President Donald Trump’s travel ban unfairly discriminated against Muslims, a federal appeals court ruled, upholding most of the previously issued injunction against it.
Trump’s executive order from January 27 “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination,” wrote Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the Virginia-based US Appeals Court in the 4th circuit.
In a 10-3 decision, the majority of judges ruled that they were “unconvinced” the executive order was motivated by national security concerns rather than a “Muslim ban.”
“Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation,” Gregory added.
Along the same lines as the injunction issued by the 9th Circuit court in California, the 4th Circuit judgment quotes Trump’s statements from the campaign trail to argue that the “ban on all Muslims entering the US” shows the president’s executive order was motivated by bigotry rather than national security.
“Laid bare, this Executive Order is no more than what the President promised before and after his election: naked invidious discrimination against Muslims,” wrote Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. in a concurring opinion.
The plaintiffs, which included several individuals and organizations, claimed that the executive order caused “injury to their family relationships,” and that the “anti-Muslim message animating [the executive order] 2 has caused them feelings of disparagement and exclusion.”
International Refugee Assistance Project and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society claimed that they had committed significant resources to dealing with the consequences of the second executive order, and that “they will suffer direct financial injury from the anticipated reduction in refugee cases.”
Judge Stephanie Thacker agreed with the majority, but noted in a separate opinion that the court “need not – and should not – reach this conclusion by relying on statements made by the President and his associates before inauguration.”
Thacker warned her colleagues that adjudicating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution should focus on governmental action, rather than “judicial psychoanalysis” of individuals, and that “looking to pre-inauguration conduct is neither advisable nor necessary.”
A newly released declassified audit from the US Department of Defense shows that negligent accounting by the military has resulted in the Pentagon not knowing what happened to more than $1 billion in arms and equipment meant for the Iraqi Army.
The Office of Inspector General for the Pentagon’s findings from September 2016 was made public Wednesday as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from human rights group Amnesty International.
Over $1 billion worth of arms and military equipment designated under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) and meant to assist the Iraqi government in combatting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), was not accounted for, the DOD audit found.
The Army’s 1st Theater Sustainment Command “did not have effective controls to maintain complete visibility and accountability of ITEF equipment in Kuwait and Iraq prior to transfer to the Government of Iraq,” the audit said.
“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights Researcher, said in the announcement on the group’s website.
“It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of US arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State.”
The ITEF began as a $1.6 billion program, but last year, Congress appropriated $715 million more to it.
The transfers included, according to Amnesty, “tens of thousands of assault rifles worth $28 million, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles” to the Iraqi Army, including the predominantly Shi’a Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
While the Pentagon promises to do better, that means little to Amnesty, which noted that the same sentiments were expressed to Congress in 2007 when similar concerns arose.
“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep re-occurring. This should be an urgent wake-up call for the US, and all countries supplying arms to Iraq, to urgently shore up checks and controls. Sending millions of dollars’ worth of arms into a black hole and hoping for the best is not a viable counter-terrorism strategy; it is just reckless,” Amnesty’s Wilcken said.
Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi and his father, Ramadan, had long-standing links to a violent jihadist group which may have had British backing for the 2011 Libyan war and a 1996 attempt to kill then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The controversy centers on the role of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was both an anti-Gaddafi and Al-Qaeda subsidiary in the North African state.
Many of the fighters which formed the group in the mid-90s were veterans of the Afghan-Soviet war from the 1980s. They went on to fight the Gaddafi regime in Libya itself.
The war saw the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime and the eventual murder of the leader himself after he was captured by opposition fighters. Since NATO’s intervention, Libya has been in chaos.
It has descended into a protracted civil war, is a major contributor to the international refugee crisis, has its own branch of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), and two opposing governments.
The elder Abedi was reportedly one of the LIFG fighters who fled Gaddafi’s response to the rebels, settling in London and, later, in Manchester.
The area of Manchester in which Salman Abedi grew up was home to a number of other LIFG members, including former senior commanders including Abd al-Baset Azzouz, who left Manchester to go to Libya and run a 200-300-strong militant network for Osama Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Azzouz is reported to be an expert bomb-maker.
In 2002, former MI6 agent and whistleblower David Shayler accused the British spy agency of colluding with the jihadist group in a failed 1996 effort to kill Gaddafi, an allegation the British government strenuously denies.
Allegations have also emerged that in 2011, the UK may have relaxed restrictions on LIFG fighters based in the UK and helped them return to Libya to fight Gaddafi.
The UK was at that time engaged in fighting Gaddafi as part of a US-led NATO coalition. Former fighters interviewed by the Middle East Eye said that the UK actively supported the return of anti-Gaddafi dissidents, including those with Al-Qaeda links, to the North African state.
One fighter who spoke to the Middle East Eye said he had been interviewed by an MI5 agent who asked if he was “willing to go into battle?”
“While I took time to find an answer he turned and told me the British government have no problem with people fighting against Gaddafi,” the fighter said.
Others reported that when the war in Libya began, they looked into how to get fake documents, because their passports had been removed as part of restrictive control orders placed on them by the UK government.
One said that within days, the authorities had returned their passports, after which they headed straight to Libya to take on Gaddafi.
At the time of the war, current UK Prime Minister Theresa May was Home Secretary, with oversight of MI5 operations. It is not clear if she was aware of the decision to relax restrictions of jihadists and return their travel documents.