Five men on trial for planning Australian Army attack

An Australian court has begun on Monday hearing the case against five Melbourne men accused of planning a terrorist attack on the Holsworthy Army base in Sydney. The Prosecutor said that the men planned to shoot as many people as possible in the planned suicide raid on the army base in retaliation for Australia’s involvement in the Afghan war.

Wissam Fattal, Saney Aweys, Nayef El Sayed, Yacqub Khayre and Abdirahman Ahmed, all Australian citizens with Somali and Lebanese background, have been in custody since last year and all pleaded not guilty to conspiring to prepare or plan a terrorist act.

Judge Betty King told the jury that the case was not about the religion of Islam, but whether the men were guilty of criminal charges. “The Islamic faith is not on trial. It isn’t about being a Muslim,” said King.

AI Report: Iraq unlawfully detaining and torturing thousands

(JURIST) According to a report by Amnesty International (AI), the Iraqi government is unlawfully detaining and torturing more than 30,000 detainees. The report, “New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detention in Iraq“, accuses Iraq of torturing detainees during interrogations in order to obtain confessions, which are then used as evidence against them. Furthermore, an increasing number of uncharged detainees are being held despite judicial orders for their release.

The report proposes a number of guidelines to be followed by the Iraqi prison authorities  in order to help protect detainees, including immediately halting the ill treatment of prisoners and ensuring the detainees are given full due process rights and access to legal representation.

AI urged the US and Iraqi authorities to respect international human rights law for the protection of prison detainees by immediately releasing any uncharged detainees. AI also recalled that the practice of arbitrary detention violates both Iraqi legislation (the 2008 Iraqi amnesty law prescribes that uncharged detainees are to be released after a period of six to 12 months in detention) and international human rights law.

Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim and a US military spokesman both refuted the AI investigation, saying that all detainees are being held on judicial warrant and that the report is “baseless” and the claims of detainee mistreatment are “not true.”

US to test iris scan technology

The Homeland Security Department plans to test futuristic iris scan technology that stores digital images of people’s eyes in a database and is considered a quicker alternative to fingerprints.

The department will run a two-week test in October of commercially sold iris scanners at a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, where they will be used on illegal immigrants, said Arun Vemury, program manager at the department’s Science and Technology branch.

“The test will help us determine how viable this is for potential (department) use in the future,” Vemury said.

Iris scanners are little used, but a new generation of cameras that capture images from 6 feet away instead of a few inches has sparked interest from government agencies and financial firms, said Patrick Grother, a National Institute of Standards and Technology computer scientist. The technology also has sparked objections from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU lawyer Christopher Calabrese fears that the cameras could be used covertly. “If you can identify any individual at a distance and without their knowledge, you literally allow the physical tracking of a person anywhere there’s a camera and access to the Internet,” he said.

Iris scans can be quicker than fingerprints. “You can walk up to a wall-mounted box, look at the camera, and that’s it,” Grother said.

Homeland Security will test cameras that take photos from 3 or 4 feet away, including one that works on people as they walk by, Vemury said.

In 2007, the U.S. military began taking iris scans of thousands of Iraqis to track suspected militants. The technology was used in about 20 U.S. airports from 2005 to 2008 to identify passengers in the Registered Traveler program, who could skip to the front of security lines.

Financial companies hope the scans can stop identity fraud, said Jeff Carter of Global Rainmakers, a New York City firm developing the technology. “Iris is going to completely reshape the fraud environment,” he said.

Former Detainees Join Federal Court Challenge to Post-9/11 Racial Profiling and Abuse of Muslim, Arab and South Asian Men

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announced that six new plaintiffs have joined a federal, class action lawsuit, Turkmen v. Ashcroft, challenging their detention and mistreatment by prison guards and high level Bush administration officials in the wake of 9/11. In papers filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, CCR details new allegations linking former Attorney General Ashcroft and other top Bush administration officials to the illegal roundups and abuse of the detainees.

The new suit names as defendants then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former INS Commissioner James Ziglar and officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where the plaintiffs were held. It includes additional detail regarding high-level involvement in racial profiling and abuse, including allegations that former Attorney General Ashcroft ordered the INS and FBI to investigate individuals for ties to terrorism by, among other means, looking for Muslim-sounding names in the phonebook.

US considers terror charges for cleric al-Awlaki

According to AP, the Obama administration is considering filing the first criminal charges against radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in case the CIA fails to kill him and he is captured alive in Yemen. A decision on criminal charges is expected in the next several weeks, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, suggested in Detroit federal court Monday that he wanted to plead guilty to some charges, raising the possibility that his cooperation could form the foundation for charges against al-Awlaki.

According to AP:

The best case scenario for the government would be for Abdulmutallab to plead guilty. He has already told the FBI that al-Awlaki was involved in the airliner bomb plan, and a plea deal would allow Abdulmutallab to become a witness against him. But Abdulmutallab, who fired his lawyers Monday and was given approval to represent himself, has yet to strike a deal and would probably seek a reduced prison sentence in exchange for his help.

Another option, given al-Awlaki’s increasingly violent sermons and his collaboration with al-Qaida’s propaganda efforts, would be charging him with supporting terrorism. But that charge carries only a 15-year prison sentence, leaving the administration open to questions about how the president can authorize the CIA to essentially impose the death penalty for such a crime.