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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Coercive Interrogation and Paid Witnesses in America!!

Congressman Kline,

I have recently noticed your redesigned congressional web site, and in particular the section titled Terrorists In America, on which you recognize the "heroic efforts" of "our fellow Americans, who have made us all safer". I'm writing to call your attention to one of the examples you cite as a victory "on the home front in the War Against Terrorism", the case against Umer and Hamid Hayat. I'm concerned that by highlighting this case, you may give your constituents the impression that you support the questionable and unreliable interrogation and investigation techniques the FBI used to build their case.

To begin with, it is clear that both Umer Hayat and his son Hamid were coerced into their separate confessions to visiting terrorist training camps in Pakistan, and that their limited English proficiency and misplaced desire to please their interrogators makes it unlikely that they truly understood what agents were asking and what they were confessing to:

The agents appealed to the father by saying he should be loyal to his family and to his god. They told him terrorist camps were a part of Pakistani culture, repeatedly comparing them to American colleges. "I know this much about Pakistan," agent Timothy Harrison tells the elder Hayat, "that going to camps is an important part of growing up there."

The elder Hayat, like his son, appears on the tape to have difficulty understanding the agents in English, and he, like his son, gives many answers that had been previously suggested by the agents, who did most of the talking. At one point, the father named three other young men in Lodi as possible terrorists. His son named two different men - his cousins - as attending Pakistani camps.

The unreliability of their confessions is evident in the LA Times article you reference on your site, which explicitly notes that the statements of father and son differ dramatically in their details:

In a potential problem for the government when the case goes to the jury, the father's and son's stories about the alleged terrorist camp differ sharply. Hamid Hayat said the camp he attended was miles from the family home, tucked in a remote forest. Umer Hayat said it was in a huge basement only six miles from Rawalpindi, where his prominent father-in-law operates a large madrassa, or religious school.

James J. Wedick, a 34-year FBI veteran who worked on the Abscam and Capscam investigations, confirms that the agents interrogating the Hayats made several mistakes:

In court, Griffin said Wedick would have testified the FBI agents who obtained the confessions should have told the Hayats they were free to walk away from the interrogations.

They also shouldn't have invoked Umer Hayat's loyalty to his family or religion, "because it created a false sense of hope so he told agents whatever they wanted to hear," Griffin said. "Wedick says agents are trained not to talk about God, religion or family because that could lead to an invalid confession."

. . .

Griffin said Wedick could testify the FBI agents who got the confessions didn't take into account the Hayats' education, language skills and mental capacity.

Unfortunately, the coerced confessions aren't the worst part of this. Apart from these confessions, the government's case hinges on the testimony of a key informant, Naseem Khan, whom they knew from the outset wasn't reliable:

If law enforcement was [Khan's] dream, it came true soon after Sept. 11, 2001, when a Portland FBI agent came to talk to him about an alleged money-laundering investigation involving a Naseem Khan.

The FBI determined he wasn't the right Naseem Khan, according to testimony, but during the encounter, Khan noticed a picture of al-Zawahri on TV and said he had seen the al-Qaida leader in Lodi in 1998 or 1999.

In testimony last week, the FBI agent who served as Khan's "handler" said she concluded the information was "probably not true," but the FBI hired Khan anyway.

At the time Khan began working with the FBI, he had a job as a convenience store manager, but he was eager to help ensnare terror suspects for the FBI for a salary of $50,000 a year. Again from the LA Times article you cite:

Key to the government case, Griffin said, is the credibility of FBI informant Naseem Khan, who went from a fast-food worker and convenience store manager to a full-time FBI operative who earned more than $200,000 in salary and bonuses.

The FBI referred to their plant in Lodi's Muslim community by the code name "Wildcat." But Griffin said Tuesday that Khan's greed for FBI cash caused him to push and prod the Hayats to exaggerate their Pakistani terrorism connections.

"Wildcat literally cashed in on the war on terror," Griffin said.

It appears that the FBI didn't really get their money's worth, as Khan recorded over 1000 hours of conversations with the Hayats, but the transcripts show that Khan is more interested in generating evidence for the FBI than the Hayats are in terrorism:

Over hundreds of hours of transcribed conversations with Wildcat, Hamid Hayat emerges as a young man badly in need of a friend, and a boaster who enjoys bragging about his uncle, a former mujahadeen (holy warrior) in Afghanistan, and his grandfather Saeed ur Rahman, a cleric who Hayat claimed had trained the Taliban leadership.

During their conversations, it is Wildcat who tends to bring up jihad.

In a fairly typical exchange on March 6, 2003, Hayat and Wildcat talk about cricket, cigarettes, movies and Hayat's forlorn love life. He tells Wildcat "how his marriage proposal was refused" and "speculates someone has jinxed him with black magic."

. . .

Later that month, Hayat finally leaves Lodi and returns to his family's village in Pakistan, telling his friend he's going to marry. In their long-distance conversations, he sounds in no hurry to get terrorist training, despite Wildcat's exhortations.

Not surprisingly, veteran FBI agent Wedick confirms that Khan's evidence is worthless, and that Khan never should have been used as an informant in the first place:

Griffin, referring to a taped conversation where Khan threatened to grab Hamid Hayat by the throat and throw him into his grandfather's madrassah as a first stop toward terrorist training, said, "Mr. Wedick will opine that no informant should either jokingly or otherwise make threats to a potential target."

Wedick, a former FBI supervisor in Sacramento, told The Bee, "You can't use the blessed Virgin Mary to catch these guys - you've got to use criminals. But, if you don't supervise these guys they'll take you to the cleaners every time."

Wedick said the FBI should have pulled the plug on Khan as an informant when it could not corroborate his claim that he saw Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama Bin Laden's second-in-command, in Lodi in the late 1990s and his investigation of two imams in Lodi had fizzled.

"I know a similar situation involving an informant used against organized crime in New York - the subsequent lack of supervision caused the bureau to have to pay out millions of dollars," Wedick said.

Congressman Kline, while I understand your desire to recognize the efforts of our brave agents in the FBI and Homeland Security who are working every day to keep our country safe, it is clear that in this case the FBI used tactics that we don't want to honor or promote. I'm making the effort to call this to your attention so you don't inadvertently lead the voters of Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District to believe that you support indictments and prosecution of U.S. citizens based on coercive interrogations and the testimony of unreliable, some might say mercenary witnesses. Neither the Constitution nor the goal of protecting Americans from terrorists are well-served by such prosecutions.

David Bailey

Update: As of April 4, the reference to the Hayat case had been removed from Kline's congressional web site. I infer from the removal that Kline agrees that the actions of the FBI in this case are neither heroic nor deserving of recognition.


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