In what he said were just initial steps, President Barack Obama announced January 5 his determination to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat so-called terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen and Somalia, or in other countries around the world.
He announced that more names are being added to the no-fly list of persons not allowed to board planes bound for the United States, more U.S. marshals will be stationed on flights, and more dogs used in screening passengers. Some 35 Yemenis at the Guantánamo U.S. prison camp in Cuba who were to be released to their homeland will now remain incarcerated, he said. There are no charges against them.
The day before Obamas announcement, new U.S. regulations went into effect for passengers on flights to the United States that originate in, or pass through, 14 specific nations. These passengers will be subjected to intense screening through the use of body scanners, pat downs, and searches of luggage. The targeted countries are the four countries on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorismCuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syriaas well as Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen.
The pretext for the measures was an attempt to blow up an airplane as it approached the Detroit International Airport on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, is charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft and placing a destructive device on the plane. He has a January 8 bail hearing and will be tried in a civilian court.
A U.S. official told Associated Press that Mutallab said al-Qaeda told him to blow the plane up over U.S. territory. A statement by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, said it trained and armed Mutallab for the operation. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center had Mutallabs name on its list of more than half a million people with alleged connections to terrorists.
Former Republican vice president Richard Cheney said in late December, President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war . He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we wont be at war.
Appearing on four Sunday TV talk shows January 3, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan sought to counter the attacks on Obama. Were working very closely not just with the Yemenis, but with our other international partners, with the British, with the Saudis, and others, to make sure that we provide the Yemeni government the wherewithal to carry out this fight against al-Qaeda, he told ABCs This Week. Brennan noted in particular the U.S. role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen in December. According to the Yemen Post, thousands of Yemenis demonstrated to protest a December 17 strike they said had killed dozens of civilians.
On NBCs Meet the Press, David Gregory asked Brennan, Should the American people expect military action by the United States in Yemen? Brennan answered, Everything is possible.
Brennan said that contrary to Cheneys complaint that a civilian trial for Mutallab is too lenient, the U.S. government has a long record of convictions in such antiterror trials. In fact, these trials have been used to significantly weaken workers rights in the courtroom, from presumption of innocence, to the right to see evidence and choose an attorney.
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