Ten years later, CIA ‘rendition’ program still divides N.C. town

Smithfield, N.C. — The small airport that houses what some here call Smithfield’s “dirty secret” lies just beyond the town’s outskirts, where tobacco warehouses and car dealerships give way to pine forests and then, abruptly, an imposing 10-foot-high fence.

Inside, in a metal hangar with its own security, is the headquarters of Aero Contractors Ltd., a private aviation company whose ties to the CIA have long inspired local speculation and gossip. Newspaper investigations and books have linked the firm’s planes to secret abductions, waterboardings and more, usually eliciting the same mute response from the occupant of Hangar No. 3.

These days, Aero’s jets are seldom seen in public, and the controversy over the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program — in which captured terrorist suspects were secretly transported to another country for interrogation — has vanished from the headlines in most of the country.

The most controversial interrogation and detention practices ended in 2006, and further limits were imposed by the Obama administration, which has prioritized killing suspected terrorists over capturing them. Yet, 10 years after the first “high-value” detainee was hooded and forced into a CIA plane, Aero’s presence remains for opponents a powerful symbol: a rare, visible reminder of what they view as a uniquely shameful chapter in America’s history.

Massachusetts man charged with plotting to fly explosives into Pentagon ordered held on bail

WORCESTER, Mass. — A federal judge has denied bail for a Massachusetts man accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

The judge said in the decision issued Monday that 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus is a “danger to the community” with a “dedication to his cause.”

Ferdaus, a Muslim American with a physics degree from Northeastern University, was arrested in Framingham in September after federal employees posing as al-Qaida members delivered what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosives.

Lawyers for the Ashland man said Ferdaus has mental health issues and had a “completely unrealistic fantasy.”

Air France rules that women don’t have to remove burqas on plane

News Agencies – November 8, 2011

French cabin crews have no right to tell Muslim women to remove their burqa aboard Air France flights – despite a nationwide ban on full face veils, the airline has ruled. Muslim passengers can be ordered to remove the garment while waiting in French airports to board the plane at the gate. But once on board, they are free to put their burqa back on, according to an internal memo to staff from Air France’s legal department.

 

The company’s lawyers said: ‘Flight crews on board planes cannot ask a person to uncover their face if they are hiding it. The law can only be enforced by police and other public officials on the ground.’ Pilots said they had ‘no issue’ with women wearing burqas during flights – as long as they had been through security checks before the flight. ‘Besides, on long-haul flights a lot of passengers hide their face with eye masks when they go to sleep.’

France’s controversial burqa ban which came into force in April makes it a criminal offence for for anyone to hide their face in public.

Terror plot thwarted as US-bound explosives seized

Authorities on three continents thwarted multiple terrorist attacks aimed at the United States from Yemen on Friday, seizing two explosive packages addressed to Chicago-area synagogues and packed aboard cargo jets. The plot triggered worldwide fears that al-Qaida was launching a major new terror campaign.

In the U.S., cargo planes were searched up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and an Emirates Airlines passenger jet was escorted down the coast to New York by American fighter jets. No explosives were found aboard those planes, though the investigation was continuing on at least two.

Since the failed Christmas bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, Yemen has been a focus for U.S. counterterrorism officials. Before that attack, the U.S. regarded al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen as primarily a threat in the region, not to the United States.

US learned more about Abdulmutallab during his flight, complexity of security challenges highlighted

US intelligence officials learned more about Abdulmutallab’s links to al-Qaida during his flight to Detroit, and intended on questioning him when he landed.

According to law enforcement, had the information been compiled sooner, he could have been prevented from boarding in Amsterdam. According to an administration official however, the information would not have motivated further scrutiny.

This highlights the complexity of counterterrorism and border security systems: because of current protocol, foreign visitors face greater scrutiny upon arriving in the US than they do getting on planes in the first place. There is also a great deal of information about passengers that is only compiled shortly before flights, in a comprehensive list called a manifest. It was a review of the manifest that revealed red flags on Abdulmutallab.

US appeals court dismisses Canadian Maher Arar’s lawsuit

Maher Arar cannot sue the United States after being mistaken for a terrorist when he was changing planes in New York a year after the 2001 terrorist attacks, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The judges of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals voted 7-4 to uphold a decision by a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit brought by Maher Arar, a Syrian-born man who was detained as he tried to switch planes in 2002.

