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President Obama really wants Law Professor David Barron on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The problem is getting him confirmed, since he authored two of the Office of Legal Counsel memos authorizing targeted killings of American citizens. The memos are classified, and the NY Times and ACLU both filed FOIA lawsuits to obtain them. Last month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that redacted versions be publicly disclosed (opinion here).
As a Justice Department lawyer, Mr. Barron wrote two memos concluding that it would be lawful to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen living in Yemen, based on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that he was a senior operational terrorist plotting attacks against the United States and that his capture was not feasible. The lawsuit focused on the second and longer of those memos. Mr. Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike in September 2011.
Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., has decided not to appeal the Second Circuit order and to release redacted copies of the memos. [More...]
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There are articles on every major media site this morning about the Obama Administration wrestling with a decision whether to target an American for killing who is working for al Qaeda in another country and planning a terror attack against the U.S.
While the country and person aren't named, it sounds like the Administration's chief purpose in releasing this information is to let the target know what's in store for him and observe his response, rather than transparency on policy decisions at home.
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In the last two days, there have been two terror attacks in Volograd, Russia, one at a train station and one on a trolley, raising concern for safety at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. At least 27 people have been killed, and at least 45 were maimed or wounded.
The suicide bomber at the train station has been identified by the Siberia Times as a 26 year old female named Oksana Aslanova. She is known as a "black widow," having been married to two deceased Islamic terror leaders in North Caucasus. Both her husbands were killed by Russian forces, and she was on a watch list. [More...]
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There is a fascinating report in today's Washington Post about the U.S. providing Colombia with smart bombs to kill FARC members. The program, which of course includes major NSA surveillance and the CIA and JSOC, began under George W. Bush and has continued under Obama. It is funded by a "multi-billion dollar black budget." ($52 billion to be exact, here's a related report on the numbers.)
The covert program in Colombia provides two essential services to the nation’s battle against the FARC and a smaller insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN): Real-time intelligence that allows Colombian forces to hunt down individual FARC leaders and, beginning in 2006, one particularly effective tool with which to kill them.
That weapon is a $30,000 GPS guidance kit that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb. Smart bombs, also called precision-guided munitions or PGMs, are capable of killing an individual in triple-canopy jungle if his exact location can be determined and geo-coordinates are programmed into the bomb’s small computer brain.
It all began as part of the War on Drugs. Similar programs exist in other countries where "violent drug cartels have caused instability." Examples: Mexico and West Africa.
The Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the targeted assassinations/killings. [More...]
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The FBI is still at it -- instigating and then foiling terror plots that would never have existed but for their prodding. The latest is in Kansas.
Quoted in the article is the excellent Topeka defense attorney Dan Monnat. Without judging this case, he says of terror stings in general:
"If the fragile mental state of an otherwise upstanding individual is exploited to commit a crime that the individual otherwise would not have taken steps to commit, how does that make us safe and why spend taxpayer money on prosecution?" Monnat said Saturday.
"If that is what happened here, we have to ask ourselves is grooming terrorists the best use of our taxpayer money for security if the person otherwise would never have taken further steps in furtherance of terrorism. What is the point?"
On a related note, once charged, the Government is likely to deny discovery to these targeted defendants claiming it is classified. [More...]
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A U.S. drone in Yemen has mistakenly killed 15 civilians en route to a wedding. They were mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy.
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Al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri yesterday called for more lone wolf and other small scale attacks against the U.S. His reasoning is that even small attacks cause us to overreact with security, which is expensive and contributes to diminishing our economy.
In an audio speech released online a day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 strikes, Zawahri said attacks "by one brother or a few of the brothers" would weaken the U.S. economy by triggering big spending on security, SITE reported.
..."We should bleed America economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on its security, for the weak point of America is its economy, which has already begun to stagger due to the military and security expenditure," he said.
He also wants to see big strikes -- the kind that that take ten years to plan -- against the U.S.
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Update: Britain has an independent reviewer of its terror legislation, David Anderson QC. He investigates and prepares reports on the legislation for submission to Parliament. Here is his latest report on terror stops at airports.
