The strange conviction of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Dr. Aafia Saddiqui, a Pakistani citizen who earned her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience in the United States, was recently convicted on multiple counts of attempted murder of US soldiers.  She was alternately and rather hyperbolically demonized by the US media and government as “Lady al Qaeda,” “the Mata Hari of al Qaeda,” and “one of the top seven most wanted al Qaeda operatives,” whereas in the accounts of human rights activists she was known as the grey lady of Bagram and prisoner 650.  

It’s difficult to summarize this bizarre tale as told in often conflicting, incomplete, and often utterly unsubstantiated media accounts, though some parts of the storyline remain somewhat consistent.    The skeleton of the story looks like this: Siddiqui completed her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience at Brandeis and MIT.  She moved to Pakistan with her husband three children.  After divorcing her husband, she and her children were again returning to the US in 2003, but they never made it to the airport, and were unaccounted for over the next five years.  There are allegations that she was captured in Pakstan and sent to Bagram prison.  At around this time, she was accused by US officials of being a terrorist suspect.  In 2008, she was detained by Afghan police, interrogated and shot by Americans, then subsequently convicted of attempted murder by US courts on flimsy and dubious grounds.

Here’s one fairly apt summary of her case by Paul Craig Roberts, in an article titled, It’s now official: The US is a police state.

Dr. Siddiqui, a scientist educated at MIT and Brandeis University, was seized in Pakistan for no known reason, sent to Afghanistan, and was held secretly for five years in the U.S. military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Her three young children were with her at the time she was abducted, one an eight-month old baby. She has no idea what has become of her two youngest children. Her oldest child, 7 years old, was also incarcerated in Bagram and subjected to similar abuse and horrors.

Siddiqui has never been charged with any terrorism-related offense. A British journalist, hearing her piercing screams as she was being tortured, disclosed her presence. An embarrassed U.S. government responded to the disclosure by sending Siddiqui to the U.S. for trial on the trumped-up charge that while a captive, she grabbed a U.S. soldier’s rifle and fired two shots attempting to shoot him. The charge apparently originated as a U.S. soldier’s excuse for shooting Dr. Siddiqui twice in the stomach resulting in her near death.

On February 4, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a New York jury for attempted murder. The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation.

Wikipedia has this to say about the trial: “The trial took an unusual turn when an FBI official asserted that the fingerprints taken from the rifle, which was purportedly used by Aafia to shoot at the U.S. interrogators, did not match hers.”

An ignorant and bigoted American jury convicted her for being a Muslim. This is the kind of “justice” that always results when the state hypes fear and demonizes a group.

The people who should have been on trial are the people who abducted her, disappeared her young children, shipped her across international borders, violated her civil liberties, tortured her apparently for the fun of it, raped her, and attempted to murder her with two gunshots to her stomach. Instead, the victim was put on trial and convicted.

This is the unmistakable hallmark of a police state. And this victim is an American citizen.

(On a side note, contrary to Roberts’ claim of her American citizenship, the wiki rather indicates that Siddiqui is a citizen of Pakistan.  Two of her children were born in the US.)

In short, although many government and media accounts suggest that the government had substantial evidence (hard drives, thumb-drives, e-mails, WMD blueprints, chemical and biological weapons, a laundry list of American targets, including high profile physical locations and assassination plans for former US Presidents, etc.) that Siddiqui was a “big haul” in anti-terrorism efforts, in the top seven-most wanted al Qaeda operatives, she has never been charged with terrorist-related activities.   Her and her childrens’ whereabouts during their five-year “disappearance” remains in dispute.   The US claims ignorance of her whereabouts, whereas Siddiqui, human rights groups, and lawyers in Pakistan insist she was seized in Pakistan, then transported to a detention facility, most likely at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan.  According to the wiki:

In Pakistan, a petition has been filed seeking action against the Pakistani government for not approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to have Siddiqui released from the U.S.   Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffree said that the CIA had arrested Siddiqui from Karachi in 2003 and one of her sons, was killed during her arrest. On January 21, 2010, he submitted documents allegedly proving the arrest of Siddiqui from Pakistan to the Lahore High Court. The hearing of the petition was on January 25, 2010 and [is] pending.[29]

There is no dispute that she was arrested by Afghan police (for acting “suspiciously” in public) and interrogated by Americans.  During that interrogation she was accused of having grabbed a soldier’s rifle and firing into the crowd twice, missing both shots.   She was then shot twice in the abdomen by an American (ostensibly in self-defense).  She was then returned to the US to be tried (and convicted) on charges that included attempted murder.  There was no forensic evidence presented that she had touched or fired the rifle.  No fingerprints, no holes in the wall, no bullet fragments, no powder residue, no shell casings.  

While the court proceedings themselves were remarkable, including the judge’s decision to allow inflammatory depictions of Siddiqui as a terrorist, even though the prosecution’s ultimate case hinged simply and narrowly on whether she grabbed and shot the rifle, there are additional reasons that this case stinks to heaven.

