Al-Qaeda, Taliban sanctions committee approves “most comprehensive set of updates” to sanctions list

The chair of the UN Security Council’s “Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee” on Monday said the committee has “approved the most comprehensive set of updates” to their sanctions blacklist, as well as the largest group of narrative summaries for added listings in its history.The statement came as the chairman of the Security Council Committee established under Resolution 1267 on sanctions against Taliban and Al-Qaeda members, Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the UN, briefed the 15-nation Security Council in an open meeting.

“Today, I am pleased to report that the committee, building on these efforts, has approved the most comprehensive set of updates to the Consolidated List and the largest group of narrative summaries of reasons for listing in its history,” Wittig said.

Specifically, he told the Council that the committee has agreed to 78 list amendments and to make publicly available almost 200 additional summaries of reasons for listing.

“In particular the additional narrative summaries will further facilitate the implementation of the sanctions,” he said. “They mark an important step to close an information gap and further enhance fair and clear procedures.”

Currently, the Consolidated List has 488 entries — 258 Al- Qaeda individuals, 138 Taliban individuals and 92 Al-Qaeda entities, he said.

Since the last briefing, the committee has added the names of six individuals to the list, and removed six other individuals from the list in addition to amending 37 entries based on additional information gathered.

Despite his death, Osama Bin Laden was not removed from the list.

Canadian prevented from flying because name was on US no fly list

The Economist reports that that a British man was prevented from flying home from Canada because his name was on America’s no-fly list. Dawood Hepplewhite was not allowed to board his Air Transat flight
from Toronto on February 13th when it was discovered that he was among
the 8,000 to 10,000 people prohibited by the US from flying over its
airspace. Even though Canadian airlines are not under any legal
obligation to give passenger information to the US, Mr Hepplewhite was
subsequently denied flights on Air Canada and British Airways.

It’s
unclear how Mr Hepplewhite’s name was given to American authorities.
Under existing Canadian privacy legislation, Canadian companies are not
supposed to supply customer information to foreign governments. But that
will change if a piece of Canadian legislation known as Bill C42, now
in its third reading in the House of Commons, is passed. The bill puts
in an exemption to the country’s privacy laws that will allow airlines
to divulge passenger information to the US, essentially giving American
authorities the final say on which passengers will be allowed on flights
due to pass over American airspace.

The Canadian Civil Liberties
Association has “serious concerns about the lack of legal safeguards in
Bill C42” and also the about the no-fly list’s fairness and the listing
process in general. “If a person believes they were wrongfully placed on
the US No Fly List, it is apparently very difficult to find out why
they were placed on the list, and difficult to get their name off of the
list,” the association said.
The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, has brought a lawsuit
challenging the no-fly list as “unconstitutional” and “un-American”.

Gulet Mohamed released after Obama administration was sued over place on no-fly list

Al Jazeera reports that Gulet Mohamed, 19, a US teenager stuck in Kuwait for a month after being placed on the US government’s no-fly list was reunited with his family at a Washington airport. Mohamed claims he was blindfolded, beaten and tortured while he was detained for nearly a month in Kuwait at the behest of the US authorities. His homecoming follows a lawsuit filed earlier this week in the US District Court of Alexandria.

As Mother Jones reports:

There’s certainly circumstantial evidence to suggest that the US was and is involved in Mohamed’s detention. Mohamed and his lawyer say his interrogators possessed detailed information that could have only come from US government sources. Abbas explains in court documents:

The subject matter of the interrogators’ questioning—communicated in English and Arabic—indicates that [the US government] facilitated Mr. Mohamed’s illegal detention, interrogation, and torture. Mr. Mohamed’s interrogators asked him detailed questions about his American siblings, referenced non-public facts regarding his family, and even had information about specific encounters Mr. Mohamed had in Virginia. One of his interrogators claimed to have met Mr. Mohamed at a mosque in Virginia where the two exchanged introductions briefly.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations sued on Mohamed’s behalf seeking an order that would require the government to allow the teenager to return to the US.

But before a judge issued any order, a government lawyer said Mohamed had been released from detention in Kuwait and was heading back home.

(Glenn Greenwald interview with Mohamed here.)

New JSOC centre must oversee growing use of special anti-terrorism operations

AP reports that the Obama administration has ramped up its secret war on terror groups with a new military targeting center to oversee the growing use of special operations strikes against suspected militants in hot spots around the world.

