Quebec mosque shooting: suspect Alexandre Bissonnette’s far-right views

The suspect in the deadly shooting a Quebec City mosque has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder with a restricted firearm.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, a student at Université Lava, made a brief court appearance at the Quebec City courthouse yesterday. He is due back in court on February 21.

Hours after the shooting on January 29, Prime Minister Trudeau condemned the “terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge”.

Provincial police are treating the incident as a terrorist act.

But why have they not included terrorism-related charges? The answer is simple, and reflects the early nature of the investigation. Crown prosecutor Thomas Jacques confirmed that Bissonnette was charged with the evidence presently available.

A spokeswoman for Canada’s federal police did not rule adding terrorism-related charges at a later date.

Mr Bissonnette remains somewhat of an anomaly. Little is known about his behaviour away from the internet.

A childhood friend of Mr Bissonnette described him as a person “enthralled by a borderline racist nationalist movement“.

Others who monitored Mr Bissonnette’s online activity draw similar conclusions. A user of an online forum said to be popular with the sole suspect, told Le Journal de Quebec that his views were “very right and ultra-nationalist white supremacist“.

François Deschamps, who runs a Facebook page to support refugees called Bienvenue aux Réfugiés, observed Mr Bissonnette’s anti-Muslim posts for almost a whole year. Nor did Alexandre Bissonnette hide behind an online pseudonym.

On January 30, at 4:07pm GMT, a Facebook post from Bienvenue aux Réfugiés confirmed Mr Bissonnette’s “pro-La Pen and anti-feminist positions at Université Laval and on social media.”

Marine Le Pen’s visit to Quebec City in March 2016 inspired Mr Bissonnette to outwardly express extreme nationalist politics, according to those who clashed with him on social media. This, perhaps, explains the varieties of political interests on his now deleted Facebook profile. His ‘likes’ ranged from Canada’s federal NDP and its former leader Jack Layton to an interest in atheism, video games, chess, Richard Dawkins, Girogio Roversi’s The Amorality of Atheism, and Christopher Hitchens.

A clustering of nationalistic ‘likes’ include U.S. President Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, and Mathieu Bock-Cóté. The latter is a Quebec City columnist known for “his pro-nationalist and anti-multicultural views,” according to the Montreal Gazette. Other nationalist interests included Génération Nationale –  a movement which rejects the ‘ideology of multiculturalism’.

TVA Nouvelles, a provincial French-language news outlet has speculated that Mr Bissonnette may have posted on 4Chan before the attack took place.

This detail, however, is not independently verified. The post in question, made on the day of the shooting, asks: “What day are mosques most active? I’m going to go demonstrate at the main one in my city and I want to go at the right time.” A screenshot of the message timestamps it at 2:44pm. The shootings began at around 8pm local time. Viewing the 4Chan thread with an American VPN presents the same timestamp found in the screenshot. Viewing the page from a UK browser puts the time at 7:45pm.

There’s nothing, however, to suggest that this post is related to the shooting, but the timing of it, may, in the end, prove coincidental.

It’s now up to provincial police to verify this claim.

In a statement, Alexandre Bissonnette’s employer stated: “Héma-Québec was shocked to learn that one of its employees, Mr. Alexandre Bissonnette, was arrested as a suspect in the tragic events that took place at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec on January 29, 2017.”

The names of the dead emerged on Monday afternoon. All the victims were fathers. Azzedine, 57, a grocer, butcher and father of three, helped newcomers settle in Quebec City.

Khaled Belkacemi, 60, a professor of soil and agri-food engineering at Laval University, was described by staff as ‘distinguished, passionate & truly involved‘.

Aboubaker Thabti, 44, worked in a pharmacy and had two young children.

Two friends from Guinea, Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, and Ibrahima Barry, 39, were among the dead, according to Souleymane Bah, president of the Association of Guineans in Quebec. Mamadou had worked in the IT sector and father to two toddlers under the age of five. Ibrahima worked for Quebec’s Revenue Ministry. His children are 13, seven, three and two.

Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, worked as a programming analyst for the provincial government. He is survived by three daughters, aged 10, eight and 15 months.

A GoFundMe page to support the victims’ families and to help cover funeral expenses raised C$157,526 in one day.

Two the 19 individuals wounded in the shooting remain in critical condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Canada, Marine Le Pen, News, Quebec, terrorism

Quebec mosque suspect charged with murdering six people – court

A French-Canadian university student was the sole suspect in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque and was charged with the premeditated murder of six people, Canadian authorities said on Monday, in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “a terrorist attack.”

