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Updated 01/16/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—January 5, 2007

1. Former security contractor in Iraq sues Rumsfeld for detention and abuse

2. President Bush nominates John Negroponte as deputy secretary of state

3. Marines receive charges for civilian killings in Haditha, Iraq

4. FBI releases documentation of abuses at Guantánamo Bay

5. British court will not pursue case against police who killed man wrongly suspected of terrorism

6. Department of Homeland Security admits illegal privacy violation

1. Former security contractor in Iraq sues Rumsfeld for detention and abuse

On Dec. 17 a Navy veteran who worked for an Iraqi contractor filed suit in federal court against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, alleging that the U.S. military detained and abused him for 97 days at a maximum-security prison in Baghdad. Donald Vance, who was working as a security consultant for a private Iraqi firm, became an FBI informant when he began suspecting his employer of illegal weapons sales and bribery. In April 2006 he and a coworker believed their lives were in danger and arranged for a U.S. military rescue. After being debriefed at the U.S. Embassy, Vance and his colleague were arrested in the middle of the night and taken into military custody, according to the lawsuit. Vance claims that during his detention he was isolated and deprived of food, water, sleep, and adequate clothing and blankets. His cell light was never turned off, and “intolerably loud” music was played almost constantly. He was released in July 2006 and dropped at the Baghdad airport to find a way home on his own. [Chicago Sun Times, 12/19/06; Chicago Tribune, 12/19/06]

2. President Bush nominates John Negroponte as deputy secretary of state

On Dec. 4 President Bush announced his nomination of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to become Deputy Secretary of State, second only to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Since 2005 Negroponte has served as the nation’s first director of national intelligence, a post created at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to oversee all 15 intelligence agencies in the federal government. A career diplomat, Negroponte most recently served U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2001 to 2004. Negroponte has faced criticism for his failure to report severe human rights violations by the Honduran government and his oversight of the Contra war in Nicaragua when he was U.S. ambassador to Honduras, from 1981 to 1985. He will have to be confirmed by the Senate to become Deputy Secretary of State. [CNN, 1/4/07; NewsStandard, 1/4/07; background info: MISF: John Negroponte’s Human Rights Record Continues to Stir Debate, 6/22/06; The Nation, 2/24/05]

3. Marines receive charges for civilian killings in Haditha, Iraq

The U.S. military announced on Dec. 21 that it was charging four Marines with unpremeditated murder for the killing of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq in November 2005. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich led a Marine squad in Haditha that Iraqi witnesses said killed unarmed civilians in retaliation for the death of Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was killed by a roadside bomb. Wuterich and three other Marines were charged with murder and four others were charged with failure to report and/or investigate the killings. The military originally declared that the civilians had been killed by the same roadside bomb that killed Terrazas. Defense attorneys dispute this claim and assert that the Marines were responding to legitimate threats. [Reuters, 12/21/06; NPR, 12/21/06]

4. FBI releases documentation of abuses at Guantánamo Bay

On Jan. 2 the FBI released 244 pages of documentation on 25 cases of prisoner abuse at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba witnessed by FBI agents. The documents were released as part of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Abuses included wrapping a detainee’s head in duct tape, forcing detainees to listen to loud music and endure strobe lights, and an interrogator dressing as a Catholic priest and baptizing a Muslim prisoner. According to the documents, prison officials told an FBI agent that 24-hour interrogations were approved by “the Secretary,” likely referring to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. [Reuters, 1/3/07; ACLU press release, 1/3/07]

5. British court will not pursue case against police who killed man wrongly suspected of terrorism

The High Court of England and Wales ruled on Dec. 14 to uphold the British prosecution authorities’ decision not to bring charges against police officers who fatally shot a Brazilian man on a subway on July 22, 2005—two weeks after a series of bombings in London’s transportation system and one day after another alleged attempt. Police officers claimed they believed Jean Charles de Menezes was a suicide bomber, but after he was shot it was discovered he had been unarmed. According to Amnesty International, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service stated two days after the shooting that Menezes had not behaved suspiciously, as was initially alleged, and was the victim of a mistake. The suit was brought by Menezes’ family, who said they will appeal the case to the House of Lords. [BBC, 12/14/06; AI, 12/14/06]

6. Department of Homeland Security admits illegal privacy violation

The Department of Homeland Security on Dec. 22 admitted its data collection procedure known as Secure Flight violated federal privacy laws. Since 2004, Secure Flight has collected data on domestic U.S. airline passengers to compare with terrorist watch lists. A Secure Flight contractor, EagleForce, collected data from commercial databases, which the Transportation Security Administration had assured would not happen. Additionally, commercial data on people who were not airline passengers was collected, which was a violation of federal privacy law. Secure Flight is in a test-only phase while it is under review. This program is not related to the recently revealed Automated Targeting System, which has come under criticism for assigning classified terrorist ratings to airline passengers coming in or out of the United States. [Wash Post, 12/22/06; Democracy Now!, 12/22/06; background info: HRWT News Update, 12/15/06]