The Hill: Police prepare for unrest

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Police prepare for unrest

By Alexander Bolton | October 21, 2008

Police departments in cities across the country are beefing up their ranks for Election Day, preparing for possible civil unrest and riots after the historic presidential contest.

Public safety officials said in interviews with The Hill that the election, which will end with either the nation’s first black president or its first female vice president, demanded a stronger police presence.

Some worry that if Barack Obama loses and there is suspicion of foul play in the election, violence could ensue in cities with large black populations. Others based the need for enhanced patrols on past riots in urban areas (following professional sports events) and also on Internet rumors.

Democratic strategists and advocates for black voters say they understand officers wanting to keep the peace, but caution that excessive police presence could intimidate voters.

Sen. Obama (Ill.), the Democratic nominee for president, has seen his lead over rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) grow in recent weeks, prompting speculation that there could be a violent backlash if he loses unexpectedly.

Cities that have suffered unrest before, such as Detroit, Chicago, Oakland and Philadelphia, will have extra police deployed.

In Oakland, the police will deploy extra units trained in riot control, as well as extra traffic police, and even put SWAT teams on standby.

“Are we anticipating it will be a riot situation? No. But will we be prepared if it goes awry? Yes,” said Jeff Thomason, spokesman for the Oakland Police Department.

“I think it is a big deal — you got an African-American running and [a] woman running,” he added, in reference to Obama and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. “Whoever wins it, it will be a national event. We will have more officers on the street in anticipation that things may go south.”

The Oakland police last faced big riots in 2003 when the Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. Officials are bracing themselves in case residents of Oakland take Obama’s loss badly.

Political observers such as Hilary Shelton and James Carville fear that record voter turnout could overload polling places on Election Day and could raise tension levels.

Shelton, the director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said inadequate voting facilities is a bigger problem in poor communities with large numbers of minorities.

“What are local election officials doing to prepare for what people think will be record turnout at the polls?” said Shelton, who added that during the 2004 election in Ohio voters in predominantly black communities had to wait in line six to eight hours to vote.

“On Election Day, if this continues, you may have some tempers flare; we should be prepared to deal with that but do it without intimidation,” said Shelton, who added that police have to be able to maintain order at polling stations without scaring voters, especially immigrants from “police states.”

Carville, who served as a senior political adviser to former President Bill Clinton, said that many Democrats would be very angry if Obama loses. He noted that many Democrats were upset by Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) loss to President Bush in the 2004 election, when some Democrats made allegations of vote manipulation in Ohio, the state that ultimately decided the race.

Experts estimated that thousands of voters did not vote in Ohio because of poor preparation and long lines.
Carville said Democratic anger in 2004 “would be very small to what would happen in 2008” if the same problems arose.

Carville said earlier this month that “it would be very, very, very dramatic out there” if Obama lost, a statement some commentators interpreted as predicting riots. In an interview Tuesday, however, Carville said he did not explicitly predict rioting.

“A lot of Democrats would have a great deal of angst and anger,” said Carville, who predicted that on Election Day “the voting system all around the country is going to be very stressed because there’s going to be enormous turnout.”

Other commentators have made such bold predictions.

“If [Obama] is elected, like with sports championships, people may go out and riot,” said Bob Parks, an online columnist and black Republican candidate for state representative in Massachusetts. “If Barack Obama loses there will be another large group of people who will assume the election was stolen from him….. This will be an opportunity for people who want to commit mischief.”

Speculation about Election-Day violence has spread on the Internet, especially on right-wing websites.

This has caught the attention of police departments in cities such as Cincinnati, which saw race riots in 2001 after police shot a young black man.

“We’ve seen it on the Internet and we’ve heard that there could be civil unrest depending on the outcome of [the election,]” said Lt. Mark Briede of the Cincinnati Police Department. “We are prepared to respond in the case of some sort of unrest or some sort of incident.”

Briede, like other police officials interviewed, declined to elaborate on plans for Election Day. Many police departments have policies prohibiting public discussion of security plans.

James Tate, second deputy chief of Detroit’s police department, said extra manpower would be assigned to duty on Election Night. He said problems could flare whichever candidate wins.

“Either party will make history and we want to prepare for celebrations that will be on a larger scale than for our sports teams,” Tate said.

