Archive for April 26th, 2011

“PENTAGON SEEKS DEATH PENALTY FOR USS COLE BOMBER” by Fern Sidman

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

In a surprise announcement on Wednesday, April 20th, Pentagon prosecutors declared their intention to re-file war crimes charges against the mastermind of the deadly attack on the USS Cole (an American warship)in the Port of Aden, Yemen on October 12, 2000. 17 US sailors were killed and 40 other US service personnel were wounded when a small vessel, laden with explosives and manned with suicide bombers rammed into the American Navy warship on that fateful day. The announcement included the original request of the military prosecution for an imposition of the death penalty on self-admitted Cole bomber, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 46, the former al-Qaeda chief of operations for the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Nashiri hails from Saudi Arabia and is of Yemeni descent.

Charges against al-Nashiri had been sworn by the office of the chief war crimes prosecutor, Navy Captain, John Murphy, as word of the first full military commission case of the Obama administration came in a Pentagon news release. Initially charged upon his apprehension in Dubai in 2002, the CIA held al-Nashiri at an undisclosed location somewhere overseas before transferrring him to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba military prison in 2006. On September 29, 2004, he was sentenced to death in absentia in a Yemeni court for his role in the Cole bombing. In December 2008, he was charged before a Guantanamo Miilitary Commission. Reports reveal that interrogators used the waterboarding modality to coerce him into cooperating during the questioning. In 2009, the case against al-Nashiri was dropped, when the Obama admnistration launched an initiative to scrutinize the detention policy at Guantanamo Bay.

As a result of this initiative, a stay was imposed on the filing of charges against prisoners at the compound as well as a stay on all military trials. Court filings in August 2010 revealed that the Obama administration was not considering prosecution of al-Nashiri, saying “no charges are either pending or contemplated with respect to al-Nashiri in the near future.” Prosecutors will now need the approval of retired Vice Admiral Bruce McDonald, the Pentagon appointee overseeing the Guantanamo tribunals to proceed with the charges. If the charge sheet is approved, al-Nashiri would face the first-ever capitol prosecution at the war court called Camp Justice. The Defense Department did not immediately release copies of the charges to the public despite a vow of greater transparency at the war court.

Al-Nashiri, a self-described former millionaire from Mecca, was personally recruited as an al-Qaeda operative when he first met Osama bin Laden in 1996. While in Afghanistan in 1997, al-Nashiri fought with the Taliban against the Afghan Northern Alliance and assisted in the smuggling of four anti-tank missiles into Saudi Arabia. He also facilitated in obtaining a Yemeni passport for a known terrorist and his cousin, Jihad Mohammed Ali al-Makri was one of the suicide bombers in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya.

Eleven charges are being leveled against al-Nashiri in the Pentagon’s 13-page charge sheet, including murder in violation of the law of war, treachery, terrorism and conspiring with Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, among others. The sheet also listed the names of each sailor that died in the USS Cole attack. Moreover, al-Nashiri is being accused of orchestrating the attempted attack on yet another US warship called the USS The Sullivans as it refueled in the Port of Aden on Jan. 3, 2000. The plan was aborted when the boat he used was overloaded with explosives and began to sink. Al-Nashiri is also accused of planning and preparing the 2002 attack on the MV Limburg, a French civilian oil tanker, that killed one crew member and resulted in the release of 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Aden.

Navy Lt. Commander, Stephen Reyes, Nashiri’s Pentagon appointed defense lawyer, lambasted the decision to try his client at a military tribunal rather than a civilian court. “Nashiri is being tried at the Guantánamo military commissions because of the torture issue,” he said. “Otherwise he would have been indicted in New York,” where a grand jury in 2003 issued an indictment against two Yemenis whose extradition the U.S. has sought from that Arabian Peninsula nation.” Reyes added that, “The military commissions do not have the procedural protections necessary for a capital case. Because of the makeshift rules, my client could be convicted and put to death without ever having a chance to see his accusers take the stand.”

Retired Navy Commander Kirk Lippold, the Captain of the USS Cole has assumed a prominent role in advocating for the Guantanamo war court in general and a war crimes trial for Nashiri in particular. Subsequent to the bombing of the warship, Lippold worked at the Pentagon as a planner in the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a hand in US detention policy during the Bush administration. In civilian life, he testified at Guantanamo during the sentencing phase of a Bush era military commission trial. A jury had convicted Osama bin Laden’s media secretary, Ali Hamza al Bahlul of Yemen, of conspiring with al-Qaeda through the production of a propaganda video that glorified the Cole bombing, prompting Lippold to describe his disgust at discovering the contents of the film.

