TIME United Kingdom

Terrorism Trial in Britain Sparks Accusations of Excessive Secrecy

Britain's Court of Appeal overturned a judge who agreed to hold the trial of two men in absolute secrecy but most of the proceedings will still take place out of public view

A terrorism trial due to be held in London has caused heated debate in Britain with civil liberties advocates and media organizations critizing the country’s main prosecution service for attempting to conduct the trial in total secrecy.

In May, a senior judge agreed to prosecutors’ requests and ruled that the trial would be held entirely in secret. On June 12, just four days before the trial was due to start, Britain’s Court of Appeal overturned this decision, ruling that most of the trial would be heard in private and the rest in public.

The appeal court’s decision was prompted by a joint challenge from a number of British media outlets that had found out about the May ruling and then moved to overturn it. The media had been forbidden by law to even mention the trial’s existence until June 4 when the court lifted a ban on reporting information about the case.

The trial concerns two defendants, Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bohadjar, both 26 and from London, who are accused of collecting or recording information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Though the bulk of the trial will be heard in private, a small number of accredited journalists will be allowed to attend the closed hearings. These journalists will only be from those media outlets that made the appeal and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the government department that prosecutes criminal cases, will hand pick them.

That has angered a number of politicians and activists who worry that allowing the CPS to select journalists to attend the trial goes against the British tradition of open justice.

In a statement on his website, the Conservative MP David Davis condemned the trial’s secrecy. “We should be wary of accepting as the new norm in camera trials with controlled journalistic access,” he said.

These comments are the latest in a stream of criticism that the trial has generated. On June 5, the trial made the front pages of three major British newspapers: the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

Philip Johnston, an editorial writer for the right-leaning Telegraph, wrote: “We are being asked, in other words, to sacrifice one of the key principles of justice – that it should be seen to be done – for security.” Owen Jones, a columnist for the left-of-center Guardian called the trial “an affront to basic principles of justice, and a frightening precedent to boot.”

Lord Gross, one of the appeal court judges who overturned the secret trial, said in his ruling that secrecy is sometimes necessary to protect matters of national security. “For the [intelligence agencies] to operate effectively, at least much of their work is secret and must remain so as a matter of necessity.”

Andrew Scott, associate professor of law at the London School of Economics echoed this. He told TIME: “It is never a question of aspiring to total openness. Most obviously weighing against transparency are matters of national security and highly private personal information, but also, for example, matters that are commercially sensitive or confidential.”

Some legal experts and civil liberties groups have suggested that there is a growing movement towards secrecy in the U.K. courts. After the terrorist bombings in London in July 2007, the British intelligence agency, MI5, angered families of the victims when it attempted to exclude them from hearings on the attacks because they said the evidence would include sensitive intelligence material. This request was overturned the official in charge of the hearings in 2010. In 2013, the British parliament passed a law that extended use of secret information into civil cases.

This practice is known as closed material procedure (CMP), and allows classified information to be introduced in a trial that can only be seen by the judge and by lawyers who have received security clearance.

Scott condemned the proceedings, telling TIME: “CMPs are an abomination in the face of the principle of open justice.” Juan Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, has also criticized them.

The trial of Incedar and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar has been postponed until October. Full details of the case are likely to emerge at the end of the trial when the accredited journalists will have their notes from the closed hearings returned to them.

TIME Terrorism

Capture of Benghazi Suspect Again Raises Question: Guantanamo or the Courts?

U.S. President Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq at the White House
U.S. President Barack Obama on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 13, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

Obama Administration opting for courts, after a Navy cruise

The capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the recently-snatched alleged ringleader of the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, once again highlights the split in the national debate over how to handle terrorists: Are they prisoners of war, or are they criminals?

Many terrorists linked to al-Qaeda were sent to Guantanamo Bay during George W. Bush’s presidency. Many others have been tried in civilian courts. According to the nonprofit group Human Rights First, there have been almost 500 people convicted on terror-related charges in federal civilian criminal courts since 9/11, compared to eight convictions in the Pentagon’s military commissions.