Run by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the new center would be a significant step in streamlining targeting operations previously scattered among U.S. and battlefields abroad and giving elite military officials closer access to Washington decision-makers and counterterror experts, the officials said.

The center aims to speed the sharing of information and shorten the time between targeting and military action, said two current and two former U.S. officials briefed on the project. Those officials and others insisted on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified matters.

The new center is similar in concept to the civilian National Counterterrorism Center, which was developed in 2004 as a wide-scope defensive bulwark in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to share intelligence and track terrorist threats.

But the new military center focuses instead on the offensive end of counterterrorism, tracking and targeting terrorist threats that have surfaced in recent years from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia and other hot zones. Its targeting advice will largely direct elite special operations forces in both commando raids and missile strikes overseas.

The data also could be used at times to advise domestic law enforcement in dealing with suspected terrorists inside the U.S., the officials said. But the civilian authorities would have no role in “kill or capture” operations targeting militant suspects abroad.

The center is similar to several other so-called military intelligence “fusion” centers already operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those installations were designed to put special operations officials in the same room with intelligence professionals and analysts, allowing U.S. forces to shave the time between finding and tracking a target, and deciding how to respond.

At the heart of the new center’s analysis is a cloud-computing network tied into all elements of U.S. national security, from the eavesdropping capabilities of the National Security Agency to Homeland Security’s border-monitoring databases. The computer is designed to sift through masses of information to track militant suspects across the globe, said two U.S. officials familiar with the system.

Several military officials said the center is the brainchild of JSOC’s current commander, Vice Adm. Bill McRaven, who patterned it on the success of a military system called “counter-network,” which uses drone, satellite and human intelligence to drive operations on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While directly run by JSOC, the center’s staff is overseen by the Pentagon, while congressional committees have been briefed on its operations, officials said.

Over the past year, the numbers of special operations forces and commando raids against militants have surged in Afghanistan. Two strike forces have grown to 12, according to an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters.

“We’ve gone from 30-35 targeted operations a month in June 2009 now to about 1,000 a month,” said NATO spokeswoman Maj. Sunset Belinsky. “More than 80 percent result in capture, and more than 80 percent of the time we capture a targeted individual or someone with a direct connection.”

How does it work?

McChrystal’s intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Michael Flynn, recognized early innovations by special operations forces in the field and then refined the intelligence sharing process among the military into the “counter-network” system.

Under that system, U.S. special operations forces have acted as police crime scene investigators, quickly combing for evidence after capturing or killing their targets. They bring their data back to a team of defense intelligence analysts who work with interrogators questioning captured suspects. Their teamwork, officials said, speeds up the targeting of new terror suspects.

Similarly, the military’s new targeting center near Washington will rely on a steady flow of information and evidence from the field, which will then by analyzed by special operations experts and their civilian counterparts.

A tip from Africa that suspected militants are planning a strike in the United States, for example, would lead to the names of those suspects being fed into the cloud-computing network. The computer would compare the information with U.S. and international border and flight information, mined from the database of watch lists from the Counterterrorism Center, DHS and the FBI.

If the targets surface overseas, for example, in a country such as Somalia, where special operations forces have already staged snatch-and-grab raids against militants, the military forces would likely be chosen to pursue the targets.

But if the suspected militants turned up inside the U.S., the FBI and other domestic law enforcement would take the lead, officials said.

Detained American on no-fly list says he was beaten in Kuwait during interrogations

The NY Times reports that an American teenager detained in Kuwait two weeks ago and placed on an American no-fly list claims that he was severely beaten by his Kuwaiti captors during a weeklong interrogation about possible contacts with terrorism suspects in Yemen.

The teenager, Gulet Mohamed, a Somali-American who turned 19 during his captivity, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from a Kuwaiti detention cell that he was beaten with sticks, forced to stand for hours, threatened with electric shocks and warned that his mother would be imprisoned if he did not give truthful answers about his travels in Yemen and Somalia in 2009.

American officials have offered few details about the case, except to confirm that Mr. Mohamed is on a no-fly list and, for now at least, cannot return to the United States. Mr. Mohamed, from Alexandria, Va., remains in a Kuwaiti detention center even after Kuwait’s government, according to his brother, determined that he should be released.

