"One constantly hears in American political discourse that Pakistan is so terribly un-democratic because the shadowy, omnipotent ISI functions with no accountability or transparency. Yet here they are being ordered by that nation’s highest court to account for serious detainee abuse (this, despite the fact that Pakistan’s problems with Terrorism are, at the very least, as pressing as those faced by the U.S.). Yet this type of accountability just brought to Pakistan’s intelligence service is simply inconceivable in the United States. It is virtually impossible to imagine the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the CIA to disclose documents about its treatment of detainees or, even more unrealistically, to permit the victims of CIA abuse to have their grievances heard in court. Anyone who doubts that can simply review the past decade of full-scale immunity bestowed by the Justice Department and subservient American federal courts on all executive agencies in the War on Terror. We should think about that the next time some American pundit, politician, or media figure righteously holds forth on how undemocratic and oppressive is Pakistan as opposed to the U.S."

Glenn Greenwald, in U.S. v. Pakistan on transparency and accountability. Great read.

'Blow away' text lands Muslim in jail

MONTREAL — A Muslim businessman in Canada became a terror suspect for telling his sales staff in a text message to “blow away” the competition at a New York City trade show, a religious association said Friday.

Moroccan-born Saad Allami, who works as a telecommunications company sales manager, was arrested three days after he sent the message in January 2011 and detained while police searched his home, said the Muslim Council of Montreal.

“The whole time, the officers kept repeating to the plaintiff’s wife that her husband was a terrorist,” said court filings in a lawsuit filed by Allami, cited by local media. Allami was released after four hours of questioning.

Some of his colleagues reportedly claimed they were also held for hours at the Canada-US border on account of the accusations made against their boss.

“Mr Allami’s statements, when considered in the context of which they were given, were nothing to draw such alarm or suspicion,” said Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.

“It is clear that his arrest was the result of racial profiling and a knee-jerk reaction to label him as a terror suspect simply due to his religious background.”

Allami is seeking Can$100,000 ($100,603) from Quebec’s provincial police, a police sergeant and the justice department for unlawful detention, unlawful arrest, loss of income and damage to his reputation.

The Quebec Superior Court is to hear the case on March 5.

(Source: google.com)

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New Report: Muslim-American Terrorism on Decline

A new study released today (Feb. 8) by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security documents that concerns of counterterrorism officials about a potential wave of homegrown violent extremism have not materialized over the past two years. The study, “Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade Since 9/11,” reports that 20 Muslim-Americans committed or were arrested for terrorist crimes in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and 49 in 2009.

Several important highlights:

  • There were 14,000 murders last year in the United States; not a single one of these deaths came from Islamic extremism. 
  • As in previous years, 2011’s Muslim American terrorism suspects did not fit any demographic profile. 30 percent were age 30 and older, 70 percent were U.S. citizens, and suspects came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds – 30 percent Arab, 25 percent white, and 15 percent African-American.
  • Muslim-Americans continued to be the largest source of initial tips alerting law-enforcement authorities, bringing the total to over 52 out of 140 cases since 9/11.

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"Unsatisfying as it seems, a democratic outcome is exactly what we got. In an authoritarian society — probably even in today’s post-Saddam Iraq — governments will happily sentence citizens to jail to slake the public thirst for justice. In a liberal democracy, however, we put a very high burden on the state in taking away the liberty of a citizen accused of a crime."

JAMES JOYNER — Why We Should Be Glad the Haditha Massacre Marine Got No Jail Time

It’s sickening that someone could actually suggest we should be “glad” that a man, having murdered 24 civilians (including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair and six children huddled in a room), will not spend a single day in jail for his crimes. Iraqi survivors were so fearful for their safety that they declined to testify; what does that say about our idea of justice?

Of course, most of this article made me rage, but I literally snorted at the last line. Yes, a liberal democracy should put a very high burden on the state in taking away liberties. Unfortunately, I actually find it unbelievable that anyone would think that we live up to those ideals. We have a justice system in which people are detained indefinitely due to unproven associations, where people are put to death based on faulty evidence, and as I wrote earlier today, where people are lured into fake plots created by their own government. If not for the public thirst for “justice” in the form of visible action by the government combatting a perceived threat, then for what? 

When FBI entrapment becomes personal

I don’t know how much attention the NC-7 terrorism trial has been getting nationwide, and this post would go on forever (it kind of does already) if I started talking about how messed up that case was. But in related news, two people were recently arrested for allegedly hiring a hit man to kill witnesses who testified in the case. The hit man turned out to be an informant hired by the FBI.