He noted that police had to control rioters who overturned cars after the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

“We’re prepared for the best-case scenario, we’re prepared for the worst-case scenario,” he said. “The worst-case scenario could be a situation that requires law enforcement.”

But Tate declined to describe what the worst-case scenario might look like, speaking gingerly like other police officials who are wary of implying that black voters are more likely than other voting groups to cause trouble.

Shelton, of the NAACP, said he understands the need for police to maintain order. But he is also concerned that some political partisans may point their finger at black voters as potential troublemakers because the Democratic nominee is black.

Shelton said any racial or ethnic group would get angry if they felt disenfranchised because of voting irregularities.

Police officials in Chicago, where Obama will hold a Nov. 4 rally, and Philadelphia are also preparing for Election Day.

“The Chicago Police Department has been meeting regularly to coordinate our safety and security plans and will deploy our resources accordingly,” said Monique Bond, of the Chicago Police Department.

Frank Vanore, of the Philadelphia Police Department, said officials were planning to mobilize to control exuberant or perhaps angry demonstrations after the World Series, which pits the Phillies against the Tampa Bay Rays.

He said the boosted police activity would “spill right over to the election.”

Newsday : Convicted former sailor seeks new trial

Friday, October 03, 2008

Convicted former sailor seeks new trial

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN | Associated Press Writer | October 3, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A former Navy sailor convicted of leaking details about ship movements to suspected terrorist supporters sought a new trial Friday, saying prosecutors lacked evidence and inflamed the jury.

Hassan Abu-Jihaad filed the motion in U.S. District Court in New Haven, where he was convicted in March of providing material support to terrorists and disclosing classified national defense information.

Abu-Jihaad, who was a signalman aboard the USS Benfold, was accused of passing along details that included the makeup of his Navy battle group, its planned movements and a drawing of the group's formation to pass through the dangerous Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf on April 29, 2001. The details also included statements such as, "They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) etc., except their SEALS' stinger missiles."

The ship was not attacked.

Abu-Jihaad says there was no proof he leaked the information and that prosecutors inflamed the jury by playing videos he had purchased that promoted a violent jihad, or holy war.

"Playing the video tapes that he purchased added nothing to the government's proof and merely inflamed the prejudices of the jury," Abu-Jihaad's attorneys wrote. "Moreover, since the defendant was not on trial for committing terrorist acts, the admission into evidence of violent acts of terror (and torture) created a significant and unnecessary risk of undue prejudice."

His attorneys cited a federal appeals court decision Thursday that overturned the convictions of a Yemeni cleric and his deputy, finding they were prejudiced by inflammatory testimony about unrelated links to terrorism.

Prosecutors said they would respond in court.

The leak came amid increased wariness on the part of U.S. Navy commanders whose ships headed to the Persian Gulf in the months after a terrorist ambush in 2000 killed 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole.

Prosecutors said Abu-Jihaad sympathized with the enemy and acknowledged disclosing military intelligence. But they acknowledged they did not have direct proof that he leaked the details about the ship movements.

Authorities said those had to have been leaked by an insider because they were not publicly known and contained military jargon. The leaked documents closely matched what Abu-Jihaad would have had access to as a signalman, authorities said.

Prosecutors also said Abu-Jihaad was the only member of the military who was communicating with the alleged terrorist supporters. They cited one e-mail in which he called the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 a "martyrdom operation" and praised "the men who have brong (sic) honor ... in the lands of jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc."

Abu-Jihaad's attorneys acknowledged he held what many would consider radical beliefs, but said his e-mails do not prove he leaked the details of the ship movements. They said the leaked details were full of errors that Abu-Jihaad would not have made.

Prosecutors say investigators discovered files on a computer disk recovered from a suspected terrorist supporter's home in London that included the ship movements, as well as the number and type of personnel on each ship and the ships' capabilities.

Abu-Jihaad was charged in the same case that led to the 2004 arrest of Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist accused of running Web sites to raise money, appeal for fighters and provide equipment such as gas masks and night vision goggles for terrorists. Ahmad, who lived with his parents where the computer file was allegedly found, is to be extradited to the U.S.

Abu-Jihaad, who was honorably discharged in 2002, faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in December.