David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained and questioned for 9 hours at Heathrow today presumably for reasons related to Glenn's disclosure of the Edward Snowden documents. He is a Brazilian citizen who resides with Glenn in Brazil. He was detained under Schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act.
The law allows authorities to detain people at airports, border areas and ports for questioning in a terror-related investigation. Most interrogations last less than an hour, not 9. Also, police confiscated his "mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles." There is no right to an attorney during questioning, and refusal to answer questions is a separate criminal offense.
Glenn writes in the Guardian that the detention will have the exact opposite effect of the one intended by the Government.[More...]:
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Yemen expert Gregory Johnson has a fascinating article in the new Atlantic Magazine about an abandoned 8 year old in Yemen recruited as a spy to plant electronic chips on a U.S. drone target. The child, Barq al-Kulaybi , was recruited by officers of the Republican Guard, who paid his father. The father and son tell their story in a video made by al Qaida after they were caught. The father, Hafizallah al-Kulaybi, was likely killed after the video confession. Rumor has it they let the boy live but no one knows where he is.
The target of the drone strike was Adnan al-Qadhi,a military officer the U.S. believed was helping al Qaida and put on its targeted kill list. He was killed by a drone.
Johnson recounts what is on the video, which was published by al‑Malahim, in April 2013. He doesn't provide the link, but here it is on You Tube, with English subtitles. First the father confesses as Barq fidgets. Then Barq tells his story. [More...]
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This sounds like more "crazy pants" to me, but a new report in the Yemen Post claims that U.S. officials are saying what prompted U.S. actions in Yemen this week is concern that AQAP has developed a hard to detect liquid explosive for terror attacks:
Senior US security officials have explained that "Clothes dipped in the liquid reportedly became explosive devices when dry and might be worn by suicide attackers." Such technology would essentially turn anyone into a terror suspect and make prevention and detection a logistical nightmare.
As several media outlets wondered on Tuesday why the Pentagon had been so keen to see its nationals leave Yemen and arrange for the return home of all its non-essential diplomatic staff, in what appeared to be a security frenzy, Wednesday brought the answer, liquid explosive.
The report says the creator of the "technological breakthrough" is alleged bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri.
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Update: Not surprisingly, Yemen backtracks, calling the report false and baseless.
Yemen authorities now say they have thwarted a major planned al Qaida attack. The attack intended to shut down Yemen's oil exports.
a spokesman for the Yemeni authorities said they had thwarted a plot to blow oil pipelines and take control of two ports in the south, responsible for the bulk of Yemen's oil exports, according to the BBC.
The plot included using al-Qaeda gunmen dressed as soldiers to infiltrate the ports and a local security source said dozens of terrorists had arrived in the capital to prepare for the attack.
The BBC reports: [More...]
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Gregory Johnson, who I have been reading since his Waq al Waq blog days when AQAP announced its formation in 2009, has an article today in Foreign Policy, How Yemen Was Lost. He gives two main reasons. The second is pertains to the drone strikes, which kill al Qaeda leaders but also tribesman and civilians and are causing tremendous hostility against the U.S.:
The men that the United States is killing in Yemen are tied to the local society in a way that many of the fighters in Afghanistan never were. They may be al Qaeda members, but they are also fathers and sons, brothers and cousins, tribesmen and clansmen with friends and relatives.
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CNN reports the recent al Qaida prison breaks factored into the decision to close embassies in the middle east and Africa.
CNN also refers to a recent statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri and his appointment of AQAP's Nasir al Wuhayshi as "general manager" of al Qaeda's multiple networks. McClatchy reports the threat came from intercepting communications between the two. [More...]
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Yesterday, the U.S. announced it would close its Embassies in the Middle East and North Africa. Today it issued a global travel alert to U.S. citizens, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.
“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” read the bulletin, by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. “Current information suggests that Al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.”
Travelers are urged to register their plans with the State Department. [More...]
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In a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Congress today, for the first time, the U.S. has admitted killing 4 American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.
The letter is here. It says only Anwar al-Awlaki was targeted for killing. Samir Kahn was killed in the same strike. al-Awlaki's son was killed in another drone strike in Yemen, and Jude Mohammed was killed in drone strike in Pakistan. [More...]
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