by Tom Fitton
JW Lawsuit Forces Release of bin Laden Burial Records from U.S. Navy
As I’ve said many times in this space, the Obama administration has no problem releasing classified secrets to the public if they believe it will make them look good or serve the liberal agenda. But if the administration believes it would be embarrassed by a certain disclosure, it is held tightly under lock and key.
We saw this when the Obama administration went against the recommendations of senior intelligence officials and selectively released details regarding “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the so-called torture memos), while withholding information showing the effectiveness of these techniques. (JW ultimately obtained these records and set the public record straight.)
And we’re seeing it again now with the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
Last week, I told you that in response to a JW Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Obama administration admitted that its revelations of sensitive information to the producers of the soon-to-be-released bin Laden film Zero Dark Thirty could cause “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risks.” This runs counter to public pronouncements from, among many others, White House spokesman Jay Carney.
And why take such a risk? Because the Obama administration was under the impression that the film was going to help President Obama look “gutsy” with respect to his role in bin Laden’s capture and killing. (The film was reportedly originally slated for release just before the 2012 elections.)
But now the Obama administration is fighting your Judicial Watch in court to keep secret the details surrounding bin Laden’s burial at sea. Why? Because, one might surmise, the details of bin Laden’s burial might be a great source of embarrassment for the administration. Thankfully, once again, JW is on the case.
We recently obtained bin Laden burial records from the United States Navy as a result of a July 18, 2012, FOIA lawsuit that sought “any funeral ceremony, rite, or ritual” confirming that the slain terrorist was given full Islamic burial honors. Following the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL raid that led to bin Laden’s capture and killing, the al Qaeda leader was reportedly transported by the USS Carl Vinson and buried at sea in accordance with Muslim law.
The new documents we uncovered confirm the honors given bin Laden at his burial, including a prayer in Arabic and ritual cleansing of his remains, but the American people still don’t have the full picture because the Obama administration is fearful of offending terrorists.
Let me explain. First let’s discuss the burial itself.
The documents, including 31 pages of heavily redacted emails, contain a paragraph describing the bin Laden interment at sea:
Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was [sic] followed. The deceased body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flatboard, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.
Now what the documents did not include were the “prepared religious remarks” read at bin Laden’s burial as sought in the JW FOIA request. The U.S. Navy told JW, in a letter accompanying the documents, that a search did not produce any documents in response to the request for the “remarks.”
However, if U.S. Navy regulations were followed, the remarks could have included the Muslim prayer, “O Allah, forgive him, have mercy on him, pardon him, grant him security, provide him a nice place and spacious lodging, wash him (from his sins) with water, snow, and ice, purify him … make him enter paradise and save him from the trials of grave and the punishment of hell.”
I can imagine that this prayer might upset more than a few Americans.
And that’s likely why we see the secrecy. The emails indicate that “less than a dozen” members of military leadership on board were informed of the burial and that “no sailors watched.”
The Obama administration continues to withhold bin Laden burial documents under the “foreign policy” exemption in FOIA law, which protects information relating to national security and defense. President Obama has said publicly he does not want to release information pertaining to bin Laden’s capture and killing for fear of offending radical Islamists.
The documents suggest that preparations for receipt of bin Laden’s body were considered three days before the raid, which as Catherine Herridge at Fox News notes, “raises an interesting question over whether the administration’s statement that it was first and foremost a capture mission was accurate.” (By the way, Judicial Watch’s release of these records garnered international headlines.)
The documents supplied to Judicial Watch by the U.S. Navy also failed to include the bin Laden post-mortem photos and videos as sought in a seperate FOIA request. The Obama administration continues to withhold these records citing national security concerns.
As I say, the two cases present quite a contrast. On the one hand, the Obama administration relies heavily on FOIA exemptions to withhold information from the American people while at the same time openly embracing filmmakers producing a bin Laden assault film that, at the time, was expected to praise the president’s role in the affair.
We don’t care whether the president looks good or bad. And we’re not after any details that would compromise the security of our men and women in uniform. We just want the truth so we can complete the public record on one of the most significant military operations (and successes) in United States history.