Toronto Star : Syrian in odd limbo at 'Gitmo North'

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Syrian in odd limbo at 'Gitmo North'

Sole occupant of Millhaven unit tries again for bail after 7 years detention under anti-terrorist statute

Michelle Shephard | National Security Reporter | October 2, 2008

Critics call the prison where Syrian refugee Hassan Almrei spends his days "Guantanamo North."

As the sole prisoner at the specially built detention centre on the grounds of Millhaven penitentiary in the Kingston area, Almrei is locked up alone, with guards looking in from an adjoining room. Later this month, he'll mark the seven-year anniversary of his incarceration on a "national security certificate" as the federal government continues to try to deport him as a danger to Canada.

But aside from the mental anguish of being locked up alone, there's little comparison physically between the conditions of Almrei's detention and the notorious U.S. prison on a navy base in Cuba.

Almrei walked to an interview last week unshackled, dressed in his own clothes, and brought his visitor a bottle of water and juice he had been able to purchase. He spends most days reading and watching TV – CPAC, Canada's parliamentary channel, is his favourite.

It is, however, the legal limbo in which he is trapped that draws comparisons to Guantanamo. The national security certificate cases typify the struggle that has taken place since 9/11 between Western governments and the courts regarding terrorism law.

"This is not Guantanamo Bay that people think of, but the comparison ... is a matter of a principle," Almrei said in an interview last week with the Toronto Star.

"I am in jail for seven years in a country where they call themselves a democratic country. They believe in principle of law (but) they have a double standard – one for Canadian citizen, one for non-citizens."

The national security certification is an immigration law where the threshold of proof is lower than in criminal prosecutions; Almrei has asked to be charged criminally if the government has evidence linking him to terrorism.

Today, Almrei will ask a Federal Court judge to grant him bail. Of five outstanding national security certificate cases, Almrei is the only individual still detained.

His previous bail applications have been turned down largely because the 34-year-old isn't married and doesn't have family here, which means there'd be no one to oversee his compliance with his bail conditions.

The national security certificate legislation was enacted more than 20 years ago but received increased public debate after 9/11 and had to be rewritten after the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional in February 2007. The high court objected to the government's use of secret evidence.

In February, the government enacted the new law, which now has provision for "special advocates" who will have security clearance and can cross-examine the secret evidence presented by Canada's spy service, CSIS.

Last Friday, the new law was the target of another epic constitutional challenge launched by top civil rights litigators. Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman opened the hearing by acknowledging that national security certificates have already seen years of court battles – two of which reached the Supreme Court – but that more were warranted.

"These cases go to the heart of the rule of law in Canada. These cases challenge everything we believe to be fundamental," he said to Federal Chief Justice Allan Lutfy.

Waldman and others argue the law doesn't ensure fairness because of the restrictions imposed on the special advocates. They are forbidden from talking to anyone, even the accused, about the case once they've viewed the secret evidence (unless they obtain the judge's consent). The government lawyers submitted that the restriction was necessary to safeguard against "inadvertent disclosure of confidential information."

Toronto lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, who served as the commission counsel in the inquiry into the Maher Arar affair, is one of the designated special advocates. But Cavalluzzo is among those opposing the new law, saying he required free access to Arar throughout the inquiry to effectively challenge the government's information. (The U.S. rendered Arar to Syria in 2002 based on information received from Canada authorities. The government issued an apology and a $10.5 million settlement last year.)

"I believe one of the key skills required to perform my function was to be able to elicit information from interested parties, without revealing any secret information," Cavalluzzo wrote in a court affidavit.

The government called the challenge "premature" and "hypothetical" in defending the law's fairness.

"(The law) strikes an appropriate balance between protection of the confidentiality of material which if disclosed could be injurious to national security and protection of the rights of the individual," the government's written brief stated.

Almrei listened to the proceedings last Friday through a telephone link. Two other men the government accuses of having links to Al Qaeda came to the court.

Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Mahjoub have both been granted bail with strict provisions. During the hearing Mahjoub's GPS locator beeped loudly, prompting him each time to record the time and his whereabouts in a notebook.

NYT : Senate Passes Bailout Plan; House May Vote by Friday

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Senate Passes Bailout Plan; House May Vote by Friday

By CARL HULSE | Published: October 1, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Senate strongly endorsed the $700 billion economic bailout plan on Wednesday, leaving backers optimistic that the easy approval, coupled with an array of popular additions, would lead to House acceptance by Friday and end the legislative uncertainty that has rocked the markets.

