‘Medieval Exile’: The 42 Britons stripped of their citizenship

The government has used little-known powers to strip at least 42 people of their British nationality since 2002, a Bureau investigation has found. Thirty-seven of these cases have occurred under the Coalition government.  The Home Secretary can use powers in the British Nationality Act to remove the citizenship of an individual if she believes their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’, or if they have acquired their citizenship by fraud.  The Bureau has identified 18 individuals, of whom 17 were stripped on national security grounds. These cases are often based on evidence which remains secret. Leading immigration lawyer Gareth Peirce has described the process as akin to ‘medieval exile.’  Changes to the law in 2002 allowed Britain’s Home Secretary to deprive dual-nationality Britons of their citizenship on national security grounds, without any prior approval from the courts. This doesn’t just affect people originally born outside Britain. The Bureau has identified five cases so far where British-born people have lost their UK nationality.

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How U.S. courts have dealt with al-Qaeda terrorists

• “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman

Sentenced in 1996 to life in prison for planning, together with nine co-defendants, to wage a “war of urban terrorism” against the United States. Prosecutors said the plot included plans to detonate bombs on a single day at several New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and the main federal office building in Manhattan. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was part of the plan, prosecutors said.

• Ramzi Yousef

Sentenced in 1998 to life in prison without parole for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and an airplane bombing in 1994. Yousef, a Pakistani, killed six people and injured 1,000 at the WTC, and killed one person on the plane.

• John Walker Lindh

Sentenced in 2002 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to aiding the Taliban against U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001. Prosecutors said he had received training at al-Qaeda’s al Farouq training camp and attended a lecture by Osama bin Laden.

• Richard Reid

Sentenced in 2003 to life in prison for trying to blow up a 2001 flight from Paris to Miami with a bomb in his shoe. Reid said in court he was a member of al-Qaeda.

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Bin Laden son-in-law convicted at NYC terror trial

NEW YORK —Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, the voice of fiery al-Qaida propaganda videotapes after the Sept. 11 attacks, was convicted Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans for his role as the terror group’s spokesman.

The verdict came after about six hours of deliberation over two days in the case against Kuwaiti imam Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks.  As a court deputy read the verdict aloud, Abu Ghaith, listening to an Arabic interpreter through earphones, remained composed as he had throughout the trial. Just before he was led from the courtroom, he turned toward a spectator — a longtime friend from Kuwait — and smiled.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said he hoped the verdict brought some measure of comfort to al-Qaida victims.  ”He was more than just Osama bin Laden’s propaganda minister,” Bharara said. “Within hours after the devastating 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghaith was using his position in al-Qaida’s homicidal hierarchy to persuade others to pledge themselves to al-Qaida in the cause of murdering more Americans.”  Defense attorney Stanley Cohen emerged from court promising to appeal.

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Islamist Outlaws

Saudi Arabia Takes on the Muslim Brotherhood

On March 7, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, on par with Hezbollah and al Qaeda. The move came just two days after the kingdom, together with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew its ambassador from Qatar because of Qatar’s alleged support of Brotherhood interference in internal politics. Although Saudi Arabia’s dislike of Brotherhood political activities abroad is well known, for decades the kingdom has tolerated (and sometimes even worked with) the local Saudi branch of the Brotherhood. Its sudden reversal is an expression of solidarity with its politically vulnerable allies in the region and a warning to Sunni Islamists within its borders to tread carefully.

This story goes back to the Arab Spring, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s longtime ally, was ousted, and Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood­–linked politician, to fill his shoes. Riyadh feared that the group, now empowered, would try to export the Egyptian revolution regionwide, calling for action against the House of Saud and displacing Saudi’s friends and allies such as the UAE. Those fears were not entirely unfounded.

In Saudi Arabia, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been at the forefront of the Awakening movement, a push in the early 1990s for political change in response to alleged Saudi government corruption and the basing of U.S. troops in the country. But, as the political science professor Stéphane Lacroix documents in his book Awakening Islam, most members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood had quickly fallen into line once the regime began to arrest or sanction its leaders. The Saudi Brotherhood simply had too much to lose: its members helped build the Saudi state and occupied important positions in the religious and educational establishment.

That détente ended with the Arab Spring, when a number of prominent Islamists added their names to a 2011 petition calling for political reforms in the kingdom. They also obliquely criticized the lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia by lavishing praise on fellow travelers in Tunisia and Egypt. Even Nasir al-Umar, a hard-line Sururi (a blend of Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafism), was singing the praises of democratic change. Then Crown Prince Nayef and future Crown Prince Salman pressed them into silence. According to one person I spoke to on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, some were forced to sign a pledge to cease criticizing the lack of political freedom in the kingdom. But the renewed détente was fragile, hinging on events in tumultuous Egypt.

