By Pam Benson
The United States government is seeking to reject lawsuits demanding information about drone strikes that target suspected terrorists overseas, saying releasing details on the program would have a major effect on counterterrorism efforts.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in New York after a Freedom of Information Act request they submitted to the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the CIA, was denied. The rights group is seeking the release of a copy of the memo outlining the Obama administration's program that targets suspected terrorists overseas. The New York Times filed a related lawsuit.
In its response, the government asked for a summary judgment dismissing the complaints and defended its decision not to release the requested information.
“Even to describe the number and details of most of these documents would reveal information that could damage the government’s counterterrorism efforts,” the government said, further maintaining that refusal to disclose the information is consistent with exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act that permit the withholding of records when doing so is in the public interest. FULL POST
Scores of pages of al Qaeda documents seized in last year's U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden were released Thursday.
They comprise 175 pages in the original Arabic of letters and drafts from bin Laden and other key al Qaeda figures, including the American Adam Gadahn and Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, published the papers on its website. Here are the center's brief description of the documents. You can click the links for the English translations: FULL POST
By Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank
The editor and star contributor may be dead, but that hasn't prevented al Qaeda in Yemen from issuing the eighth and ninth editions of its online English-language magazine, Inspire.
The eighth edition of the high-color magazine includes the most detailed advice yet from radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki on launching attacks against Western countries. In a five-page article entitled "Targeting the Populations of Countries at War With Muslims," al-Awlaki justifies the killing of women and children and the use of chemical and biological weapons in addition to bombings and gun attacks.
Al-Awlaki and the man widely believed to have been Inspire's editor, former North Carolina blogger Samir Khan, were both killed in a drone attack in September in Yemen. It's unclear why it's taken so long to publish their articles. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula represents a "serious threat" to attack the United States, according to a Defense Department official who oversees special operations.
In testimony before a Senate Armed Service subcommittee, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of Defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, said the United States has made important gains against the al Qaeda affiliate over the past year, but "the group's intent to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States continue to represent a serious threat."
By Adam Levine
It appears that al Qaeda's English-language outreach efforts have nearly disappeared.
IntelCenter's Ben Venzke, who keeps stats on jihadi videos, notes that the media arm of al Qaeda central, As-Sahab, has not released an English-language video since 2010.
English-language versions of al Qaeda videos started around 2000 and were either subtitled, voiceovers or transcripts, according to Venzke. The person behind most of these is believed to be American Adam Gadahn.
"It was a key way for al Qaeda to deliver its message to both a Western audience and a larger percentage of its non-Arabic-speaking followers," Venzke observes.
By Terry Frieden
Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday defended the targeted killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are suspected of plotting to kill Americans, rejecting critics' arguments that those strikes amount to assassinations.
While not referring directly to the government's drone attack on U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last year, Holder was unflinching in providing publicly for the first time the Justice Department's legal justification for using lethal force, saying attacks like the strike that killed al-Awlaki fell within "our laws and values."
"Let me be clear: An operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated force, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful," he said. FULL POST
By CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden
After months of promises from the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder Monday will finally lay out at least some of the legal arguments that the Justice Department developed to support its targeted killing of a U.S. citizen with alleged terrorist ties in Yemen last year.
One official familiar with the speech said it was doubtful Holder would mention by name Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted in a September drone attack. Another American who was active in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Samir Khan, was not the target of the strike but was with al-Awlaki and killed at the same time.
Both the operation and the legal opinion that supported it remain classified.
By Pam Benson
The targeted killing of those suspected of engaging in terrorist activities against the United States, including American citizens, is justified and legal, according to the Defense Department's chief lawyer.
Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson is the first government lawyer to officially weigh in on the legal justification for killing a U.S. citizen since American born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a CIA missile fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle last September.
In comments Wednesday night during a speech at Yale University, Johnson made no mention by name of al-Awlaki or the classified CIA drone program.
"Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives," Johnson said.
By Kiran Khalid and Paul Cruickshank
New details about the final plans for the 2009 plot to take down an American jetliner on Christmas Day paint a vivid picture of the significant involvement of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-Yemeni militant cleric killed in a drone strike last September.
The information came to light Friday with the release of a Justice Department sentencing memo issued ahead of next week's sentencing of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab.
By Carol Cratty
The U.S. government's list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to the United States or within its borders has more than doubled over the past year, a counterterrorism official told CNN Thursday.
The "no fly" list produced by the FBI now has approximately 21,000 names on it, according to the official, who has knowledge of the government's figures. One year ago about 10,000 individuals were on it.
Only about 500 people currently on the no-fly list are Americans, the official said.
The dramatic jump in the numbers resulted from reforms made after a Nigerian man with explosives in his underwear was able to get on an international flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. It was later learned the father of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab had gone to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria prior to Christmas to raise concern about his son, but that did not result in his going on the no-fly roster.