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Updated 02/02/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—February 2, 2007

1. U.S. military announces charges against Guantánamo Bay detainees
2. German prosecutors announce arrest warrants for CIA operatives
3. European government collusion in CIA rendition under investigation
4. Third U.S. soldier pleads guilty to Iraqi detainee killings
5. FBI Internet surveillance more expansive than previously thought
6. Justice Department handing over documents related to FISA wiretap approvals

1. U.S. military announces charges against Guantánamo Bay detainees
On Feb. 2 the U.S. military announced it was filing war-crimes charges three Guantánamo Bay prison detainees—Canadian Omar Khadr, Australian David Hicks and Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen. The charges include murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. This marks the first step in the resumption of military tribunals for terrorism suspects, which the U.S. Supreme Court halted in June 2006 but which were reauthorized by the Military Commissions Act, signed by President Bush in October. The Defense Department on Jan. 18 released operational guidelines for the tribunals, which allow the use of coerced confessions in some instances. A preliminary hearing is required within 30 days of charges being filed and a jury trial must commence within 120 days. The military says it expects to charge a total of 60 to 80 detainees. [Intl Herald Tribune, 2/2/07; AP, 1/31/07; JURIST, 1/31/07; Telegraph (UK), 2/01/07; past stories: HRWT News Update, 1/19/07; HRWT News Update, 10/20/06]

2. German prosecutors announce arrest warrants for CIA operatives
German prosecutors announced on Jan. 31 that arrest warrants had been issued for 13 CIA agents allegedly involved in the kidnapping and torture of German citizen Khaled el-Masri. While on vacation in Macedonia in 2003, el-Masri was abducted and taken to Afghanistan, imprisoned for five months, and released without charge in Albania. He claims that he faced physically abusive interrogations about alleged al-Qaeda involvement. The arrest warrants are for the flight crew and others involved in el-Masri’s transfer to Afghanistran. Germany is the second European country to press charges against CIA operatives for rendition operations, after Italian prosecutors brought charges in a similar case in 2006. U.S. government officials refused to comment on el-Masri’s case. [Democracy Now!, 2/2/07; International Herald Tribune, 1/31/07; CNN, 1/31/07; JURIST, 1/31/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 12/15/07]

3. European government collusion in CIA rendition under investigation
On Jan. 31 Judge Ismael Moreno of Spain’s High Court ordered the Spanish government to declassify any documents it possesses regarding secret CIA rendition flights passing through Spanish territory. The government of Socialist Jose Zapatero has claimed it had no knowledge of any illegal flights. This comes after a European Parliament committee released a report calling on the EU Council to investigate and impose sanctions on any EU country that colluded in rendition flights and CIA secret prisons on European soil. [Reuters, 1/23/07; Reuters, 1/31/07; New Europe, 2/07/07; background info: EU report on CIA renditions] 

4. Third U.S. soldier pleads guilty to Iraqi detainee killings
On Jan. 25 Army Pfc. Corey Clagett became the third U.S. soldier to plead guilty to the premeditated murder of three Iraqi detainees in May 2006. Clagett received a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.. In an assault on what was thought to be an al-Qaeda camp, Clagett’s squad found only two women, a baby, and four unarmed men. One of the men, 70, was shot during the assault and the other three men were detained with plastic handcuffs. The three men were later unbound and ordered to run away, at which time Clagett shot two of them, while another soldier, Spc. William Hunsaker, killed the third. Hunsaker pled guilty to the same charges and, as part of his plea agreement, was going to testify against Clagett, who originally claimed that the three men had tried to attack him. Spc. Juston Grabor also pled guilty and the squad’s leader, Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard, will face a court martial on March 5. The case comes on the heels of charges against four Marines for the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November 2005. [BBC, 1/25/07; LA Times, 1/26/07; AP, 1/29/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 1/5/07]

5. FBI Internet surveillance more expansive than previously thought
The FBI is using an Internet surveillance technique far more expansive and potentially more invasive than has previously been acknowledged, it was revealed at a symposium at the Stanford University law school on Jan. 26. According to Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney at the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and a presenter at the “Search & Seizure in the Digital Age” symposium, the FBI is collecting information on thousands of Internet users at a time and subsequently searching through the data to locate information on specific targeted individuals. Superfluous records are said to then be disposed of. Such surveillance raises legal issues, since federal law requires the FBI to "minimize the interception of communications not otherwise subject to interception." Previously, the FBI was thought to be filtering data prior to collection, thus capturing information only on targeted individuals. [CNET, 1/30/07; Democracy Now!, 1/31/07] 

6. Justice Department handing over documents related to FISA wiretap approvals
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced on Jan. 31 that the Department of Justice would turn over to the Senate Judiciary Committee secret documents regarding government wiretaps approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. The documents include an order by the FISA court authorizing the government to eavesdrop on communications between a person in the United States and someone outside the country when at least one of the persons was suspected of terrorist activity. On Jan. 17, when Gonzales announced that the administration would seek FISA court approval for domestic wiretapping, he said he would not commit to providing Congress with documentation regarding FISA oversight. The Senate, however, demanded the documents because of concern as to whether the court’s oversight provided adequate privacy protections. [JURIST, 1/31/07; AP, 1/13/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 1/19/07]

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