In stark contrast to the House rejection of the plan on Monday, a bipartisan coalition of senators — including both presidential candidates — showed no hesitation in backing a proposal that had drawn public scorn, though the outpouring eased somewhat after a market plunge followed the House defeat. The Senate margin was 74 to 25 in favor of the White House initiative to buy troubled securities in an effort to avoid an economic catastrophe.

Only Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who is being treated for brain cancer, did not vote.

The two Senate leaders, Senators Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, strongly urged their colleagues to approve the plan despite the political risk given public resentment.

“Supporting this legislation is the only way to make the best of a crisis and return our country to a path of economic stability, prosperity and growth,” said Mr. Reid, who asked that senators vote formally from their desks. The presence in the Senate of both presidential candidates in the final weeks of the campaign also gave weight to the moment. The political tension was clear as Senator Barack Obama walked to the Republican side of the aisle to greet Senator John McCain, who offered a chilly look and a brief return handshake.

Mr. McCain did not make remarks on the legislation. Mr. Obama, in his speech, said the bailout plan was regrettable but necessary and he referred to the stock market drop after the House vote. “While that decline was devastating, the consequences of the credit crisis that caused it will be even worse if we do not act now,” he said.

President Bush issued a statement applauding the Senate for its vote in favor of a bill he called “essential to the financial security of every American.” He urged the House to follow suit.

In the House, officials of both parties said they were increasingly confident that politically enticing provisions bootstrapped to the original bill — including $150 billion in tax breaks for individuals and businesses — would win over at least the dozen or so votes needed to reverse Monday’s outcome and send the measure to President Bush.

The stock market reflected nervous jitters over a vote that was to occur after it closed but that could affect the future of many Wall Street workers. The Dow Jones industrial average was off almost 220 points during the day, but recovered to close down just 19.6 points, or 0.2 percent, at 10,831.07.

Besides the tax breaks, senators also made a change that had drawn widespread support in recent days — a temporary increase in the amount of bank deposits covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to $250,000 from $100,000. And the entire package was attached to legislation requiring insurers to treat mental health conditions more like general health problems, a long-sought goal of many lawmakers who demanded such parity.

As the shape of the new bill became more clear Wednesday, some House Republicans and Democrats indicated that the changes were enough to get them to take another look at the measure and perhaps change their minds — even though the new items being added would substantially increase the burden on taxpayers.

Representative John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who on Monday voted no, said he found the new proposal more acceptable, as did Representative Jim Ramstad, a retiring Republican from Minnesota who voted in opposition as well.

“The inclusion of parity, tax extenders and the F.D.I.C. increases has caused me to reconsider my position,” Mr. Ramstad said. “All three additions have greatly improved the bill.”

Leaders of both parties in the House, who spent much of Wednesday on the phone taking the temperature of lawmakers not scheduled to return until Thursday, said they were identifying other potential converts as well, and were finding a more receptive audience for the revised measure because of the tax package and other changes.

Some conservative House Republicans and liberal Democrats remained adamantly opposed. “The bailout legislation that the Senate is sending back to the House is a fraternal twin to the one I voted against on Monday — meet the new bill, same as the old bill,” said Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas.

While popular, the tax breaks, which had been the center of a bitter dispute between House and Senate Democrats, caused problems as well.

A coalition of centrist Democrats led by Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, had refused to back the tax benefits unless they were deficit neutral — offset by tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. The bill now includes the Senate version of the tax plan, which adds most of the cost to the deficit over the next decade.

But the Senate leaders decided to present the House with a take-it-or-leave-it choice, and it is possible some Democrats could desert the bill over the tactic. Mr. Reid said the Senate would remain in session this week to see how House members react and whether they might attempt to change the bill, forcing another Senate review.

Mr. Hoyer said he was disappointed in the Senate’s decision on the tax breaks and worried it could cost Democratic votes. “Certainly there are people who are upset we are making the deficit worse as we are trying to stabilize the economy,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters. But in a telephone conference call among the Democratic leadership Wednesday morning, he told his colleagues he would back the measure because the economic rescue needed to take priority, according to participants.

In the end, Senate leaders decided to overcome some of the ideological and political resistance that doomed the measure in the House with the tried-and-true Congressional approach of stuffing the bill with provisions that would make it hard for many lawmakers to resist.