The Obama Administration prefers the federal court route, which is how it plans to proceed with Khattala—generating Republican criticism. “The Obama Administration should immediately transfer him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay for detention and interrogation,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“Rather than rushing to read him his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent, I hope the Administration will focus on collecting the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks,” added Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

Who’d have thought a 1966 Supreme Court ruling designed to protect Ernesto Arturo Miranda’s confession to kidnapping, rape and armed robbery while under police interrogation would become the rope in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress nearly a half-century later on how to handle captured terrorists?

Legal expert Jack Goldsmith. a former Pentagon lawyer now teaching at Harvard Law School, doubts the U.S. could hold Khattala in military detention, or try him before a military commission. That’s because Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said the Benghazi attack didn’t fall under the congressional authorization for the use of military force, nor, in Goldsmith’s view, did it amount to a “conflict subject to the rules of war.”

Sending Khattala to Guantanamo is “the easy way out,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), chairman of the judiciary committee, who applauded his move into the federal court system. “We will try Khattala just as we have successfully tried more than 500 terrorism suspects since 9/11.”

The Obama Administration is actually straddling the issue, by housing Khattala aboard a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean for questioning (the Los Angeles Times reports he did get a Miranda warning “shortly after his capture” following initial questioning about other potential terror threats under a “public safety” exemption). “We should have some quality time with this guy—weeks and months,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force reserve lawyer, said Tuesday. “Don’t torture him, but have some quality time with him.”

The Administration has questioned at least two other terror suspects aboard ships for up to two months before dispatching them into the federal court system.

“The only reason for having him on a U.S. warship is to provide a nice quiet environment where the investigators can work their wiles on him,” says Eugene Fidell, a military-law lecturer at the Yale Law School and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “If the government wanted to have Khattala at the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse [in Washington, D.C.] by four o’clock, he’d be there. The notion seems to have taken root that the government has, if not all the time in the world, as much time as it reasonably wants to see if can coax these people into making statements.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Cheney on Obama’s Foreign Policy: ‘Rarely Has a U.S. President Been So Wrong About So Much’

Dick And Lynne Cheney Participate In Book Discussion In Washington
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks about his wife Lynne Cheney's book James Madison: A Life Reconsidered in Washington on May 12, 2014 Win McNamee—Getty Images

The former Vice President, who spearheaded the plans to invade Iraq in 2003, says President Obama is responsible for the recent gains of Sunni extremists militias in the country

Dick Cheney took off the gloves and let his dukes fly in an all-out assault on President Obama’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East, in a scorching column published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

In the op-ed, penned with his pundit daughter Liz, former Vice President Cheney places the precipitous collapse of the Iraqi state, and the renewed civil war in the country, squarely on the shoulders of the Obama Administration.

“Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” writes Cheney. “Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is ‘ending’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as though wishing made it so.”

Cheney cites Obama’s decision to withdraw all military forces from Iraq as one of the principal reasons why the country is again enmeshed in conflict.

“Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace,” writes Cheney. “Instead, he abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.”

The column comes a week after the seizure of a string of cities across northern Iraq by former al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Sunni militias are reportedly inching closer to Baghdad in what analysts predict will lead to massive bloodshed.

Cheney is largely credited during his tenure in office with being one of the chief architects of the 2003 Iraq invasion, which in turn unleashed a crippling civil war in the country. A mammoth counterinsurgency effort by the U.S. in 2007 succeeded in securing cease-fires with Sunni and Shi‘ite militias and for a time appeared to have wiped out al-Qaeda-affiliated forces in Iraq. However, those gains were reversed when the U.S. withdrew its military forces from the country in 2011.

Cheney’s complete column can be read here.

TIME Libya

U.S. Captures Suspected Ringleader of Benghazi Attack

Ahmed Abu Khatallah is suspected in the 2012 attack

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American authorities have captured a suspected “key figure” in the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, officials confirmed on Tuesday, during a covert raid in Libya that gives a welcome foreign policy victory for the Obama Administration.

