Monday, November 26, 2007


First Things First
by Charlie Leck

What a lovely Thanksgiving holiday around our home this past weekend. Not only were some of the grandkids here, but there was a birthday celebration for one of them and a passel full of other kids were invited and the party was a huge success and no one wanted to go home. Hearing 7 or 8 kids tearing around our house is quite unusual, but the old place stood up to the test.

The problem I had was finding time on the computer to write my blog. I like to publish at least 3 fresh pieces each week and it has been disappointing to go 5 days without putting anything up. Now, however, with quiet restored, I’ll get back to posting something new every other day. Meanwhile…

If you need something to get you outraged,
this came in came in my email overnight and is just one more sign of an out of control justice and defense departments. We can never let our constitution, and the basic rights guaranteed by it, to be mocked. I post it here for you to read thoroughly.

ALL JOURNALISTS SHOULD BE OUTRAGED BY THIS--and let the corporate media and Congress know.

US Plans Case Against AP Photographer

By BRIAN MURPHY (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
November 19, 2007 8:09 PM EST

NEW YORK - The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi
court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is
refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.

An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the
U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal
Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19

In Washington, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell explained the
decision to bring charges now by saying "new evidence has come to light"
about Hussein, but said the information would remain in government hands
until the formal complaint is filed with Iraqi authorities.

Morrell asserted the military has "convincing and irrefutable evidence
that Bilal Hussein is a threat to stability and security in Iraq as a
link to insurgent activity" and called Hussein "a terrorist operative
who infiltrated the AP."

AP Associate General Counsel Dave Tomlin rejected the claim: "That's
what the military has been saying for 19 months, but whenever we ask to
see what's so convincing we get back something that isn't convincing at

The case has drawn attention from press groups as another example of the
complications for Iraqis chronicling the war in their homeland -
including death squads that target local journalists working for Western
media and apparent scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agents.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military
intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring
the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi
codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds
to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi
on April 12, 2006.

Tomlin said the defense for Hussein is being forced to work "totally in
the dark."

The military has not yet defined the specific charges against Hussein.
Previously, the military has pointed to a range of suspicions that
attempt to link him to insurgent activity.

The AP also contends it has been blocked by the military from mounting a
comprehensive defense for Hussein, who was part of the AP's Pulitzer
Prize-winning photo team in 2005.

Soon after Hussein was taken into custody, the AP appealed to the U.S.
military either to release him or bring the case to trial - saying there
was no evidence to support his detention. However, Tomlin said that the
military is now attempting to build a case based on "stale" evidence and
discredited testimony. He also noted that the U.S. military
investigators who initially handled the case have left the country.

The AP says various accusations were floated unofficially against
Hussein and then apparently withdrawn with little explanation.

Tomlin said the AP has faced chronic difficulties in meeting Hussein at
the Camp Cropper detention facility in Baghdad and that its own
intensive investigations of the case - conducted by a former federal
prosecutor, Paul Gardephe - have found no support for allegations he was
anything other than a working journalist in a war zone.

"While we are hopeful that there could be some resolution to Bilal
Hussein's long detention, we have grave concerns that his rights under
the law continue to be ignored and even abused," said AP President and
CEO Tom Curley.

"The steps the U.S. military is now taking continue to deny Bilal his
right to due process and, in turn, may deny him a chance at a fair
trial. The treatment of Bilal represents a miscarriage of the very
justice and rule of law that the United States is claiming to help Iraq
achieve. At this point, we believe the correct recourse is the immediate
release of Bilal," Curley added.

Hussein, a native of Fallujah and a member of a prominent clan in the
western province of Anbar, began work for the AP in the summer of 2004
as the anti-U.S. insurgency was gaining ground.

On the morning of April 12, 2006, Hussein was out buying bread for
breakfast when he heard a blast on a nearby street in Ramadi, according
to the AP investigation. He dashed home and allowed several strangers to
follow - as was customary to offer shelter during unrest in the city.
Marines later arrived and used Bilal's apartment as a temporary
observation post.

Hussein told the AP he was later taken into custody by the Marines who
also confiscated equipment including a laptop and satellite phone. The
guests he invited into his apartment amid the chaos were also detained.

On Monday, Morrell said two guests in the apartment that day were
"suspected insurgents" and that one of them later was convicted in a
court of having a phony ID. It was unclear whether he remained in
custody or was released.

Calls for Hussein's freedom have been backed by groups such as the
Committee to Protect Journalists.

Tomlin said it remains unclear what accusations, evidence and possible
witnesses will be presented by military prosecutors in Baghdad.

"They are telling us nothing. ... We are operating totally in the dark,"
said Tomlin, who added that the military's unfair handling of the case
is "playing with a man's future and maybe his life."

Although it's unclear what specific allegations may be presented against
Hussein, convictions linked to aiding militants in Iraq could bring the
death penalty, said Tomlin.

U.S. military officials in Iraq did not immediately respond to AP
questions about what precise accusations are planned against Hussein.

Previously, the military has outlined a host of possible lines of
investigation, including claims that Hussein offered to provide false
identification to a sniper seeking to evade U.S.-led forces and that
Hussein took photographs that were synchronized with insurgent blasts.

The AP inquiry found no support for either of those claims. The bulk of
the photographs Hussein provided the AP were not about insurgent
activity; he detailed both the aftermath of attacks and the daily lives
of Iraqis in the war zone. There was no evidence that any images were
coordinated with the insurgents or showed the instant of an attack.

Tomlin also questioned the U.S. military claims that Hussein's fate
rests solely with Iraqi justice. Noting that Hussein has been in the
sole custody and control of the U.S. military, he said it's up to
military prosecutors to lay out the allegations and "it's impossible
that they don't have a specific set of charges drawn up."

Gardephe, now a New York-based attorney, said the AP has offered
evidence to counter the allegations so far raised by the military. But,
he noted, it's possible the military could introduce new charges at the
hearing that could include classified material.

"This makes it impossible to put together a defense," said Gardephe, who
is leading the defense team and plans to arrive in Baghdad next week.
"At the moment, it looks like we can do little more than show up ... and
try to put together a defense during the proceedings."

One option, he said, is to contend that the Pentagon's handling of
Hussein violated Iraqi legal tenets brought in by Washington after the
fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Among the possible challenges: AP claims
that Hussein was interrogated at Camp Cropper this year without legal

Hussein is one of the highest-profile Iraqi journalists in U.S. custody.

In April 2006 - just days before Hussein was detained - an Iraqi
cameraman working for CBS News was acquitted of insurgent activity.
Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein was held for about a year after being
detained while filming the aftermath of a bombing in the northern city
of Mosul.

Tomlin, however, said that freedom for Bilal Hussein, who is not related
to the cameraman working for CBS, isn't guaranteed even if the judge
rejects the eventual U.S. charges. The military can indefinitely hold
suspects considered security risks in Iraq.

"Even if he comes out the other side with an acquittal - as we certainly
hope and trust that he will - there is no guarantee that he won't go
right back into detention as a security risk."

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