There was some reason for Saudi Arabia to fear for its allies in the region as well. Under Mubarak, Egypt had been a dependable Saudi ally. But Morsi sought to chart a neutral course between Saudi Arabia and Iran, following an early fundraising visit to the kingdom with an attempted rapprochement with Iran. The United Arab Emirates was worried, too. The Brotherhood has had a small presence in UAE since the 1960s, but after 9/11 the government started to see the group as a national security threat. It didn’t help that when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt some members of the UAE branch began agitating for political reforms, going so far as to sign a petition calling for elections and real authority for the UAE’s advisory council. The government responded by arresting group members across the country, including men belonging to an alleged terror cell with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In response to what they saw as Egyptian meddling, Saudi Arabia tried to economically isolate Morsi and hasten his departure. In May 2013, just two months before the military overthrow of Morsi, the Egyptian finance minister complained to the Saudis that Egypt had only received $1 billion of the $3.5 billion in aid promised after Mubarak’s downfall. When the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi just a year into his rule, Saudi Arabia applauded and quickly promised Egypt a new aid package of $5 billion, together with one from the UAE for $3 billion and from Kuwait for $4 billion. When the new regime massacred Brotherhood protestors in August, the taciturn King Abdullah uncharacteristically voiced his public support for the slaughter as a blow against terrorism. When the new Egyptian government declared the group a terrorist organization in late December 2013, Saudi Arabia followed suit. When UAE decided not to replace its departing ambassador in Qatar — partly to punish Qatar for its refusal to discipline an influential Qatar-based Brotherhood spiritual leader who preached that the UAE is against Islamic rule — Saudi Arabia recalled its own ambassador in solidarity.

Saudi Arabia’s moves have provoked some unhappiness at home. Saudi Islamists, particularly the Brothers, are convinced that Morsi’s overthrow was part of a Saudi plot to roll back Islamist political gains of the past three years. In defiance, they festooned their social media profiles with symbols of Brotherhood resistance and criticized their government for its complicity. The defiance has become more muted recently, after the local press reported that the government was contemplating declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. According to former members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood I spoke with, the 25,000 or so members of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia reacted to the news of the deliberations by preemptively keeping a low profile, closing some of its gatherings so as not to further stoke the government’s ire. Until the Saudi government actually begins making arrests, its recent announcement is more of a shot across the Brotherhood’s bow than an attempt to sink the ship.

Nevertheless, person after person I interviewed asserted that the level of Islamist anger toward the Saudi government is higher than at any time since the early 1990s. That does not mean Brotherhood leaders will move against the regime in the near term. In the 1990s as now, they have too much to lose institutionally. There is also some benefit in a wait-and-see approach, which is why Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi Islamist, is privately counselling his followers to wait for the regime’s factions to sort things out among themselves. But the younger rank-and-file Brothers in Saudi, like those in other Brotherhood franchises outside Egypt, are starting to lose hope in peaceful political change. That frustration can lead to apathy. But it can also lead to violence — and if it does, the Saudi government’s decision to declare the group a terrorist organization will have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Saudi Arabia threatens to blockade Qatar over terrorism

Saudi Arabia has threatened to blockade neighbouring Qatar by air, land and sea unless Doha cuts ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, closes global channel al-Jazeera, and expels local branches of the US Brookings Institution and Rand Corporation think tanks.  The threat was issued by Riyadh before it withdrew its ambassador to Doha and branded as “terrorist organisations” the brotherhood, Lebanon’s Hizbullah and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Although the kingdom has long been the font of Sunni ultra-orthodox Salafism and jihadism, it now seeks to contain radical movements and media and other organisations giving them publicity.  King Abdullah has decreed that any Saudi who fights abroad could be jailed for 20-30 years, and those who join, endorse or provide moral or material support to groups classified as “terrorist” or “extremist” will risk prison sentences of five to 30 years.  The decree followed the gazetting of a sweeping new anti- terrorism law prohibiting acts that disturb public order, promote insecurity, undermine national unity or harm the reputation of the kingdom.

While the law and decree are meant to curb jihadi operations on Saudi soil as well as counter non-jihadi dissidence, these legal instruments appear to contradict government policy on foreign jihad.

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War Death Toll for Afghan Security Forces Is Over 13,000

KABUL, Afghanistan — More than 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed during the war here, far more than previously known, according to Afghan government statistics.  Most of those losses occurred during the past three years as Afghan forces took over a growing share of the responsibility for security in the country, culminating in full Afghan authority last spring.  The numbers also reflect an increased tempo to the conflict. More clashes have taken place as insurgents test the government forces, without as much fear of intervention from the American-led coalition as it prepares to withdraw.