Mr. Mohamed said that Kuwaiti interrogators repeatedly asked whether he had ever met Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen who is suspected in terrorist plots by Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate. He said that the Kuwaitis also asked detailed questions about his family in the United States and his family’s clan in Somalia — information he said he assumed that American officials provided to the Kuwaitis.

Mr. Mohamed denies ever meeting with militants. “I am a good Muslim, I despise terrorism,” he said in the interview.

On Tuesday, his lawyer wrote a letter to the Justice Department demanding an investigation into the episode.

“The manner of his detention and the questions asked of Mr. Mohamed indicate to him that he was taken into custody at the behest of the United States,” wrote Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer appointed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Terrorist watch list: One tip now enough to put name in database, officials say

The Washington Post reports that officials say they have made it easier to add individuals’ names to a terrorist watch list. Senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list. The new criteria have led to only modest growth in the list, which stands at 440,000 people, about 5 percent larger than last year. The vast majority are non-U.S. citizens.

Compatibility of UN Security Council and EU [terrorist] Black Lists with European Convention on Human Rights requirements

Two important documents on this topic appeared last week.

The first one is a new report by ECCHR on terrorism listing, written by Gavin Sullivan and Ben Hayes with a foreword by Martin Scheinin.

After outlining the ways that blacklisting breaches fundamental rights, reviewing the key case law, analysing the broader political impacts and problems of the regime and critically evaluating the possibilities for procedural reform, the Report argues that the policy of blacklisting is currently facing a crisis of legitimacy. The time has come for radically rethinking the issue and for the international legal framework underpinning the blacklisting regimes to be abolished.

(Op-ed by Gavin Sullivan on the report here.)

The second one is a third party intervention done by Dick Marty in the case of Nada v Switzerland (Application No. 10593/08), which is presently pending before the Grand Chamber. This request was not accepted by the Court’s President. This document reproduces the exchange of correspondence which Mr Marty has had with the Court’s President, as well as an extract from a press release concerning this case, issued by the Court’s registry.

An insight in how the UN’s 1267 comittee’s focal point for delisting works

Cable 09STATE83026 gives an unusal look insight in how the UN’s process for delisting terrorists works. The cable tells the story about how legal representatives for 1267-listed entity Jamaat-ud-Dawah and its leader, Muhammad Saeed (permanent reference number QI.S.263.08) petitioned on their clients behalf for delisting via the UN focal point. The focal point forwarded the de-listing request to the US (who was the designating state) and to the Government of Pakistan (state of citizenship/residence/incorporation). After three weeks the State Department concluded its review, and requested the US mission to the UN to do the following:

USUN is requested to inform the focal point on August 25, after both USUN and Islamabad have had a chance to inform Pakistani officials of our views, of our opposition to the de-listing request on behalf of JUD and Muhammad Saeed. In its communication to the focal point, USUN should refute the assertion in Saeed’s and his legal representatives claim in the focal point de-listing petition that “there are no grounds for placing Saeed and JUD on the Consolidated List and the material relied upon is incorrect and baseless” and note that we stand by the information included in the statements of case we submitted (co-sponsored by the UK and France) to the UN 1267 Committee to add JUD and Saeed to the Consolidated List. USUN should further state that we have seen no evidence of a change in circumstance warranting de-listing of JUD or Saeed.

The cable includes a detailed ‘non-paper’ which reveals why the US “intelligence community” wanted to put the organisation on the terrorist list.

EDPS on the EU’s counter-terrorism policy

The EDPS adopted an opinion yesterday on the Commission’s Communication of 20 July 2010 entitled “The EU Counter-Terrorism Policy: main achievements and future challenges. This opinion aims at “contributing to more fundamental policy choices in an area where the use of personal information is at the same time crucial, massive and particularly sensitive.” According to the EDPS:

Many of these initiatives were taken, often as a fast response to terrorist incidents, without a thorough consideration of possible duplications or overlapping with already existing measures. In some cases, even a few years after their entry into force, it is not yet established to which extent the invasion of citizens’ privacy ensuing from these measures was in all cases really necessary.

1. The EDPS highlights that the  “prevention” and “protection” strands of the EU’s CT strategy “are the most delicate ones from a data protection perspective” because

  • they are by definition based on prospective risk assessments
  • they envisages increasing partnerships between law enforcement authorities and private companies where info collected by private companies for commercial purposes is used by public authorities for law enforcement purposes.

