By Terry Frieden
The Justice Department on Thursday closed its criminal investigation of the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody, ending a controversial investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder had approved more than a year ago.
The investigation, conducted by veteran Justice prosecutor John Durham, examined alleged CIA interrogation abuses in connection with prisoner deaths at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and at a secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002.
If the probe had led to criminal charges against CIA officers or contractors, it could have ignited a firestorm of objections by Republican lawmakers and the national security community.
Holder acknowledged that he made a controversial decision to appointed Durham in 2009 to examine allegations of CIA interrogation abuses in about 100 cases. His aides say he was aware the Obama White House wanted the torture controversies put behind it, but Holder pressed on. Republican lawmakers and the CIA were upset about the new review of alleged detainee mistreatment. FULL POST
By Carol Cratty
A civilian guard at a new U.S. consulate in China pleaded guilty on Thursday to attempting to sell Chinese security officials photographs and access to the compound so they could plant listening devices.
According to a court proffer, Bryan Underwood had lost a significant amount of money in the stock market and hoped to make between $3 million and $5 million by supplying classified photos and information to China's Ministry of State Security.
Underwood, 32, appeared in federal court in Washington and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the government agreed to drop charges that Underwood made false statements and that he failed to appear at a court hearing last year. FULL POST
By Jennifer Rizzo
The trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan can move forward amid a dispute about the beard the Army psychiatrist grew while awaiting trial in the 2009 Fort Hood killings, an appeals court has ruled.
Hasan's court martial was to start last week at Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas, where he is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32, but was delayed when Hasan's legal team petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals to prevent the military judge from ordering Hasan's facial hair forcibly shaved. The presiding judge, Col. Gregory Gross, had threatened to order the shaving unless Hasan got rid of the beard, which is against Army regulations.
The Court of Appeals found that Hasan's petition was "premature" because Gross has not yet issued a definitive order. If an official order was given, the appeals court said, Hasan could file another petition.
The government contends it is within its right to order Hasan shaved, citing military regulations and the right to ensure "that a military trial proceeds without a distracting and disruptive sideshow."
The military judge who will oversee the trial of the man accused in the 2009 Fort Hood massacre ruled Wednesday that if Maj. Nidal Hasan doesn't shave by the start of jury selection, he will be forcibly shaved.
Col. Gregory Gross has been telling Hasan he must shave, in accordance with Army regulations. Hasan, who is a Muslim, has refused to shave for more than a month, apparently in keeping with Quranic teachings.
During a pretrial hearing Wednesday, Gross ruled Hasan in contempt of court and fined him $1,000. Gross told Hasan that he unless the defendant shaves before the start of his trial, he will be "forcibly shaved," according to Christopher Haug and Tyler Broadway, spokesmen at Fort Hood.
Even though Hasan has been in custody since November 2009 when 13 people were shot and killed at the U.S. Army installation outside Killeen, Texas, he is still in the Army and still draws his pay.
Hasan was left paralyzed from the waist down in the shooting, when police officers exchanged fire with him. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted in the shooting.
By Bill Mears
CIA secret interrogation methods - including detention and harsh questioning of suspected terrorists - remain off limits to public release, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The agency was sued eight years ago to provide details of certain communications describing the use of waterboarding and other direct intelligence-gathering methods of foreign terror suspects. A three-judge panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "intelligence methods" are not subject to a Freedom of Information Act request from the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"We give substantial weight to the government's declarations, which establish that disclosing the redacted portions of the (secret memos) would reveal the existence and scope of a highly classified, active intelligence activity," said the judges. FULL POST
By Chris Lawrence and Jennifer Rizzo
Raymond Williams had just retired and was looking forward to traveling out west with his wife and spending time with his three grandchildren. But all those plans were shattered on April 6, 2009. As Williams, 64, went to get the mail on that spring day, he was gunned down by a man he'd never met.
His wife found his body.
"She said, you know 'Matt! Matt! Somebody shot Dad,'" recalled Williams' son, Matt. "It didn't register. I'm thinking, 'OK where is he now? Did they take him to the hospital? What hospital is he in?' And before I could even get another word out, she goes 'And he's dead.'"
A short time earlier, the same gunman had killed a teenager and wounded a woman at a store in the same working-class town of Altoona in central Pennsylvania.
The gunman, Nicholas Horner, was a husband, a father, and a veteran soldier who had been awarded multiple medals for his service in Iraq, including a combat action badge. Less than a year after returning from combat, Horner faced two first degree murder charges and the possibility of the death penalty.
By Larry Shaughnessy
The Obama administration's struggle over how to handle the prisoners and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, enters a new chapter Saturday when a military judge there will convene an arraignment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men for their alleged roles in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
It could be a routine military commission hearing, with charges being read and pleas being entered, or it could be the latest act of a legal and political free-for-all.
"I've had conversations with other people who believe the circus is going to begin with the first appearance," said Rear Adm. Donald Guter, who once served as the Navy's top lawyer. FULL POST
The chief judge for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions has assigned himself to preside over the trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and four other men. Army Col. James Pohl will preside over the arraignment of the five suspected terrorists beginning on May 5.
Mohammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin 'Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi are accused of the "planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the killing of 2,976 people," a Defense Department statement said. The charges include murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians and civilian objects, hijacking aircraft and terrorism.
If convicted, all five suspects could face the death penalty.
Pohl is already presiding over the trial of Rahim al Nashiri, the only other military commission trial underway at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He's also been involved in the criminal cases stemming from the Abu Ghraib scandal and was the investigating officer in the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
By Larry Shaughnessy
A judge will consider another delay in the court-martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the military psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
During a pretrial motion hearing at the base Wednesday the judge, Col. Gregory Gross, said the defense request for the delay will be discussed at a hearing next week, along with a motion regarding three potential defense witnesses.
By CNN's Carol Cratty
A former NASA scientist was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison for trying to sell Israel classified U.S. defense information about military satellites.
Stewart David Nozette, 54, pleaded guilty to espionage in 2011, and in a separate 2009 case he admitted to fraud and tax charges involving more than $265,000 in false claims he submitted to the government in his position as head of a non-profit organization.
According to the government, Nozette received a phone call in September of 2009 from a person claiming to be an Israeli intelligence officer from the Mossad, but who was actually an FBI undercover operative. Nozette told the person he had top secret clearances and said that anything "the U.S. has done in space I've seen."