U.S. Special Forces and law-enforcement personnel apprehended Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a senior leader of the militant group Ansar al-Shari’a, on Sunday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

“He is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya,” Kirby said. “There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya.

American officials wouldn’t yet say where Khatallah will be transferred to, though he is expected to be turned over to law enforcement for trial in the U.S. in the coming days. The Department of Justice filed charges against Khatallah in a sealed indictment in federal court last year.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed during the Sept. 11, 2012 attack. It became a rallying cry for conservative critics of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record in the run-up to the 2012 elections, and congressional Republicans have continued to probe the Administration’s handling of the incident and its aftermath.

“The United States has an unwavering commitment to bring to justice those responsible for harming Americans,” Obama said in a statement. “Since the deadly attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans. I recently authorized an operation in Libya to detain an individual charged for his role in these attacks, Ahmed Abu Khatallah. The fact that he is now in U.S. custody is a testament to the painstaking efforts of our military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham quickly said on Twitter that “Khattala should be held at Guantánamo as a potential enemy combatant.” But Obama made clear his Administration is taking another route.

“This individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system,” Obama said.

“With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans,” he added. “We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks.”

Khatallah was added to the State Department’s designated list of terrorists in January. He was living relatively openly in Libya after the attacks, sitting for several interviews with Western reporters last year. Khatallah is the first suspect to have been captured for suspected involvement in the attack. His capture was first reported by the Washington Post.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the apprehension doesn’t end the U.S. investigation into the attack, “but marks an important milestone.”

TIME indonesia

The ISIS Extremists Causing Havoc in Iraq Are Getting Funds and Recruits From Southeast Asia

Militants from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, are being lured by ISIS's hard-line Sunni extremism

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Men in balaclavas are cradling Kalashnikovs as they look into a camera, somewhere in Syria. They are university students, businessmen, former soldiers and even teenagers. One by one, they urge their fellow countrymen to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the jihadist group so extreme that it has been denounced by al-Qaeda. But these aren’t Syrians, or Uzbeks, or Chechens. They are Indonesian.

“Let us fight in the path of Allah because it is our duty to do jihad in the path of Allah … especially here in Sham [the Syrian region] … and because, God willing, it will be to this country that our families will do the holy migration,” says one in Bahasa Indonesia peppered with Arabic phrases. “Brothers in Indonesia, don’t be afraid because fear is the temptation of Satan.”

A fellow jihadist, a former Indonesian soldier, calls on those in the police and armed forces to repent and abandon the defense of their country and its “idolatrous” state ideology, Pancasila.

The video of the Indonesian men in Syria emerged shortly before ISIS seized the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit, in landmark victories on June 10 and 11. It reflects the growing attraction that the Sunni extremist group holds for the most militant jihadists from Indonesia — the country with the world’s biggest Muslim population, and one that has long battled threats of terrorism.

“Like in Syria, the Sunni jihadi movement is split in Indonesia,” Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, tells TIME. Some Indonesian jihadists, including many senior leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah (the group behind the Bali bombings in 2002 and other terrorist attacks) are loyal to the alliance around the al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda, she says, “while most of the more militant, non-JI groups are supporting ISIS.”

According to a recent report, the Syrian conflict has lured an estimated 12,000 foreign fighters, mostly from neighboring Middle Eastern countries, but also from Europe, Australia, the U.S. — and Southeast Asia. In January, Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency reckoned about 50 Indonesians had gone to fight in Syria, though it is not known how many of them joined ISIS. A Malaysian security official said more than 20 Malaysians are known to have entered Syria to fight Bashar Assad’s regime.

On Saturday, Malaysian media reported that Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, who bombed an Iraqi military headquarters, earned “the dubious honor of being Malaysia’s first suicide bomber linked to” ISIS. Some months earlier, in November, reports emerged that Riza Fardi, who studied at the infamous Ngruki Islamic boarding school in Central Java — the same school attended by the Bali bombers — became the first Indonesian jihadist to die in Syria.

