United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010)

August 4, 2010

[update] The criminal complaint mentioned below is attached.

* United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010) (new material support indictment)

Last night FBI agents in Chicago arrested a U.S. citizen named Shaker Masri shortly before he was to leave the country. The criminal complaint alleges that Masri planned to join al Shabaab in Somalia (apparently al Qaeda is mentioned as well, though without the document to look at I’m simply assuming that the complaint treats al Shabaab as an extension of al Qaeda), and that he hoped ultimately to participate in a suicide bombing. The offenses specified in the complaint appears to be

(i) an attempted violation of 18 USC 2339B (providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, in this case al Shabaab and al Qaeda; query whether the support in question consisted of Masri supplying himself as “personnel” to the group, which is the way in which 2339B functions like a membership prohibition); and

(ii) an attempted violation of 18 USC 2339A (providing material support to anyone knowing or intending that they will use the support to facilitate any of several dozen predicate violent acts, including 18 USC 2332a (which criminalizes the use of “weapons of mass destruction”—defined very broadly to encompass explosive devices—in various scenarios, including a U.S. person using explosives without lawful authority outside the United States).

The key details from the press release appears below:

CHICAGO – A 26-year old Chicago man, who authorities believed was planning to travel to Somalia and engage in jihadist fighting with a terrorist group, was arrested last night just hours before he was scheduled to leave Chicago, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.

Shaker Masri, who lived in the Streeterville area of Chicago, was arrested late yesterday in Countryside, Ill., without incident, by members of the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) following an 18-month investigation. Masri was charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count each of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization and attempting to provide material support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction, both of which are felony offenses.

According to the complaint, Masri, who is a U.S. citizen, began espousing his increasingly violent views to an individual he befriended in early 2009. During the ensuing months, Masri began to openly express a desire to participate in a “jihad” and to fight against what he characterized as “infidels.”

In the past month, it is alleged that Masri began to actively plan a trip to Somalia where he hoped to join the specially designated terrorist groups al Qaeda and al Shabaab and commit a suicide attack targeting “infidels.” He was arrested last night just hours before he was planning to depart Chicago en route to Somalia.

Investigation by the Chicago FBI’s JTTF included the use of undercover operatives and court authorized electronic surveillance of a telephone used by Masri and resulted in the filing of the charges announced today.

Masri Complaint[1].pdf


United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010)

August 4, 2010

* United States v. Masri (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2010) (new material support indictment)

Last night FBI agents in Chicago arrested a U.S. citizen named Shaker Masri shortly before he was to leave the country. The criminal complaint alleges that Masri planned to join al Shabaab in Somalia (apparently al Qaeda is mentioned as well, though without the document to look at I’m simply assuming that the complaint treats al Shabaab as an extension of al Qaeda), and that he hoped ultimately to participate in a suicide bombing. The offenses specified in the complaint appears to be

(i) an attempted violation of 18 USC 2339B (providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, in this case al Shabaab and al Qaeda; query whether the support in question consisted of Masri supplying himself as “personnel” to the group, which is the way in which 2339B functions like a membership prohibition); and

(ii) an attempted violation of 18 USC 2339A (providing material support to anyone knowing or intending that they will use the support to facilitate any of several dozen predicate violent acts, including 18 USC 2332a (which criminalizes the use of “weapons of mass destruction”—defined very broadly to encompass explosive devices—in various scenarios, including a U.S. person using explosives without lawful authority outside the United States).

The key details from the press release appears below:

CHICAGO – A 26-year old Chicago man, who authorities believed was planning to travel to Somalia and engage in jihadist fighting with a terrorist group, was arrested last night just hours before he was scheduled to leave Chicago, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.

Shaker Masri, who lived in the Streeterville area of Chicago, was arrested late yesterday in Countryside, Ill., without incident, by members of the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) following an 18-month investigation. Masri was charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count each of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization and attempting to provide material support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction, both of which are felony offenses.

According to the complaint, Masri, who is a U.S. citizen, began espousing his increasingly violent views to an individual he befriended in early 2009. During the ensuing months, Masri began to openly express a desire to participate in a “jihad” and to fight against what he characterized as “infidels.”

In the past month, it is alleged that Masri began to actively plan a trip to Somalia where he hoped to join the specially designated terrorist groups al Qaeda and al Shabaab and commit a suicide attack targeting “infidels.” He was arrested last night just hours before he was planning to depart Chicago en route to Somalia.

Investigation by the Chicago FBI’s JTTF included the use of undercover operatives and court authorized electronic surveillance of a telephone used by Masri and resulted in the filing of the charges announced today.


student writing competition: ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security (AUGUST 15 DEADLINE)

August 4, 2010

* 2010 Law and National Security Writing Competition (for students) – deadline AUGUST 15 –

Cash Prize of $500 plus free registration and travel to the upcoming 20th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law Conference. Deadline for submission is August 15, 2010. Description below:

American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security

2010 National Security Law Student Writing Competition

“National Security in a Globalized World”

**Cash Prize and Trip to the Law and National Security Conference in Washington, DC**

Overview: The Standing Committee on Law and National Security, founded in 1962 by then-ABA President and later Supreme Court Justice Lewis J. Powell, conducts studies, sponsors programs and conferences, and administers working groups on law and national security-related issues. The Committee’s activities assist policymakers, educate lawyers, the media and the public, and enable the Committee to make recommendations and provide advice on such subjects as the legal responses to terrorism, the restructuring of the intelligence community and its role in law enforcement, and operational international law in the conduct of the military. In furtherance of this mission the Standing Committee is proud to announce the 3rd annual writing competition for law students.

