Stories by Michael Isikoff

  • Interpol, Round Three: Newt Fires Back at 'Openly Leftwing' NEWSWEEK

    Never one to shrink from a fight, former House speaker Newt Gingrich has struck back at Declassified's reporting on his endorsement of the seemingly wacky conspiracy theories circulating about the International Criminal Police Organization based in Lyon, France, commonly referred to as Interpol. ...
  • No KSM in NYC?

    Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world—and to accelerate President Obama's stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now "potentially in jeopardy," a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells NEWSWEEK. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he will force another vote on his amendment to...
  • Interpol Chief on Beck and Gingrich:'Not Within the Realm of Reality'

    The chief of Interpol—the international police organization based in Lyon, France—is denouncing as “false and irresponsible” a conspiracy theory spreading through the right-wing blogosphere suggesting that President Obama has given the agency new powers to investigate and arrest U.S. citizens. The claim stems from an executive order Obama signed on Dec. 17 that gives Interpol the same “immunities and privileges” as other international organizations with offices in the United States. White House officials say the order is routine—and was actually in the works during the Bush administration. But in recent days, the idea that Obama has empowered a “global police force” to operate inside the country has gained new currency thanks to endorsements by several high-profile conservative figures, including Fox News host Glenn Beck and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. In a spot with Bill O’Reilly last week, Gingrich said that Obama had “quietly” signed an order that lifts “all the...
  • 'Gitmo Forever'?

    President Obama's decision to suspend sending any detainees being held in the Guantánamo Bay detention facility back to Yemen was "politically, a no-brainer," a senior administration official tells NEWSWEEK. ...
  • Exclusive: Yemeni Journalist Says Awlaki Alive, Well, Defiant

     The radical imam who was reported to have been killed in a U.S.-backed airstrike last week has resurfaced this week, very much alive and very much defiant, a Yemeni journalist tells Declassified.Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-based imam who had conducted a lengthy email correspondence with accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, "called me last night and told me a lot of information," the journalist, Abdul Elah Hider al-Shaya, said in a telephone interview from Yemen.Although friends and relatives of Awlaki had already cast doubt on the reports of the controversial cleric's demise, his apparent phone conversation with Shaya seems to be the most direct confirmation so far that he emerged unscathed from a joint U.S-Yemeni military strike that was supposed to have led to his death.According to Shaya, Awlaki told him when he called, "I'm in my house. The statement that the Yemeni government put out [reporting his death] is lies." Awlaki further told Shaya that he...
  • Feds Reveal U.S. Role in Mumbai Terror Attacks

    Last year's attack by an invading band of 10 seaborne terrorists in Mumbai was among the most horrifying terrorist strikes since 9/11, resulting in the deaths of 170 people, including six Americans. ...
  • Top Congressional Researcher on Afghanistan Fired

    The top congressional official who oversees research on foreign policy and defense issues, including the war in Afghanistan, has been fired from his job after publishing a newspaper op-ed criticizing the Obama administration's recent decision about bringing Guantánamo detainees to trial.  ...
  • White House Guest-List Chief Says She Quit Post

    The White House staff member whose job was to supervise the guest list for state dinners and clear invitees into the events says she was stripped of most of her responsibilities earlier this year, prompting her to resign last June....
  • Nasty Legal Spat Among 9/11 Lawyers

    A nasty spat has broken out among defense lawyers over an issue that is likely to be front and center in the upcoming 9/11 trial in New York: who actually speaks for the defendants?...
  • Life Behind Enemy Lines—in Somalia