While terrorist threats have waned in Southeast Asia, thanks to imprisonment and deaths of senior jihadist figures, the civil war in Syria, and now in Iraq, has raised the specter of fighters returning home with the terrorist know-how and a militant outlook — not unlike the returnees from the Afghan war in the 1980s. “Returning fighters will have deeper indoctrination, more international contacts and perhaps a deeper commitment to the global jihad,” says Jones.

The three-year Syrian war has attracted even more foreign fighters than the Afghan war. One possible reason is a prophecy, popular among global jihadists, about the final battle before Judgment Day. “There are hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that predict an apocalyptic war of good vs. evil, and according to one hadith, it would start in Syria,” says Solahudin, a Jakarta-based terrorism expert.

Indonesia has a different approach to jihadism than its neighbors. Though terrorist attacks are punishable by death, it is not illegal to raise money for or join a foreign jihadist group. In contrast, in late April, Malaysia arrested 10 militants — eight men and two women — who planned to travel to Syria to take part in the war. In March, Singapore said it was investigating the departure of a national to join the Syrian jihad.

Emboldened by Indonesia’s more tolerant attitude, ISIS supporters there have become more visible and openly solicit funds. They held a collection in February at an Islamic state university on the outskirts of Jakarta and held a rally in the capital’s central business district in March. On June 15, a Sunday morning when one of the main streets in the Central Javanese city of Solo is transformed into a weekly car-free zone for strolling families, militants from Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, a JI splinter cell, paraded in ISIS insignia, waved ISIS flags and wreaked havoc on a music performance.

They are also quite active on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Iqbal Kholidi, who tracks and observes Indonesian ISIS supporters on social media, has culled photos of them training and posing with the signature black flags from across the country — in Jakarta, Central Java, South Kalimantan and Poso, Central Sulawesi. They have become bolder in recent months, Iqbal says, and that is likely “because there is an impression that the authorities are just keeping quiet all this time.”

TIME White House

The War on Terror Is Over—Long Live the War on Terror

Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, carry weapons during a parade in Al-Fdhiliya district
Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIL), carry weapons during a parade in the streets in Al-Fdhiliya district, eastern Baghdad on June 15, 2014. Thaier Al-Sdani—Reuters

Just last month, Obama was making progress in rolling back extraordinary post-9/11 presidential powers. That was then.

President Barack Obama declared last year that the war on terror, “like all wars, must end,” and as recently as two weeks ago, he seemed to be making progress. Outgoing Senate Armed Services chairman, Carl Levin, had charted a legal path for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The White House and Congress were negotiating a replacement for the broadly worded 2001 anti-al Qaeda Authorization for the Use of Military Force. And the President and his aides were talking about having all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2016.

In a matter of days, the outlook has changed dramatically, nowhere more so than in Iraq where the al Qaeda-inspired Islamist group ISIS has burst from its stronghold in Anbar province to seize much of the north of the country. Less visibly, the Bergdahl affair has derailed Obama’s Gitmo closure plans as Republicans protest Obama’s release of five senior Taliban officials from the prison. And in Nigeria, Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 200 young girls drove Obama to deploy a U.S. special forces team to help in the hunt.

While the President may have felt a month ago that the end was in sight for many of the special powers America claimed at the start of the war on terror, now he finds a combination of events around the world and at home pushing him to embrace them anew.

The most urgent “war on terror” question for Obama is whether to use force against the advancing assault of ISIS in Iraq, and what authorities to tap if he does. On Friday, Obama declined to announce direct engagement in the unfolding chaos in Iraq, but said instead that he had “asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq’s security forces” and that he would be “reviewing those options in the days ahead.” Over the weekend, he moved the U.S. aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush to the Persian Gulf in preparation for possible airstrikes against ISIS’s forces.