Topic: As we begin the second decade of the twenty-first century, the law is changing dramatically as it seeks to shape and adapt to new conditions. Economic markets are becoming global, transactions require cultural adaptation and understanding, populations are more mobile, and communication technologies bridge distances and time zones to form new communities around the world. All of us must renew our commitment to the enduring principles of law, become knowledgeable about other legal systems, recognize the need to adapt our practices, and acquire new cultural understandings. In a global era, matters such as human rights, criminal justice, intellectual property, business transactions, dispute resolution, human migration, and environmental regulation become not just shared concerns but international issues—among nations—with National Security Law implications. In recognition of this rapidly changing era, the ABA May 2010 Law Day focuses on understanding and appreciating the emerging challenges and enduring traditions of law in the 21st century. This theme provides the backdrop and opportunity to explore the many facets of this year’s writing competition topic: National Security in a Globalized World. The writing competition seeks to encourage scholarly debate regarding current issues related to U.S. national security in the global environment; international security; international treaties and their impact on national security.

Prize: The winning essay will receive a cash prize of $500 and free registration to the 20th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law Conference held in November in Washington, DC. In addition to registration for the conference, the prize will include reimbursement for coach travel and one night’s lodging. Additionally, the essay will be published in the National Security Law Report. Winner must be present at the conference to receive the award.

Eligibility: The competition is open to all students who are in attendance at an ABA accredited law school between September 1, 2009 and August 15, 2010. Only original and previously unpublished papers are eligible. Papers prepared for law school credit are eligible provided they are original work. Jointly authored papers are not eligible. Entrants can have a faculty member or practicing lawyer review and critique their work, but the submission must be the student’s own work product. The name of the reviewing professor or lawyer must be noted on the entry. Committee members, staff, and selection committee members shall not participate in the contest or review process. Only one essay may be submitted per entrant.

Format: Essays may not exceed 5,000 words, including title, citations, and footnotes. Essays over 5,000 words will be rejected. The text of the essay must be double-spaced, with twelve-point font and one-inch margins. Entries should reflect the style of ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security’s National Security Law Report articles rather than law review style. Entrants are encouraged to review past copies of the News available at http://www.abanet.org/natsecurity/ – prior to drafting their submissions. Citations must be embedded in text or in footnote form, as opposed to endnotes. Cites must conform with The Bluebook: Uniform System of Citation.

Entry Procedure: Each submission must include a SEPARATE COVER PAGE (not included in the 5,000 word count) with the entrant’s name, law school, year of study, mailing and email address, and phone number. The contestant’s name and other identifying markings, such as school name, MAY NOT appear on any copy of the submitted essay.

Deadlines: Submission must be postmarked no later than August 15, 2010 and mailed to: American Bar Association, Standing Committee on Law and National Security, 740 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005; or sent via email to hmcmahon@staff.abanet.org. The winner will be notified by September 30, 2010. By submitting an entry in this contest, the entrant grants the ABA and the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security permission to edit and publish the entry in the Committee’s National Security Law Report. Please direct any questions about the contest to the Committee Staff Director at hmcmahon@staff.abanet.org.

Judging: The winning entry will contain a clearly written original analysis of a national security law issue that is substantively accurate and persuasive, and supported by citations. The entries will be judged anonymously by a subcommittee made up of members of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security.


update: OFAC issuing licenses FW: ACLU v. Geithner (D.D.C. Aug. 3, 2010)

August 4, 2010

* update to ACLU v. Geithner: OFAC is issuing the requested licenses

A listmember points out that OFAC yesterday announced it will in fact grant the requested licenses. See the story below. One interesting point mentioned in the story is that OFAC already has a “general license” permitting the provision of pro bono legal services to SDGTs, though the range of legal services encompassed by the general license arguably did not extend to this particular type of litigation (the general license instead seems to anticipate pro bono work challenging the designation itself and other designation-related government actions and also detention-related activity; the drafters of the general license language just probably didn’t foresee this particular type of lawsuit).

Treasury to allow al-Awlaki lawsuit
By: Josh Gerstein
August 3, 2010 07:17 PM EDT
The Treasury Department indicated Tuesday it will grant two civil liberties groups a license to file a lawsuit on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant American-born Islamic cleric who has reportedly been targeted for death by the U.S. Government.

The announcement came after the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a separate federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Treasury Department’s licensing process for providing legal services to individuals and groups subject to U.S. anti-terrorism sanctions.

The head of Treasury’s sanctions office, Adam Szubin, said in a statement that Treasury’s policy “is to broadly authorize the provision of pro bono legal services” to designated persons who want to challenge the government in court. “To the extent that the particular legal services that the ACLU wishes to provide in this instance do not fall into any of the broad categories that are generally licensed, [Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control] will work with the ACLU to ensure that the legal services can be delivered,” Szubin said.

