Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

U.S. Senate Report: Missed Opportunity to Get bin Laden in December 2001

In 9/11 News, Pakistan and Afghanistan on November 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm

According to a Senate report, bin Laden narrowly escaped in December 2001.  The implications are that a massive troop deployment in Afghanistan at that time would have yielded a bin Laden capture:

WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says. The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden’s escape laid the foundation for today’s reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.

Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Kerry, as President Barack Obama prepares to boost U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate has long argued the Bush administration missed a chance to get the al-Qaida leader and top deputies when they were holed up in the forbidding mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan only three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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The Black Jail: Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, Secret Prisons on November 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Revelations about the ongoing secret detention center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan:

KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his stated desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

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Americans Who Joined Somali Terrorist Group

In al Qaeda, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on November 24, 2009 at 10:27 am

Charges against Americans accused of joining a terrorist group in Somalia:

Federal officials on Monday unsealed terrorism-related charges against men they say were key actors in a recruitment effort that led roughly 20 young Americans to join a violent insurgent group in Somalia with ties to Al Qaeda.

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Op-Ed: 9/11 Trial Should Be Military Tribunal

In 9/11 News on November 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

Allan Gerson, who represents 9/11 families, wants 9/11 trial to be military tribunal, saying that 9/11 was an act of war:

The Obama administration’s remarkable decision to hold the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other masterminds of 9/11 in a civil court in New York, rather than use the conventional military tribunal structure, rests on one fundamental pillar: It is the moral thing to do. It will demonstrate to friends and foes alike that unlike the Bush administration, the Obama White House is truly committed to the rule of law.

Across the globe, or so the scenario goes, viewers will be riveted to TV screens as they witness American justice: the application of the full panoply of procedural rights of due process accorded to the ordinary criminal now applied, for the first time, to the evildoers of 9/11.

In fact, a trial in New York is likely to have exactly the opposite effect, demonstrating that the decision to bypass the military tribunal apparatus lacks any moral force. Moral force, as articulated in prevailing international law nearly since its inception, requires that we distinguish acts in times of war from those in times of peace. In times of war, the balance shifts. Individual civil liberties can be curtailed in order to fend off imminent harm. Military tribunals have traditionally been set up for this purpose, distinguishing the ordinary criminal who acts outside the law from the soldier who abides by a code of conduct at odds with our own core beliefs.

In moving the proceedings away from a military tribunal to a federal court we destroy this fundamental moral distinction between belligerents and nonbelligerents. The families of the victims of 9/11 rightfully believe that their loved-ones died as a result of wartime acts. They rightfully believe that radical Islam had declared a global jihad against the United States. They rightfully believe that the key defendant, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was a key soldier in that war, and that he was no ordinary murderer, but a war criminal.

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9/11 Trial Suspects Will Plead Not Guilty, Yet Will Confess to Plotting the Attacks

In 9/11 News on November 23, 2009 at 10:24 am

Defendents of 9/11 trial want it to be a communications platform for al Qaeda:

The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday.Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but “would explain what happened and why they did it.”

The U.S. Justice Department announced earlier this month that Ali and four other men accused of murdering nearly 3,000 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. will face a civilian federal trial just blocks from the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.

Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, is a nephew of professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Mohammed, Ali and the others will explain “their assessment of American foreign policy,” Fenstermaker said.

“Their assessment is negative,” he said.

Fenstermaker met with Ali last week at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He has not spoken with the others but said the men have discussed the trial among themselves.

Fenstermaker was first quoted in The New York Times in Sunday’s editions.

Critics of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the men in a New York City civilian courthouse have warned that the trial would provide the defendants with a propaganda platform.

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said Sunday that while the men may attempt to use the trial to express their views, “we have full confidence in the ability of the courts and in particular the federal judge who may preside over the trial to ensure that the proceeding is conducted appropriately and with minimal disruption, as federal courts have done in the past.”

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Holder for hours about his decision to send the five 9/11 suspects to New York for trial.

Critics of Holder’s decision — mostly Republicans — argued the trial will give Mohammed and his co-defendants a world stage to spout hateful rhetoric. Holder said such concerns are misplaced, and any pronouncements by the suspects would only make them look worse.

“I have every confidence that the nation and the world will see him for the coward that he is,” Holder told the committee. “I’m not scared of what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has to say at trial — and no one else needs to be, either.”

The attorney general said he does not believe holding the trial in New York — at a federal courthouse that has seen a number of high-profile terrorism trials in recent decades — will increase the risk of terror attacks there.