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Bin Laden Relative’s Terrorism Trial May Fuel Debate Over Use of Civilian Courts

In the days and weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, a Kuwaiti-born cleric, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, became a familiar figure in propaganda videos for Al Qaeda, appearing in some with Osama bin Laden, and other times alone, issuing blistering threats against the United States.  “The storms shall not stop, especially the airplanes storm,” he said in one speech, a federal indictment charges.  Mr. Abu Ghaith, who later married Bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, was captured last year and brought to the United States on terrorism charges. When his trial starts on Monday in Manhattan, he will be the most senior Bin Laden adviser to be tried in a civilian court since the Sept. 11 attacks, experts say.  “Abu Ghaith held a key position in Al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime,” George Venizelos, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in New York, said last year.  Unlike Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Abu Ghaith has not been accused of having advance knowledge of the attacks or being involved in terrorist operations. But prosecutors portray him as a trusted adviser and confidant of Bin Laden’s, and they believe he was probably aware of the plot in which Richard C. Reid tried unsuccessfully to blow up an airplane on a trans-Atlantic flight by detonating explosives in his shoes.

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Judicial Watch Uncovers Email Revealing Top Pentagon Leader Ordered Destruction of bin Laden Death Photos

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on January 31, 2014, it received documents from the Department of Defense (Pentagon) revealing that within hours of its filing a May 13, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking photos of the deceased Osama bin Laden, U.S. Special Operations Commander, Admiral William McRaven ordered his subordinates to “destroy” any photos they may have had “immediately.” Judicial Watch had filed a FOIA request for the photos 11 days earlier.  The McRaven email, addressed to “Gentlemen,” instructs:

One particular item that I want to emphasize is photos; particularly UBLs remains. At this point – all photos should have been turned over to the CIA; if you still have them destroy them immediately or get them to the [redacted].

According to the Pentagon documents, McRaven sent his email on “Friday, May 13, 2011 5:09 PM.”  The documents do not detail what documents, if any, were destroyed in response to the McRaven directive. The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit seeking the documents was filed in the United States Court for the District of Columbia only hours earlier. Judicial Watch also announced the filing at a morning press conference.  On May 2, Judicial Watch had filed a FOIA request with the Defense Department seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Usama (Osama) Bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011.”  Federal law contains broad prohibitions against the “concealment, removal, or mutilation generally” of government records.

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The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program

The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.  According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.  The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.  In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device.

The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.

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Ground the Drones?

Recent efforts to ban armed drones have conflated technical questions with policy ones. One prominent coalition of activist groups has emphasized that targeted killings are a violation of international law. They conclude that the United States should ban drones, which, in their argument, are vehicles for the bad policy. But arguments that exonerate drones go too far in the opposite direction. Other scholars maintain that the real problem is the policy of targeted killings and that drones, in and of themselves, are nonissues. Both of these camps sidestep how the technology informs policy.  The policy and the technology should not be confused, nor can they be separated, because drones circumvent the domestic, operational, and diplomatic constraints that are imposed on their manned counterparts and, therefore, make otherwise unviable policies viable.

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Rights Groups Say Some U.S. Drone Strikes May Be War Crimes

Two prominent human rights groups today blasted America’s drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, painting a grim picture of massive civilian deaths and potentially grave violations of international law.  One report by Amnesty International (“Will I Be Next?“) focuses on recent drone strikes in Pakistan while the other, by Human Rights Watch (“Between a Drone and al-Qaeda“), centers on Yemen.  According to Amnesty International, at least one attack ”violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute war crimes or extrajudicial execution” and said that those responsible should stand trial.  The White House rejected the claims of the reports and denied any wrongdoing in the administration’s drone program.  “U.S. counterterrorism operations are precise, they are lawful and they are effective,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney in a press conference.  The Obama administration has been better at distancing itself from drone strikes than providing the legal and policy justification for the program.  “Realistically, the policy window for reforming how the U.S. conducts lethal counterterrorism strikes is closed in Washington,” says Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko, the author of Between Threats and War: U.S. Discrete Military Operations in the Post-Cold War World.

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Report: Documents show close collaboration of NSA and CIA in drone strike program

WASHINGTON —

The National Security Agency has been extensively involved in the U.S. government’s targeted killing program, collaborating closely with the CIA in the use of drone strikes against terrorists abroad, The Washington Post reported after a review of documents provided by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.  In one instance, an email sent by the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate contained clues as to her husband’s whereabouts and led to a CIA drone strike that killed him in Pakistan in October 2012, the Post reported in its online edition Wednesday night.  While citing documents provided by Snowden — the American is hiding out in Russia after being granted asylum there — the Post reported that it was withholding many details about the drone-strike missions at the request of U.S. intelligence officials. They cited potential damage to ongoing operations and national security for their request, the paper reported.

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