IPT – A Daily Snapshot

December 31, 2008

Daily Terror Alert
Tuesday 23 December 2008

NOTE:  The next Daily Terror Alert will be distributed Monday 29 Dec 2008

Top News

Cheney defends US ‘war on terror’ policies (AFP)
Vice President Dick Cheney has defended controversial interrogation methods in the US “war on terror,” while acknowledging he was not sure if Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was still alive. In an interview on Sunday one month before his eight-year term in office ends, Cheney rejected accusations that the treatment of terror suspects amounted to torture and violated US law, saying the administration’s policies helped prevent another terrorist strike on the country. “Given the kind of conflict we’re faced with today, we find ourselves in a situation where I believe you need strong executive leadership. What we did in this administration is to exert that kind of authority,” Cheney told Fox News.

2. Five Radical Islamist Convicted Of Conspiring To Kill U.S. Soldiers
(IPT News)
A jury … convicted five Muslim immigrants of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix. Four of the defendants were also convicted of weapons charges, and all five were acquitted of attempted murder charges. Mohamad Shnewer (age 23), Serdar Tatar (age 25), Dritan Duka (age 30), Eljvir Duka (age 25), and Shain Duka (age 27) are expected to be sentenced April 22nd and 23rd for conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel. They could face life in prison. After twelve weeks of trial in a New Jersey courtroom, jurors took less than six days to reach their decision. The men were arrested in May 2007 in Cherry Hill, NJ while two of them attempted to purchase four automatic M-16 rifles and 3 semi-automatic AK-47 rifles to be used in a future attack. The men were not accused of having ties to specific terrorist organizations, but prosecutors presented dozens of video clips featuring jihadist speeches they say the men used as inspiration.

3. The Fort Dix Verdict: A Victory for Pre-emptive Prosecutions (Time)
Technically, the verdict Monday in the Fort Dix terrorism case – in which five defendants were accused of plotting to attack the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey – was mixed. After deliberating for six days, the jury at Federal District Court in Camden, N.J., acquitted the defendants of attempted murder but found them guilty of conspiring to murder members of the U.S. military. “It shows that the portrait that was painted by the U.S. Attorney as a slam dunk case was not accurate,” said Rocco Cipparone Jr., one of the defense attorneys. But in truth the verdict is a significant victory for the federal government, and not just because the conspiracy conviction is likely to put the men away for life, when U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler sentences them in April. It proves that the government can convince a jury to support the idea of pre-emptively prosecuting terrorism cases – a risky strategy that has yielded mixed results in the past.

4. Many Muslims skeptical of Fort Dix verdicts

Yes, they talked tough, fired guns and watched jihadist videos. But the five young Muslims convicted today of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix may not have been guilty of anything more than youthful braggadocio and poor judgment. That was the verdict rendered by Muslim leaders immediately after the guilty verdicts were read in U.S. District Court in Camden. “It seemed to me as if the case was pretty flimsy,” said James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba who was arrested in 2003 and charged with mishandling classified material and other crimes in a suspected espionage ring. Criminal charges were later dropped against him. “It seems like these guys under normal circumstances weren’t going to do anything until a government informant initiates contact with them and incites them,” said Yee.

5. Maryland man pleads guilty to conspiracy to act as Iraqi agent
(Baltimore Sun) www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation/bal-md.spydec23,0,3320529.story

IPT NOTE: The gov’t press release is posted at  http://baltimore.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel08/ba122208.htm
A 67-year-old Maryland restaurateur, known by the code name “Adam,” pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to spying for the Iraqi government – including Saddam Hussein’s regime – since 1989. According to court documents, Saubhe Jassim Al-Dellemy used his Laurel restaurant to gather information about nearby U.S. agencies and their employees, including where military officers lived. He gave the data to Iraqi Intelligence Service members and officials, who sometimes met at the restaurant. Reached by telephone yesterday at the restaurant, Gourmet Shish Kebab, Al-Dellemy declined to comment. He could face a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and deportation. Sentencing is scheduled for March.

6. Taliban member sentenced to life in 1st US conviction on narcoterror charges (DOJ)
A member of an Afghan Taliban cell was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to two terms of life in prison on drug and narco-terrorism charges, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division announced. Khan Mohammed, 38, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to serve the two life sentences concurrently as well as 60 months of supervised release, served consecutively, for each of the two counts of conviction following the prison term. Mohammed was convicted on May 15, 2008, after a seven-day jury trial on one count of distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin knowing and intending that it be imported into the United States and one count of narco-terrorism, or the distribution of a controlled substance (in this case heroin and opium) in order to provide something of pecuniary value to a person or group that has engaged or is engaging in terrorist activity. The conviction represented the first time a defendant had been convicted in U.S. federal court of narco-terrorism since the statute was enacted in March 2006.

