BY DAVID FRANCIS APRIL 28, 2015 – 11:41 AM
A house counterterrorism panel is pushing ahead with a hearing on the Islamic State — even though two of its top witnesses are refusing to testify alongside the leader of a controversial Iranian dissidents group that was itself regarded as a terrorist organization as recently as 2012.
Arabist Robert Ford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Syria and also was posted in Baghdad, in Cairo, and across the Mideast, told Foreign Policy on Tuesday that he would not appear on the panel with Maryam Rajavi, leader of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).
He is the second witness to balk at sharing the spotlight with Rajavi. On Monday, former State Department counterterrorism director Daniel Benjamin pulled out of the hearing, which is scheduled for Wednesday.
“I didn’t want to be on a panel with the MEK. I was shocked they invited the MEK. What the MEK has to do with the Islamic State, I don’t have a clue,” Ford told FP. “I told the committee to put me on a panel without the MEK or I wouldn’t appear.”
Rajavi will not be at the hearing: She is set to testify via videoconference, presumably from Paris, where her National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) is based. The NCRI is an umbrella organization of groups that include the MEK.
Until September 2012, the MEK was designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization for the alleged 1970s killing of six Americans in Iran. The group is led by Iranian exiles who bitterly oppose Tehran’s clerical regime and is widely believed to have allied with Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq during the 1980s war between those two nations.
It has bankrolled numerous high-profile U.S. officials and other worldwide dignitaries who appear on the MEK’s behalf, a roster that includes former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Representatives for the MEK have not returned repeated requests for comment.
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Dr. Frederic Whitehurst knows a thing or two about FBI lab scandals. As a “supervisory special agent” and noted forensic scientist, he began complaining to his federal supervisors more than 25 years ago about shoddy policies and practices within the vaunted crime lab. Then, in the mid-1990s, he went public with his concerns, officially becoming a “whistleblower” by highlighting flawed forensics and testimony relating to (among other things) the Oklahoma City bombing investigation. For this he was scorned by many of his colleagues and retaliated against at work, but ultimately vindicated by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which in 1997 issued a report endorsing some of Whitehurst’s claims. He left the FBI following a settlement with the government in 1998 and now serves as a co-chair of the National Whistleblowers Center.
We caught up with Dr. Whitehurst this week in the wake of the latest allegations of scientific misfeasance at the FBI crime lab. We now know that nearly every FBI scientist at the lab before the year 2000 — 26 out of 28 — overstated his or her “expert” conclusions about matches from analyses of hair samples collected from crime scenes and/or suspects. Hundreds of cases, at least, have been tainted, including at least one dozen cases that resulted in a sentence of death.
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Former FBI Director Louis Freeh would have died within 60 seconds of sustaining a severed artery in a car crash eight months ago in Vermont if not for the life-saving actions of emergency crews, officials revealed Friday.
Current FBI leader James Comey and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., made the remarks when questioned about Freeh’s medical condition, including a leg mangled in the Aug. 25 wreck in Barnard in Windsor County.
This was the first time that public officials have provided details concerning the serious nature of Freeh’s condition after the accident.
Freeh, 64, of Wilmington, Delaware, told Vermont State Police and later filed his own state accident report indicating he had no memory of the crash on Vermont 12 shortly after noon Aug. 25.
Freeh’s SUV forced three oncoming drivers to take evasive action when he crossed the center line and almost hit them head-on, witnesses reported.
One of the drivers who avoided the crash told the Burlington Free Press after the crash that he estimated Freeh’s SUV was traveling 60-65 mph. The posted speed limit was 50 mph.
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On July 30, 1996, the media descended on Richard Jewell, the security guard at Centennial Olympic Park hailed for discovering a bomb, then suspected of planting it. That week Ann Woolner wondered whether Jewel might be innocent. Attached is her resulting opinion column
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