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Charles Parish
Underwoods
Mar 082013
 

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration’s decision to try Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law in federal court in New York City instead of a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay has reignited a debate over how to deal with suspected terrorists.

It also recalls one of the largest failures of President Obama’s presidency: His unfulfilled promise as a candidate in 2008 to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

As Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill Americans in New York Federal Court Friday, Republicans in Congress were criticizing the Obama administration for prosecuting a suspected al Qaeda terrorist in a civilian court just about a mile from the 9/11 memorial built over Ground Zero.

“Abu Ghaith has sworn to kill Americans and he likely possesses information that could prevent harm to America and its allies,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote in a statement. “He is an enemy combatant and should be held in military custody.”

The White House claimed there was a “broad consensus” across the federal government, from the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, to prosecute OBL’s son-in-law in civilian court.

“The intelligence community agrees that the best way to protect our national security interests is to prosecute Abu Ghaith in an Article III court,” Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday.

“We’re able to question him as a part of the regular process in detaining individuals like this, but we’re also able to put him through Article III courts to ensure that he’s held accountable for his crimes,” Earnest added. “This is somebody who’s going to be held accountable for his crimes and … that will be done in accordance with the laws and values of this country, and it will be done so in a pretty efficient way.”

Still, McConnell said that the administration’s justification “makes little sense” and the intelligence community “deserve[s] the same access to intelligence and methods of defeating the enemy available to the team that found Bin Laden.”

“At Guantanamo, [Abu Ghaith] could be held as a detainee and fulsomely and continuously interrogated without having to overcome the objections of his civilian lawyers,” McConnell said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said civilian court “is not the appropriate venue” and the administration “should treat enemy combatants like the enemy.”

“Al Qaeda leaders captured on the battlefield should not be brought to the United States to stand trial,” Rogers said. “The president needs to send any captured al Qaeda members to Guantanamo.”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes closing Guantanamo and previously fought against efforts by the Obama administration to prosecute 9/11 suspects in New York City, said the speaker “agrees” with Rogers.

New York Republican Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said he preferred that Abu Ghaith face trial in a military tribunal rather than civilian court, and he questioned what type of standard Friday’s hearing could set.

“While a federal court trial of Abu Ghaith in lower Manhattan would not present the same security issues as a trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I strongly believe as a matter of policy that military tribunals are the proper venue for enemy combatants,” said King, a member of the House committees on Intelligence and Homeland Security. “If the Abu Ghaith trial does go forward in federal court, it must not be used as a precedent for future enemy combatants who should be tried at Guantanamo.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not respond to requests for comment Friday, nor did New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler or Nydia Velazquez, the lawmakers representing downtown Manhattan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 142012
 

FBI(WASHINGTON) — An Alabama-born rapping jihadi fighting half a world away is among the new entries on the FBI’s infamous Most Wanted List, the bureau announced Wednesday.

Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, has been fighting with the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab since 2006. Hammami has allegedly been a propagandist for the al Qaeda-linked group and has released several rap songs praising jihad against the West.

Hammami was originally indicted in the U.S. on terrorism-related charges in 2007 and faced additional charges in a superseding indictment in 2009.

Douglas Astralaga, the Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI in Mobile, Ala., told ABC News he couldn’t comment on exactly why Hammami was being added to the list now, but said there is an ongoing investigation into Hammami’s alleged terrorist activities and, after a lengthy review, information against him “met the criteria” for being added to the list.

Earlier this year Hammami said he feared for his life, but it wasn’t the American government he was worried about. In a video posted online, Hammami said he suspected his fellow militants might turn their guns on him due to ideological “differences.”

He has apparently survived that tiff, but his terror group has been on the losing end of several recent battles in Somalia. In September, al-Shabaab was pushed out of its last urban stronghold in Kismayo by African troops.

In a recent autobiography written by Hammami and posted online, he describes a daily fear of drone strikes and jokes that the drones are “racist” – they prefer to target white people in Somalia.

He may have reason to worry. In late September 2011, a high-profile al Qeada recruiter, Anwar al-Awlaki, and an al Qaeda propagandist, Samir Khan, were killed in a CIA drone strike. Both were American citizens.

In addition to Hammami, the FBI added Raddulan Sahiron, a suspected leader of the Filipino terror group Abu Sayyaf, to the list. The bureau said it is also seeking information about Shayk Aminullah, an alleged recruiter for al Qaeda and the Pakistani-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 142012
 

Cherie Cullen/Released(WASHINGTON) — The attack that killed four Americans in the Libyan consulate began as a spontaneous protest against the film “The Innocence of Muslims,” but Islamic militants who may have links to al Qaeda used the opportunity to launch an attack, CIA Director David Petreaus told the House Intelligence Committee Friday according to one lawmaker who attended a closed-door briefing.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intel committee, said Petraeus laid out “a chronological order exactly what we felt happened, how it happened, and where we’re going in the future.”

“In the Benghazi area, in the beginning we feel that it was spontaneous — the protest — because it went on for two or three hours, which is very relevant because if it was something that was planned, then they could have come and attacked right away,” Ruppersberger, D-Md., said following the hour-long briefing by Petraeus. “At this point it looks as if there was a spontaneous situation that occurred and that as a result of that, the extreme groups that were probably connected to al Qaeda took advantage of that situation and then the attack started.”