If Obama does use force, he will be relying on two authorizations from Congress, both passed at the height of President George W. Bush’s expansion of Presidential powers in the so-called “Global War on Terror.” The first would be the October 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gave the president broad powers to attack al Qaeda and its allies anywhere around the world. Obama had been negotiating a more limited replacement for that law.

The other is the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, which gave Bush the authority to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” As Harvard’s Jack Goldsmith wrote Friday on Lawfare, “It is not at all hard to interpret this statute to authorize the President to use force today to defend U.S. national security from the threat posed by the [ISIS]-induced collapse of Iraq.” Either way, the use of force in Iraq would reinforce extraordinary powers in the war against terrorism, rather than diminish them.

Obama’s other major setback in his effort to end the war on terror came with the release of U.S. POW Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay. Obama released the five men without providing the 30-day notice Congress insisted it be given before Gitmo prisoners were repatriated. In the outcry afterwards, Republican members of Congress made it clear they would block the increased authority Sen. Carl Levin had proposed Obama be given to transfer prisoners next year.

When the current crises abate, it may be possible for the president to resume conversations with Congress over how to adjust and perhaps curtail extraordinary post-9/11 powers. But for now, he and the country seem headed in the other direction.

TIME uk

Court Blocks UK’s First Secret Terror Trial

Plans to hold a terrorism trial completely in secret have been overturned by the UK's Court of Appeal, following a media challenge

Judges at the UK’s Court of Appeal have ruled that a proposed secret terror trial must be heard partly in public, though the core of the case can be held in private, the BBC reports. The swearing in of the jury, some of the prosecution’s introductory comments, the laying out of the case, verdicts and possible sentencing will all be heard in public.

Justice Nicol made the unprecedented decision in May that the case would be heard in secret and the defendants not named. Until Thursday, the accused, Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, were known only as AB and CD.

Nicol’s ruling prompted a joint challenge from a number of media organizations. On June 4, the Court of Appeal ruled that the media could report on their challenge. Prior to this, news outlets couldn’t even mention the trial’s existence.

The Crown Prosecution Service, who are prosecuting the two men, said the trial had to be held in private for reasons of national security. They added that were the trial to be made public, they might have to drop it.

In their ruling, the appeal court judges stated that they had “grave concerns” about holding criminal trials in secret and not releasing the identities of defendants. They also added that though the core of the trial would be heard in private, a small group of journalists would be in attendance and their notes held until the end of the trail.

The two defendants were arrested in October 2013 in what were described as “high-profile circumstances.” Both are charged with collecting information useful to terrorism. Incedal was further accused of preparing for terrorist acts whilst Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is alleged to have possessed false identity documents.

[BBC]

TIME The Philippines

One of the U.S.’s ‘Most Wanted’ Terrorists Is Arrested in the Philippines

Officials in Manila have nabbed a top commander of the Islamic extremist outfit Abu Sayyaf

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One of the U.S.’s most wanted terrorists, Khair Mundos, was brought into custody by Philippine authorities on Wednesday morning, after he was arrested in a slum near the capital’s international airport.

Mundos is a key figure in the Philippines-based terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, believed to have been responsible for a spate of lethal attacks on U.S. troops and Filipinos since forming near the city of Zamboanga in the early 1990s. His capture brings an end to a seven-year manhunt.

After fleeing prison in February 2007, Mundos worked as a “fundraiser, bomb maker, and instructor” for Abu Sayyaf. One of his roles was arranging receipt funds for his group from al-Qaeda.

“Mundos confessed to having arranged the transfer of funds from al-Qaeda to Abu Sayyaf group leader Khadaffy Janjalani to be used in bombings and other criminal acts throughout the [Philippine] island of Mindanao,” said a U.S. State Department statement.

In 2009, the State Department offered half a million dollars for information leading to his arrest. Mundos also became the Philippine government’s most sought-after terrorist, and was accused of having ties to the leader of the region’s most feared militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah, according to a U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks.

