Homeland Security

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  The Denver Post - Fbi Amassing Vast Database Of Physical Info To Id PeopleDecember 25, 2007 11:08 The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of people's physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify people in the United States and abroad.

Images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement in Clarksburg.

Next month, the FBI will award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives.

And in the coming years, law-enforcement authorities worldwide will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars, and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists.

The FBI also will retain, upon request by employers, fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal-background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.

The increasing use of biometrics is raising questions about how Americans can avoid unwanted scrutiny.

 
  Cia Withheld Al Qaeda Tapes: PaperDecember 23, 2007 09:44 The September 11 commission asked the CIA in 2003 and 2004 for information on the interrogation of al Qaeda suspects, only to be told the agency provided all that was requested, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

The CIA said on December 6 it destroyed hundreds of hours of videotape in 2005 showing interrogations of al Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, prompting former members of the commission to review classified documents.

The taped interrogations were believed to show a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding that rights activists have condemned as torture.

The September 11 commission's chairmen, Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, said their reading of the review, a copy of which the newspaper obtained, convinced them the CIA made a conscious decision to impede the panel's inquiry, the Times said.

 
  Destruction Of Cia Tapes May Have Violated A Court OrderDecember 19, 2007 07:06 Over the objections of the Justice Department, a federal judge said Tuesday he would explore whether the U.S. had violated a court order to preserve evidence when the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of two terrorism suspects in 2005.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. set a hearing for Friday in Washington in response to a request from Yemeni prisoners who are challenging their detention by the U.S. at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Much of the evidence against the defendants consists of accusations by other prisoners, whom the lawyers think may have been coerced.

The issue of coercive interrogations has taken on new primacy after disclosures this month that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of interrogations of purported Al Qaeda members Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

The tapes were destroyed by a CIA official in November 2005, at a time of growing congressional and public concern about U.S. tactics in the war on terrorism, including interrogation techniques.

It was also five months after Kennedy, in the case of the Yemeni prisoners, issued an order requiring that the U.S. preserve and maintain "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment and abuse of detainees now" at Guantanamo Bay. According to court papers, government lawyers said at the time that a formal order was not necessary because they were "well aware of their obligation not to destroy evidence that may be relevant in pending litigation."
  Terror Trial In Miami Ends In One Acquittal, Six MistrialsDecember 13, 2007 21:03 A federal jury in Florida has cleared a man accused of plotting terrorist attacks in the United States, but said it was unable to agree on a verdict for six other defendants.

A judge in Miami declared a mistrial for the six other men, which leaves open the possibility that prosecutors can seek another trial.

The seven defendants were accused of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida and blow up FBI offices and topple the tallest building in the United States, the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Defense lawyers contended the alleged plot was mainly driven by FBI informants who persuaded the men to plan attacks. The defendants said they invented their terror plan in an effort to get cash from the informants, who said they had links to al-Qaida.

The federal government hailed the group's arrest last year as a major crackdown on home-grown terrorists. Prosecutors said no attack was imminent, but that the men's plans were more "aspirational" than "operational."

The defendants, who had been charged with terrorism-related conspiracy, were known as the Liberty City Seven, a name taken from the poor neighborhood of Miami where they met.

The 12-member jury met for more than a week before reporting Friday that it could agree only on acquittal for one of the seven defendants.
  C.I.A. Official In Inquiry Called A ‘Hero’December 10, 2007 07:17 At a conference in El Paso in mid-August, Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, heaped praise on a man whose exploits, he joked, had been the inspiration for the television show “24.”

From fast cars to fine wines, Mr. Reyes said, the appetites of the man, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., are the stuff of legend. Then turning serious, Mr. Reyes hailed Mr. Rodriguez’s three decades of undercover work for the Central Intelligence Agency, where he recently stepped down as head of its clandestine service, and called Mr. Rodriguez an “American hero.”

Four months later, Mr. Rodriguez’s role in the destruction of hundreds of hours of videotape of harsh interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda is at the center of an inquiry by Mr. Reyes’s committee on Capitol Hill. With a separate Justice Department inquiry that could lead to a full criminal investigation into the matter, the man who spent a career in the shadows has been thrust uneasily into the spotlight.

Mr. Rodriguez is hardly the only current or former agency official under scrutiny. In the months ahead, investigators will try to reconstruct the chain of events leading up to the decision in November 2005 to destroy the interrogation tapes, and to determine who else inside the agency may have approved the decision.

According to a former top intelligence official who has spoken to Mr. Rodriguez in recent days, Mr. Rodriguez remains confident that he acted lawfully and had the authority to destroy the tapes. He could not be reached for comment.

Whether C.I.A. lawyers in fact approved the destruction will be a question for investigators in Congress, the Justice Department, and the C.I.A. inspector general’s office. Some Congressional officials said that they want to know why Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director at the time the tapes were destroyed, appears never to have notified Congressional committees about the destruction.
  Bush: 'No Recollection' Of TapesDecember 07, 2007 21:58 U.S. President George W. Bush "has no recollection" of videotapes of CIA interrogations of some al Qaeda suspects or of plans to destroy the tapes, a White House spokeswoman said.

CIA Director Michael Hayden says congressional leaders were told about the tapes.

Bush and Vice President Cheney learned about videotaped interrogations of some al Qaeda suspects on Thursday, when CIA Director Michael Hayden briefed them about the existence of the tapes and their subsequent destruction, administration officials said Friday.

The interrogations -- using newly approved "alternative" interrogation techniques -- of two al Qaeda suspects were recorded in 2002, Hayden said Thursday in a letter to CIA employees. They were destroyed three years later when the agency determined they had no intelligence value and could pose a security risk, he said.

"I spoke to the president this morning about this," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "He has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday. He was briefed by General Hayden yesterday morning."

The vice president learned about the tapes and their destruction at the same time, another administration official told CNN.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, said that was "stretching credulity."

"There's something going on here," Dodd, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on CNN's "The Situation Room. "We're not getting the full story, hence the reason why there should be an investigation. It goes to the heart of our national security, our protection, our safety, our isolation in the world. That's why this is so important."
  C.I.A. Was Urged To Keep Interrogation VideotapesDecember 07, 2007 21:56 White House and Justice Department officials, along with senior members of Congress, advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 against a plan to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda, government officials said Friday.

The chief of the agency’s clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in November 2005, taking the step without notifying even the C.I.A.’s own top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, the officials said.

The disclosures provide new details about what Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, has said was a decision “made within C.I.A. itself” to destroy the videotapes. In interviews, members of Congress and former intelligence officials also questioned some aspects of the account General Hayden provided Thursday about when Congress was notified that the tapes had been destroyed.

Current and former intelligence officials say the videotapes showed severe interrogation techniques used on two Qaeda operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who were among the first three terror suspects to be detained and interrogated by the C.I.A. in secret prisons after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Top C.I.A. officials had decided in 2003 to preserve the tapes in response to warnings from White House lawyers and lawmakers that destroying the tapes would be unwise, in part because it could carry legal risks, the government officials said.