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from The Great Debate:

Swift U.S. jury verdict gives lie to Gitmo

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:

Keep terrorism trials in U.S. courts

On Friday morning in downtown Manhattan, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law appeared in a federal courtroom to be charged with conspiring to kill Americans. In a sober, orderly proceeding that lasted a total of 17 minutes, Judge Lewis Kaplan explained to Suleiman Abu Ghaith his rights, appointed his defense lawyers, read the charges against him, recorded his plea of “not guilty,” ordered the prisoner’s continued detention and announced that he would set a trial date for the case in 30 days.

Prosecutors have already turned over the bulk of their unclassified evidence against the defendant. Abu Ghaith, who was transferred to New York from Jordan on March 3, is reportedly cooperating with federal authorities and providing important information about al Qaeda.

from Thinking Global:

Obama’s Afghan test

Munich – For America’s friends and allies, who will welcome Vice President Joe Biden to the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend, President Obama’s second inaugural address was notable for its single-minded focus on U.S. domestic issues even as global challenges proliferate. It was the clearest sign yet that Obama intends to build his historic legacy at home.

No one quibbles with Obama’s conviction that America’s global role can best be sustained through a period of “nation-building at home.” The problem is the world is unlikely to hit the pause button as America gets itself off the fiscal cliff, reforms its immigration system, modernizes its infrastructure, fixes its education system and focuses on other long-neglected home chores.

from The Great Debate:

Running al Qaeda

This piece originally appeared in Reuters Magazine.

We now have the first public release of goodies from Osama bin Laden’s redoubt at Abbottabad: 17 letters to and from bin Laden and his crew that spell out vision, plans and tactics for the global jihad. The letters span a decade and outline the dimensions of a would-be caliphate – a truly global theater of war conceived, plotted and executed by bin Laden. They also reveal bin Laden to be a highly accomplished orchestrator of a global network struggling with the challenges of collaboration. Three issues consume him, and they happen to be the classic political tasks in the management of collaboration.

First, and most important: keeping everyone on track. For bin Laden, the primary management task was clearly holding everyone to a solitary vision, staying true to values (Islamic law, as he read it), and aligning deeds with words. Across his network bin Laden had little command or control over who operates in the name of Allah or even al Qaeda. As a result, nothing bugged him more than dummies among al Qaeda’s formal franchisees, loose affiliates or allies getting distracted from killing Americans; or butchering innocent Muslims; or blowing chances for alliances he sorely wanted to create. Bin Laden’s advisers were astounded, for example, when al Qaeda in Iraq attacked Catholics in an attempt to pressure Coptic Christians into releasing prisoners. It’s as if, one wrote, someone took Sunnis hostage to pressure Shias – “Does this satisfy any sane person?” The sheer horror of the geopolitical and historical error left bin Laden’s deputies shaking their heads.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Obama’s China cloud

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event in Chantilly, Virginia earlier this week on May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Benjamin Myers

A bright spot of Barack Obama's presidency - foreign policy - all of a sudden was taking some hits as the White House struggled to deal with a crisis involving a Chinese dissident. 

from Expert Zone:

Osama bin Laden’s ideology thriving a year after his death

(The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not represent those of Reuters)

One year after the elimination of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in the daring Abbottabad operation of May 2, 2011, it is evident that while the terror group has been considerably weakened, it has been consolidating over the last few months and the ideology that bin Laden espoused is thriving in the Af-Pak region.

from Tales from the Trail:

New Obama ad suggests Romney wouldn’t have gone after bin Laden

In advance of the May Day anniversary of Osama bin Laden's assassination, the Obama reelection campaign is out with a new web ad, this one narrated by Bill Clinton who, echoing the words of another former president, praises Obama as "decider in chief." The bin Laden operation was risky for Obama, Clinton says -- if the intelligence was wrong or if the Navy Seals were captured or killed, "the downside would have been horrible" -- but "that's what you hire a president to do. You hire a president to make the calls when no one else can do it."

The ad contrasts Obama's action with speculation about whether Romney would have done the same, citing comments he made during the '08 campaign suggesting it wouldn't be worth it to spend "billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person."

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Kids, cover your ears

It's true, you learn much more out in the real world than you do in school. Just look at the kids who today attended the State Department press briefing for Take Your Child to Work Day. Instead of lessons in nation-building or food aid, they were treated to a discussion of prostitutes and strip clubs. 

With Washington gripped by a widening Secret Service scandal, reporters just couldn't steer clear of the salacious story. Soon after spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saluted the handful of underage observers, the questions moved to charges that Secret Service agents and other government workers cavorted with strippers and prostitutes while on overseas assignments. Nuland lamented the topic du jour and one Department employee jokingly moved to cover his daughter's ears.

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 Photographers' Blog:

Back in Afghanistan, ten years later

By Erik de Castro

Ten years ago I was part of the three-member Reuters multimedia team that went to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. We covered the pursuit for Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban followers, who were believed to be holed up in the caves of the Tora Bora mountains, by US military special forces fighting alongside the Afghan Mujaheedin. Nobody from the press saw Osama. Instead about a dozen Taliban captured from the caves were presented to the media in Tora Bora.

As we passed the Afghan border on the road to Jalalabad following a long journey from Islamabad, Pakistan, I remember the precautions our security adviser told us: If ever we are stopped by armed men along the way, stay calm and just hand over our U.S. dollars. Weeks earlier, two Reuters colleagues (a TV cameraman and a photographer) and two other European journalists traveling with a convoy of media vehicles were killed by bandits on the same road.

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