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In Iraq, Kenneth Bigley, a British man kidnapped last week has appealed British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a video message to save his life. He was kidnapped last week alongside two American contractors. Both of the Americans have been executed and Bigley’s captors have threatened to kill Bigley as well — if the U.S. does not release imprisoned Iraqi women. Yesterday it appeared the Iraqis were set to release at least one Iraqi woman from prison but the US blocked the move. Today, Kenneth Bigley’s brother accused the United States of sabotaging his brother’s release.
Meanwhile a message posted on the Internet claimed the two Italian women from A Bridge to Baghdad had been executed. A previously unknown group called Jihad Organization claimed to have carried out the attacks. The Italian government has dismissed the claim as unreliable. The two 29-year-old women, Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, were kidnapped in an orchestrated raid on Sept. 7. In other Iraq news, the U.S. military has charged two of its own soldiers with the pre-meditated murder of three Iraqis. The soldiers were attached to the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.
In news from Capitol Hill, Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert is expected to introduce a sweeping new intelligence bill, as early as today, that is being being described as Patriot Act 2 because it gives the police sweeping new powers. The Wall Street Journal reports one portion of the bill calls for the U.S. Attorney General’s office to maintain a database of criminal records that employers could access to make criminal background checks. In order to access the databases, employers would have to submit to the government fingerprint or other biometric identifiers of their job applicants or employees to the Justice Department. The bill would also increase fines and prison terms for illegal aliens and enlist local and state police in helping round up undocumented residents. Some cities, including Los Angeles and Philadelphia, that have policies restricting police from enforcing immigration law would lose federal funding if they did not rescind such policies. Michigan Congressman John Conyers said Hastert’s draft scarcely resembles the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. He said "It’s as if the commission’s recommendations have been super sized with irrelevant fat and lard, representing a wish list of past reactionary proposals that would diminish our civil liberties."
In other intelligence news, the Senate yesterday confirmed Congressman Porter Goss as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Goss is a former CIA spy. The vote was 77-17. Among the Democrats voting against Goss were Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On the campaign front, John Kerry, vowed yesterday that he would not bring back the draft and warned that the draft could be reinstated if President Bush is re-elected.
The Justice Department has agreed to release a U.S. citizen it has been holding in solitary confinement who has never been charged with a crime. The man, Yasser Esam Hamdi, was detained in Afghanistan and has been categorized as an enemy combatant. A deal has been reached where Hamdi will be let go if he renounces his U.S. citizenship and moves to Saudi Arabia where he was raised.
The government has dropped espionage charges against a Syrian-born translator who worked at Guantanamo Bay. Senior Airman Ahmad Halabi once faced 30 charges of spying and aiding the enemy. This marks the third high-profile espionage case at Guantanamo put forward by the government that has fallen apart. Halabi was arrested last year as he was traveling to Syria. The government contended he planned to take hundreds of classified documents about Guantanano Bay and the detainees to give to enemies of the United States. He spent more than nine months in jail before being released in May. Halabi has plead guilty to lesser charges.
In Gaza, three Israeli soldiers and three Palestinians militants have died in fighting that reportedly after the militants reportedly attacked a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.
The Secret Service has begun investigating comments made online by a New Jersey mother who lost her son in Iraq. The woman, Sue Niederer, first entered the spotlight last week when she was arrested after interrupting a speech by Laura Bush. At the time she was wearing a t-shirt that read "President Bush, You Killed My Son." Earlier this year Niederer wrote an online column for the site Counterpunch where she described how she wanted to "rip the president’s head off" and "shoot him in the groined area."
FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds yesterday sued the Justice Department in order to compel it into releasing the results on an investigation that examined why she was fired. Edmonds was hired after the Sept. 11 to translate pre-9/11 intelligence. She was fired after she complained about widespread problems within the FBI translation department.
And in San Francisco, a federal judge has declared a mistrial in a trial where jurors were being asked to determine if police used excessive forces when they daubed pepper spray in the eyes of anti-logging demonstrators. The mistrial was declared to a deadlocked jury.