Muslim employees of D.C. hotel say they were barred from floors where Israelis stayed

Muslim employees of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington said they felt discriminated against after being barred over the weekend from floors where an Israeli delegation was staying, a Muslim advocacy group said.
The hotel’s general manager, Amanda Hyndman, said the hotel rearranged some shifts and told some workers not to come in after a routine State Department background check found “irregularities” in the checks of 12 employees.

An official at the Israeli Embassy said that “as a policy, the embassy does not discuss the logistical arrangements for visiting Israeli officials.”

WikiLeaks sheds light on US diplomacy domestically and abroad

A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.
The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks posted 220 cables, some redacted to protect diplomatic sources, in the first installment of the archive on its Web site on Sunday.

Some of the topics revealed, include:

¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

¶ Clashes with Europe over human rights: American officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in a bungled operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was mistakenly kidnapped and held for months in Afghanistan. A senior American diplomat told a German official “that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.”

¶ Mixed records against terrorism: Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. While another cable reveals the suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash.

The White House said the release of what it called “stolen cables” to several publications was a “reckless and dangerous action” and warned that some cables, if released in full, could disrupt American operations abroad and put the work and even lives of confidential sources of American diplomats at risk.

A Canadian Line of Campbell’s Soups Has Activists Stewing Over Islamic Connection

Campbell Soup Co., the Camden, N.J., food giant, has been fighting a grass-roots boycott of its products after its Canadian subsidiary rolled out a line of soups certified as halal, meaning they’re prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. Campbell Co. of Canada introduced the soups in a few Canadian markets in January, although American bloggers didn’t catch up to the news until earlier this month.

Blogger Pamela Geller began calling for a boycott earlier this month via her widely read site, Atlas Shrugs. Other bloggers soon joined in. “No one is suggesting they refrain from this line,” Geller said. “No one is suggesting they not have halal food. I’m not against halal food any more than I’m against kosher food. My issue is who’s doing the certifying.” Geller opposes Campbell’s decision to have its Canadian products certified by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization that government prosecutors alleged had ties to the terrorist group Hamas in a 2007 conspiracy case.

ISNA, an organization based in Plainfield, Ind., was designated an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the prosecution of a charitable organization that funneled money to Hamas, the Islamist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas has been named a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

U.S. Issues Terrorism Alert for Travel to Europe

On Oct 3rd, the U.S. State Department issued an alert urging Americans traveling to Europe to be vigilant about possible terrorist attacks. The British government, meanwhile, raised the threat of terrorism to “high” from “general” for Britons in France and Germany.

“Current information suggests that Al Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack,” according to the State Department statement.

The advisory says Americans should be aware that terrorists often target popular tourist attractions and public transportation such as subways and rail systems. It doesn’t warn Americans not to travel to the region.

Aftermath and Consequences

The fact that the suspect was able to get on an airplane even though he had been on the no-fly list caused criticism of the implementation of no-fly list leading to revisions to avoid future mistakes. Also, there has been debates about terror-watch list individuals’ ability to buy guns. Meanwhile, Sen. Lieberman announced his “Terrorism Expatriation Act” revoking citizenship of any American “who is found to be involved with a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the State Department.” At the same time, security measures in NYC and at East Coast airports tightened as two suspicious situation in NYC caused evacuation and investigation. Neither of the two was of terrorist nature.

US authorities failed to connect Abdulmutallab with al-Qaida’s attack plans, Obama criticizes

Authorities say the National Security Agency (NSA) knew in August 2009 that a branch of al-Qaida in Yemen might try to use a Nigerian for a terrorist attack on Christmas Day. Had the information been examined together with information the State Department, the CIA, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) put together in October 2009 based on conversations with Abdulmutallab’s father, it may have provided what was needed to uncover the pending attack.

The terrorist’s father gave the US Embassy in Nigeria, including the CIA and the State Department, text messages from his son that indicated his radicalization. “Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat,” his cousin quoted him as saying. He never directly accused his son of planning to bomb a plane.

In November 2009 upon the warnings, the CIA alerted NCTC, who put his name on the half-million large terrorism watch list. The CIA also compiled biographical data on Abdulmutallab but did not share it with other security agencies. They also decided there was not enough information about him to pursue moving him to smaller, more refined lists of people who require extra scrutiny at airports.

Routine procedure also had an e-notice of Abdulmutallab’s purchase of a plane ticket sent to homeland security officials on December 16.

“The right information did not get to the right people—there’s no question about that,” a senior intelligence official said. “If all known information had been provided, we would have been down a different path.”

Some blame the NCTC for the failure, which was created in 2004 collate information from across the US’s national security system. Others blame the CIA.

Some officials feel information is being shared, and that isn’t the problem. It’s the volume of information collected. Setting thresholds of what’s pointing to impending violence amidst huge amounts of data can be tricky.

Obama calls it a systematic failure that is totally unacceptable.

Republicans are using the failure as ammunition against democrats, positioning Obama as a president who won’t take security seriously enough. Democrats are accusing Republicans of blocking needed resource increases while exploiting public fear.

Abdulmutallab had passport, contrary to eyewitness report

Abdulmutallab is said to have presented a passport in the Amsterdam airport, contrary to Kurt Haskell’s report. Haskell claims to have seen Abdulmutallab with a well-dressed Indian man who told ticket agents Abdulmutallab “doesn’t have a passport…he’s from Sudan. We do this all the time.”

The passport was valid and from Nigeria, and had a valid US visa.

US State Department reaches out to the Muslim world

A new division opened in the State Department this year: the office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities. Farah Pandith’s mission is to reach out to the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. She tells Steve Inskeep the office will influence how Muslims perceive the United States.

European rabbis, imams to promote understanding

Delegation of spiritual leaders from Europe visits US to learn about ‘twinning synagogues’ initiative aimed at advancing interfaith dialogue, battle anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. A delegation of over two dozen European imams and rabbis in a meeting late last week at the White House pledged participation in American-led efforts to combat Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The declaration, signed by leading clerics from nine European nations came at the conclusion of a four-day interreligious mission to the United States that brought the group to the White House, State Department, Congress, United Nations, Ground Zero, US Memorial Holocaust Museum and even Yankee Stadium. The mission was hosted by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress United States and the Islamic Society of North America.

Protesters Gather Outside Islamic Conference Near Chicago

Roughly 500 members of Hizb ut-Tahrir — a global Sunni network with reported ties to confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Al Qaeda in Iraq’s onetime leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — met inside a Hilton hotel in Oak Lawn, Ill., to host “The Fall of Capitalism and the Rise of Islam.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir insists that it does not engage in terrorism. The organization is not recognized by the State Department as a known terror group. Its supporters, however, blasted capitalism while calling for a rise of Islam during Sunday’s conference. “Free market, organization, capitalization — all has failed and brought disaster to America,” said one of the group’s speakers.

Dozens of protesters outside the hotel — many of whom held American flags — shouted as attendees left the conference late Sunday. No arrests had been made.