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Here's Why The Navy Is Holding A Terror Suspect At Sea

After seizing terror suspect Abu Anas al-Libi in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, U.S. forces took him to a ship in the Mediterranean where he could be interrogated for weeks or even months to come.

Why a ship?

In short, this allows the U.S. to hold and question al-Libi about his alleged role in a pair of 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa without putting him in the U.S. civilian court system, which could limit or halt efforts to interrogate him.

These "interrogations at sea" are part of the ongoing legal battles over how the U.S. should deal with terror suspects in the post-9/11 world.

The U.S. intelligence community sees al-Libi as an extremely important figure who's been part of al-Qaida for two decades and has extensive knowledge of the group.

Here's Why The Navy Is Holding A Terror Suspect At Sea

In addition to his alleged involvement in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, al-Libi, 49, has been described as the man who handled al-Qaida's computer systems. He was on the FBI's Most Wanted list and had a $5 million bounty on his head.

The U.S. could send al-Libi to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where he could be questioned and held indefinitely while awaiting a military trial.

But President Obama wants to close the Guantanamo prison and therefore is unlikely to add to its population. The president has also barred the use of "extraordinary rendition," or sending suspects to secret prisons in third countries.

"Al-Libi ought to be brought to Guantanamo as an illegal enemy combatant and tried by military commission," The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial. "But it apparently offends the Obama Administration's political sensibilities less to keep captured killers on board a ship for weeks instead."

The Defense Department says that al-Libi was "lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya," while multiple news organizations say he's being held on a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean.

A Previous Detention At Sea

One precedent for this case was the April 2011 seizure of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame.

He's a Somali linked to al-Shabab and al-Qaida, who was captured by U.S. forces in the Gulf of Aden and kept aboard a U.S. Navy vessel for about two months before he was ultimately sent to New York City for prosecution. Warsame pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in December 2011 and has been cooperating with the government, according to U.S. officials.

Human rights groups say the shipboard detention is just another version of Guantanamo and the secret prisons that delay or prevent fair trials from taking place. But the intelligence agencies argue that they need to question suspects to break up terror networks and guard against future attacks.

There's no time limit for how long the U.S. could hold al-Libi on a ship outside the U.S.

However, Robert Chesney, an expert on national security law at the University of Texas, told NPR that by announcing al-Libi's detention, the U.S. government will come under pressure to bring him before a U.S. judge in the near future.

"If we go more than a few more days I would imagine you will hear from some quarter or another of an attempt to begin some kind of proceeding on his behalf," Chesney said. "Now that doesn't mean that a court is going to immediately get involved ... but it does mean that there will be legal friction to emerge."

Cully Stimson, who manages the National Security Law Program at the Heritage Foundation, said that the length of al-Libi's detention at sea is likely to be a barometer of how much he's talking to interrogators.

"The longer they have him on a ship, the more we know he's talking," said Stimson, who previously worked on detainee affairs at the Pentagon. "If he clams up, he'll probably be presented in a U.S. court pretty quickly."

The Obama administration has made clear its preference for putting suspects on trial in civilian court. However, once al-Libi is brought into the U.S. legal system, he will, among other things, be read his Miranda rights and receive an attorney who might discourage al-Libi from talking.

Al-Libi was captured Saturday in one of two raids carried out by U.S. forces in Africa. The other, on the coast of Somalia, resulted in a firefight and casualties, but no suspects were captured, U.S. officials said.

Such raids expose U.S. forces to much greater risks compared to drone strikes that have been widely used during Obama's presidency. Capturing a suspect offers the possibility of valuable intelligence, however.

NPR.org
By: Greg Myer
October 7, 2013

 

 

During al-Qaeda’s early years in the 1990s, when Osama bin Laden ran the terrorist group out of Sudan, a young Libyan man who was part of his country’s besieged diaspora of Islamists used his advanced computer skills to rise to the top of the organization long before it emerged as a global menace.

After the Libyan uprising started in early 2011, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai — who was detained by U.S. Special Operations forces over the weekend — was among the Islamists who flocked back home. He soon received an important assignment from al-
Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, according to a U.S. intelligence official: establish a cell for the network in his strategic North African homeland, which was reeling from a brutal civil war.