This really hit me hard. When you hear the news of all these foiled terror plots, you think “oh, well those people were disturbed. Even though my conscience tells me these arrests are unethical (informants are often practically bribedinto manipulating people who are vulnerable — those who are uneducated, struggling to make a living, and often have a history of mental instability), the crimes that these suspects are accused of plotting are even more unethical. These are people who, if given the chance, might have assisted in killing people.” So you brush it aside, justifying your apathy by thinking it’s not really the kind of person you’re bothered enough to be too upset about being taken off the streets. Or at least that’s what I do.

Nevine was different. I knew her. I took a class with her at my mosque, and I always thought she was intelligent, extremely well-spoken, and progressive. She was not an extremist, and definitely not the kind of person I’d expect to have run-ins with the law in any way. She was a special education teacher at an elementary school for nine years for goodness’ sake!

But you know what, it’s okay… People aren’t always who they seem. I accept that. And it’s entirely possible that something in this woman, visiting her friend in jail who she may have felt was unjustly sentenced to 45 years, just snapped when she was offered a chance to avenge him. If these charges brought against her are true, then so be it. 

But what I just can’t wrap my head around is the circumstances surrounding her arrest. I know that I’m going to see headlines for the next few months calling this woman a terrorist. And I just don’t understand how that’s an acceptable term for someone who was arrested for allegedly taking the bait of an FBI informant, and I don’t understand how it’s acceptable to call someone a terrorist for a crime that hasn’t even happened yet. These are cases in which people are arrested because they might have committed a crime if not stopped, and these are cases in which the target, the motive, the ideology, and the plot are all led by the same organization that makes the arrests. The Guardian wrote an article last November about several similar cases in which people were lured into fake terror plots by paid informants.

Critics say the FBI is running a sting operation across America, targeting – to a large extent – the Muslim community by luring people into fake terror plots. FBI bureaux send informants to trawl through Muslim communities, hang out in mosques and community centres, and talk of radical Islam in order to identify possible targets sympathetic to such ideals. Or they will respond to the most bizarre of tip-offs, including, in one case, a man who claimed to have seen terror chief Ayman al-Zawahiri living in northern California in the late 1990s.

That tipster was quickly hired as a well-paid informant. If suitable suspects are identified, FBI agents then run a sting, often creating a fake terror plot in which it helps supply weapons and targets. Then, dramatic arrests are made, press conferences held and lengthy convictions secured.

But what is not clear is if many real, actual terrorists are involved. […]

[Mike German, an expert at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent] said suspects convicted of plotting terror attacks in some recent FBI cases bore little resemblance to the profile of most terrorist cells. “Most of these suspect terrorists had no access to weapons unless the government provided them. I would say that showed they were not the biggest threat to the US,” German said.

“Most terrorists have links to foreign terrorist groups and have trained in terrorism training camps. Perhaps FBI resources should be spent finding those guys.”

I can’t help but agree.

Obama Team to Break Silence on al-Awlaki Killing

In the coming weeks, according to four participants in the debate, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is planning to make a major address on the administration’s national-security record. Embedded in the speech will be a carefully worded but firm defense of its right to target U.S. citizens… .

An early draft of Holder’s speech identified Awlaki by name, but in a concession to concerns from the intelligence community, all references to the al Qaeda leader were removed. As currently written, the speech makes no overt mention of the Awlaki operation, and reveals none of the intelligence the administration relied on in carrying out his killing. 

So basically, the Obama administration is going to make the claim that the US government is completely within its power in targeting American citizens (aka taking them out via drones without any due process whatsoever). And they’re going to make this case without providing a single piece of evidence to back the claim that Awlaki was guilty of anything in the first place. They won’t even mention his name.

Pakistan to allow US military to return, but says “no more drones.”

US military trainers will be invited back into Pakistan “as early as April or May,” but the nation has ruled out allowing CIA drones back into the country, Fox News reported. The stipulations will include no covert CIA or military operations on the ground in Pakistan, and no unauthorized incursions into its airspace. Drones”can never return,” a senior Pakistani official told Fox News. “They will never be allowed back, at Shamsi or anywhere else,” the official added. In return, Pakistan would allow back US military trainers, including special forces teams, and a resumption of close cooperation with the CIA in targeting militants who use the Pakistani side of the border as a safe haven. It would also reopen the Torkham and Chaman border crossings into Afghanistan, which have been closed to NATO supply convoys since the attack. 

But the report fails to mention that a two-month hiatus on drone attacks was already broken last week. An attack on January 10th killed four people, none of them well-known militants.