Despite the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has yet to decide what manner of execution would be used to carry out a death penalty on a war court convict, his own Defense Department has gone forward with the case. Officials at the Defense Department have reported that 80 of the approximately 170 detainees at Guantanamo are expected to face trial by military tribunal. Among them is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four of his co-conspirators, who until recently were scheduled to face trial in federal court in New York. According to sources in the Obama administration, reforms have made the military commissions more equitable than those created by the Bush administration in the early years of Guantanamo, which Obama condemned as a presidential candidate and senator.

“The broken military commissions system” should not be used to try al-Nashiri, said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project who is likely to register a protest if the death penalty is pursued against al-Nashiri. “All of our concerns about the inherent unfairness of the military commissions are compounded in cases like this one, in which the result could be death,” Shamsi said, adding that, “the Constitution and international law rightly require enhanced protections in death penalty cases, but the military commissions are incapable of providing those necessary protections.”

The ACLU is “deeply disturbed that the Obama administration has chosen to use the military commissions to try a capital case in which much of the evidence is reportedly based on hearsay and therefore not reliable enough to be admissible in federal court.” Shamsi said that “allowing hearsay is a backdoor way of allowing evidence that may have been obtained through torture.”

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Fern Sidman holds a B.A, in political science from Brooklyn College. She was the educational coordinator for the Betar Youth Movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was national director of the Jewish Defense League from 1983-1985. She was a researcher for several books written by Rabbi Meir Kahane, ZTK”L. She was the managing editor of the publication entitled, The Voice of Judea, and is a regular contributor to its web site. She is currently a writer and journalist living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in The Jewish Press, The Jewish Advocate, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and numerous Jewish and general web sites including, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Pipes and Michael Freund.
We are delighted to have Ms. Sidman as a regular contributor to the Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog.

EPA Rules Force Shell to Abandon Oil Drilling Plans

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

As gas prices push $4 or higher in many parts of the country, true to form, this administration refuses to allow more domestic oil drilling.
Have all of you had enough of this nonsense yet? How high is gas going to have to go before you demand that the president do something other than punish the oil companies (which also drives up prices).

Shell Oil Company has announced it must scrap efforts to drill for oil this summer in the Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Alaska. The decision comes following a ruling by the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to withhold critical air permits. The move has angered some in Congress and triggered a flurry of legislation aimed at stripping the EPA of its oil drilling oversight.

Shell has spent five years and nearly $4 billion dollars on plans to explore for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The leases alone cost $2.2 billion. Shell Vice President Pete Slaiby says obtaining similar air permits for a drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico would take about 45 days. He’s especially frustrated over the appeal board’s suggestion that the Arctic drill would somehow be hazardous for the people who live in the area. “We think the issues were really not major,” Slaiby said, “and clearly not impactful for the communities we work in.”

The closest village to where Shell proposed to drill is Kaktovik, Alaska. It is one of the most remote places in the United States. According to the latest census, the population is 245 and nearly all of the residents are Alaska natives. The village, which is 1 square mile, sits right along the shores of the Beaufort Sea, 70 miles away from the proposed off-shore drill site.

The EPA’s appeals board ruled that Shell had not taken into consideration emissions from an ice-breaking vessel when calculating overall greenhouse gas emissions from the project. Environmental groups were thrilled by the ruling.

“What the modeling showed was in communities like Kaktovik, Shell’s drilling would increase air pollution levels close to air quality standards,” said Eric Grafe, Earthjustice’s lead attorney on the case. Earthjustice was joined by Center for Biological Diversity and the Alaska Wilderness League in challenging the air permits.

At stake is an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil. That’s how much the U. S. Geological Survey believes is in the U.S. portion of the Arctic Ocean. For perspective, that represents two and a half times more oil than has flowed down the Trans Alaska pipeline throughout its 30-year history. That pipeline is getting dangerously low on oil. At 660,000 barrels a day, it’s carrying only one-third its capacity.

Production on the North Slope of Alaska is declining at a rate of about 7 percent a year. If the volume gets much lower, pipeline officials say they will have to shut it down. Alaska officials are blasting the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s driving investment and production overseas,” said Alaska’s DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan. “That doesn’t help the United States in any way, shape or form.”

The EPA did not return repeated calls and e-mails. The Environmental Appeals Board has four members: Edward Reich, Charles Sheehan, Kathie Stein and Anna Wolgast. All are registered Democrats and Kathie Stein was an activist attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund. Members are appointed by the EPA administrator. Alaska’s Republican senator thinks it’s time to make some changes.

“EPA has demonstrated that they’re not competent to handle the process,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “So if they’re not competent to handle it, they need to get out of the way.”

Murkowski supported budget amendments that would have stripped the EPA of its oversight role in Arctic offshore drilling. The Interior Department issues air permits to oil companies working in the Gulf of Mexico.

Original Link.