Thanks for Nothing

Six Iraqi separatists who helped the CIA in its attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein were flown to the U.S. for asylum by the Department of Defense. But the FBI and the INS, desperately trying to cover up their blunders on the case, have been trying to get them deported.

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For all those who believe that the term “military intelligence” is an oxymoron, here’s your proof. From 1996 until late last month, six Iraqis languished in prison, on the brink of deportation — and almost certain execution by the Iraqi government — by the very country for which they risked their lives. The six had been coopted by the CIA in the early 1990s for the agency’s unsuccessful plot to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Last month, after nearly three years in California detention facilities, five of the refugees agreed to be deported to a neutral third country. Part of the deal required the five men to “admit” they had entered the country illegally, although, in fact, they were escorted to the United States on airplanes chartered by the Department of Defense.

The lone holdout, a Kurdish doctor named Ali Yassin Mohammed-Karim, plans to stay in prison to fight allegations that he’s an Iraqi double agent. His lead attorney, Niels Frenzen, has a bigger goal: to expose the dirty dealings of FBI, CIA, and U.S. immigration officials that have turned the case of the Iraqi Six into an international bureaucratic nightmare.

The case has been mired in controversy from the beginning. Much of the evidence against Ali and his five compatriots was based on secret evidence withheld by the FBI. Furthermore, recently declassified files reveal U.S. intelligence and immigration communities as prone to outrageous errors, overt anti-Arab stereotyping and prejudice, and doing downright sloppy work. This autumn, armed with these newly declassified documents, Ali’s attorney will finally come face to face with his client’s accusers, a host of FBI agents and immigration officials who up until now have hidden behind a wall of secrecy.

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