First, let’s look at the early media and government depictions of Siddiqui in 2003, prior to her five-year “disappearance.”

Tom Brokaw, NBC news, April 2003:

In this early characterization, Siddiqui is alleged to have “possible ties to al Qaeda,” that she is “not a member,” but acts in a supporting role as a “fixer,” that “she definitely has ties to very radical individuals.”  These claims are unsubstantiated and internally contradictory: are Siddiqui’s ties to al Qaeda possible or definite?

After “disappearing” for five years, and being incarcerated and gut-shot in 2008, she is depicted much more dramatically as the Mata Hari of al Qaeda caught with a “treasure trove” of damning evidence:

Charlie Gibson and Brian Ross, ABC news, Aug. 2008 (video & text):…

Please note the former CIA analyst whom Ross interviews: none other than John Kiriakou, the apparent CIA plant hired by ABC to spread misinformation about the grand efficacy and mild nature of Kalid Sheik Mohammed’s water-boarding after it was divulged that the CIA had destroyed the torture tapes.  Kiriakou retracted his comments after Marcy Wheeler revealed that KSM had been water-boarded 183 times, now claiming he made his case based on hearsay.

Here’s again Kiriakou gushing hyperbolically about Dr. Siddiqui’s arrest:

“This is a major haul, a major capture for the FBI,” said Kiriakou. “To find someone who has such rich information, computer hard drives, e-mails, that is really a major capture.”

“Her education troubled us. We know that she’s extremely bright. She’s radicalized. We knew that she had been planning, or at least involved in the planning, of a wide variety of different operations, whether they involved weapons of mass destruction or research into chemical or biological weapons, whether it was a possible attempt on the life of the President,” said Kiriakou. “We knew that she was involved with a great deal and we had to bring her into custody.”

First, while MIT and Brandeis are excellent schools, being a cognitive neuroscientist is hardly a sign of trouble.  Among other things, cognitive “neuroscientists” often spend quite a lot of time doing things like studying reaction times in front of a computer screen, which is not unlike what Siddiqui actually did.

Second, isn’t it incredible that someone trained as a cognitive neuroscientist (who mainly conducted behavior studies!) and claims to have taken a single molecular biology class as a requirement is even capable of being this veritable swiss army knife of terrorist capability?  Involving radiological, chemical, and biological as well as assassinations?  All this talk of her being wicked smart and radicalized is pure mumbo jumbo.  Being smart is not a crime, and there’s no evidence of “radicalization.”

Finally, isn’t it odd that such “a major haul” having “such rich information, hard drives, e-mails” that counter-terrorism officials “know” is planning “a wide variety of different operations” cannot be convicted on any of those charges.  Pretty stunning, really.

Kiriakou sounds like he is once again full of shit.  And guess what?

To my knowledge, the only current or former U.S. official to comment publicly on the significance of her capture was John Kiriakou, a retired CIA officer who gained notoriety in 2007 when he told ABC News that the CIA waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda lieutenant, produced life-saving intelligence in less than a minute. Although Justice Department memos later revealed that Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three (sic) times, Kiriakou’s comments did much to foster acceptance of the practice among the American public-and his description of Siddiqui seemed calibrated to achieve a similar effect. In 2008 he told ABC News, which had hired him as a consultant after his waterboarding interview, “I don’t think we’ve captured anybody as important and as well connected as she since 2003. We knew that she had been planning, or at least involved in the planning of, a wide variety of different operations.”   When I called Kiriakou to ask him about those operations, though, he said the extent of his knowledge was that Siddiqui’s name “had popped up an awful lot” while he was in Pakistan searching for Zubaydah in 2002, and that “the FBI talked about her so often that I thought she must be a big fish.” After he left Pakistan, he forgot all about Siddiqui until ABC called for an interview. “I actually had to Google as to remember who she was,” he said.

Siddiqui’s name had “popped up an awful lot.”  Mr. CIA big shot had to google “the Mata Hari of al Qaeda’s” name.  What a disgrace and a liar.  What extreme journalistic malpractice by ABC.  Pure, sensational propaganda.

The links above and those provided below provide additional information about the allegations concerning Dr. Siddiqui’s five-year disappearance, her treatment and interrogation during her hospitalization, and her dubious treatment in court.  You will find many hyperbolic and unsubstantiated allegations about Siddiqui in these accounts, e.g., that she was smuggling blood diamonds from moral savages in Africa to fund al Qaeda, etc.  

Let’s for now just close with Siddiqui’s account of her “official” interrogation and gut-shooting, via Petra Bartosiewicz’s account in Harper’s:

Siddiqui’s own version of the shooting is less complicated. As she explained it to a delegation of Pakistani senators who came to Texas to visit her in prison a few months after her arrest, she never touched anyone’s gun, nor did she shout at anyone or make any threats. She simply stood up to see who was on the other side of the curtain and startled the soldiers. One of them shouted, “She is loose,” and then someone shot her. When she regained consciousness she heard someone else say, “We could lose our jobs.”

Here’s some additional sample links in no particular order:……




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