Scandal Ridden Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Resigns from Congress
Another of Judicial Watch’s “Ten Most Wanted” corrupt politicians is now out of Congress – Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. He now joins a list that includes former Reps. Laura Richardson (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Tom Delay (R-TX), former Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and John Edwards (D-NC), to name just a few Top Ten alumni no longer in power.
Per the New Jersey Star Ledger:
The once-promising political career of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. came to a crashing end Wednesday, when the Illinois Democrat announced he would resign his seat in Congress immediately amid treatment for mental illness, stories of marital infidelity and a pair of federal investigations.
The Illinois Democrat, the son of the civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., has been absent from the House since June 10, when he cast his last vote and then disappeared from public view, only to emerge later under treatment for bipolar disorder.
Jackson Jr., 47, has been under federal investigation for alleged campaign finance improprieties, including reportedly using donor dollars to remodel his home and purchase personal gifts, a potential criminal violation.
Jackson acknowledged in his resignation letter that he made his “share of mistakes.” That’s certainly true. And here’s just one of his alleged “mistakes” currently under investigation to add to the list cited above.
Jackson was one of the major figures implicated in the massive scandal involving disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod “Blago” Blagojevich, who was brought to justice in 2011 for a number of crimes, including his efforts to “sell” President Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.
The evidence suggests Jackson was one of those bidders.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. directed a major political fund-raiser to offer former Gov. Rod Blagojevich millions of dollars in campaign cash in return for an appointment to the U.S. Senate.”
How much cash?
The Chicago Sun Times reported a figure of $1.5 million in its initial reports. But according to Jackson’s fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, the Illinois Congressman asked him to offer not $1.5 million, but a whopping $6 million in campaign cash to Blagojevich to secure the Senate seat!
(In 2010 Jackson was also nailed for conducting an improper and potentially criminal relationship with a female “social acquaintance.” Nayak told investigators that Jackson asked him to pay to fly a Washington, DC, restaurant hostess named Giovana Huidobro…to Chicago to visit him. Nayak reportedly did so twice.)
In addition to the federal probes, the House Ethics Committee continues to investigate the Blagojevich matter. In 2011, the committee released an initial report from the Office of Congressional Ethics that said there was “probable cause” to believe that Jackson either directed a third party or had knowledge of a third party’s effort to convince the since-convicted Blagojevich to appoint Jackson in exchange for campaign cash.
Because Jackson refused to resign before the November elections, Illinois taxpayers will now be faced with costs of a special election, estimated to cost $5.1 million.
So let the mad scramble begin! The Associated Press noted the list of would-be replacements has swelled to a dozen or so names. Among them is former defense attorney who represented the convicted felon Rod Blagojevich. Another name being floated — Jackson Jr.’s brother, Jonathan Jackson, who, along with Jesse Jackson Sr., was sued by Judicial Watch on behalf of JW client Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson over an alleged assault.
The Chicago Way in motion once again!
Records Show Obama State Department Invited American Terrorist to Embassy
One of the main arguments against the Obama plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the president’s attempts to bring “justice” to terrorists in the civilian courts is that upon release these individuals become doubly dangerous. (We know this from Bush era records we obtained from the Obama administration.)
Well, according to records recently obtained by Judicial Watch, one of the beneficiaries of the government’s “catch and release” program for terrorists was none other than Anwar al-Aulaqi, the U.S. citizen assassinated by a U.S. drone on September 30, 2011.
You may recall that in 2010, President Obama reportedly authorized the assassination of al-Aulaqi, the first American citizen added to the government’s “capture or kill” list, describing the radical Muslim Cleric as “chief of external operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” (The Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice had previously determined that targeting and killing of U.S. citizens overseas was legal under domestic and international law.)
The heavily redacted documents received in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Judicial Watch on September 30, 2011, show that the known terrorist had been in custody and that the Obama State Department hatched an incredible plan to invite him to one of our embassies. The following are highlights from the records:
The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was asked on March 24, 2011, to issue a communication to al-Aulaqi, requesting him to “appear in person” to pick up an important letter at the “post.” The letter issued by the embassy, which included a partial address for al-Aulaqi, was a revocation of his passport: “The Department?s [sic] action is based upon a determination by the Secretary that Mr. al-Aulaqi [sic] activities abroad are causing and/or likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.” The embassy was instructed not to inform al-Aulaqi when he came to the embassy that the “important letter” was a passport revocation.
