5 July 1998

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 07:16:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Other Side of Secrecy 
To: jy@jya.com
From: nobody@shinobi.alias.net (Anonymous)

The Washington Post, Friday, 26 June 1998; Page A03 

Other Side of the Secrecy Coin
Ex-CIA Chief Fights Confidentiality of Data on His Iraqi Clients
By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post Staff Writer

In the confines of a federal lockup outside Los Angeles, six Iraqis charged 
by the U.S. government as national security threats thought their luck was 
about to turn when they got a new lawyer whose old job was running the 
Central Intelligence Agency.

But in the weeks since R. James Woolsey joined the men's legal team, the 
spy master turned power lawyer has become entangled in a somewhat ironic 
crusade, decrying state secrecy that has concealed from him and his clients 
the nature of the charges against them.

Woolsey's appellate briefs have yet to persuade the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service (INS) to let him review classified evidence against 
the six men. But his campaign in the news media and pressure on officials 
may have convinced the CIA and the FBI to start declassifying at least some 
of the information this week.

He calls the case a "stain" on America's honor. The six defendants, who 
face deportation, were airlifted out of northern Iraq almost two years ago 
along with hundreds of other members of two CIA-financed groups opposed to 
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, only to begin an embittering odyssey 
through the U.S. justice system.

Not only is evidence in the case classified but key government witnesses 
have also given secret testimony. Even the judge's deportation ruling has 
been classified in large measure and kept from their view. Woolsey, whose 
top-secret clearance remains in effect, has been denied permission to 
review the evidence by the INS.

"There is much secrecy that I certainly support, have and still do," 
Woolsey said last week in an interview. "I'm not against classification, 
espionage. I'm not opposed to properly authorized covert action by the CIA 
abroad. This is completely different. This is using classified information 
as a tool of repression. It's a perversion of the use of classified 

The case strikes the six defendants, their attorneys and some Iraq analysts 
as a parable of the confused U.S. attempts to fashion a policy toward Iraq 
since the end of the Persian Gulf War, beginning with the CIA's disastrous 
attempts at toppling Saddam Hussein through a pair of failed covert 

"This is something very, very shameful to be happening in the United States 
of America," Ali Yassin Mohammed-Karim, 36, one of the six men, said last 
week in a telephone interview after 15 months in prison. "What I 
experienced from the representatives of the U.S. government is identical to 
[the ways of] Saddam Hussein and Hitler."

He is, nonetheless, hopeful about the impending release of at least some of 
the government's classified intelligence. "If they have anything against 
us, they would never hesitate to use that in federal court," he said. "But 
there is no case whatsoever."

Senior U.S. officials said shortly after the six were charged as national 
security threats last year that they might be terrorists or intelligence 
agents working for Saddam Hussein, who has infiltrated the Iraqi 

"If that is the case here," said Judith Kipper, co-director of the Middle 
East studies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 
"we don't want them in this country."

Woolsey finds that a remote possibility, given the backgrounds of the six 
Iraqis. He also said that a CIA official has informed a congressional 
oversight committee that the agency has no evidence that they are spies for 

Besides Mohammed-Karim, a physician, the five others are all Iraqi military 
defectors. They include another physician, Adil Awadh, a member of the 
opposition Iraqi National Accord (INA) who says in his asylum application 
that he refused to cut the ears off military deserters, and Safadin Batat, 
a member of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC) who was poisoned 
with thallium by Saddam's agents and treated in Britain.

"To put it mildly, if these six are agents of the Iraqi government, they 
have gone to substantial lengths to establish their cover stories," Woolsey 

Mohammed-Karim said he grew up a Kurd in northern Iraq, studied medicine 
and ended up treating casualties on the battlefield, joining a CIA-backed 
insurgency run by the Iraqi National Congress to topple Saddam Hussein. He 
said that during his years of resistance he developed a medical specialty 
peculiar to Iraq: treating victims of thallium poisoning.

Whatever information against the six was apparently gathered by FBI agents 
who interviewed several hundred members of both opposition groups when they 
were first airlifted by the United States to in the fall of 1996, following 
Saddam Hussein's invasion of the Kurdish north in August of that year and 
his capture of Irbil, Woolsey said. Hundreds of those evacuated have 
settled in the United States.

The charges may be the result of jealousy and rivalries among opposition 
members, Woolsey said. Or they may be "blithering incompetence" by the INS, 
Woolsey said.

Niels W. Frenzen, a lawyer at Public Counsel in Los Angeles serving as lead 
attorney in the case, notes the case of a seventh Iraqi held previously on 
national security charges after a U.S. government interpreter mistakenly 
wrote in his file that he was a member of the KLM, a group no one in the 
government had heard of.

The CIA is known to have been deeply divided between those backing the 
INC's insurgency aimed at winning Iraqi military defectors, and those who 
believed the INA, made up of former Iraqi military officers, could 
orchestrate a coup to topple Saddam Hussein.

Gradually, the CIA shifted most of its support to the coup plotters, only 
to watch Saddam Hussein devastate the movement by arresting scores of 
sympathetic officers. Woolsey suggested that the charges against his 
clients may be an attempt by some in the U.S. gov "to settle scores at 
these men's expense."

Russell A. Bergeron Jr., an INS spokesman here, dismissed Woolsey's 
criticism and said the INS has executed its responsibilities to the letter 
of the law.

"The U.S. made two commitments to [the Iraqi opposition members]: that we 
would get them out of harm's way and, number two, that they would be 
allowed to apply for refugee status. And that's exactly what we did," 
Bergeron said. "In fact, the only reason they were brought to the United 
States [from Guam] was to give them access to the legal process they now 

Frank G. Scafidi, a spokesman for the FBI, declined to comment on the 
evidence soon to be declassified and released.

Warren Marik, a retired CIA case officer who oversaw covert aid to the 
Iraqi National Congress in northern Iraq, thinks the case against the six 
is nonsense.

The entire episode, he said, "is a little microcosm of what's going on with 
Iraq policy. We get caught up in our own axle, the INS gets wound up in 
things. No one knows what's happening. No one has a plan."

In his application for political asylum, Mohammed-Karim makes a simple 
case: "I seek asylum in the United States because I have no other place to 
go. If I am sent back to Iraq, Saddam Hussein will kill me. He will tear me 
into a billion pieces."

To support his case, the doctor supplemented his application with a copy of 
an Iraqi death warrant in Arabic, a notarized English translation and 
documents showing how his wife and two children have already been granted 
asylum based on persecution he had suffered.

His wife, a gynecologist, and his children are living on food stamps and 
welfare, he said. But at least they're only a couple of hours away in Los 
Angeles. The families of the five others are stranded and on welfare in 
Lincoln, Neb., and Salt Lake City.

Back in Guam, Mohammed-Karim recalled, he and his family were loaded onto 
an airplane and told they were going to California in order to apply for 
political asylum. But when they arrived, he said, armed guards escorted 
them from the tarmac and herded them onto "caged" INS buses.

"I wish you were there, to see these terrible views we were forced to see," 
he said. "They terrified us. They terrified our kids. I was shocked. I 
can't believe the United States of America of George Washington is the same 
country I'm in now. I was evacuated from my country, to Guam, to here, to 
the jail -- for no reason."

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company