Morning Brief - 5/2/12TODAY’S TOP STORY
MEDUNJANIN CONVICTED IN NYC SUBWAY BOMB PLOT
Adis Medunjanin, a Bosnian-born U.S. citizen, was convicted in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday for his part in planning to bomb the New York City subway in 2009. Prosecutors characterized the plot as "terrorism 101," and said Medunjanin and his two conspirators were trained by al-Qaeda in Pakistan before the attack. Defense attorneys argued that U.S. officials unfairly coerced Medunjanin and intimidated his family. Medunjanin will be sentenced on September 7, where he faces life in prison. Analysts say the two-week trial offered rare insight into the evolution of a terrorist plot and the inner workings of al-Qaeda training camps. Attorneys from both sides also claim the trial, which ran without disruption, "showed that criminal courts were well suited to handle terrorism cases," a role that has been the subject of much controversy. Some critics have argued that security risks make military tribunals, such as those in Guantanamo, a more appropriate venue for terrorism suspects arrested abroad. (BBC, NYT, CNN, AP)
The United States
FBI ARREST FIVE IN OHIO BRIDGE TERROR PLOT
Cyber Command: Top U.S. military officials are seeking to elevate the status of U.S. Cyber Command, based in Fort Meade, MD, to the status of a full combatant command. Analysts say the move is intended to raise the profile of the Pentagon's cyber-based operations and send a signal to adversaries. If President Obama approves the request, which experts say is likely, the nation's cyber forces would be directly connected to both the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (WashPost)
Boko Haram: President Idriss Deby of Chad has requested the urgent formation of a regional force to combat Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based Islamist militant group. The Nigerian government has been struggling for years to stem attacks by the group, whose objective is to institute Sharia law in the country. Some experts warn Boko Haram is developing ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group which is active in Niger, Mali, and Algeria. (BBC)
North Korea: In the wake of Pyongyang's recent missile launch, the United States and its allies have presented about forty North Korean companies to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. China has indicated that it would only consent to adding two companies to the list. The U.S. and allies have recommended expanding the list of goods banned for North Korean importation. (Reuters)
TROVE OF ENCRYPTED AL-QAEDA DOCS REVEAL FUTURE PLOTS
China: U.S. officials say Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese activist who escaped house arrest last month, has left the U.S. embassy and is receiving medical treatment in Beijing. The announcement was the first public acknowledgment that U.S. officials knew of Chen's whereabouts. His departure from the embassy follows the arrival of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing for diplomatic talks. (NYT)
Arguments, Editorials, and Must Reads
James Kitfield on U.S. counterterrorism excesses: The Obama administration's promise to end "the season of fear" associated with Bush-era counterterrorism was an ephemeral "mirage" writes Kitfield in the National Journal. The United States in 2009 "was ready to grapple with terrorism as a manageable policy problem, not a political bludgeon. It was unafraid to prosecute terrorist suspects according to legal norms. And it was willing to subject its policies to oversight, checks, and balances," he says, "We’ve had the debate, and that vision of America lost."
Gabor Rona on John Brennan's latest speech: "The Obama administration’s charm offensive on targeted killings continues in response to calls from a broad spectrum of political and legal observers for greater government transparency," writes Rona on Opinio Juris. "Sometimes though, it appears that instead of being a deliberate and coordinated drip feed, the speeches… are the tips of competing icebergs, reflecting pitched battles within and across government agencies about the legality of targeted killings." He writes that Brennan's latest speech "has some new tidbits, but may also be a signal that [Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh] Johnson’s expansive view of targetability has prevailed over [State Department Legal Advisor Harold] Koh’s views that are more consistent with the limitations of international law."