The documents include two “Privacy Act Release Forms” issued by the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, signed by al-Aulaqi. One was dated November 14, 2006, and the other July 2, 2007 -which indicates that he was held for at least eight months. (Press reports had indicated that al-Aulaqi’s arrest was in relation to an al-Qaeda plot to kidnap a U.S. government official.) The documents do not show how long al-Aulaqi was detained or why he was released.
A September 30, 2011, email from Stephanie A. Bruce, Consular Section Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa to Elizabeth L. Perry, Team Lead for CA/OCS/ACS/NESCA at the State Department, included the following statement:
“Elizabeth, I wanted to let you know that the Yemeni Defense Ministry reported that AMCIT Anwar al-AwLaki [sic] was killed in Yemen today.” Except for the added observation, “The statement is being cited in international and regional press reports,” the rest of the email is redacted.
Documents from a related FOIA request that was submitted on October 26, 2011, include records concerning the death of Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, Anwar al-Aulaqi’s son, who was killed on October 14, 2011. Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi’s death certificate was recorded on November 14, 2011. He is noted on the death certificate as being the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Aulaqi. The documents also include a “Report of Death of American Citizen Abroad” dated December 20, 2011. The cause of Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi’s death on the form is “unknown.” Press reports indicate Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi was born in Denver, Colorado, and was killed by a U.S. drone strike two weeks after his father was killed.
In addition to the arrest noted by the documents in 2006 and 2007, Anwar al-Aulaqi was detained at New York’s JFK airport on October 10, 2002, under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release, even though the arrest warrant was still active at the time of his detention as reported by the Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge. Once released, al-Aulaqi then took a flight to Washington, DC, and eventually returned to Yemen.
And how dangerous was he?
Since September 2009, according to the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy, 26 terrorism cases have been tied to al-Aulaqi, including an association with blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, currently in prison for his role in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Anwar al-Aulaqi was also known to have been in email contact (19 email exchanges) with Major Nidal Hasan, charged with 13 murders during the Fort Hood massacre on November 5, 2009, and allegedly had contacts with at least three of the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
So allow me to sum up what these records and reporting detail. The Bush administration had Anwar al-Aulaqi in custody. Then it released him. The Obama administration tried to revoke his passport and concocted some Keystone Cop scheme to get him to come to the embassy for notification. (I mean, the idea of inviting al-Aulaqi – a known terrorist – to our embassy in Yemen in order to revoke his passport is beyond belief.) Then President Obama makes the unprecedented decision to assassinate him via drone, later killing his son as well.
Look, there aren’t many people who will mourn the killing of this terrorist. But that’s not the point of this story. The point is that the federal government (under both Bush and Obama) bungled attempts to bring justice to terrorists, placing the American people at risk.
Anwar al-Aulaqi is just one high-profile example. How many other terrorists have benefited from the incompetence and permissiveness of our government? How many more drones will have to be sent to clean up the mess?
Again, we should all give kudos to Catherine Herridge of the Fox News Channel for some excellent reporting on al-Aulaqi, a topic that has been largely ignored by other so-called mainstream press outlets.
Our disclosures this week led to some tough questions for the Obama State Department. According Josh Gerstein of Politico:
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicated Wednesday that the embassy did reach out to Al-Awlaki, but he never responded.
“He chose not to answer our request for him to come to the embassy,” Nuland said at the daily press briefing. She said that had he come in officials planned to offer him a “one-way passport back to the United States” to face criminal charges. She didn’t specify the charges.
Nuland did not respond directly to a provocative question from the Associated Press’s Matthew Lee about whether the U.S. believes it would have had the legal right to kill Al-Awlaki on the spot.
“Are you obligated not to kill someone who is responding to such an invitation?” Lee asked.
“I’m not going to entertain the notion that we would be calling him to the embassy for that purpose,” Nuland replied.
Forgive me for tooting our own horn, but what a great job for government accountability Judicial Watch is doing in this age of Obama! As we see politicians of both parties run for the exits or think of ways to spend our money rather than exercise oversight of this out-of-control government, you can see the indispensable role that Judicial Watch has in holding Washington to account.
Tom Fitton – President