Macron proposes extension of counterterrorism powers

President Macron’s government proposed an expansion of authorities’ powers to fight terrorism, alarming civil liberties advocates even as defenders said the plans would help keep French citizens safe.

The draft law was introduced after a series of attempted terrorist strikes in Paris and Brussels in recent weeks and several bloody attacks in Britain that were claimed by Islamic State-inspired militants.

The changes proposed Thursday seek to wind down a state of emergency that gave French security officials broad powers and was imposed after the November 2015 Paris attacks, which claimed 130 lives. Some of those powers would be made permanent, including the ability to temporarily shutter places of worship that promote extremism and conduct searches with fewer restrictions. The draft also strips some oversight powers from judges and gives security officials more latitude to act without judicial review.

 “I think we have achieved a good balance,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters after a meeting of the French cabinet Thursday during which he proposed the law. “The aim is to put an end to the state of emergency.”

 

Macron and his predecessor, François Hollande, have sought to end the state of emergency, which has been extended several times since the 2015 attacks. It is slated to expire July 15, although Macron has asked for it to be prolonged until November.

The proposal “tries to preserve the balance between controlling terrorism and respecting liberties,” French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said Wednesday on France’s TF1 television station. “We cannot give up what we are.” 

He acknowledged that the law was a work in progress, saying that consultation with parliament, where Macron has a majority, would “enrich the text.” Macron last month announced the formation of a terrorism task force that would streamline communication among branches of intelligence and law enforcement, an idea praised by terrorism experts.

 

Since November 2015, French police have conducted over 4,000 searches and raids using emergency powers and placed about 400 people under house arrest, according to statistics collected by Amnesty International.

 

Travel Ban Drives Wedge Between Iraqi Soldiers and Americans

President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order has driven a wedge between many Iraqi soldiers and their American allies. Officers and enlisted men interviewed on the front lines in Mosul said they interpreted the order as an affront — not only to them but also to fellow soldiers who have died in the battle for Mosul.

“An insult to their dignity,” said Capt. Abdul Saami al-Azzi, an officer with the counterterrorism force in Mosul. He said he was hurt and disappointed by a nation he had considered a respectful partner. “It is really embarrassing.”

“If America doesn’t want Iraqis because we are all terrorists, then America should send its sons back to Iraq to fight the terrorists themselves,” Capt. Ahmed Adnan al-Musawe told a New York Times reporter who was with him this week at his barricaded position inside Mosul.

Col. John L. Dorrian, the spokesman in Baghdad for the American-led operation against the Islamic State, emphasized that the president’s order was temporary, calling it “a pause.”

Judge Rejects Settlement Over Surveillance of Muslims by New York Police Department

A federal judge has rejected the settlement of a lawsuit stemming from the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims, saying the proposed deal does not provide enough oversight of an agency that he said had shown a “systemic inclination” to ignore rules protecting free speech and religion.

In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, agreed to appoint a civilian lawyer to monitor the department’s counterterrorism activities as a means of settling two lawsuits accusing the city of violating the rights of Muslims over the past decade.

But the judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., in an opinion published on Monday, said the settlement did not go far enough for an agency that had become “accustomed to disregarding” court orders.

“The proposed role and powers of the civilian representative,” Judge Haight wrote, “do not furnish sufficient protection from potential violations of the constitutional rights of those law-abiding Muslims and believers in Islam who live, move and have their being in this city.”

Judge Rejects Settlement Over Surveillance of Muslims by New York Police Department

A federal judge has rejected the settlement of a lawsuit stemming from the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims, saying the proposed deal does not provide enough oversight of an agency that he said had shown a “systemic inclination” to ignore rules protecting free speech and religion.

In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, agreed to appoint a civilian lawyer to monitor the department’s counterterrorism activities as a means of settling two lawsuits accusing the city of violating the rights of Muslims over the past decade.

But the judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., in an opinion published on Monday, said the settlement did not go far enough for an agency that had become “accustomed to disregarding” court orders.

“The proposed role and powers of the civilian representative,” Judge Haight wrote, “do not furnish sufficient protection from potential violations of the constitutional rights of those law-abiding Muslims and believers in Islam who live, move and have their being in this city.”

‘You just hide the bag with money’

Recent research from Tilburg University stresses the importance of the common background between Moroccan jihadists in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. On Facebook they sympathize with each other, says researcher Claudia Lemos de Carvalho. She speaks of an “e-jihad ‘. There are bands of Moroccan networks with IS. “North Africa, especially Morocco networks have members with a high profile within the IS hierarchy,” said De Carvalho. “Dutch, French and Belgian jihadists have a common characteristic, their Maghreb background. Which gives them identity, strengthens mutual sympathy which binds them both online and offline.

‘Jihad Network extends into The Netherlands’

The events of the 13th Friday confirm once again the terrorist links between networks in France and Belgium, which in turn stand in connection with Dutch networks. These are links that take place via social media important radical ideological exchanges and where actually offline contacts, ‘on the ground’ occur because of the geographical proximity.