Court documents identified the gunman in the attack on Sunday evening prayers as Alexandre Bissonnette. He was also charged with five counts of attempted murder, according to court papers.

Among the six men killed were a butcher, a university professor, a pharmacist and an accountant, according to police and Canadian media.

Police declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec.

“They consider this a lone wolf situation,” the source said.

In Washington, U.S. government security experts were leaning to the view that the gunman most likely was motivated by hatred for Muslims, a U.S. government source familiar with official reporting said.

A man of Moroccan descent who had also been arrested was now considered a witness, although his nationality was not immediately known, a source familiar with the situation said.

Trudeau, who has made a point of welcoming refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, told parliament in Ottawa: “Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack.”

He added a personal message to Canada’s 1 million Muslims:

“Know that we value you. You enrich our shared country in immeasurable ways. It is your home. Last night’s horrible crime against the Muslim community was an act of terror committed against Canada and against all Canadians. We will grieve with you. We will defend you. We will love you. And we will stand with you.”

Sombre parliamentarians observed a moment of silence. Trudeau was scheduled to visit Quebec City later on Monday.

The attack was out of character for Quebec City, a city of just over 500,000 which reported just two murders in all of 2015. Mass shootings are rare in Canada, where gun control laws are stricter than in the United States.

In addition to the six killed, five people were critically injured and 12 were treated for minor injuries, a spokeswoman for the Quebec City University Hospital said.

Federal Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters in Ottawa there was no change to “the national terrorism threat level” from medium because “there is no information known to the government of Canada that would lead to a change at this time.”

U.S. President Donald Trump called Trudeau to express his condolences “and offered to provide any assistance as needed,” said Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad.

Over the weekend, Trudeau said Canada would welcome refugees, his response to an executive order by Trump on Friday to halt the U.S. refugee programme and to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Trump’s action, which the president said was “not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe,”  was widely condemned in the United States and abroad as targeting Muslims.

On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that the Quebec shooting was “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant, and why the president is taking steps to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.”

People bring flowers at the scene of a fatal shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, Canada January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

FATHER OF FOUR KILLED

A father of four, the owner of a halal butcher near the mosque, was among those killed, said Pamela Sakinah El-hayet, a friend of one of the people at the mosque.

The mosque concierge was killed, as was Ahmed Youness, a 21-year-old student, El-hayet told Reuters. One of El-hayet’s friends, Youness’ roommate, was in the mosque at the time of the shooting. He was unharmed, she said, but in total shock.

Ali Assafiri, a student at Université Laval, said he had been running late for the evening prayers at the mosque, near the university in the Quebec City area. When he arrived, the mosque had been transformed by police into a crime scene.

“Everyone was in shock,” Assafiri said by phone. “It was chaos.”

Université Laval is the oldest French-language university in North America, with 42,500 students.

Vigils were planned for Montreal and Quebec City, the provincial capital, as well as in Edmonton. There was an outpouring of support for the mosque on social media.

“Last night’s shooting, targeting people of faith during their worship and prayer, is a deplorable attack on all Canadians and our most deeply-held values,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, a group of Canadian Christians, churches and other religious congregations.

Incidents of Islamophobia have increased in Quebec in recent years. The face-covering, or niqab, became an issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election, especially in Quebec, where the majority of the population supported a ban on it at citizenship ceremonies.

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Categories: Alexandre Bissonnette, Canada, massacre, News, Quebec Mosque, Trudeau

Should Britons be worried about President Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’?

What is the ‘Muslim ban’?

President Trump’s executive order halts the US Refugee Admissions Programme for 120 days. There’s an indefinite ban on accepting Syrian refugees.

Individuals arriving from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen face a 90-day visa suspension. Exceptions to the ban include those holding diplomatic visas, NATO visas, and visas to travel to the UN.

How does it affect individuals that have UK nationality and are also nationals of the 7 countries?

The following information is relevant to UK citizens that are dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

We highly recommend that you use a British passport if you plan to travel to the United States.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has confirmed that British nationals should expect additional security checks on arrival if they are of dual nationals of one of the 7 countries mentioned above AND are travelling on a British passport to the United States.

If you are a dual national of one of the 7 countries and your journey to the United States does not originate from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, you should not be affected by the suspension imposed by the executive order, according to an FCO press release.

How does this affect British nationals (without dual nationality) on a journey to the United States from one of the 7 countries?