The Possible Future of 9/11 Trial in New York

In 9/11 News, al Qaeda, Guantanamo Bay on November 23, 2009 at 10:05 am

Ghailani is a suspect in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and his day in a New York court is coming.  Ghailani’s New York trial may be the model for the KSM trial:

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, suspected of being a Qaeda terrorist, was captured in Pakistan in 2004, held in secret prisons run by the C.I.A. and then moved to the naval base at Guantánamo Bay. During about five years of detention, he says, he was confined in harsh conditions, abused during interrogation and denied a lawyer.  Since the spring, Mr. Ghailani has also been a defendant in federal court in Manhattan, the first Guantánamo detainee to be moved to the civilian courts.

From the moment the Obama administration announced that it would seek to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the professed planner of 9/11, and other Guantánamo detainees in the same federal court, the wisdom of the decision has been debated. Critics of the move have worried that government secrets will leak, that evidence won through harsh tactics could lead to dismissals, or that a trial would be used as a platform to spew hate.

There is much that distinguishes a potential trial of Mr. Mohammed from that of Mr. Ghailani. Mr. Mohammed is a much higher-profile defendant, he could face the death penalty, and he has said he wants to represent himself. But the prosecution of Mr. Ghailani, a Tanzanian accused of aiding the bombing of American Embassies in Africa in 1998, could hold important meaning for prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.

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Holder: Failure in 9/11 Trial “Not an Option”

In 9/11 News on November 21, 2009 at 10:30 am

According to an NPR report, Att. Gen. Holder says that failure in obtaining a guilty conviction in the KSM trial is “not an option.”  Listen to the story here.

SHAPIRO: Fine, said Democratic Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, but what if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stands trial and the jury acquits him.

Senator HERB KOHL (Democratic, Wisconsin): What would be your next step, I’m sure you must have talked about it?

SHAPIRO: Holder was unequivocal.

Att. Gen. HOLDER: Failure is not an option. Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won. I don’t expect that we will have a contrary result.

SHAPIRO: Kohl called that an interesting point of view and the audience in the hearing room chuckled. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa asked Holder, given how unpredictable juries are, how can you say failure to convict is not an option?

Senator CHUCK GRASSLEY (Republican, Iowa): It just seemed to me ludicrous, you know, I’m a farmer, not a lawyer but I just want to make that observation.

Obama: Gitmo Won’t Close in January 2010

In Guantanamo Bay on November 21, 2009 at 10:26 am

Obama admits Guantanamo Bay will not close in January 2010:

BEIJING — President Barack Obama says he won’t set a new deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but does expect the facility to shut down sometime next year.

The administration no longer feels it can meet the January 2010 deadline Obama set for closure soon after taking office. Obama says he isn’t disappointed about missing the deadline, but has realized that things move slower in Washington than he expected.

Obama says the timeline for closing Guantanamo will depend on cooperation from Congress. About 220 detainees remain at the prison, and the administration must decide how to prosecute some in U.S. courts and turn others over to other countries.

Obama spoke in an interview with Fox News Channel.

The Case for a 9/11 Trial

In 9/11 News on November 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm

NYTimes Op-Ed contributor on why a 9/11 trial in NYC is a good thing:

THE Justice Department’s decision to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, in a federal court in New York City has elicited several criticisms. Most are pointless, but one — the idea that it will give a terrorist a platform from which he could stir up support in the Muslim world for his radical views — is well taken.

First, let’s dispose of the straw men. John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, accused the Obama administration of “treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue” — as though “law enforcement” is an epithet. In truth, the White House’s counterterrorism team is composed largely of the same professionals who battled terrorists under President George W. Bush. They are generally in sync with the White House’s insistence on a strategy that uses law enforcement where appropriate and military force in places, like Afghanistan, where conspirators can’t be arrested by federal agents driving Fords.

Others complain that Mr. Mohammed might take advantage of quirks of the criminal justice system and go free. That’s highly unlikely. First, he has already confessed to the crime; and, given the zero acquittal rate for terrorists in New York previously, any anxiety about a “not guilty” verdict seems unwarranted.

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Obama Administration: KSM to Be Tried in Civilian Court in New York City

In 9/11 News, al Qaeda, Guantanamo Bay on November 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm

KSM to face civilian court:

WASHINGTON – Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be sent to New York to face trial in a civilian federal court, an Obama administration official said Friday.

The official said Attorney General Eric Holder plans to announce the decision later in the morning. The official is not authorized to discuss the decision before the announcement, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Without confirming details of the decision, President Barack Obama said it was a legal and national security matter. “I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subjected to the most exacting demands of justice,” Obama said at a joint news conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

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