Arar sued the US government and top Justice Department officials, saying the United States purposely sent him to Syria to be tortured days after he was picked up at John F. Kennedy International Airport on a false tip from Canada that he had ties to Islamic extremists. The lawsuit said Arar was allowed to see a lawyer only once despite his repeated efforts to receive representation. Syria has denied he was tortured. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million after acknowledging it had passed bad information to U.S. authorities.

Airline bomb plot ringleader gets 40 years in UK

A British judge on Monday sentenced the ringleader of a plot to bring down trans-Atlantic planes with liquid explosives to at least 40 years in jail and three fellow British Muslims to long prison sentences. The sentences for the planned suicide bombings were among the longest ever handed out by a British court in a terrorism case.

Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was given a minimum sentence of 40 years for plotting the biggest terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001. Assad Sarwar, 29, was ordered to serve at least 36 years in prison and Tanvir Hussain, 28, was sentenced at least 32 years. A fourth man, Umar Islam, 31, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and received a minimum of 22 years. Jurors were unable to decide in his case whether he intended to target aircraft in the plot.

The men had planned to smuggle explosives aboard the planes disguised as soft drinks and detonate them while flying. Prosecutors said they were likely just days away from mounting their suicide attacks when they were arrested in August 2006.

US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar’s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.

UK terror suspect says bomb plans were stunt

A man has denied leading a plot to cause mass murder by blowing planes out of the sky with the excuse that he had meant instead to explode small devices inside the Houses of Parliament as part of a publicity stunt. Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, said that suicide videos which the prosecution claims prove a plot to bomb seven planes flying to North America were in fact made as part of a “propaganda” documentary planned for release after the small explosions in Westminster. He told a jury at Woolwich crown court that the “documentary” would be released on YouTube and was intended to expose the effects of British foreign policy. Ali is one of eight men standing trial after their alleged plot was disrupted in August 2006. They all deny conspiracy to murder and to endanger aircraft. In April, while opening its case, the crown played videos of Ali found after he was arrested in which he warned of “body parts… decorating the streets” if Muslims were not left alone. He is seen speaking against the backdrop of a black flag with Arabic writing on it. Ali said the root cause of the suffering was British and American foreign policy prompting him and co-accused, Assad Sarwar, to come up with the idea of setting off explosions in Britain to change things.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=82FE24E162F2D1829152D362&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

Terrorism Trial: Suspect admits Heathrow blast plan: I expect to go to jail, says airline bomb plot ‘ringleader’

The alleged leader of a gang of eight men accused of plotting to blow up transatlantic planes in mid-air today told a court his intentions had been “taken out of proportion”. Abdulla Ahmed Ali said he expected to go to prison for planning to detonate a device at Heathrow airport’s terminal three. However, the 27-year-old insisted the device was not intended to do any damage and was a protest against Britain’s foreign policy. He denied the prosecution’s case that he planned to smuggle liquid explosives, hidden in soft drink bottles, on to planes and detonate them during flights to north America. The prosecution alleges that the plot, which was foiled in August 2006, would have killed more than 1,500 people. Ali told jurors at Woolwich crown court: “I understand that admitting to use an explosive device in a sensitive place such as an airport is an offence, and I don’t expect to go home after the trial – I expect to do time for that. “This whole thing has been blown up out of proportion. I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do and never intended to do.” He maintained that the plastic bottle and battery explosive device he attempted to make was never intended to harm. “That’s the truth,” he said. “I’ve done something which is an offence, I’m putting my hand up to that.” He claimed the charges against him had been “exaggerated”, with the media being used “to ruthless effect”. Ali and five other defendants made alleged “martyrdom” videos in which they threatened bloodshed in response to UK and US foreign policy. In Ali’s video, he vowed to teach non-Muslims “a lesson they will never forget” and warned of “body parts … decorating the streets” if Muslims were not left alone. He has claimed the films were meant to form part of a “documentary” that would be posted on the internet and highlight unjust foreign policies. Haroon Siddique and agencies report.