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.

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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.