Daily Report

Conscientious objector to face court martial?

An Army hearing officer has recommended a court-martial for a soldier charged with desertion after he refused to deploy to Iraq.

In a Feb. 16 report, Lt. Col. Linda Taylor recommended that Sgt. Kevin Benderman face a general court-martial, the most serious type. The procedure requires approval from Fort Stewart's General Court Martial Convening Authority.

Benderman, an Army mechanic, refused to accompany his unit Jan. 7 for a second tour in Iraq, 10 days after he gave notice that he was seeking a discharge as a conscientious objector. He said he became opposed to war after serving in the 2003 invasion.

Germans protest Bush

About 12,000 protesters, many carrying banners reading "Bush go home," "No. 1 Terrorist" and "Warmonger," marched through the German city of Mainz Feb. 23, during President Bush's official visit. The rally, which was twice as big as expected, never got within earshot of Bush, but a small group of protestors rushed toward his car as he left to visit a US military base in nearby Wiesbaden. Police wrestled several demonstrators to the ground and led them away in handcuffs.

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)

Jewish Republicans: Dean supports terrorism

The Republican Jewish Coalition greeted Howard Dean's election to chair the Democratic National Committee this week with an ad campaign seeking to depict him as a supporter of terrorism.

Bush: Talk of Iran attack "ridiculous," but...

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," Bush told a news conference after talks with European Union leaders in Brussels. "Having said that, all options are on the table," he added, drawing laughter at a clear reference to military action. Bush did not respond to a call by French President Jacques Chirac to stop blocking Tehran's candidacy for the World Trade Organization. (Reuters, Feb. 22)

Two Brits convicted of Iraq abuse

After a five-week court martial, British solider Lance-Cpl. Mark Cooley, 25, was convicted of feigning punches to a bound prisoner and of tying up another man and hoisting him on a forklift. Cpl. Daniel Kenyon was convicted of aiding and abetting the abuse and failing to report it. Lance-Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, pleaded guilty earlier to one count of battery after he was shown in a photo standing with both feet on an Iraqi who was tied up on the ground. Cooley and Kenyon face up to two years in prison and Larkin faces up to six months in jail when they are sentenced.

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)

Chavez: Bush trying to kill me

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged Feb. 21 that President Bush is behind a plot to assassinate him—and warned that if it succeeded, Venezuela would halt oil exports to the US.  "If I am assassinated, there is only one person responsible: the president of the United States," Chavez said during his weekly radio and TV show, Hello President, claiming he had received a tip from his good friend Fidel Castro. "If, by the hand of the devil, these perverse plans succeed...forget about Venezuelan oil, Mr. Bush," Chavez said. Addressing his own people, he added: "I will not hide, I will walk in the streets with all of you...but I know I am condemned to death." (UK Guardian, Feb. 22)

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