On this last point the EDPS says:

The preventive analysis of information would entail the collection and processing of personal data relating to broad categories of individuals (for example, all passengers, all internet users) irrespective of any specific suspicion about them. The analysis of these data – especially if coupled with data-mining techniques – may result in innocent people being flagged as suspects only because their profile (age, sex, religion, etc.) and/or patterns (for example, in travelling, in using internet, etc) match those of people connected with terrorism or suspected to be connected. Therefore, especially in this context, an unlawful or inaccurate use of (sometimes sensitive) personal information, coupled with broad coercive powers of law enforcement authorities, may lead to discrimination and stigmatization of specific persons and/or groups of people.

In this perspective, ensuring a high level of data protection is also a means contributing to fighting racism, xenophobia and discrimination, which, according to the Communication, “can also contribute to preventing radicalisation and recruitment into terrorism”.

2. The EDPS further highlights the need for a consistent approach between all Communications and initiatives in the area of home affairs, which is currently lacking. He recommends that the principle of necessity is explicitly considered in each proposal in this area. This should be done both by considering possible overlaps with already existing instruments and by limiting the collection and exchange of personal data to what is really necessary for the purposes pursued. He suggests that “existing instruments should prove in periodic reviews that they constitute effective means of fighting terrorism.” The EDPS recommends that special attention be paid to those proposals resulting in general collections of personal data of all citizens, rather than only suspects.

3. The EDPS also comments on the use of restrictive asset-freezing measures

The need for further improvements of the procedure and the safeguards available to listed individuals has been recently confirmed by the General Court in the so-called “Kadi II” case. In particular, the Court highlighted the necessity that the listed person should be informed in details about the reasons for being listed. This comes very close to the rights, under data protection law, to have access to one’s own personal data and to have them rectified, notably when they are incorrect or out of date. These rights, explicitly mentioned by Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, constitute core elements of data protection, and may be subject to limitations only to the extent these limitations are necessary, foreseeable and laid down by law.

In this perspective, the EDPS agrees with the Communication that one of the future challenges in the area of counter-terrorism policy will be the use of Article 75 TFEU. This new legal basis, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, specifically allows establishing asset-freezing measures against natural or legal persons. The EDPS recommends that this legal basis be used also to lay down a framework for asset freezing which is fully compliant with the respect of fundamental rights. The EDPS is available to further contribute to the development of relevant legislative instruments and procedures, and looks forward to being duly and timely consulted when the Commission – pursuant to its 2011 Work Programme – will develop a specific regulation in this area.

Against this background, EDPS recommends the EU legislator to step up the role of data protection, by committing to specific actions (and deadlines), such as:

o Assessing the effectiveness of existing measures while considering their impact on privacy is crucial and should vest an important role in European Union’s action in this area;

o When envisaging new measures, considering possible overlapping with already existing instruments, taking into account their effectiveness, and limiting the collection and exchange of personal data to what is really necessary for the purposes pursued;

o  Proposing the establishment of a data protection framework applicable also to the Common Foreign and Security Policy;

o Proposing a comprehensive and global approach to ensuring, in the area of (asset-freezing) restrictive measures, both the effectiveness of the law enforcement action and the respect for fundamental rights, on the basis of Article 75 TFEU;

o Putting data protection at the heart of the debate of the measures in this area, by ensuring for example that Privacy and Data Protection Impact Assessments are carried out and competent data protection authorities are timely consulted when relevant proposals in this area are put forward;

o Ensuring that data protection expertise is fed into the security research at a very early stage, so as to guide policy options and to ensure that privacy is embedded to the fullest possible extent in new security-oriented technologies;

o Ensuring adequate safeguards when personal data are processed in the context of international cooperation, while promoting the development and implementation of data protection principles by third countries and international organisations.

House of Lords Joint Committee on Human Rights – Legislative Scrutiny: Terrorist Asset- Freezing

In the view of the Committee “there is scope to amend the Bill to provide for a standard of proof which is higher than that which is currently in the Bill, but which is still lower than the standard required to charge the person with a criminal offence. This would still be consistent with the power being used preventively, and we accordingly propose an amendment to the Bill.”