Former FBI Agent James Wedick, a superstar at the agency, is the latest casualty in the war on terror. After viewing the interrogation tapes of Umer and Hamid Hayat, Wedick, the G-man though and through, was stunned. He immediately called the defense attorney and told him -- "it's the sorriest interrogation, the sorriest confession, I've ever seen." As hard as it was for him to criticize his former colleagues and his beloved former employer, he felt compelled to testify for the defense, the first such time he had ever opposed the agency. But as Mark Araz writes in his excellent story in the LA Times, Wedick never got the chance. His testimony was strongly opposed by "prosecutor from Washington," who called him a "hired gun." And the judge refused to allow Wedick, the most decorated FBI agent ever to serve in Sacramento, Ca. and a man whose attention to detail in a host of the public corruption prosecutions in the 1990's led Director Freeh to give him an award as the investigator of the year, to testify in court. Hamid Hayat, a hapless young man with a sixth grade education, was convicted of 2 counts of lying to the FBI and one coutn of providing "material support" to Al Qaeda. The jury deadlocked on the father's case but Umer must face a re-trial.
Had Wedick been permitted to testify he would have pointed out how agents spoonfed the details of the confessions to the Hamids, how the FBI was unable to corroborate any of the information in the confessions, including the most important fact -- whether the Hamids had ever attended a training camp in Pakistan. He would have highlighted to the jury all of the inconsistencies between Umer and Hamid's confessions about such critical details as where the training camp was located, the physical layout of the camp, the weaponry at the camp, and the dress of the jihadists. In short, he would have laid the groundwork for the jury to understand why the confessions were most certainly unreliable, if not false.
Arax's story is not only a story of two wrongful convictions -- it is a powerful story of how the FBI has changed since 9/11. Desperate to sniff out Al Qaeda cells, millions of dollars in taxpayer money is being spent on investigations being led by rookie agents who lack the expertise to lead them. Caution is being thrown to the wind, procedures are being tossed out the window, civil liberties are being trampled all in the name of catching terrorists.
It's a wonderful story which I hope leads to a 60 Minutes piece or some other expose so that many more viewers can see another side of the War on Terror.