TIME Pakistan

The Attack on Karachi Airport Shows That Nowhere in Pakistan is Safe

Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 9, 2014. Athar Hussain— Reuters

The Pakistan Taliban's strike at the heart of the country’s commercial capital is a brazen demonstration of its powerful reach

Insurgent violence exploded in Karachi again on Sunday. Armed militants rocked Pakistan’s largest city in an attack that was as gruesome as it was symbolic as terrorists proved their ability to penetrate deep into the country’s commercial nerve center, far from their tribal strongholds.

At least 28 people were killed during the fighting at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport after militants disguised as policemen stormed one of the facility’s terminals.

“The ghastly attack on Karachi airport is symbolic, for it aimed to convey a message to the Pakistani state as it plans to fight the Pakistani Taliban,” Raza Rumi, a U.S.-based Pakistan analyst and senior fellow at Jinnah Institute, told TIME. “The choice of Karachi is also strategic as the act of terror gained global attention.”

Conflicting reports swirled early on Monday as authorities claimed to have killed at least 10 militants in the retaking of the hijacked terminal, while accounts of fresh gunfire continued to raise doubts over whether all the terrorists had been cleared from the besieged building.

Pakistani officials identified the militants as foreigners, with reports surfacing that the gunmen were ethnic Uzbeks or Chechens. No independent confirmation of the militants’ nationalities has been confirmed.

The Pakistsani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, took little time in taking credit for the assault.

“It is a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages,” Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters.

Shahid also claimed the assault was payback for the killing of the group’s former leader Hakimullah Mehsud, according to the Pakistan affiliate outlet of Newsweek. Mehsud was killed during a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas last November.

“[The] Pakistani Taliban are now far more dangerous, lethal and well equipped than the Afghan Taliban,” said Hassan Abbas, a senior advisor at the Asia Society and author of The Taliban Revival.

“[The airport attack] shows their depth and networking in Karachi and even penetration in the Karachi airport. They entered from the gate which is used by top government and foreign dignitaries — supposedly the most secure.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government rolled out a preliminary peace process earlier this year to kickstart talks with the rebel outfit, aimed at bringing an end to seven years of insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

However, the process has been continually bucked by ongoing attacks from the group, along with the military’s recent targeting of insurgent strongholds in Pakistan’s federally administered Tribal Areas.

In late May, the Pakistani military ordered a series of airstrikes targeting Taliban hideouts in Northern Waziristan, killing 30 militants. On Monday, the Taliban’s spokesperson rejected Islamabad ’s peace talks as a “tool of war.”

— With reporting by Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi

TIME National Security

Statistics Suggest Taliban Leaders Freed For Bowe Bergdahl May Remain A Threat

Are the five Taliban leaders released by the U.S. in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a threat to Americans? On numbers alone, the answer would seem to be yes.

Of the 614 Gitmo prisoners who had left the care of the U.S. Department of Defense as of January 14, 2014, 104 were confirmed to have reengaged in terrorism and 74 were suspected to have reengaged, according to the latest numbers from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, released in March.

That’s a total recidivism rate of 29%, which suggests that statistically at least one of the Taliban leaders will return to the field to fight Americans in Afghanistan, or elsewhere.

The Obama administration says they’ve taken sufficient measures to mitigate the danger, including having the five spend a year in Qatar under the watchful eye of the Qatari government—and the unlucky CIA station chief in Doha.

But even well-run programs for released Guantanamo Bay detainees have failed in the past. One notable failure was Said al Shihri, who was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and put through the country’s famous rehabilitation program. In 2009, he fled Saudi Arabia and helped form Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group behind multiple attempted airline bomb attacks against Americans and others.

Another detainee released with al Shihri in 2007 who also went through the Saudi program and also joined AQAP ended up being an asset to the U.S. Mohammad al Fayfi returned to Saudi Arabia after an internal power struggle in AQAP and warned officials of the group’s plot to blow up cargo planes bound for Chicago using powdered explosives hidden in printer cartridges.

But al Fayfi was an outlier when it comes to former Gitmo detainees, say officials familiar with the debate over whether to release the five Taliban leaders.

 

 

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