The FCO makes clear that your travel plans to the United States should not be affected – even if you were born in one of the 7 listed nations. However, we stress that this is not certain, as American customs and border agents may not be consistent across all ports of entry. If you are travelling to the United States, we recommend that you ensure you have contact details for the FCO and UK Embassy in the United States (the emergency numbers are +1 202 588 6500 or +44 1908 516666).

Further, it is advisable to have contact details of an immigration solicitor in the United States in case of any problems entering the United States.

Has this ban impacted your travel plans as a British national or dual national? Get in touch in confidence with the form below:

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Disclaimer: Tell MAMA is not a legal entity and can only advise and refer you to relevant agencies. We will do our best to provide support over the phone. Our WhatsApp number is 0734 184 6086.

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Categories: campaign

Don’t let Trump embarrass our queen, say a million Britons

Over a million people in Britain have signed a petition calling for U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned state visit to be cancelled to avoid embarrassing Queen Elizabeth, in a grassroots backlash against his immigration policies.

The invitation to make a state visit, which will involve lavish displays of royal pageantry and a banquet hosted by the monarch, was conveyed by Prime Minister Theresa May when she visited Trump in Washington last week.

The petition was started before May’s trip, but gained traction after Trump issued an executive order barring Syrian refugees and suspending travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, sparking protests at home and abroad.

Further complicating matters, the Sunday Times newspaper reported tensions were mounting between London and Washington because Trump, a climate change denier, did not want a “lecture” during his visit by heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, a passionate environmentalist.

The petition against the state visit, which is on the British parliament’s website, passed the one million mark on Monday morning and the number of signatories was rising fast.

“Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen,” the petition says.

It was the second most popular petition ever on the parliamentary website, after one calling for a second referendum on membership of the European Union drew over 4 million signatures last year.

Once a petition passes 100,000 signatures, lawmakers must consider it for debate. Such debates are largely symbolic and rarely affect government policy, although one on this particular issue would potentially be embarrassing for May.

Her Downing Street office said the invitation had been extended and accepted, declining further comment.

A year ago, parliament debated a petition calling for Trump, then the Republican candidate, to be barred from the United Kingdom. It gathered close to 600,000 signatures before it was closed last June.

Some lawmakers from the governing Conservative Party and opposition Labour Party have criticised Trump’s immigration order. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the state visit should be put on hold.

Citing a source in Trump’s team and other unnamed sources in the British government and the royal entourage, the Sunday Times said tensions over climate change and the conflicting views of Trump and Charles risked disrupting the visit.

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Categories: Conservative Party, News, Queen, Theresa May, Trump, UK Petition

Five dead in Quebec City mosque shooting – mosque president

Five people were killed after gunmen opened fire in a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers, the mosque’s president told reporters on Sunday.

Earlier, a witness told Reuters that up to three gunmen fired on about 40 people inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre. Police put up a security perimeter around the mosque and declined to comment to reporters about the incident.

“Why is this happening here? This is barbaric,” said the mosque’s president, Mohamed Yangui.

In June 2016, a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the cultural centre.

Yangui, who was not inside the mosque when the shooting occurred, said he got frantic calls from people at evening prayers. He did not know how many were injured, saying they had been taken to different hospitals across Quebec City.

Incidents of Islamophobia increased in Quebec in recent years amid a political debate over banning the niqab, or Muslim face covering. In 2013, police investigated after a mosque in the Saguenay region of Quebec was splattered with what was believed to be pig blood.

In the neighbouring province of Ontario, a mosque was set on fire in 2015, a day after an attack by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris.

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Categories: 5 killed, anti-Muslim hate, killing, News, Quebec City Mosque

‘It’s made in Vietnam!’ At inauguration, origin of red Trump hats shocked many

One of the biggest cheers President Donald Trump received from supporters watching his inaugural address was his call to “buy American and hire American.”

It was a moment rich in irony.

Many of those supporters were sporting Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps that were made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Some were horrified when they discovered their Trump hats were foreign made.

Rob Walker, 44, who had driven to Washington from Georgia with his wife Abby, 36, had stopped at a truck stop on the way to buy a “Make America Great Again” cap.

“Oh God, I hope it’s not made in China,” Abby said, flipping the cap over to check. She looked at its label. “China! Don’t tell anyone!”

The Trump hats available for purchase on Trump’s official campaign website are made in the United States and cost between $25 and $30, according to the label inside those caps.

