by James Ridgeway
April 21st, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The unsettling story of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds took another twist on Thursday, as the government continued its seemingly endless machinations to shut her up. The U.S. Court of Appeals here denied pleas to open the former FBI translator’s First Amendment case to the public, a day after taking the extraordinary step of ordering a secret hearing.
Edmonds was hired after 9-11 to help the woefully staffed FBI’s translation department with documents and wiretaps in such languages as Farsi and Turkish. She soon cried foul, saying the agency’s was far from acceptable and perhaps even dangerous to national security. She was fired in 2002.
Ever since, the government has been trying to silence her, even classifying an interview she did with 60 Minutes. Oral arguments in her suit against the federal government were scheduled for this morning, but yesterday the clerk of the appeals court unexpectedly and suddenly announced the hearing would be closed. Only attorneys and Edmonds were allowed in.
No one thought the three-judge appeals court panel would be especially sympathetic to the Edmonds case. It consists of Douglas Ginsburg, who was once nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court by President Reagan. He withdrew after it was revealed he had smoked pot as a college student; he later joined the appeals court. Another member, David Sentelle, was chair of the three-judge panel that appointed Ken Starr to be the special prosecutor investigating Clinton. Karen LeCraft Henderson was appointed a federal judge during the Reagan period, then put on the appeals court by the elder President Bush.…Continue reading
March 21, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui’s attempt to directly question three al-Qaeda prisoners and cleared the way for a trial of the only U.S. defendant charged in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ruling allows the government to proceed with plans to seek the death penalty if Moussaoui is convicted of participating in an al-Qaeda conspiracy that included the 2001 airplane hijackings.
The Justice Department said it would file a motion as early as Tuesday, suggesting a trial date in Alexandria, Va.
The government had told the nation’s highest court that national security would be compromised if Moussaoui, an acknowledged al-Qaeda loyalist, was given access to al-Qaeda captives.
Moussaoui’s lawyers had asserted that defendants have a constitutional right to witness statements that might exonerate them, and argued that if this right is taken away, the government should not be allowed to seek Moussaoui’s execution.
Prosecutors, defense lawyers and U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria will have months of pretrial work ahead of them before Moussaoui could go on trial.
By turning down Moussaoui’s attempt to directly confront witnesses who — the defense believes — could exonerate him of any Sept. 11 involvement, the court will require the crafting of unclassified summaries from classified prisoner interrogation statements.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had directed the parties and the judge to agree on the summaries, and the latest decision means the appellate court decision will stand.
However, the 4th Circuit did allow the defense to propose language for the summaries, although the government could object to the proposals.…Continue reading