The moves could set in motion the first legal challenge to the government’s policy of deadly drone strikes against American citizens and others accused of working with al Qaeda and other terrorists overseas. As they filed their lawsuit against Treasury Tuesday, the civil liberties groups announced that al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser, had retained them to help end a series of drone strikes that appeared aimed at killing his son.

Anwar al-Awlaki was added to the Treasury Department’s sanctions list on July 16. ACLU and CCR lawyers said that meant they had to apply to Treasury for a license to perform legal services on the younger al-Awlaki’s behalf; they said they made the application on July 23 but didn’t get an answer from Treasury.
“Plaintiffs emphasized that the application was extremely urgent because of the nature of the action planned by the government against Mr. Awlaki,” the lawsuit said.

In Szubin’s statement, he accused the ACLU of “significantly misleading” the public by stating that individuals or groups on the list need approval from the feds before retaining unpaid legal counsel.

“The Treasury Department has long had in place a general license that broadly authorizes the provision of pro bono legal services to or on behalf of designated persons such as Anwar al Awlaki,” Szubin wrote. “This general license allows U.S. persons to provide legal advice and services with respect to any criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings brought against the designated person, as well as any proceedings initiated on his or her behalf to challenge his or her detention or the imposition of sanctions against him or her.”

However, Szubin’s statement did not appear to dispute the ACLU’s claim that it needs a license for the case on behalf of al-Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen. A suit over the government’s order authorizing deadly force against him would not appear to involve any of the specific types of legal work Treasury has generally authorized.

In an interview with CNN in January, Nasser al-Awlaki said he wanted his son to turn himself in to authorities but had little room to negotiate.

"I will do my best to convince my son to do this (surrender), to come back but they are not giving me time, they want to kill my son,” he said. “How can the American government kill one of their own citizens? This is a legal issue that needs to be answered."

Anwar al-Awlaki, 39, who once preached at a mosque in Virginia, has become an inspirational figure for some who have carried out terrorist attacks. He corresponded via e-mail with U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people and injuring 32 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood in Texas.

In addition, the suspect in the so-called underwear bombing attempt of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009, Umar AbdulMutallab, has reportedly told authorities al-Awlaki was involved in planning that attack.

Some legal authorities have questioned the government’s legal authority to use deadly force outside of war zones, particularly when U.S. citizens are the targets. U.S. officials have generally declined to discuss the process, but have insisted that such designations are made carefully and are the subject of rigorous legal review.

“President Obama is claiming the power to act as judge, jury and executioner while suspending any semblance of due process,” Vince Warren, Executive Director of CCR, said in a statement Tuesday. “Yemen is nearly 2000 miles from Afghanistan or Iraq. The U.S. government is going outside the law to create an ever-larger global war zone and turn the whole world into a battlefield. Would we tolerate it if China or France secretly decided to execute their enemies inside the U.S.?”

In a separate Freedom of Information Act suit filed in March, the ACLU is seeking information on the process the government uses to put figures like al-Awlaki on the list of individuals targeted for drone strikes or similar attacks.

From: Robert Chesney [mailto:rchesney@law.utexas.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2010 11:31 AM
To: nationalsecuritylaw@utlists.utexas.edu
Subject: [nationalsecuritylaw] ACLU v. Geithner (D.D.C. Aug. 3, 2010)

* ACLU v. Geithner (D.D.C. Aug. 3, 2010) (seeking OFAC license to litigate on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki in relation to his inclusion on list of targets approved for lethal strike)

Lots of news coverage of this one. The complaint, running 12 pages, is posted here. As you will see, the complaint is entirely focused on the constitutionality of the statutory and regulatory framework pursuant to which ACLU and CCR must obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury in order to provide legal services to a person identified as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” That is to say, the suit at this point isn’t about the underlying question of the legality of targeting al-Awlaki, but rather about the constitutionality of subjecting legal services to the same restrictions as other forms of service and support under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act system. This is important and interesting, of course, but the real fireworks will come later when a suit on the merits actually gets filed (something that presumably will occur once OFAC actually issues the requested license on its own initiative or else in the event that the court obliges OFAC to do so).


ACLU v. Geithner (D.D.C. Aug. 3, 2010)

August 4, 2010

* ACLU v. Geithner (D.D.C. Aug. 3, 2010) (seeking OFAC license to litigate on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki in relation to his inclusion on list of targets approved for lethal strike)

Lots of news coverage of this one. The complaint, running 12 pages, is posted here. As you will see, the complaint is entirely focused on the constitutionality of the statutory and regulatory framework pursuant to which ACLU and CCR must obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury in order to provide legal services to a person identified as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” That is to say, the suit at this point isn’t about the underlying question of the legality of targeting al-Awlaki, but rather about the constitutionality of subjecting legal services to the same restrictions as other forms of service and support under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act system. This is important and interesting, of course, but the real fireworks will come later when a suit on the merits actually gets filed (something that presumably will occur once OFAC actually issues the requested license on its own initiative or else in the event that the court obliges OFAC to do so).