But they were also more expensive than the $20 versions sold by street vendors in Washington.

Joshua Rojas, 25 and Alyssa Young, 28, had traveled from Texas to watch the inauguration. Young was wearing a pink “Make America Great Again” hat.

“I loved it as soon as I saw it. I bought it right over there from one of the vendors for $20,” she said.

So was it made in America?

“I don’t know where it was made actually,” Young said. “Let me check.” She took off the hat to check the label.  “Oh no,” she cried. “It’s made in Vietnam!”

Austin Araco, 22, from Arkansas, was attending his first inauguration and wearing a Trump hat.

“I bought this hat the day he won the election,” said Araco. “From his website, of course. I wanted to make sure I supported his fund. I don’t want to buy a knock-off. I bought the hat for $30, shipping included.”

Victoria Scott, 13 and her brother Andrew Scott, 12, each bought a “Make America Great Again” hat before the inauguration. Victoria’s hat cost $25 – and was made in China.

She did not seem to mind.

Andrew then checked his hat. “Banglakesh?” he said after checking the tag. His father corrected him. “You mean Bangladesh.”

Robert Morrison from Queens, New York, was carrying his “Make America Great Again” hat – bought from a street vendor for $20 – and wearing a New York Yankees cap. Both were made in China.

In his speech, Trump struck a fiery, protectionist tone.

“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First,” he said. “We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.”

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Categories: China, Hats, Make America Great, News, POTUS, Red Caps, Red Hats, Trump Inauguration, US, Vietnam

May says does not agree with Trump on immigration

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday Britain did not agree with “this kind of approach” on U.S. President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration into the United States.

May had been criticised by lawmakers in her ruling Conservative Party for not condemning Trump’s decision to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barring travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.

Her spokesman said: “Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government.”

“But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking. We are studying this new executive order to see what it means and what the legal effects are, and in particular what the consequences are for UK nationals.”

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Categories: Donoald Trump, immigration, Muslim Ban, Muslim Majority countries, News, Theresa May, United States

Prime Minister, the Core Values We Defend Include Protecting the Weak

The Prime Minister has regularly defended communities when they have been targeted by hate crimes and she has been a strong advocate for supporting work on tackling hatred, intolerance and prejudice. The Prime Minister has also been right when she has said that there are fundamental core values that make up our country. These values include challenging and rejecting extremism, standing up for human rights, the rule of law, tolerance towards other communities, ensuring the safety and security of all communities and ensuring that violence plays no part in disputes in our country. A segment of these values has also included defending democracy in our country and promoting it internationally. We have always welcomed these core values.

Yet, intertwined within these core values is the fundamental practice of standing up for and defending the weakest of communities, people, families and individuals. Our nation has had a chequered history around protecting refugees and migrants. At times, we have been welcoming, such as the acceptance of ‘Kinder Transport‘ children, whose lived were saved by coming to the UK, whilst at times our country’s history has been one of persecution towards those same communities, when Jews have been targeted and killed en masse when it suited English King’s to do so.

We took in Ugandan refugees, (albeit grudgingly) and we took in refugees from Somalia, Sudan and many African and North African countries. The vast majority of these refugees have become productive and settled citizens in our country.

Yet, at a time when a US President seems to want to put out executive order after executive order and as when he seems to undermine the very principle of providing a safe space for the most vulnerable of people, it is imperative that our political leaders to speak out. We must defend this core principle, that refugees fleeing from death and persecution should be treated with dignity and assessed fairly and if deemed legitimate and fleeing from persecution, given safe passage into a country. Undermining this core value on the basis of faith selectivity is frankly, abominable.

We would urge the Prime Minister to speak out on this issue. She stated clearly that if needed, she would disagree with Trump and this is an issue where fairness, tolerance and the rule of law based on principles first set by the United Nations, need to be protected and defended. Prime Minister, now is the time to defend this core value.

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Categories: #MuslimBan, Donald Trump, Muslim Ban, News, Prime Minister, refugees, Theresa May, United Kingdom

Trump immigrant curbs cause chaos, panic, anger worldwide

President Donald Trump’s sweeping ban on people seeking refuge in the United States and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries caused confusion and panic among travellers on Saturday, with some turned back from U.S.-bound flights.

Immigration lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying numerous people have already been unlawfully detained.

The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.

The bans affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The action prompted fury from Arab travellers in the Middle East and North Africa who said it was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from U.S. Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations.

