By Carol Cratty
U.S. authorities had a former soldier they were investigating removed from a "no-fly" list and allowed him to travel from Turkey to the United States where he was promptly arrested on charges related to fighting alongside a terror group in Syria.
That unusual step, revealed on Monday by a federal prosecutor in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, allowed authorities to get Eric Harroun back in the United States without having to ask Turkish authorities to arrest him.
Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was not in FBI custody during the flight, but agents were aboard and observed him, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carter Burwell.
He did not say when Harroun had been placed on the "no-fly" list or whether he was aware of it.
The FBI interviewed Harroun three times in March in Istanbul about his alleged activities in Syria.
By Jim Kavanagh
In response to an Air Force colonel's overturned sexual assault conviction, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is asking Congress to limit military commanders' authority to toss out court-martial verdicts.
"These changes would increase the confidence of service members and the public that the military justice system will do justice in every case," Hagel said in a statement Monday announcing the initiative.
Hagel also wants to require commanders who change court-martial sentences to explain their decisions in writing.
The effort comes in response to the case of Air Force Col. James Wilkerson. The F-16 pilot was freed last year from a Navy brig four months after a court-martial convicted him of sexually assaulting a woman at his home outside Aviano Air Base in Italy.
By Carol Cratty and Mark Morgenstein
A former CIA officer who pleaded guilty to identifying a covert intelligence officer was sentenced on Friday to 30 months in prison.
John Kiriakou and prosecutors agreed on the term as part of the plea agreement he struck in October.
Kiriakou, 48, declined to make a statement at the Alexandria, Virginia, federal court prior to sentencing by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
"Alright, perhaps you've already said too much," Brinkema said.
She rejected defense attempts to characterize Kiriakou as a whistle-blower.
The judge was bound by the plea agreement, but said she would have handed down a tougher sentence had Kiriakou been convicted at trial.
"This case is not a case about a whistle-blower. It's about a person who betrayed a very solemn trust," Brinkema said. FULL POST
By Alanne Orjoux
A man accused of working with convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout is under arrest in Australia, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced Thursday.
Richard Ammar Chichakli was arrested Wednesday by Australian authorities at the request of the United States, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release.
Chichakli, a U.S. and Syrian citizen, is accused of conspiring with Bout and others to buy two planes in the United States to transport weapons to conflict zones in violation of international sanctions, the release said.
He's charged with money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and six counts of wire fraud in connection with the attempted aircraft purchases, the government said.
"The international law enforcement community has long recognized Richard Chichakli as a key criminal facilitator in Viktor Bout's global weapons trafficking regime and his arrest means the world is safer and more secure," Leonhart said. "Bout merged drug cartels with terrorist enablers, and his close associate, Chichakli, worked to ensure they could ship weapons and conduct illicit business around the world. DEA continues to forge strong partnerships worldwide and applauds our Australian police partners."
If convicted, Chichakli would face as many as 20 years in prison for each of the counts against him. FULL POST
By Jennifer Rizzo
A military appeals court has removed the judge who had been overseeing accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan’s court-martial, saying the judge was biased.
The ruling makes Col. Gregory Gross’ order for Hasan’s beard to be shaved invalid. Hasan has objected to the order with various appeals, citing religious freedom.
“We order the removal of the military judge on the basis of the appearance of bias,” the court document states.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces faulted Gross with allowing the proceedings to become a “duel of wills” between him and Hasan rather than focusing on the serious crimes with which Hasan is charged.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged with 13 counts of murder in connection with the November 2009 shooting spree at Fort Hood, the sprawling Army post in central Texas.
By Jennifer Rizzo
The U.S. government has asked a military appeals court to deny accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan's request to keep a beard he has grown and to reject his bid to have the judge overseeing his court martial removed from the case.
Army regulations prevent most soldiers from wearing facial hair while in uniform. Hasan, a practicing Muslim, maintains he has the right to wear the beard under federal law protecting religious rights.
Involuntarily shaving a person is "not a novel concept" and is within the court's rights, the Appellate Government Counsel of the Judge Advocate General's office wrote in a brief for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Hasan did not prove that wearing his beard was "based on a sincerely held religious belief," the filing said.
The brief also raised the concern that Hasan's decision to grow a beard was to make it difficult for witnesses to identify him, calling the timing "questionable."
By Carol Cratty
A convicted terrorist was found guilty Thursday in North Carolina of plotting to kill witnesses who testified against him at his terror trial.
Hysen Sherifi, 28, was found guilty in Raleigh on nine counts of conspiring with his brother and a female friend to hire someone to kill the witnesses in retaliation for their 2011 trial testimony. Sherifi directed the plot from behind bars, prosecutors said.
"The trial evidence and testimony proved that from November 2011 through January 2012, Sherifi conspired to pay a hit man to murder and behead three witnesses and three law enforcement officers who testified against him," according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Prosecutors said Sherifi wanted revenge, hoped to get his conviction overturned and wanted to help one of his alleged terrorism conspirators who had not yet gone to trial.
The scheme was foiled as a result of a sting operation. In October 2011, Sherifi asked a fellow inmate in his North Carolina jail how to hire someone to commit the murders, according to testimony. The inmate told his lawyer and federal law enforcement officers about what Sherifi was up to. The government then secretly taped conversations between Sherifi and his fellow inmate in which Sherifi talked about wanting the witnesses killed.
By Carol Cratty
A federal appeals court Tuesday tossed out the conviction of a driver for Osama bin Laden, dealing a blow to the U.S. military commissions system.
Salim Hamdan was convicted in 2008 of providing material support for terrorism. In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the conviction.
The court noted that Hamdan was found guilty based on conduct that took place from 1996 to 2001, but the charge of material support for terrorism only came into effect with the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
"Because we read the Military Commissions Act not to retroactively punish new crimes, and because material support for terrorism was not a pre-existing war crime," the court wrote, "Hamdan's conviction for material support for terrorism cannot stand." FULL POST
Attorneys argued again Thursday about whether accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan can be forcibly shaved so that his stalled court-martial can proceed.
Thursday afternoon's hearing at the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Virginia was called to address Hasan's continued refusal to shave before court appearances, the Army said.FULL STORY