Watching the Shadows
Key provisions of the USA Patriot Act expired June 1 after a late Senate vote failed to establish an extension. The provisions that expired were in Section 215 of the act and included: the "Bulk Data Collection" provision, which allowed the government to collect data, the "Lone Wolf" provision, which allowed surveillance on individuals not directly tied to terrorist groups, and the "Roving Wiretaps" provision, which allowed the government to surveil all of a suspected terrorist's communications. The Senate gathered to vote on the bill late May 31, but fierce debate pushed the vote into the early hours of the next morning. Although the Senate failed to establish an extension for the Patriot Act, they are set to vote on the USA Freedom Act which is supposed to serve as a limit on government surveillance.
The Polish government on May 15 processed payments to two terror suspects currently held by the US at Guantánamo Bay. The European Court of Human Rights had imposed a deadline of the following day on Poland to make the reparations. Last July Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were awarded $147,000 and $113,000, respectively, in a lawsuit against Poland for allowing the CIA to detain them and for not preventing torture and inhumane treatment. The court also ordered Poland to urge the US not to execute the suspects. Many people in Poland are upset with the penalty, feeling they must pay for US actions, and many Americans are upset at the idea that possible terror suspects could receive this money. The detainees' lawyer, however, claims there rights were violated, they were subjected to torture, and they have never been found guilty of a crime in court.
A judge for the Alberta Court of Appeal on May 7 ruled that former Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr can be released on bail while he appeals his US war crimes conviction. According to Justice Myra Bielby, the ruling was based on her belief that there was "no clear evidence there would be irreparable harm if he was released." The judge also rejected arguments made by government lawyers that Khadr's release would damage Canada's foreign relations. He will be required under the terms of his bail to live with his attorney and submit to electronic monitoring and a curfew.
A former aide of Osama bin Laden was found guilty on Feb. 26 of plotting the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224. Extradited from the UK in 2012, Saudi national Khalid al-Fawwaz was convicted on four counts of conspiracy by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after three days of jury deliberations, and faces a possible life sentence. US Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Fawwaz "played a critical role for al-Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America." He described al-Fawwaz as one of bin Laden's "original and most trusted lieutenants" who was leader of an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and later acted as bin Laden's spokesperson in London. Al-Fawwaz was arrested in the UK in 1998, the same year as the bombings. His trial lasted a month under heavy security in Manhattan. Al-Fawwaz did not testify.
The US Court of Military Commission Review on Feb. 18 set aside the terrorism convictions (PDF) of former Guantánamo detainee David Hicks. Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 to providing material support to terrorism, which was one of the few cases of successful prosecution of a Guantánamo detainee. In 2014, an appeals court decided that material support was not a valid war crime, but Hicks had previously agreed not to make any appeals as part of his plea bargain. The US military court rejected this condition, however, allowing Hicks' appeal. One of Hicks' lawyers said last month that the US government had admitted his conviction was incorrect and did not dispute Hicks' innocence.
Adel Abdel Bary, a member of al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) was sentenced to 25 years in prison Feb. 6 by Us District Judge Lewis Kaplan. The Egyptian national pleaded guilty last September to threatening to kill, injure, intimidate, and damage and destroy property by means of an explosive; conspiracy to make the threat; and conspiring to kill US nationals. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said that Bary "facilitated communications" for al-Qaeda leaders, including claims of responsibility and threats for the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 224 people. The 25-year sentence was the maximum allowed under his plea agreement, and Bary will likely serve about eight more years to complete his sentence, as he has been incarcerated since 1999. Along with prison time, Bary was also sentenced to pay over $7.5 million dollars in restitution to victims' families, and over $26.3 million in restitution to the US. Khalid al-Fawwaz, one of Bary's co-defendants, is currently still on trial.
World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his 2015 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
A group of US senators on Jan. 13 proposed legislation (PDF) that would place a moratorium on the release or transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Richard Burr (NC) touted the new bill as the best course of action to protect US national security. The act, titled "The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act of 2015," would halt all releases of Guantánamo detainees with high or medium risk ratings, issue more prohibitions ontransfers and provide more transparency on how detainees' risk levels are determined. Ayotte stated, "It's clear that we need a 'time out' so that we do not re-confront the terrorists that we had captured and are currently in Guantánamo." The new legislation will place pressure on the White House as the Obama administration released 28 prisoners from Guantánamo in 2014.