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AUGUST 14, 2008 7:57PM

More Worries About Stories

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There's another interesting comment on Aafia Siddiqui in the New York Post this morning:

"We are talking about a woman who is brilliant, who is fanatical and a potential killer and who was clearly fantasizing about landmarks in New York City and elsewhere," said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

"She shows that the danger is broader than the image we have of terrorists - uneducated males with a lot of time on their hands," he said.

Hmmm. It's really easy to see that I'm on the wrong side here. I really have no opinion on whether or not Aafia Siddiqui has supported al Qaeda, I have my doubts due to her history, but perhaps there is a justification for thinking so. If so, it hardly helps the FBI case to keep the justifications and explanations for how she carried on such a double life secret, because if what they have talked about is it, then they don't have much.

But just on the factual content of the above quote, Peter King isn't the chair of anything in the House of Representatives, because it is Democratically controlled. The committee he is on is genuinely strange, with a separate web page for the Republican members which makes it appear that they are the entire committee and Mr. King is its chair. And they call us moonbats.

Next there is the assumption that because she has a Ph.D. she is dangerous-brilliant, and that we should be very afraid because previously we thought all terrorists were uneducated males. I guess that's what happens when you believe that the driver is running the show. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has a college degree, so does Osama bin Laden, so do many of the people busted and sent up during the 1993 Trade Center bombing. Maybe she is dangerous and fanatical. Then again, maybe not. Creating fear doesn't prove things it just sways listeners.

But the assumption that she is guilty is evident in the quote, as it is in most of the articles written. The above is from an article which starts by saying her lawyer isn't buying the whole handbag thing, for some strange reason she wants to see the evidence, you know, the way they do on TV, wrapped in plastic bags and labeled with names like "Exhibit A". Like American justice used to work.

You see, there is this other article, it came out the day she had her first hearing in court. I found it last night using the Washington Post search engine, for some reason it was invisible to my previous Google searches on the same key words. Reuters-Asia published a description of the arrest on August 5th, the one that everyone says involved a shootout with Aafia Siddiqui firing an American rifle at American troops using the same description and language, but then included this:

Afghan police in Ghazni told a different story. They said officers searched Siddiqui after reports of her suspicious behavior and found maps of Ghazni, including one of the governor's house, and arrested her along with a teenage boy.

U.S. troops requested the woman be handed over to them but the police refused, a senior Ghazni police officer said.

U.S. soldiers then disarmed the Afghan police, at which point Siddiqui approached the Americans complaining of mistreatment by the police, the officer said.

The U.S. troops, the officer said, "thinking that she had explosives and would attack them as a suicide bomber, shot her and took her." The boy remained in police custody.

This story is quite different. I've already written that she was shown off at an Afghani press conference, there are pictures of it, she is not confined or shackled, she and her son are sitting on a couch with cups of tea on the table.

Weird, hunh.

And why Ghazni? Ghazni's main claim to fame is that it is a way station on the Kabul-Kandahar road. That would be the road that Carlotta Gaul published a large front page article on in today's New York Times. It's the most dangerous part of the country right now, and Ghazni falls into the section that Ms. Gall describes as a place nobody goes without bodyguards or troops. Good place for a diminuitive Ph.D. and her teenage son to get killed. How did they get there? How does someone who has supposedly eluded capture for 5 years with all of the FBI supposedly looking for her find herself under arrest by the Ghazni police who are concerned for the health of the governor? The same governor who was assaulted on that dangerous road recently? And why would the Americans be disarming the Afghani police? Why would they think a woman who had been in custody for a day, had been shown off at a press conference by the police drinking tea was wearing a suicide bomb?

Dunno. But at least it explains how she gets shot twice in the torso in "approximately 2 shots". And maps of Ghazni when one is in Ghazni do sound a bit less intimidating. The question I have is why she was approaching the Americans to complain about the police treatment, didn't she like the tea? Or did she not understand why she was under arrest, and thought the Americans would side with her? Why would she think that, given that the Americans in Afghanistan have 10,171 prisoners registered with the ICRC, and a rumored several thousand other prisoners who aren't? Why does she appear only two weeks after human rights groups start asking whether she is in Bagram and a victim of torture? Why do so many groups find her arrest by the Pakistani ISI credible? Her lawyer says she was in U.S. custody for a long time. She knew she was wanted by the FBI before she disappeared why would she believe the Americans would help her, was there some kind of a deal? Why wasn't her son transported to the U.S. with her, he's an American citizen and international law demands that the U.S. care for him if they arrest his mother.

Something is very wrong with this whole story, and it doesn't look like it will get any clarity from the American media. Insisting on knowing that one's country has observed the human rights of even the most heinous prisoner is not just the right of every American, in 2008 it is a responsibility. Where has she really been, and whose version of her arrest, if any, is the real one?

Update:

AFP is citing Lt. Col. Rumi Nielsen-Greene at Bagram Air Base as saying that Ms. Siddiqui is not "prisoner 650" a.k.a. the "Grey Lady".  Amazingly, she seems to acknowledge that that person existed:

Nielson-Green rejected claims by some human rights activists that Siddiqui was Bagram's "prisoner 650," a solitary woman inmate at the base a few years ago whom other detainees claim to have heard screaming.

"The allegation that she is the same woman who was in our custody in 2003-2005 is unfounded. That woman's name and physical description are different from Ms. Siddiqui's," the spokeswoman said.

 This is news to me, they had previously denied having female prisoners at Bagram at all.  Whether or not the two are the same person, it would be worthwhile if the claims that prisoner 650 was tortured and repeatedly raped are valid, now that we know she exists.

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Thanks for all of your digging on this. This story just seems to have so many versions that I wonder if we will ever have any idea of what really has happened.
Lots of unanswered questions. It seems appropriate to put so much emphasis on the questions. There has been so much lately on answers, answers that conflict, you have to wonder who was asking what of whom.

Ideally, some enterprising journalist with some "acess" (that most valuable of assets) will decide that this story has real legs, and decide to do some investigating.

Someone who would like to be the next Charlie Savage or Dana Priest?
Another disgusting aspect to this story is the fact that our government, paid for by my taxes, is framing this story through leaks and innuendo. They use an ex-CIA official and can put out any lies or distortions to set the fear mongering, crazy woman terrorist in the public's mind. The only official information that I know of is the trumped up charges made in a NY court.

You are doing a great job of questioning that framing ondelette. I would urge all those who honor truth, truth that our government fears because it blows up their framing as happened in the Ivins' anthrax fiasco, to help us gain visibility as you did for the anthrax attacks. This smacks of another frame job in both meanings of that term.
Jim White already said what I was going to post...how will we EVER know with the layer upon layer of lies and misinformation that we are fed not just on this, but nearly every piece of reporting that we receive...