I think Spencer Ackerman’s probably got it right in his article for Wired:

Remember that the next time you read hype about the drone war “stopping.” The drone strikes are not a supplement to a war; they’re the centerpiece of how the Obama administration confronts terrorists. The White House’s plan for counterterrorism makes that clear, as does the Pentagon’s new strategy blueprint. Anonymous administration officials, evidently itching to get back to the strikes, floated the (evidence-free) proposition in the New York Times that terrorists were regrouping during the six-week pause.

Perhaps elements of the Pakistani security establishment are back on board with the drones, perhaps they aren’t. But the resumption of the drone strikes strongly indicates that if the Pakistanis have a problem with the strikes, the U.S. will route around that problem. Any pauses you see in the drone program are likely to be tactical — and brief.

(Photo: Flickr/Bryce_Edwards)

(Source: pakistantoday.com.pk)

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Today is the tenth anniversary of the American prisons at Guantanamo Bay.

Detainee: Give me his name.
Tribunal President: I do not know.
Detainee: How can I respond to this?
Tribunal President: Did you know of anybody that was a member of Al Qaida?
Detainee: No, no.
Tribunal President: I'm sorry, what was your response?
Detainee: No.
Tribunal President: No?
Detainee: No. This is something the interrogators told me a long while ago. I asked the interrogators to telI me who this person was. Then I could tell you if I might have known this person, but not if the person is a terrorist. Maybe I knew this person as a friend. Maybe it was a person that worked with me. Maybe it was a person that was on my team. But I do not know if this person is Bosnian, Indian or whatever. If you tell me the name, then I can respond and defend myself against this accusation.
Tribunal President: We are asking you the questions and we need you to respond to what is on the unclassified summary. If you say you did not know or you did know anyone that was a part of Al Qaida, that is the information we need to know.
Detainee: I have only heard of Al Qaida after the attacks in the United States. Before that, I had never heard of Al Qaida. Even after I heard of Al Qaida, I felt that Al Qaida was the Taliban and the Taliban was AI Qaida. Then after watching the news, I knew Al Qaida was associated with Bin Laden and the Taliban was associated with the Afghans.
Captured by American forces in January 2002 and suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, Mustafa Ait Idr spent nearly seven years at Guantanamo. He was released back to his native Bosnia in December 2008, but not before suffering partial facial paralysis and a life-long disability due to brutal beatings and several forms of torture during his imprisonment. Read his full story along with a thoughtful reflection at the source.

"Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who were accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies."

Glenn Greenwald: The Real Definition of Terrorism. Posting this article again because it hits the nail on the head.

This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.

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The latest fabricated threat to America: Twitter Terrorism

This is terrible but I can’t help but lol. The screenshot above was taken from the twitter account of Somali militant group Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen.

Kenya’s military spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, is also a loquacious writer of posts, and the result is nothing short of a full-on Twitter war.

After Major Chirchir wrote that the Shabab might be transporting weapons on donkeys and that “any large concentration and movement of loaded donkeys will be considered as Al Shabaab activity,” the Shabab responded: “Like bombing donkeys, you mean! Your eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned, Major.”

Major Chirchir fired back, “Life has better to offer than stonning [sic] innocent girl,” a reference to the Shabab’s penchant for harsh Islamic punishments like stoning.

The Shabab have teased Major Chirchir for his spelling mistakes and have tossed around some SAT-quality words.

“Stop prevaricating & say what you really think, Major!” the Shabab wrote. “Sure your comments will invite derision but try to muster (or feign) courage at least.”

The reaction to these tweets is not nearly as amusing. Terrorism “experts” say that Twitter terrorism (yes, that’s an actual direct quote) is part of an emerging trend and that terrorist groups are increasingly using social media like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. The US government believes it may have “legal authority” to compel Twitter to close accounts, a claim that only adds to the Obama administration’s list of recent reaches of power in the War on Terror. Read the full story here.

"Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes: they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?
Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist."

Glenn Greewald, in his Salon piece “The real definition of Terrorism”. This is a MUST read.

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"Muslim communities and Muslims in the United States are not the problem, they are the solution. And that’s the message we plan to take to those particular communities in addressing at least al-Qaida inspired radicalization of violent extremism in the coming months."

Quintan Wiktorowicz, the senior director on the national security staff who is behind a new initiative to fight homegrown terrorism. The strategy emphasizes working with communities and local leaders to help them identify violent extremists. The new program will focus on behavior, not religion or appearances, and the word “Muslim” appears in the 23-page strategy exactly once.
___

This is a huge step in the right direction. Considering the largest single source of information leading to foiled terrorism plots is Muslim communities themselves, it’s about time our National Security forces take advantage of that. And the best way to do this is through local engagement of law enforcement with community members and a transparent approach to combating the Islamophobia that has become institutionalized within both federal and local law enforcement training, according to various reports. Wiktorowicz claims the new strategy addresses those issues.