has used torture to extract confessions in its anti-terrorism crackdown since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday. The report criticized the international community for turning a blind eye to the kingdom’s methods in its crackdown. Saudi Arabia has carried out a heavy wave of arrests against al-Qaida members in past years after the militant group carried out a string of attacks against expatriate residential compounds, oil facilities and government buildings. “These unjust anti-terrorism measures have made an already dire human rights situation worse,” said Malcolm Smart, head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, in a press release.Asked about the report, a Saudi Interior Ministry official, Abdulrahman Alhadlaq, said, “These are claims that have to be proven… Our policies on human rights are very clear and the orders given are for prisoners to be treated with respect and according to international human rights principles… If anything happened, it would be an individual case and if it is brought to anybody’s attention it will be dealt with.”

The report came two weeks after the Saudi government said it had convicted 330 al-Qaida militants in the kingdom’s first known terrorism trials for suspected members of the terror network.

You can read the report here.

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Still Hunting for the 9/11 “Ringleaders,” Sec. of State Hillary Clinton Says They Are in Pakistan Border

In 9/11 News on July 21, 2009 at 10:10 am

Eight years on, repeating old news, and while on a trip to India, Clinton says the “ringleaders” of 9/11 are in Pakistan border with Afghanistan:

NEW DELHI – U.S. officials “firmly believe” that al-Qaida leaders who planned and carried out the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are hiding in Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday. At a news conference concluding three days of meetings, Clinton said Washington has told the Pakistani government what it believes about the location of al-Qaida leaders on its soil.

“With respect to the location of those who were part of the planning and execution of the attack of 9/11 against our country, we firmly believe that a significant number of them are in the border area of Pakistan,” she said when asked about the U.S. view. “We are actively looking for additional information that would lead us to them,” she added.

The Pakistani government denies that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenants are hiding on its territory.  Bin Laden is believed to have fled into Pakistan from Afghanistan weeks after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.

Bomb Blast in Jakarta’s Marriot and Ritz-Carlton Hotels

In Other Terrorist Events on July 17, 2009 at 9:46 am

Al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiya suspected in terrorist attack:

Suspected suicide bombers set off explosions that ripped through two luxury hotels in Jakarta Friday, killing nine and wounding at least 50 more, ending a four-year lull in terror attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. At least 18 foreigners were among the dead and wounded. The blasts at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, located side-by-side in an upscale business district in the capital, blew out windows and scattered debris and glass across the street, kicking up a thick plume of smoke.  The Marriott was hit first, followed by the blast at the Ritz two minutes later. The attacks came just two weeks after presidential vote expected to re-elect Yudhoyono who has been credited with stabilizing a nation previously wracked by militancy.

“This destroys our conducive situation,” Sucipto said, referring to the nearly four years since a major terrorist attack in Indonesia — a triple suicide bombing at restaurants at the resort island of Bali that killed 20 people.  The security minister and police said a New Zealander was among those killed, and that 17 other foreigners were among the wounded, including nationals from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea the U.S. and Britain.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said the likely perpetrators were from the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah. “The only group with the intention and capability to mount attacks upon Western targets in Jemaah Islamiyah. I have no doubt Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for this attack,” he said.


Secret CIA Program Involved Assassination of al Qaeda Leaders

In 9/11 News, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on July 14, 2009 at 8:58 am

Previously, amidst the furor over the concealed CIA program and Cheney’s role in  hiding it from Congress, it was not publicly announced what the program was.  Now, it is revealed as an assassination plot against al Qaeda leaders:

Since 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency has developed plans to dispatch small teams overseas to kill senior Qaeda terrorists, according to current and former government officials.   The plans remained vague and were never carried out, the officials said, and Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, canceled the program last month.

Officials at the spy agency over the years ran into myriad logistical, legal and diplomatic obstacles. How could the role of the United States be masked? Should allies be informed and might they block the access of the C.I.A. teams to their targets? What if American officers or their foreign surrogates were caught in the midst of an operation? Would such activities violate international law or American restrictions on assassinations overseas?

Yet year after year, according to officials briefed on the program, the plans were never completely shelved because the Bush administration sought an alternative to killing terror suspects with missiles fired from drone aircraft or seizing them overseas and imprisoning them in secret C.I.A. jails.

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After CIA Director Panetta Reveals Cheney Role in Concealment of CIA Program, Dems Call for Inquiry

In Civil Liberties, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on July 13, 2009 at 9:19 am

CIA Director Panetta revealed Cheney’s role in concealing CIA program from Congress:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.  The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy. Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the C.I.A. interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities. They have said the program was started by the counterterrorism center at the C.I.A. shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year. In the tense months after Sept. 11, when Bush administration officials believed new Qaeda attacks could occur at any moment, intelligence officials brainstormed about radical countermeasures. It was in that atmosphere that the unidentified program was devised and deliberately concealed from Congress, officials said. Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said last week that he believed Congress would have approved of the program only in the angry and panicky days after 9/11, on 9/12, he said, but not later, after fears and tempers had begun to cool.

Meanwhile, Dems in congress are calling for probe, broadly defined:

President Barack Obama has been reluctant to probe Bush-era torture and anti-terrorism policies, but his Democratic allies aren’t likely to let the matters rest.  “I’ve always preferred my idea of a commission of inquiry to look at all these issues,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Sunday. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., head of the intelligence committee, suggested that the George W. Bush administration broke the law by concealing a CIA counterterrorism program from Congress. The assertion that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the concealment came amid word that Attorney General Eric Holder is contemplating opening a criminal probe of possible CIA torture.

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Al Qaeda in North Africa Growing in Strength

In al Qaeda on July 10, 2009 at 9:33 am

Experts suspect that the al Qaeda branch in North Africa are former fighters from the Iraq war (but are not Iraqis):

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa has carried out a string of killings, bombings and other lethal attacks against Westerners and African security forces in recent weeks that have raised fears that the terrorist group may be taking a deadlier turn.  American and European security and counterterrorism officials say the attacks may signal the return of foreign fighters from the Iraq war, where they honed their bomb-making skills.

In just the past six weeks, the group has claimed responsibility for killing a British hostage in Mali and an American aid worker in Mauritania, murdering a senior Malian Army officer in his home and ambushing a convoy of nearly two dozen Algerian paramilitary forces.

Assessing the militant threat in North Africa is complicated. Some security and counterterrorism officials say the affiliate, based in Algeria, is more a criminal gang — ransoming kidnapped Westerners to finance its operations — than a group of ideologically committed terrorists.  Other counterterrorism officials point to the attacks as evidence of the group’s intent to expand its longtime insurgency in Algeria to other North African countries and possibly Europe, where the group has financial and logistical supporters.

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