7. Executive linked to Iranian probe arrested in NYC (AP)
The president of a foundation that co-owns a Manhattan building allegedly linked to a bank accused of supporting Iran’s nuclear program was arrested Friday. Farshid Jahedi, 54, the president of the Alavi Foundation, was charged with obstruction of justice after he tried on Thursday to throw away documents responsive to a subpoena he received one day earlier, federal prosecutors said. An FBI complaint against Jahedi said he was warned not to destroy documents requested by a grand jury. It said he disobeyed the order when he went home to Ardsley, N.Y., where he dumped papers in a public trash can. The documents referred to Assa Limited, Assa Co. and 650 Fifth Ave. Co., subjects responsive to the subpoena, authorities said. Jahedi’s Alavi Foundation owns 60 percent of the building on Fifth Avenue.

8. Swede who told FBI his son-in-law was linked to Al Qaeda appeals libel conviction
(The Local – Sweden)
A man who told the FBI that his son-in-law had links to al-Qaeda as a way of avenging perceived sleights to his daughter, is appealing his conviction for libel to Sweden’s Supreme Court. The father-in-law, from Lund in southern Sweden, was sentenced to community service and ordered to pay 60,000 kronor damages for getting his estranged son-in-law arrested on his way to a conference in Orlando in 2006. The son-in-law’s arrest followed a tip-off submitted by the father-in-law to the FBI’s website in which the Swede was reported to be “most likely linked to Muslim terror org AQ networks in Sweden and is known to speak about helping Muslim world on US terror.” The man was arrested by armed guards as his plane touched down in Orlando. He was questioned for several
hours and was forbidden from contacting anyone.

9. Exclusive: over 60 per cent of Britain’s Muslim schools have extremist links, says draft report
(Daily Telegraph – London)
Britain’s Muslim schools have been sharply criticised in a controversial draft report commissioned by a leading think tank which suggests that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists. An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in the private sector but supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection. The report also claims that some of these schools teach “repugnant” beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews.

10. Paris judge charges 3 suspected of terrorist plot
A Paris judge has filed preliminary charges against three men suspected of planning a terrorist attack. A judicial official said late Saturday that a 29-year-old French man was being held while a judge probes charges including terrorism-related criminal conspiracy. Two others were freed pending the investigation and will be monitored by authorities. The judge can order a trial or drop the charges. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in accordance with judicial policy. France’s domestic counterterrorism agency had arrested seven people around Paris Tuesday on suspicion some may have been planning an attack. Four people have already been released.

11. Indian police say terror strike foiled in Kashmir
Indian police said Tuesday they had foiled a major suicide strike in Indian-controlled Kashmir with the arrest of three Islamist militants, including a Pakistani soldier. Under interrogation, the militants said they had been planning to drive a truck laden with explosives into a “vital installation,” Jammu and Kashmir police chief Kuldeep Khuda said. The three were waiting for delivery of the explosives and confirmation of the intended target when they were arrested, Khuda said. The arrests came amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the attacks in Mumbai, which New Delhi has blamed on a Pakistan-based militant group.

12. India terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the new Al Qaeda? (NY Daily News)
U.S. intelligence was caught off-guard by Lashkar-e-Taiba’s “highly sophisticated” Mumbai terror strikes last month, which top spies now consider the debut of a new “brand name” to rival Al Qaeda. The Islamist group was formed with Pakistani government help decades ago, but U.S. officials admit underestimating Lashkar’s shift from waging a minor conflict in the Kashmir region to threatening Westerners and Jews. “There is real concern over the fact LeT has raised its profile,” a U.S. counterterror official told the Daily News. “A lot of people are watching closely now to see if they’re plotting new attacks.” The group is as mainstream in Pakistan as its ally Hamas is in the Palestinian territories. Before the mayhem that began Nov. 26, no Lashkar camps in Pakistan’s tribal areas had been targeted during an intense CIA offensive in the fall, a senior intelligence official confirmed.

13. U.S. to Fund Afghan Militias, Applying Iraq Tactic
The Afghan government will formally start a U.S.-funded effort to recruit armed local militias in the battle against the Taliban in remote parts of the country, exporting the tactic to Afghanistan from Iraq. The first militias will be established in Wardak Province, in eastern Afghanistan, in coming weeks, officials said. If the effort in Wardak is successful, U.S. commanders hope to create similar forces in other parts of Afghanistan in early 2009. The militia push is part of a growing American effort to bypass the struggling Afghan central government and funnel resources to Afghan villages and provinces. Senior American officials have stepped up their criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in recent weeks, making clear that they believe his government needs to do more to fight corruption and deliver basic services.

