The federal 9/11 commission revealed yesterday that eight of the 19 hijackers managed to enter the United States using doctored passports that “showed evidence of fraudulent manipulation.” In addition the commission reported the U.S. government gave suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed a visa just weeks before the attacks even though he was under a federal terrorism indictment. The Pakistani-born Mohammed applied using a fake name and a doctored Saudi passport. Mohammed never entered the U.S. and was later detained in Pakistan. These revelations contradict previous statements by the government. FBI Director Robert Mueller had said that 17 or the 19 hijackers legally arrived in the country and that their paperwork would not have aroused suspicion. Phillip Zelikow, Executive Director of the 9/11 commission, said “We are not sure that these problems have been addressed. We are not sure they are even adequately acknowledged as a problem.” The report also found that at least six hijackers, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, violated U.S. immigration laws either while in the United States or while returning. The commission also released testimony by a customs official in Florida named Jose Melendez-Perez who turned away a Saudi man believed to be the 20th hijacker who arrived in Orlando on Aug. 4. According to the Los Angeles Times, Melendez-Perez said that leading up to Sept. 11, customs officials were discouraged by their superiors from hassling Saudi travelers. They were seen as big spenders who made frequent visits to theme parks in the Orlando area. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Commission member Jamie Gorelick said, “There were many opportunities to stop the 9/11 plot.”
Meanwhile the Guardian of London is reporting that an Iranian spy tried to warn the CIA of the impending Sept. 11 attack but he was ignored. This according to two German secret service agents who testified in a case in Hamburg involving an alleged member of al-Qaida.
The Supreme Court has agreed to review whether the Constitution prohibits the execution of juvenile offenders. According to the New York Times, the United States is the only country in the world where the execution of those under 18 is officially sanctioned. It is also the only country not to have signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the practice. The last five executions of juvenile offenders in the world have all occurred in the United States, most recently in Oklahoma in April. There are currently 74 people on death row for crimes committed before the age of 18. Almost one third of them are in Texas. Meanwhile in Florida, 16-year-old Lionel Tate was released from prison four days shy of his 17th birthday. Tate had been sentenced to life in prison for killing a playmate when he was 12 years old. Last month an appeals court threw out his conviction for first-degree murder on grounds that his competency had been properly evaluated before he was tried.
For the first time a federal judge has ruled portions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional. The Patriot Act was signed into law six weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and has long been criticized by civil liberties groups. U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins ruled unconstitutional one provision that bans certain types of support for terrorist groups. The judge said the law was so vague that it risked running afoul of the First Amendment. The case was filed by the Humanitarian Law Project which gave “human rights” training to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government. The group’s attorney David Cole told the Washington Post, “Our clients sought only to support lawful and nonviolent activity, yet the Patriot Act provision draws no distinction whatsoever between expert advice in human rights, designed to deter violence, and expert advice on how to build a bomb.”
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the United Nations will send a team of experts to Iraq to decide whether it will be possible to hold early elections. Annan said, “I strongly hold to the idea that the most sustainable way forward would be one that came from the Iraqis themselves.”
In New Hampshire, polls have opened in the country’s first presidential primary. An estimated 184,000 voters are expected to vote. The latest Zogby poll shows Senator John Kerry narrowly beating former Vermont Governor Howard Dean by a margin of 33 to 28 percent. Senator Edwards and General Wesley Clark are polling third and fourth. As part of a New Hampshire tradition voting opened in the state’s two smallest hamlets, Dixville Notch, population 33, and Hart’s Location, population 39, last night at midnight. Gen. Wesley Clark won in both locations with a total of 14 votes.
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