Paredes Charged AWOL | FBI Admits Giving Secret Files | Churchill's heritage examined

  • FBI Admits Mistakenly Giving Man Secret Files
  • Colorado Professor's Indian Claims Examined
  • Same Sex Law overturned
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes charged AWOL

BOSTON -- The FBI admitted Saturday it accidentally gave classified documents back to the American translator who pleaded guilty to taking them from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, who was released from jail earlier this month, contacted the FBI's Boston office Tuesday after he realized agents had inadvertently given him the computer disk containing the secret files along with his personal property.

Mehalba had the disk in his possession for only a "matter of hours" before the FBI retrieved it, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ricciuti. "Someone in the bureau obviously made a serious mistake," Ricciuti said.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said the disk was not labeled "secret" -- as all classified data should be -- because prosecutors had to keep it in the same condition as when it was seized from Mehalba. Authorities have not said what type of information was stored on the disk, other than it concerns "national defense," said Ricciuti, who prosecuted Mehalba.

Mehalba, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen who was working as a civilian Arabic translator at Guantanamo, was arrested at Boston's Logan International Airport on Sept. 29, 2003, after customs agents found the disk containing hundreds of documents labeled "SECRET" or "SECRET/NOFORN" among 131 other disks in his luggage.

Colorado Professor's Indian Claims Examined

DENVER -- The future of a University of Colorado professor who likened some Sept. 11, 2001, victims to a notorious Nazi is in the hands of nine colleagues who may be asked to decide whether he is American Indian, as he claims.

Ward Churchill could lose his job if a faculty committee concludes he lied about being a Native American to beef up his credentials as a scholar. University officials said earlier last week that the First Amendment bars them from firing Churchill for his essay about Sept. 11.

The panel also is investigating allegations that Churchill, who has tenure, plagiarized others' work, misinterpreted evidence and fabricated details in his research. The probe is expected to take as many as nine months.

A report by acting Chancellor Phil DiStefano said that "there is serious doubt about his Indian identity." It said Churchill claimed in writing to be an enrolled member of the Keetoowah Band of the Cherokees, but the tribe's principal chief told the university that Churchill is an honorary associate member, not an enrolled member.

Crawford, Tex., Mayor Won't Seek Reelection

CRAWFORD, Tex. -- Months after he endorsed Democrat John F. Kerry for president, the mayor of the tiny town made famous by President Bush's ranch has decided not to seek reelection.

Mayor Robert Campbell said his decision had nothing to do with fallout from his decision to join the National Conference of Black Mayors in endorsing Kerry. Instead, he cited differences with the city council. "I think the city needs to go in one way, and apparently the city council wants it to go another way," said Campbell, who has been mayor for seven years. "It's time to get out of the way."

Campbell, 61, clashed with council members over proposals to build a new subdivision in the town of 705 residents. The subdivision project was approved in January over his objections.

• SACRAMENTO -- A California law that gives same-sex couples who register as domestic partners nearly the same responsibilities and benefits as married spouses should be overturned because lawmakers undermined the will of voters, lawyers for two groups argued Friday. Opponents of the law told a three-judge appeals court panel the law violates a California ballot initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

• NEW YORK -- Two gunmen posing as delivery drivers slipped into a Diamond District wholesale business Friday afternoon and walked out with an estimated $5 million in jewels, police said.

• SAN DIEGO -- A Navy sailor who refused to board a Persian Gulf-bound ship because of his opposition to the war in the Iraq will face a special court-martial -- the military equivalent of a civilian misdemeanor trial, the Navy said Friday. Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes, 23, was charged with being absent without leave and missing the movement of a ship.
-- From News Services
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page A12
© Washington Post

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