14. Russia denies delivering S-300 missiles to Iran (AFP)
Russia on Monday denied that it was delivering sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, following reports it was about to supply the weapons to the US arch-foe. “The information on the delivery of S-300 air-defence systems to Iran, which has appeared in certain media outlets, does not correspond to reality,” Russia’s military-technical cooperation agency said in a statement.

15. Hariri says he will not call for negotiations with Israel (eNews 2.0)

The head of the anti-Syrian ruling majority in Lebanon, Saad Hariri, said Tuesday he would not call for negotiations between Lebanon and Israel. “We will never initiate and request any negotiations with Israel, and the cabinet has the sole authority to take this decision,” Hariri was quoted as saying after meeting the head of the Christian community Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir. Hariri was referring to a suggestion made by Christian leader Michel Aoun, a close ally of the pro-Syrian opposition Hezbollah. Aoun has called for negotiating with Israel in Syria’s presence. On May 22, Israel and Syria announced that they were engaged in negotiations for a comprehensive peace treaty through Turkish mediators.

16. Israel developing UAV early warning sensor (Defense Systems)
Faced with a burgeoning nuclear threat from Iran, Israel is looking to develop long-range, high-resolution unmanned vehicles to help in identifying incoming nuclear warheads, RF Design reports. A prototype of the infra-red sensor has already been tested as part of the five-year old Israeli-German program called Bluebird. The Israelis are reportedly proposing a follow-on program called the Airborne Early Warning Sensor, which Pentagon officials are apparently considering for funding under the jointly funded Israeli Upper Tier program. Some $50 million has already been appropriated for that program in 2008 and 2009, RF Design said.

17. Hamas waiting for showdown
At the time of writing this, and as opposed to other Gaza groups, Hamas has not yet fired even one Qassam rocket at Israel since the end of the lull. The group’s military wing, Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades has not fired rockets at Ashkelon or Sderot, instead making do with mortar fire at Gaza-region communities. Mortars can kill too, yet Hamas is using them to send a message: We are still interested in a lull, but under new terms. Israel is closely familiar with Hamas’ demands – a complete opening of the Gaza crossings and significant mitigation of the blockade. Israel does not accept the demands made in Gaza, and therefore Hamas allows other organizations to fire rockets. The return of massive fire enables the group to reclaim the title of “resistance movement,” which had been somewhat forgotten in recent months. In order not to stay out of the cycle of resistance and fire, Hamas is taking part in the armed struggle by using mortars. However, Hamas is saving its rockets for the moment where the possibility of an Israeli military operation shifts from words to actions.

18. Gaza gunmen fire at soldiers near Sufa
(Jerusalem Post)

Gaza gunmen fired at IDF soldiers patrolling the security fence near the Sufa crossing late Monday afternoon, seemingly refuting reports of a 24-hour ceasefire. The troops returned fire. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. In addition, soldiers arrested two Palestinians near Kissufim who had crossed the Gaza fence. They were transferred for interrogation. Also Monday afternoon, three Kassam rockets fired by Gaza terrorists hit southern Israel. One struck the Eshkol region, while two hit the Sha’ar Hanegev area. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.

19. Intensified rocket attacks reignite residents’ anxiety (Jerusalem Post)

Renewed Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot and the western Negev has reignited the extreme trauma and stress experienced by area residents, especially the children, according to professionals who run the Israel Trauma Coalition’s five Resilience Centers. “We have been receiving an increasing number of calls and people coming in for treatment referrals over the past few days,” David Giron, regional coordinator of the Resilience Centers, told The Jerusalem Post Monday. A trained social psychologist, Giron said that the situation had been exacerbated by the “period of relative quiet,” which had seen life in Sderot return to some semblance of normalcy. “Now the pressure has returned at an even higher magnitude than before,” he explained, stressing that the situation reflects a buildup after eight years of attacks.

20. Israel Prepares PR for Gaza Offensive (Israel National News)
Israel’s civilian Public Relations network held a first-of-its-kind drill on Monday. The drill, titled “Maya 2,” was meant to prepare government ministries and spokespeople for the possibility of an escalation in the conflict with Gaza. Dozens of PR workers, IDF spokespeople, security and rescue agency representatives and representatives from Gaza Belt communities took part in the exercise. The goal was to improve coordination between the various bodies and the government, and to present a united front, organizers said.

Commentary / Analysis

1. Robert Spencer: Shilling for the Ft. Dix Six (Front Page Magazine)

2. James Gordon Meek: Murky Intelligence on Obama’s Intel Picks (CT Blog)

3. Walid Phares: Jihad by the Shoe: Who Was Behind it and why?
(CT Blog)

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