Petraeus did not speak to reporters on his way in or out of the briefing. When he left the meeting, the former four-star general was trailed by about a dozen intelligence officials and a couple of Capitol police officers.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were also briefed Friday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs Admiral James Winnefeld. But senators emerging from that private briefing reported that they believed the attack in Libya was premeditated.

“It was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the committee said, adding that about 15 “al Qaeda or radical Islamists” were armed with rocket propelled grenades and other lethal weapons.

“This was a calculated act of terror on the part of a small group of jihadists, not a mob that somehow attacked and sacked our embassy,” McCain said. “People don’t go to demonstrate and carry RPGs and automatic weapons.”

“I don’t think any of us are clear yet about who carried out these attacks in Libya, but from all that I’ve heard the murderous attacks on Libya that resulted in the death of four Americans were not accidental,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., added. “They were not just some kind of coincidental protests to this film, this anti-Muslim film. They were a well-planned and professional terrorist attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.”

Friday morning, President Obama notified congressional leaders that he had deployed troops “equipped for combat” to Libya and Yemen to defend U.S. citizens and property, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.

“It’s just common sense that in view of the situation that we’re looking at right now, we will see enhanced security anywhere across the world where we see the protests,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said after attending the briefing with Petraeus. “We’ve seen how quickly this one began, and how quickly it turned violent and I think that’s something that we have to be aware of and deal with.”

Rep. Pete King, another Republican on the House Intel committee and the chairman of the Homeland Security panel, said that regardless of whether al Qaeda coordinated the attack on the consulate in Libya, “we are very concerned that this could spread” to other countries across the region.

“We’re talking about a very hostile area of the world in many cases, a very turbulent part of the world where there are many enemy forces, very disparate forces, many types of jihadists,” King, R-N.Y., said. “Like Libya there’s many militias that are still there, heavily armed, they do have an al Qaeda presence. You put all that together, it’s very combustible, and it can be many countries besides Libya and Egypt.”

King also criticized the Obama administration’s policies and echoed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by saying Obama has sent “a very mixed message, a confusing message” that has “weakened our position in the Middle East.”

“President Obama’s policies since the summer of 2009 I think have not been helpful to the United States in the Middle East. It’s weakened our position in the Middle East,” he said. “You combine that with the way [President Obama] treats [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in Israel and the pulling troops out of Iraq without getting a status of forces agreement [with] the apologies. You put it all together and I think that what you saw this week is in many ways a logical result of all of that.”

Across Capitol Hill, McCain was slightly more blunt in his criticism of President Obama.

“Everything is unraveling in that part of the world because the United States is weak,” McCain said. “This president does not understand the importance of American leadership.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Aug 232012
 

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The former Navy SEAL who penned a firsthand account of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden did so without the permission of the U.S. government, officials said, and is now at the center of an ongoing controversy within the secretive special operations community over unauthorized disclosures.

The author of the book, who writes under the pseudonym Mark Owen, was a SEAL Team Six team leader during the mission that took out the al Qaeda leader and was “one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader’s hideout,” according to a statement from the book’s publisher, Dutton. The book, No Easy Day, is set to be released next month on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

But no U.S. officials – from the White House to the Department of Defense to the CIA – have reviewed the book’s account of the top secret mission for any possible breaches of national security, officials from the departments said.

The book’s announcement comes as the special operations community, especially the SEALs, have risen to the forefront of a discussion over the controversial leaking of classified information. Following the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, the Obama administration came under harsh criticism from Republican lawmakers for allegedly leaking too much about the mission for political gain.

Most recently, a small group of former special operations and intelligence officials — many with Republican ties — published an online video called “Dishonorable Disclosures” in which they say the president was trying to take credit for bin Laden’s death from the SEALs on the ground. That video was later reportedly criticized by others in the military as “unprofessional” and “shameful.”

Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL and writer, told ABC News that Owen may be compromising one of America’s most elite and secretive commando groups, even if he used a pseudonym and changed the names of the other team members.

“Operational security is at play here regardless of whether or not any classified information has been disclosed in this memoir,” he said, noting that even innocuous details could be enough to put other team members at risk. “This is not a good day for SEAL Team Six. An individual has compromised their ethos and mantra that the deed is more important than the glory.”

Webb said his own memoir, The Red Circle, was also not vetted by the Department of Defense but said it did not disclose any classified information, and that any potentially sensitive details about events described in the book, which occurred approximately 10 years ago, were changed.

Another former SEAL, who is still active in the intelligence community, said everyone needs to wait and see what’s actually in the new book before passing judgment.

“It seems pretty quick, but at the same time, I don’t know what he says in the book,” said the ex-SEAL, who requested not to be named for his own security. “This guy dedicated a majority of his life to the service of his country and he was on a historic mission. It’s his story to tell… It really comes down to what type of information he’s disclosing.”

Dutton said Owen plans to donate a majority of the proceeds from his book to charities that help the families of fallen Navy SEALs.

A White House-sanctioned Hollywood movie about the bin Laden raid is scheduled to be released in December.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio