The Justice Department has dropped its claim that allegations by FBI contract translator Sibel Edmonds of grave security breaches at the translation unit are classified. Edmonds' claims had already been made public in letters to the DoJ inspector general by senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), but were retroactively classified by the Department. The declassification will allow Edmonds' suit against the FBI to go ahead. Edmonds claims she was improperly fired for bringing the problems to light—some of which she says compromised anti-terrorism operations. (UPI, Feb. 22) The Project on Government Accuntability (POGO) had sued the DoJ and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to get the materials declassified. The declassification will also allow Edmonds' testimony in a civil suit related to the 9-11 attacks. (WP, Feb. 23)
"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," Bush told a news conference after talks with European Union leaders in Brussels. "Having said that, all options are on the table," he added, drawing laughter at a clear reference to military action. Bush did not respond to a call by French President Jacques Chirac to stop blocking Tehran's candidacy for the World Trade Organization. (Reuters, Feb. 22)
After a five-week court martial, British solider Lance-Cpl. Mark Cooley, 25, was convicted of feigning punches to a bound prisoner and of tying up another man and hoisting him on a forklift. Cpl. Daniel Kenyon was convicted of aiding and abetting the abuse and failing to report it. Lance-Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, pleaded guilty earlier to one count of battery after he was shown in a photo standing with both feet on an Iraqi who was tied up on the ground. Cooley and Kenyon face up to two years in prison and Larkin faces up to six months in jail when they are sentenced.
Al-Jazeera has aired another propaganda video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, now said to be al-Qaeda's number two man after Osama bin Laden. "Your new crusade will end, God willing, with the same defeat as its predecessors, but only after you have suffered tens of thousands of dead and the destruction of your economy," Zawahiri said in his message to "the peoples of the West" broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite channel. (AFP, Feb. 21)
Irish police say they have seized nearly $5 million in a series of raids on suspected Republican safehouses across the country, uncovering what hardline Justice Minister Michael McDowell called a "colossal crime machine, laundering huge sums of money." One suspected IRA militant was reportedly caught burning a pile of British currency in his backyard. But authorities admitted they were unable to determine if any of the money came from December's massive Belfast bank heist which British and Irish officials alike have blamed on the IRA, leading to a breakdown of peace talks. (AP, Feb. 19)
Six are dead and over 40 injured following a car bomb attack in the southern Thai city of Sungai Kolok. The bomb went off in a hotel parking lot hours after newly-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had completed a visit to the restive Muslim-majority region. The government blamed relatives of wanted insurgent leaders for the blast.
In the global outcry over the slaying of US nun Dorothy Stang, a local crusader for the Amazon rainforest and its threatened peasants and Indians, Brazil's President Luis Inacio da Silva signed a decree Feb. 17 creating two vast protected areas in the forest. Part of the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) initiative sponsored by the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund, the new protected area includes the 8.3 million-acre Terra do Meio Ecological Station and the 1.1 million-acre Serra do Pardo National Park in the eastern sector of the central Amazon. "Conservation in the Amazon takes a giant step forward with this decree," said Carter Roberts, WWF's chief conservation officer. (WWF press release, Feb. 18)
You read it here first, but now its official. Iran's government has officially blamed US spy drones for a wave of UFO sightings, and warns that it will shoot the craft down. Information Minister Ali Yunessi threatened that if the craft come within range, "they will definitely meet our fire." (NYT, Feb. 18)