Iran condemned the order as an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation” and vowed to retaliate.     Of the seven countries targeted, Iran sends the most visitors to the United States each year – around 35,000 in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The ban extends to green card holders who are authorized to live and work in the United States, according to Gillian Christensen, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.

It was unclear how many green card holders would be affected, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.

LEGAL RESIDENTS STUNNED

Legal residents of the United States were plunged into despair at the prospect of being unable to return to the United States or being separated from family members trapped abroad. Immigration lawyers worked through the night to help stranded travellers and enforcement at entry points was uneven.

“I never thought something like this would happen in America,” said Mohammad Hossein Ziya, 33, who came to the United States in 2011 after being forced to leave Iran for his political activities.

Ziya, who lives in Virginia, has a green card and planned to travel to Dubai next week to see his elderly father. “I can’t go back to Iran, and it’s possible I won’t be able to return here, a place that is like my second country,” he said.

Saleh Taghvaeian, 36, teaches agricultural water management at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, said he feared his wife will not be able to return from Iran after a visit.

“In Iran they’re not being allowed to get on the airplane,” he said.

In Cairo, five Iraqi passengers and one Yemeni were barred from boarding an EgyptAir flight to New York on Saturday, sources at Cairo airport said. Dutch airline KLM said on Saturday it had refused carriage to the United States to seven passengers from predominately Muslim countries.

At least three lawyers from the International Refugee Assistance Project were at the arrivals lounge at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4, buried in their laptops and conference calls, photocopies of individuals’ U.S. visas on hand.

‘IT’S SCARY’

“Just because Trump signed something at 6 p.m. yesterday, things are coming to a crashing halt,” said Mana Yegani, an immigration lawyer in Houston. “It’s scary.”

She and fellow lawyers worked all night fielding calls from travellers with student and worker visas who were being denied entry into the United States and ordered on flights back to the Muslim-majority countries.

Enforcement of the order was spotty and disorganized.

Travelers were handled differently at different points of entry and immigration lawyers were advising clients to change their destination to the more lenient airports, said Yegani, who works with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The order seeks to prioritize refugees fleeing religious persecution. In a television interview, Trump said the measure was aimed at helping Christians in Syria.

Some legal experts said that carve-out showed the order was unconstitutional, as it would violate the U.S. right to freedom of religion. But others said the president and U.S. Congress have latitude to choose who receives asylum.

Lawyers from numerous immigration organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union sued in federal court in Brooklyn on behalf of two Iraqi men, one a former U.S. government worker and the other the husband of a former U.S. security contractor.

The two men had visas to enter the United States but were detained on Friday night at Kennedy airport, hours after Trump’s executive order, the lawsuit said.

Green card holders were also being stopped and questioned for several hours. Officials also denied travellers with dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship from boarding planes in Canada that were headed to the United States, Yegani said.

“These are people that are coming in legally. They have jobs here and they have vehicles here,” Yegani said.

Those with visas from Muslim-majority countries have gone through background checks with U.S. authorities, Yegani noted.

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway reaffirmed the president’s decision in a Twitter post on Saturday.

“@POTUS is a man of action and impact. Promises made, promises kept. Shock to the system. And he’s just getting started,” she tweeted.

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Categories: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Muslim Ban, News, refugees, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Trump, Visas, Yemen

Trump may reinstate secret CIA ‘black site’ prisons – U.S. officials

President Donald Trump may order a review that could lead to bringing back a CIA programme for holding terrorism suspects in secret overseas “black site” prisons where interrogation techniques often condemned as torture were used, two U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The black sites were used to detain suspects captured in President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were formally closed by former President Barack Obama.

Any return to the Bush administration’s initial anti-terrorism tactics – including secret prisons and interrogation methods considered torture under international law – would likely alienate key U.S. allies in the fight against militant groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The officials said Trump is expected to sign an executive order in the next few days. It would call for a high-level review into “whether to reinitiate a programme of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States” and whether the CIA should run the facilities, according to a copy of the draft published by the Washington Post.

Reuters could not independently verify the document.

Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer said the draft was not a White House document. The draft published by the Washington Post appeared to have sections missing, suggesting that it may not have been a full version ready for Trump to sign.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the Trump administration did not write the document.

“My understanding is this was written by somebody who worked on the transition before who’s not in the Trump administration. This is not a product of the administration,” Ryan said in an interview with MSNBC.

Aides to Obama said during his tenure that his prohibition against torture and efforts to close the Guantanamo prison in Cuba helped increase counterterrorism cooperation from U.S. allies in the Arab world.