“He was tasked to create a terrorist network in Libya and involved in strategic planning between al-Qaeda and Libya,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence assessment. The official said the order was delivered within the past year, which might help explain why the Obama administration authorized the rare and risky “rendition” carried out Saturday by U.S. commandos.

American officials have said the capture of Ruqai, who used the alias Anas al-Libi, could yield a trove of new information about the enigmatic operative, who was instrumental in the rise of al-
Qaeda and appeared to be playing a key role in its renaissance. There is relatively little public information about what he has been doing since he fled Britain in 1999.

Ruqai, 49, is being held somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dock. U.S. counterterrorism interrogators are hopeful that he will offer new insight into the recent transformation of al-Qaeda into a decentralized network that has consolidated new footholds in North Africa.

“My guess is that he will have a good deal to tell us about what has been going on in Libya and a significant amount of information to tell us about what al-Qaeda has been up to between 2001 and the present,” said Daniel Benjamin, who recently stepped down as the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism and is a foreign policy expert at Dartmouth College. “Possibly that will help us identify priorities and decide who else needs to be paid attention to.”

Ruqai was among the Islamists drawn to Afghan battlefields in the 1980s to fight the Soviet occupation. In the early 1990s, when bin Laden set out to plan a spectacular attack against U.S. embassies in Africa from his base in Sudan, the al-Qaeda leader tasked Ruqai with scoping out targets. The group later carried out the bombings against the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people.

According to testimony provided in February 2001 by a former al-Qaeda member who became a U.S. government witness in a federal case in New York, Ruqai took photos of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and helped develop them in an apartment. Ruqai, who has been indicted in a federal terrorism case in New York, also stands accused of gathering information on potential British and Israeli targets in the Kenyan capital.

Besides being trained in surveillance, the computer engineer had skills that were deemed invaluable for an organization with growing transnational aspirations, said Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who investigated the embassy bombings.

“He was definitely one of their smarter people,” Soufan said in an interview. “In the ’80s and ’90s, not a lot of people knew about computers.”

By the time the embassies were bombed, on Aug. 7, 1998, Ruqai was long gone from Sudan. He was among scores of Islamists who had fled to Britain after being granted political asylum there. In 1999, Scotland Yard investigators questioned Ruqai at the urging of FBI agents investigating the embassy bombings, Soufan said.

Ruqai vanished before investigators could gather enough evidence to detain him. The following year, agents searching his apartment found a guide al-Qaeda issued to its fighters, which later became known as the “Manchester Manual.” The 180-
page document was a blueprint of al-Qaeda’s philosophy and included vast tactical guidance.

Terrorism experts said Ruqai’s next steps remain something of a mystery. Some have reported that he spent time in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Abdullah al-Ruqai, one of the detainee’s sons, told the New York Times on Sunday that his family was held in Iran for four years under harsh conditions.

After returning to Libya in 2011 to join the rebellion against dictator Moammar Gaddafi, Ruqai did not appear to keep a low profile, despite a $5 million bounty being offered by the U.S. government for information leading to his capture. A United Nations sanctions report listed an address for him in the Libyan capital.

An August 2012 report by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress on al-Qaeda’s presence in Libya said Ruqai was “most likely involved in al-Qaeda strategic planning and coordination” between the network’s leaders in Pakistan and hard-line Islamist militias in Libya. The report said there had been “intense communications” from al-Qaeda leaders to Ruqai.

“He and others who found safe haven in the chaos that is now Libya are of great and growing concern to us,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee. “The hope is that he will not only shed light on the historic actions of the core of al-Qaeda, but can also provide actionable intelligence about Libya and surrounding countries.”

Schiff said that even if Ruqai were to be kept at sea for several weeks while intelligence officials attempt to debrief him, a prolonged detention is unlikely to weaken the pending criminal case against him, because government officials handling his interrogation would be “walled off” from the prosecution.

“I think both interests can be balanced,” the congressman said.