Woman planning to join Islamic State arrested at Madrid’s Barajas Airport

A 22-year-old woman was arrested at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas Airport on Monday night, on suspicion that she was planning to fly to Turkey to join the militant group Islamic State (ISIS), Interior Ministry sources have told EL PAÍS.

The woman is originally from a village in Huelva, in southern Spain, and had converted to Islam and become radicalized in a short period of time via internet messages.

The Civil Guard, which was in charge of the operation, became aware of the suspect thanks to its constant monitoring of jihadist forums on the internet, the sources added.

The Civil Guard became aware of the suspect thanks to its constant monitoring of jihadist forums on the internet

The young woman was arrested when she was about to take a flight to Turkey, which is a habitual entry point to Iraq and Syria for those wishing to join ISIS. Her residence will now be searched for evidence.

Spanish court sentences 11 members of jihad recruiting cell that sent militants to Syria

Spain’s National Court has convicted and sentenced 11 members of a recruitment network that sent militants to carry out attacks for al-Qaida-linked groups fighting in Syria.

A court statement Friday said the group, members of the Jabhat al-Nusra organization, recruited the militants in Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta and in neighboring Morocco.

The court said that between 2012 and 2013 the group sent some 28 combatants to Syria. At least eight died in attacks that claimed hundreds of victims.

All 11 are Spaniards of Moroccan background from Ceuta, where they were arrested in 2013.

The cell’s leaders, Karim Abdesalam Mohamed and Ismail Abdelaftif were sentenced to 12 years while the rest each received 10-year sentences.

Human rights report takes at U.S. terrorism prosecutions, criticizes FBI tactics

July 21, 2014

A new human rights report offers a blistering assessment of the Justice Department’s role in the fight against terrorism, taking aim at tactics used to identify and prosecute suspects.

In a lengthy examination of U.S. terrorism prosecutions, Human Rights Watch, working with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, said the FBI and the Justice Department have created a climate of fear in some Muslim communities through the use of surveillance and informants.

The group accused the government of using sting operations, which some critics described as entrapment, to target people with mental or intellectual disabilities and said that such tactics have driven people away from mosques.

“The report clearly shows, in many respects, the American public is being sold a false bill of goods,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “To be sure, the threat of terrorism is real,” she said. “But in many of the cases we documented, there was no threat until the FBI showed up and helped turn people into terrorists.”

Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesman, said: “The Department of Justice has been a steadfast ally of our nation’s civil rights groups for decades. The report itself acknowledges that the legal process used in the cases it highlighted is not only lawful but is also specifically approved by federal judges. . . . We do not and cannot target individuals solely for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment, which includes free speech and religion.”

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 500 people, or about 40 cases a year, have been prosecuted in federal courts on terrorism charges. As of October, Human Rights Watch said, U.S. prisons held 475 people indicted in connection with or convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses.

Of those serving sentences, the report said, 49 people were held in high-security prisons, 137 in administrative facilities and 237 in medium- or low-security prisons. According to the report, 44 terrorists were serving time at a supermax prison in Florence, Colo.

Human Rights Watch said some prisoners were being held under harsh conditions that included prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on their communication with family members and others.

As an example of what it called abusive detention conditions, the group cited the case of Pakistani national Uzair Paracha. He was held in solitary confinement for nearly two years before he was convicted in New York in 2006 — on charges of providing material support for terrorism — and sentenced to 30 years.

Among the recommendations in the report, Human Rights Watch said the FBI should ensure that investigations are not opened on the basis of “religious behavior, political opinion, or other activity protected by the right to freedom of expression under international law.”

The group also asked that the Bureau of Prisons end prolonged solitary confinement.

CAIR-MI: Civil Rights Groups to Call for Inquiry Into Feds Labeling Dearborn as Suspected Terrorist Community

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 8/7/2014) — On Friday, August 8, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) and other civil rights organizations will hold a press conference to call for a congressional inquiry into how a federal law enforcement database labeled Dearborn, Mich., as the second highest population of “known or suspected terrorists.”

Representatives from ACLU-MI, Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI) and the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) will also be in attendance.

Recently-leaked government documents indicated that Dearborn, a city with less than 100,000 residents is considered to have the second highest concentration of suspected terrorists in America, after New York City, which has a population of more than 8 million people. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country.

Given that there has not been a Dearborn resident who has ever committed an act of terrorism in the homeland, nor any significant pattern of residents being involved in international terrorism, we have serious concerns that federal law enforcement views Dearborn as a suspect community primarily based on its Arab and Muslim demographics,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

Walid also noted that given 94 percent of domestic terrorism attacks in recent decades have been committed by persons other than the Islamic faith, which calls into question how the federal government is using its resources in protecting the nation from actual terrorism threats.