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from The Great Debate:

Swift U.S. jury verdict gives lie to Gitmo

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The government’s charges against Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law looked pretty thin. Washington was basically claiming that the Kuwaiti imam had made a few inflammatory speeches -- one praising the September 11 attacks and another warning that more attacks on tall buildings were soon to come. It didn’t sound like much, given that the charges were providing “material support” for terrorism and conspiring to kill Americans.

But less than a year later, 48 year-old Suleiman Abu Ghaith stands convicted on all counts, following a jury trial in a U.S. federal court. Over the three-week trial the government managed to convince a jury that the cleric’s actions -- giving a handful of speeches for al Qaeda, some on camera seated next to bin Laden -- made him responsible for the September 11 attacks, the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, and the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, a Navy ship docked in Yemen. Abu Ghaith didn’t even make his first videotaped speech until September 12, 2001.

It’s an odd quirk of U.S. conspiracy law. If someone joins a conspiracy, though it may be years after it started, he’s still liable for all the murder and mayhem his co-conspirators caused, even if it was long before he came along.

That’s what happened to Abu Ghaith. The jury may have believed he only gave a few speeches helping al Qaeda after the September 11 attacks, which is when he says he first met bin Laden, but Abu Ghaith is legally responsible for every American who bin Laden and his compatriots killed before that.

from The Great Debate:

Can Obama ever close Guantanamo?

Twelve years ago this month, President George W. Bush issued an order authorizing the U.S. military to detain non-U.S. citizen “international terrorists” indefinitely, and try some of them in military commissions. Within two months, those seized in the “war on terror” following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan were being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

A dozen years later, the United States is preparing to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, ending “the longest war in American history,” as President Barack Obama observed on Veteran’s Day. Yet the Guantanamo prison -- now notorious as the site of torture and other abuses -- remains open.

from The Great Debate:

Counterterrorism: Where are Obama’s policy changes?

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It is now roughly five months since President Barack Obama announced a new direction for U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

“America is at a crossroads,” Obama said at the National Defense University in May. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.”

from The Great Debate:

Obama can close Guantanamo

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At his news conference on Tuesday, President Barack Obama for the first time in years spoke about the controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which he had promised to close when he first took office.

“Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” Obama said, responding to a reporter’s question. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.” He went on to acknowledge that more than half the detainees have been officially cleared for release.

from Anthony De Rosa:

Republican candidates seem to live in an alternate reality

There is plenty that GOP candidates could use as fodder to attack Barack Obama. An unemployment rate of 9 percent for much of his presidency seems like awfully low-hanging fruit. So why in the world are they bothering to question the president on things that have little basis in reality?

Take Mitt Romney, for example. Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition Forum last week, Romney said, "This president appears more generous to our enemies than he is to our friends. Such is the natural tendency of someone who is unsure of America's strength -- or of America's rightful place in the world."

from Reuters Investigates:

Bin Laden “wanted to be a martyr.” U.S. obliged.

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Today's special report "The bin Laden kill plan" is based on interviews with two dozen current and former senior intelligence, White House and State Department officials. It explores the policies and actions of the United States in its 13-year hunt for Osama bin Laden. 

Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state in Bush's first term, voiced the view that prevailed through two presidencies. "I think we took Osama bin Laden at his word, that he wanted to be a martyr," Armitage told Reuters.  

from Tales from the Trail:

Bin Laden’s death relieves U.S. of tough decision about legal prosecution

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is probably relieved that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed during the military operation in Pakistan rather than being captured.

A year ago, Holder drew some scrutiny when Republicans in the House of Representatives questioned him about how bin Laden would be prosecuted if captured, whether in a traditional federal criminal court or a special military court.

from Global News Journal:

Tanzanian police cast shadow over Guantanamo trial

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By Basil Katz
Throughout the trial, defense lawyers have been suggesting to the jury that Tanzanian witnesses who testified against Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first suspect from Guantanamo to face a criminal court, were in some way intimidated by the Tanzanian national police and fear reprisals back home.trial1

Prosecutors deny the witnesses have been under any pressure and say the Tanzanian police escorts who accompanied them on their plane ride to New York were provided due to the complexity of international travel and the high stakes nature of the case.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

“My Life with the Taliban” – on study and Islamic values

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zaeefIn  "My Life with the Taliban",  Abdul Salam Zaeef -- who fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and later served in the Taliban government before it was ousted in 2001 -- writes of how he longed to escape the trappings of office and instead follow in the footsteps of his father as the Imam of a mosque, learning and teaching the Koran.

"It is work that has no connection with the world's affairs. It is a calling of intellectual dignity away from the dangers and temptations of power. All my life, even as a boy, I was always happiest when studying and learning things. To work in government positions means a life surrounded by corruption and injustice, and therein is found the misery of mankind," he writes in his memoirs, newly translated and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

from Tales from the Trail:

ACLU gives Obama mixed first year rights grade

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obamaU.S. President Barack Obama has taken some bold steps on civil rights during his first year in office, such as ordering an end to torture and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison, but his overall record is mixed, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday. 

The civil rights group said Obama had acted on more than a third of 145 recommendations it made to him when he was elected. The recommendations focused on steps  the president could take on his own without a vote by Congress.

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