The now-defunct programme’s practices dubbed enhanced interrogation techniques – which included simulated drowning, known as waterboarding – were criticized around the world and denounced by Obama and other senior U.S. officials as torture.

The document ignited a bipartisan outcry in Congress. Many people in U.S. intelligence agencies and within the military are opposed to reopening the harsh interrogation programme, according to multiple serving officers.

“The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America,” Senator John McCain, a Republican who underwent torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement.

The CIA black sites were located in Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Thailand and Afghanistan.

In 2006, Bush ended the use of harsh interrogation techniques and closed all the black sites except for one in Kabul.

Asked whether he wants waterboarding as president, Trump answered in an interview with ABC News: “I will rely on (CIA director Mike) Pompeo and (Defense Secretary James) Mattis and my group. And if they don’t want to do it, that’s fine. If they do want to do it, then I will work toward that end,” Trump said.

“I want to do everything within the bounds of what we’re allowed to do if it’s legal. If they don’t want to do it, that’s fine. Do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.”

Mattis and Pompeo had not been aware such plans were in the works, according to a congressional source.

KEEP GUANTANAMO OPEN

Trump’s draft order would authorise a review of interrogation techniques that U.S. officials could use on terrorism suspects, keep open the detention centre at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and send new prisoners there.

Trump’s draft also revokes directives by Obama to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in U.S. custody and restrict interrogation methods to those in a U.S. Army field manual.

Trump vowed during the 2016 election campaign to resume waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse” because even if torture does not work, “they deserve it anyway.”

He has said he wanted to keep Guantanamo open and “load it up with some bad dudes.”

Of the 41 prisoners left at Guantanamo, 10 face charges in war-crimes proceedings known as military commissions, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and his alleged co-conspirators. Bush established the military commissions, which Obama later changed.

The draft order said, “No person in the custody of the United States shall at any time be subjected to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as proscribed by U.S. law.” It does not mention international laws to which the United States is a signatory that prohibit torture.

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015, which reaffirmed a prohibition on torture and required U.S. interrogators to adhere to techniques in the Army field manual.

However, the Justice Department under Trump could issue an interpretation of U.S. law that allows for the use of harsh interrogation techniques as occurred in the “torture memos” drafted under the Bush administration in 2002 and subsequently withdrawn.

Despite the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during Obama’s presidency, the dramatic spread of groups like Islamic State has exacerbated the threat from violent Islamist organizations.

In a statement accompanying the draft order, the administration criticizes Obama’s policies, saying, “The United States has refrained from exercising certain authorities critical to its defence.” But it acknowledges that the National Defense Authorization Act “provides a significant statutory barrier to the resumption of the CIA interrogation program.”

“WORRISOME”

Human rights groups decried any attempt to bring back the black sites.

“This is an extremely disturbing and outrageous attempt to open the door again to systematic torture and secret detention. This is the Trump administration making good on its most worrisome comments during the campaign,” said Naureen Shah, Amnesty International USA’s director of national security and human rights.

Critics say a return to harsh interrogations would enflame tensions in Muslim countries and be counterproductive.

In the draft document, references to the “global war on terrorism” were edited and replaced with the phrase “fight against radical Islamism,” reflecting language Trump often uses.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who requested anonymity, said many CIA officers would oppose reinstatement of black site interrogations, in part because they were forced to obtain lawyers after the withdrawal of the Justice Department memos that legalized the harsh techniques.

“People felt they were hung out to dry,” the former official said. “There is a lack of trust there.”

Moreover, he said, it would be extremely difficult to persuade other governments to allow the CIA to establish secret prisons on their soil.

“Where are you going to do this?” he asked. “How many countries are going to jump back into the U.S. lap?

Trump’s order, if enacted, could put new CIA Director Pompeo in a tight spot given that his workforce, according to multiple serving officers, largely opposes reinstating the black sites programme. It could also complicate the confirmation of Trump’s nominee for the job of director of national intelligence, former U.S. Senator Dan Coats.

As a conservative Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo defended the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques, arguing that they produced useful intelligence.

During his confirmation hearing for CIA director, he pledged he would “absolutely not” reinstate those methods. Yet in written responses to questions from Senate Intelligence Committee members, he appeared to leave the door open to restoring them.

“If experts believed the current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country, I would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law,” Pompeo wrote.

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Categories: Black sites, CIA, Donald Trump, Guantanamo, News, secret prisons, Terror suspects