Thursday, February 4, 2010

Officials: Al Qaeda Attack Within Six Months

Intelligence officials testified on Capitol Hill this week about an imminent homeland security threat:
Al Qaeda can be expected to attempt an attack on the United States in the next three to six months, senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday.
The terrorist organization is deploying operatives to the United States to carry out new attacks from inside the country, including "clean" recruits with a negligible trail of terrorist contacts, CIA Director Leon Panetta said. Al Qaeda is also inspiring homegrown extremists to trigger violence on their own, Panetta added.
The annual assessment of the nation's terror threats provided no startling new terror trends, but amplified growing concerns since the Christmas Day airline attack in Detroit that militants are growing harder to detect and moving more quickly in their plots.

Appeals Court: Millenium Bomber Sentence Not Tough Enough

The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has a reputation for "going rogue." The Supreme Court has reversed the 9th Circuit more than any other federal appeals court. However, in a complete role reversal, a divided 9th Circuit panel ruled that a lower court was too lenient in meting out a jail term for the so-called Millenium bomber:
The long legal battle of an al-Qaida-trained terrorist convicted in an attempted bombing on the millennium has taken another turn after an appeals court threw out his sentence and removed the trial judge from the case.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday said Ahmed Ressam's 22-year prison sentence is too lenient. Border agents in Washington state arrested the Algerian national in 1999 after he entered the United States from Canada on a ferry with a car packed with explosives. He was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
The appeals court also said Tuesday that it's taking the rare step of assigning the case to another trial judge because it doubts U.S. District Judge John Coughenour's impartiality in the matter.
...the appeals court said Ressam has an extensive criminal history and Coughenour's conclusions were "clearly erroneous." Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon said the Coughenour failed to take into account public safety with the 22-year prison sentence....
Ressam's case will be randomly assigned to another federal judge in Seattle in the coming weeks and it's expected that the Algerian national will receive a harsher sentence. A divided three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled Ressam, 41, deserves a much longer prison term because he had reneged on a deal to cooperate with terrorism investigators around the world.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the defendant faces a prison sentence of 65 years to life. Incredibly, Judge Coughenour is a Reagan appointee.