The Washington Post
By:
Ernesto Londono
October 7, 2013

 

 
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A senior advisor to the Department of Homeland Security is an old friend of  an activist who was convicted in 2008 of financing the terrorist organization Hamas.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Mohamed Elibiary, a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, reiterated claims he made this summer that former Holy Land Foundation president and CEO Shukri Abu Baker is innocent and a victim of political persecution.

Elibiary, who in his position on the council has regular access to classified information, also said the United States insults Muslim dignity and compared the Muslim Brotherhood to American evangelicals.

Elibiary confirmed to journalist Ryan Mauro of the ClarionProject in August that he is a longtime friend of Baker. Mauro’s interview
can be read at the Center for Security Policy.

Baker and four other officials of the closed Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were convicted of using the charity to finance Hamas in 2008. It was the largest terrorism financing trial in U.S. history. Federal prosecutors described the Foundation, which was closed by the U.S. government in 2001, as an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.

Elbiary first disclosed the relationship in a 2007 article in the Dallas Morning News. He met Baker as a teenager and was so moved by the terrorist funder’s explanation of alleged Israeli persecution of Palestinians that he says he began donating monthly to Baker’s foundation until it closed in 2001. The friendship continued, with Elibiary meeting with Baker for coffee the day before he was convicted.

Elibiary maintains that Baker is innocent, and in 2010 he wrote that the U.S. government was “using the law to force compliance with unjust foreign policies.” He reiterated his belief that the U.S. should not have prosecuted the Holy Land Foundation.

The Muslim activist has never disguised his support for Muslim Brotherhood extremism. In a 2006 letter to the Morning News, he defended the fanatically anti-American early Brotherhood leader and theorist Sayyid Qutb, stating, “I’d recommend everyone read Qutb, but read him with an eye to improving America not just to be jealous with malice in our hearts.”

Elibiary has been
honored by the FBI’s Society of Former Special Agents. In September he was promoted to Senior Advisor at the Advisory Council, a title held only by select members. Other Council members include William Bratton, the revered former New York police commissioner and Los Angeles chief of police; former CIA Director Bill Webster; and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

“If you ever wondered why the Obama Administration believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate force for good and partners with known U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities, this interview with Mr. Elibiary helps us find an answer,” Mauro said. 

To read more, click
here

The Daily Caller
Charles C. Johnson
October 6, 2013

 

Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed. Jihad will spread outwards to the region, then threaten global security -- possibly with biological and chemical weapons.

Al Qaeda is quickly constructing its main regional Middle East base in Syria, from where it plans to export terrorism and Islamic radicalism to neighboring states, then to the West, a new report released by an Israeli security research institute warned.

The jihadis later aspire, according to the report, to turn "Greater Syria" -- an old geographic term encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories -- into an Islamic caliphate.

The exhaustive study took a year to compile, according to researchers at the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which released it.

The Center itself is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.

The report identified the Al Nusra Front as Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria; they added that the organization is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed.

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Fighters from Al Nusra Front pose for a photograph

According to Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Al Nusra Front is entrenching itself in Syria at a rate several times faster than the time it took Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to become a serious international terrorist presence.

Erlich, who served in several posts in IDF Military Intelligence, also cautioned that Syria's location in the heart of the Middle East, its proximity to Europe, and its border with Israel mean that geopolitically, the jihadi threat from Syria is more central than the one from Afghanistan or Pakistan.

He compared Al Nusra's activities in Syria today to the incubation period of a virus, before it begins spreading and infecting other hosts. Later, Erlich warned, the plague of jihad will spread outwards from Syria to the region, then go on to threaten global security.

The researchers who composed the report assessed the chances of Al Nusra realizing its goal of building a caliphate as low, due to Syria's diverse sectarian, ethnic, and religious population, and strong tradition of secular Arab nationalism.

Nevertheless, they said, the group is on course to become one of the most prominent rebel entities, and will play a key role in shaping a post-Assad Syria, while using its growing presence as a springboard to launch international terrorist attacks.

To read more click
here

The Gatestone Institute
By: Yaakov Lappin
September 30, 2013

 

 

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