All posts by Robert M. Chesney

Robert M. Chesney is Charles I. Francis Professor in Law at UT-Austin School of Law. Chesney is a national security law specialist, with a particular interest in problems associated with terrorism. Professor Chesney recently served in the Justice Department in connection with the Detainee Policy Task Force created by Executive Order 13493. He is a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security, a senior editor for the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, an associate member of the Intelligence Science Board, a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the American Law Institute. Professor Chesney has published extensively on topics ranging from detention and prosecution in the counterterrorism context to the states secrets privilege. He served previously as chair of the Section on National Security Law of the Association of American Law Schools and as editor of the National Security Law Report (published by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security). His upcoming projects include two books under contract with Oxford University Press, one concerning the evolution of detention law and policy and the other examining the judicial role in national security affairs.

[nationalsecuritylaw] United States v. Omar (D. Minn. Aug. 2011) (material support &




* United States v. Omar (D. Minn. Aug. 2011) (material support & murder conspiracy indictment in al-Shabaab case)

A Somali man (with lawful permanent resident status in the US) has been extradited from the Netherlands to the United States to face charges including conspiracy to commit murder abroad (18 USC 956(a)) and conspiracy to provide material support (money, personnel) in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit murder abroad.  At bottom, the allegation is that Omar recruited and provided funds for weapons to young Somali-American men in Minnesota in connection with recruitment for al-Shabaab.  The contents of the press release appear below. 

Note that this is at least the second time in the post-9/11 period in which a terrorism-related defendant has been extradited from the Netherlands to the United States.  The earlier case, United States v. Delaema, included relative strict conditions from the Dutch, including a requirement that he be repatriated to serve his sentence (including the prospect that a Dutch judge might reduce his sentence, which did in fact happen).  Since Omar unlike Delaema is not a Dutch citizen, one has to assume that nothing similar will be required in this instance.   Omar thus faces the prospect of a life sentence. 


MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court in Minneapolis, Mahamud Said Omar made his initial appearance on charges related to supporting al-Shabaab, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda.  He appeared before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis. 


On Aug. 20, 2009, Omar, age 45, formerly of Minneapolis, was indicted in federal court in the District of Minnesota with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and foreign terrorist organizations as well as conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad.  Omar, also known as Mohamud Said Omar and Sharif Omar, was arrested in the Netherlands in November of 2009.  He was extradited from the Netherlands to the United States earlier this week. 


The 2009 indictment states that from September of 2007 through August of 2009, Omar, a Somali citizen who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, conspired with others to provide financial assistance as well as personnel to al-Shabaab. Court documents allege that Omar gave money to young men so they could travel from Minneapolis to Somalia to train with and fight for al-Shabaab.  Omar also allegedly visited an al-Shabaab safe-house in Marka, south of Mogadishu, where he provided the Minneapolis men with hundreds of dollars for the purchase of AK-47 assault rifles to use in their efforts. 


This case arose out of “Operation Rhino,” an investigation that focused on the disappearance of young ethnic Somali men who lived in the Minneapolis area and were ultimately found to have been recruited to fight with al-Shabaab back in Somalia.  The earliest groups of identified “travelers” departed the United States in October and December 2007, while others left in February 2008, August 2008, November 2008, and October 2009.  Upon arriving in Somalia, the men resided in al-Shabaab safe-houses in Southern Somalia until constructing an al-Shabaab training camp, where they were trained by senior members of al-Shabaab along with a senior member of al-Qaeda.




nationalsecuritylaw upcoming event: “Ten Years In: Appraising the International Law of the ‘Long War’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan” (BU School of Law, Oct. 14, 2011)

* upcoming event: "Ten Years In: Appraising the International Law of the ‘Long War’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan" (BU School of Law, Oct. 14, 2011)

Please see the attached pdf for the details for this terrific upcoming conference at Boston University School of Law. See also the information below:

Ten Years In: Appraising the International Law of the ‘Long War’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 2011 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. conflict in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. This conference, cosponsored by Boston University School of Law, the U.S. Naval War College, and the American Society of International Law’s Francis Lieber Society, will examine current controversies in the law of armed conflict, the law governing recourse to force, and international human rights law arising out of the continuing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and related operations in Pakistan. Panelists will address, among other issues, counterinsurgency doctrine, the increasing individuation of warfare, the tactical directive, rules of engagement, the concept of “direct participation in hostilities,” unmanned systems, targeted killings, and cross-border operations. The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. David Kilcullen, founding CEO and President of Caerus Associates. During his distinguished career, Dr. Kilcullen has served as counterinsurgency adviser to NATO International Security Assistance Force, special adviser for counterinsurgency to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, senior counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus, and chief strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. The Boston University International Law Journal will publish selected portions of the proceedings.

Conference sessions will take place on Friday, October 14 from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m, and will be held at BU’s School of Law, 765 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA. Please arrive by 12:30 p.m., to register and join us for coffee and light refreshments before the proceedings begin. This event is free and interested members of the public are cordially invited to attend. For academic questions, please contact Robert Sloane, Associate Professor of Law. To RSVP, please contact <a href="mailto:eaa, Events & Public Relations Manager.

afghanistan conference postcard 2011.pdf

nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Abdo (W.D. Tex. Aug. 9, 2011) (indictment in Fort Hood bomb plot case)

* United States v. Abdo (W.D. Tex. Aug. 9, 2011) (indictment in Fort Hood bomb plot case)

A grand jury yesterday returned an indictment in the case of Naser Abdo, the guy recently arrested in connection with an alleged bomb plot in relation to Killeen (the same guy who shouted “Major Nidal Hassan 2009!” in the courtroom after his arrest). I assume there will be a superseding indictment at some point, as this first iteration merely charges possession of an unregistered destructive device and posession by a fugitive (remember, he was AWOL from Fort Campbell) of a firearm & ammo. That is, there is no charge as yet specific to plotting to bomb Fort Hood personnel or otherwise. Of course, that’s the tricky thing about the lone wolf scenario: no option to charge conspiracy and hence a bit more trouble in finding the right inchoate offense charge where the arrest occurs early on the spectrum of planning. Assuming it remains a lone wolf scenario, I suppose the question is whether prosecutors are having trouble convincing themselves, or the grand jury, to attach on attempt charge in relation to this particular fact pattern. In that regard, compare this fact pattern to United States v. Aldawsari, which involved another lone wolf bomb plot (a former student at Texas Tech who allegedly was planning to set off a bomb), in that case charged as an attempt under 18 USC 2332a (see here for more).

If prosecutors cannot add additional charges, note that these charges expose Abdo to a mere ten years in prison. In any event, here is the press release in Abdo’s case:

WACO, Texas — U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy and FBI Special Agent in Charge Cory B. Nelson announced that a federal grand jury seated in Waco returned an indictment this afternoon charging 21-year-old Naser Jason Abdo with possession of an unregistered destructive device as well as possession of a firearm and ammunition by a fugitive from justice.

The three-count indictment specifically alleges that on July 27, 2011, Abdo was in possession of a destructive device not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record as well as a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol and 20-gauge shot shells while being a fugitive from justice.

According to court records, officers with the Killeen, Texas, Police Department arrested Abdo on July 27, 2011. At the time of his arrest, the defendant, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was in possession of the handgun plus instructions on how to build a bomb as well as bomb making components, including six bottles of smokeless gunpowder, shotgun shells, shotgun pellets, two clocks, two spools of auto wire, an electric drill and two pressure cookers. Court documents also allege that Abdo intended to use the materials to assemble two destructive devices with the intention of detonating them inside an unspecified restaurant frequented by soldiers from Fort Hood.

Abdo remains in federal custody. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine per count.