Watching the Shadows

DoJ blinks in Sibel Edmonds case

The Justice Department has dropped its claim that allegations by FBI contract translator Sibel Edmonds of grave security breaches at the translation unit are classified. Edmonds' claims had already been made public in letters to the DoJ inspector general by senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), but were retroactively classified by the Department. The declassification will allow Edmonds' suit against the FBI to go ahead. Edmonds claims she was improperly fired for bringing the problems to light—some of which she says compromised anti-terrorism operations. (UPI, Feb. 22) The Project on Government Accuntability (POGO) had sued the DoJ and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to get the materials declassified. The declassification will also allow Edmonds' testimony in a civil suit related to the 9-11 attacks. (WP, Feb. 23)

Bush: al-Qaeda trying to kill me

Ahmed Abu Ali, 23, of Virginia, held for 20 months in Saudi Arabia, was flown to the US yesterday to face charges of plotting to assassinate President Bush. At his court hearing in Alexandria he requested permission to show scars on his back as proof he was tortured by Saudi authorities. The request was blocked by federal prosecutors, who also argued that he should be denied bail and held indefinitely, charging links to al-Qaeda and saying he would pose "an exceptionally grave danger" if released. A doctor who examined him reportedly found "no evidence of physical mistreatment." A lawsuit filed by his family is seeking release of details on his detainment and treatment in Saudi Arabia, charging he was arrested and held there at US behest. A valedictorian at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, he went to Saudi Arabia to study, and was never officially charged with any crime there. Priti Patel of the group Human Rights First warned that the torture allegations could taint the government's case: "If the information comes from mistreatment in Saudi Arabia, it would raise questions about whether there's enough evidence for the indictment to hold." (UK Guardian, Feb. 23)

Al-Zawahiri: We'll kill thousands.

Al-Jazeera has aired another propaganda video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, now said to be al-Qaeda's number two man after Osama bin Laden. "Your new crusade will end, God willing, with the same defeat as its predecessors, but only after you have suffered tens of thousands of dead and the destruction of your economy," Zawahiri said in his message to "the peoples of the West" broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite channel. (AFP, Feb. 21)

NYT: "Time for an Accounting" on torture, detainment

In an uncharacterstically strong and principled lead editorial Feb. 19, the NY Times says its "Time for an Accounting" on Abu Ghraib and the administration's policy on torture and detainment generally. Maybe, finally, a sign that elite consciences are beginning to stir. It is worth quoting at length:

Negroponte and the death-squad connection

The NY Times' Feb. 18 front-page profile of John Negroponte, Bush's appointment as Director of National Intelligence, did at least mention—albeit towards the end, at the bottom of page 16—"allegations that he played down human rights violations in Honduras when their exposure could have undermined the Reagan administration's Latin American agenda." (NYT, Feb. 18)

ACLU protests Chertoff confirmation

The American Civil Liberties Union has called for creation of an independent special counsel to investigate "torture policies" following the Senate's confirmation Feb. 15 of Michael Chertoff as Homeland Security Secretary. (ACLU, Feb. 15) Chertoff headed the Justice Department's criminal division during the post-9-11 sweeps, in which many detainees were physically abused—as documented in a 2003 report by the DoJ's own Inspector General. See WW4 REPORT #89

ACLU: more torture in US prison camps

More horrific claims of rights violations in Uncle Sam's military prison camps in Iraq and Afghanistan—including threatening detainees who dared to complain of beatings and torture. One Iraqi detainee who was apparently beaten and injured was forced to drop his claim before being released, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new report.

Negroponte fingered for intelligence czar

John Negroponte has been named by Bush to be the first Director of National Intelligence, a post created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act, recommended by the 9-11 Commission and signed into law in December. If confirmed by the Senate, Negroponte will oversee some 15 agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, Homeland Security Dept., etc. (LAT, Feb. 17)

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