    As Declassified noted last weekend, a recent FBI affidavit in a big Chicago terror case offered an unusually revealing glimpse of life behind “enemy lines” in Waziristan in northwest Pakistan.ON Monday, the FBI provided an equally eye-opening look at the scene inside another jihadi stronghold, this one in the war ravaged nation of Somalia (which U.S. officials increasingly fear is becoming a haven for Al Qaeda). In the process, the bureau shed new light on how one Somali American from Minneapolis ended up losing his life in Somalia —as a suicide bomber. Earlier this year NEWSWEEK reported on the FBI’s concern about the strange case of young Somali Americans who were disappearing from their communities in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the United States only to reemerge fighting in Somalia on behalf of Al- Shabab, a militant terror group closely aligned with Al Qaeda. As part of its charges unveiled this week against eight defendants accused of providing material support to Al-Shabab,...
  • FBI Probes U.S. Link to Mumbai Attacks

    The FBI is expanding its investigation in a Chicago terrorism case to determine whether a key suspect may have helped scout targets for last year’s massive coordinated attack in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.The Justice Department announced late last month that it had charged two Chicago-area men—David Coleman Headley, the son of a former Pakistani diplomat, and a childhood friend, Tahawwur Hussain Rana-- for plotting to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed. But since then, the case has taken some dramatic turns that have attracted the interest of Indian Government investigators and transformed it into one of the most significant international terrorism cases that the FBI has brought since 9/11, the officials say. After his arrest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Oct. 3, Headley waived his rights to a lawyer and admitted to FBI agents that he had worked directly with Ilyas...
  • Torture Memo Author Sets Up Defense Fund to Fight Possible Impeachment

    The federal judge who helped draft Justice Department memos on torture has set up a legal defense fund to pay the costs of defending against possible disciplinary or impeachment proceedings. Jay Bybee, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in Las Vegas, quietly set up the fund last July following widespread news reports that he and a former deputy, John Yoo, were the focus of a long-running investigation by the Justice Department's internal ethics unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), over their role in crafting the memos.But there were no public references to the fund until this, week when Declassified noticed that a link to the fund had popped up on the Web site of Keep America Safe, an advocacy group set up last month by Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, that is highly critical of President Obama's national-security policies. The fund is listed as one of Keep America Safe's "causes we support."The defense fund may be...
  • Will Gun Measure Threaten Amtrak Terror Attacks?

    Just how much clout does the gun lobby have on Capitol Hill? This week may prove to be a crucial test: A House-Senate conference committee is about to take up a massive transportation-funding bill that is pitting advocates of gun rights against security-minded members worried about the threat of terrorist attacks on Amtrak trains. Tucked into the measure is a controversial National Rifle Association-backed amendment that would cut off $1.5 billion in subsidies to Amtrak unless the federally backed national passenger-train company reverses its post-9/11 security policies and permits train passengers to travel with handguns and other firearms as part of their checked luggage.The idea of allowing guns on trains—something Amtrak banned after 9/11—passed the Senate by an overwhelming 68 to 30 margin last month and was hailed by the NRA at the time as a vindication of Second Amendment rights. But since then, the measure, sponsored by GOP Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, has raised...
  • Did Imam's Posting Trigger Hasan's Gun Buy?

    Just two weeks before Maj. Nidal Hasan purchased the weapon he allegedly used in the Fort Hood shooting, the radical imam with whom he had been communicating posted an incendiary message on the Internet vilifying Muslim soldiers who "follow orders" by fighting on behalf of the "enemies" of Islam. ...
  • A Taliban Ultimatum Over Fort Hood?

    Is the Taliban trying to use the Fort Hood massacre to push the U.S. out of Afghanistan? On the very day the president is meeting with his national security advisers to decide about troop strength in Afghanistan comes this remarkable communiqué from the Taliban celebrating Nidal Hasan's bloody shooting rampage at Fort Hood. Like his e-mail companion Anwar al-Awlaki, the Taliban calls Hasan a "hero" for shooting American soldiers. The group says the "carnage" in Iraq and Afghanistan has "awakened the human sympathies in the souls (sic) of the American soldier." It also warns that unless the United States withdraws from Afghanistan and Iraq, it will become "normal for incidents and attacks similar to Texas to expand to the Pentagon and the rest of the American military bases."Here's the full text, courtesy of the NEFA Foundation. Grief After a Rampage: See NEWSWEEK's of the tragedy at Fort Hood.
  • Critics Point to 'Terror Gap' in Gun-Control Laws