“All I’m trying to do is get this thing passed,” said Mr. Reid, denying he was trying to jam the House by giving members no choice but to accept the tax proposal he favored or again reject the bailout.

The multiple tax breaks, called extenders in the Capitol because they renew or extend expiring tax benefits, appeal to many lawmakers and could provide a political argument for backing a bill that has otherwise been very unpopular.

Instead of siding with a $700 billion bailout, lawmakers could now say they voted for increased protection for deposits at the neighborhood bank, income tax relief for middle-class taxpayers and aid for schools in rural areas where the federal government owns much of the land.

“This bill has been packaged with a lot of very popular things to give it even more momentum,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, who is an opponent.

The approximately $150 billion in new tax breaks, which offer incentives for the use of renewable energy and relieve 24 million households from an estimated $65 billion alternative-minimum tax scheduled to take effect this year, would be offset by only about $40 billion in spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere.

Moreover, the increase in federal deposit insurance will not be financed over the short term, as the insurance program now is, by assessing premiums on banks that benefit. Instead, banks will get an open-ended line of credit directly to the Treasury Department. But the Congressional Budget Office noted that federal law requires the banks to eventually make up any shortfall and any loans to be repaid, though not until at least 2010.

The changes in the bill were measurable by volume. The initial proposal from the Treasury Department ran just three pages; the latest version exceeds 450.

After receiving the proposal from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. almost two weeks ago, Congress instituted a series of changes, including additional oversight, steps to limit home foreclosures and restrictions on the compensation of executives of institutions that take part in the Treasury program.

Under pressure to tighten the plan even more, Congressional and administration negotiators decided to parcel out the $700 billion in installments, starting with a first tranche of $350 billion. And during a weekend of negotiations, they added as a final backstop a requirement that in five years the president must present Congress with a plan to make up any losses of tax funds by looking to the financial community to make up the difference.

Robert Pear contributed reporting.

AP : 35 years for man who offered speakers for grenades

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

35 years for man who offered speakers for grenades

By MIKE ROBINSON | September 30, 2008

CHICAGO (AP) — A one-time admirer of Osama bin Laden who plotted a hand-grenade attack at a mall jammed with Christmas shoppers — and tried to trade two stereo speakers for the weapons — was sentenced to 35 years in prison Tuesday.

Derrick Shareef of Rockford said he once admired bin Laden as a sheik and a scholar but has changed his views and opposes violence.

"I am not an extremist," said Shareef, who was sentenced on his 24th birthday.

U.S. District Judge David H. Coar said he hopes Shareef has changed but that a long sentence still was warranted to discourage others who might plan similar attacks. He could have given Shareef life in prison.

"Almost every defendant who appears in this court says, 'I have now seen the light and if you just give me another chance it won't happen again,'" Coar told Shareef. "Some of these are people with criminal records as long as my arm."

Shareef was arrested Dec. 6, 2006, in a Rockford parking lot after he offered an undercover FBI agent two stereo speakers for four hand grenades and a 9 mm pistol.

Agents said Shareef's plan was to detonate the grenades in garbage cans in the big Cherryvale Mall on Dec. 22 — the Friday before Christmas. The blasts were expected to spray the mall with lethal shrapnel, the agents said.

"There is absolutely no question that he intended to carry this out — it would have killed many innocent people," prosecutor Sergio Acosta said.

The arrest initially attracted attention as a potentially major terrorism arrest, but it soon became known that Shareef acted alone except for a paid government informant and had been under surveillance for weeks before his arrest.

Shareef's attorney Donald Young, accompanied by Shareef's mother, declined to comment.

In an impassioned brief filed with the court, Young had portrayed Shareef as a confused young man who had grown up in a fatherless home and fallen under the sway of the informant, a onetime member of Chicago's big, drug-selling Four Corner Hustlers street gang.

Acosta, however, said that before Shareef ever met the informant he lived for a time in Phoenix with a man later convicted of aiding terrorists and espionage. Before his arrest, Shareef had been watching violent videos and jihad training videos, Acosta said.

"So far as the informant leading him astray, the man (Shareef) was a ticking time bomb," Acosta told the court.

Young said Shareef now opposes violent jihad and has adopted more positive Muslim beliefs. He said Shareef has emerged as the imam of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the federal jail where he is being held.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.