      New details about the case of accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan is refocusing attention on what critics call a glaring "terror gap" in federal firearms laws that has allowed hundreds of suspected terrorists to purchase weapons in recent years. A General Accounting Office study last summer found 963 instances in which individuals on the FBI's terrorist watch lists sought to purchase guns between February 2004 and February 2009. In 90 percent of those cases, or 865 times, the terror suspect was permitted to buy the gun because. under the rules governing a federally mandated background check, they did not fall within a number of prohibited categories, such as being a convicted felon, an illegal immigrant, or a fugitive from justice. The Hasan case is bringing a new focus on those figures—and what they say about federal firearms laws. Senior federal investigators have declined to say whether Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting, was ever on the FBI's terr...
  • FBI Counter-Terror Officials Were Never Told About Hasan's Gun Purchase

    Senior federal investigators confirmed Tuesday night that since last December, the FBI monitored from 10 to 20 “communications” between suspected Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and an overseas terror suspect known for preaching violence and expressing sympathy for Al Qaeda.But although an FBI-led task force undertook an “assessment” of the Army psychiatrist as a result of those contacts, counter-terror officials concluded earlier this year that Hasan’s communications with the terror suspect were “protected” by “free speech” and did not warrant opening up a criminal investigation of him, the investigators said.Still, counterterror officials were never told about one key piece of investigative information: that Hasan had purchased a high-powered semiautomatic pistol on Aug. 1, just weeks after he was transferred by the Army to Fort Hood. Such gun purchases automatically trigger a federally mandated background check.Absent the federally collected data that Hasan was arming himself...
  • Imam Anwar al Awlaki Calls Hasan 'Hero'

    A radical imam who was investigated by the FBI for his ties to the 9/11 hijackers has posted an Internet message praising Nidal Hasan -- the suspect in the Fort Hood shootings -- as a "hero" who performed his "Islamic duty" by killing American soldiers. ...
  • To Pay Abu Omar, CIA's Man in Milan Loses Villa

    When an Italian judge earlier this week sentenced 23 Americans in absentia for the CIA-orchestrated abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr--a symbolic condemnation of the Bush administration's extraordinary-rendition program--the CIA's top officer in Milan at the time, Robert Seldon Lady, got the harshest sentence (eight years). Nobody expects Lady to serve time. He has long since left Italy, and the government of Silvio Berlusconi--whose military-intelligence chief cooperated with the abduction--is unlikely to seek extradition.But there may be some rough justice in the case after all: the country villa that Lady once purchased as a retirement home is now slated to be sold to pay the $2.2 million in court-ordered damages due the very man Lady was convicted of kidnapping. A magistrate seized the villa, in the northwest part of the country, more than two years ago (Italian law allows for the property of criminal suspects to be confiscated to pay court costs). "It's...
  • Obama Secrecy Watch II: A State Secrets Affidavit Straight from the Bush Era

    When Attorney General Eric Holder invoked the “state secrets” privilege to quash a lawsuit alleging illegal National Security Agency spying last Friday night, his department’s lawyers sounded a lot like those who worked for President George W. Bush. In fact, they justified the action by filing an affidavit from President Obama’s director of national intelligence that is nearly identical to one filed by President Bush’s intelligence director two years ago. The strikingly similar affidavit—making the same arguments in the almost exactly the same language—is among the strongest examples yet of how Obama administration officials are adopting Bush-era secrecy positions in major national security cases.Holder’s move came in the case of Shubert v. Obama, a lawsuit filed in 2006 by four residents of Brooklyn, New York. They allege that their overseas phone calls were illegally intercepted by the NSA as part of a massive “dragnet” of warrantless surveillance ordered by Bush after the Sept....