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Schakowsky is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). She had initially expressed interest in attending the meeting, but never showed up, De Sousa says. Prior to the meeting, Adam Lurie, the staff director and counsel for HPSCI’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations, asked De Sousa’s attorney, Mark Zaid, if she would be invoking the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. Zaid replied that she wouldn’t.
When De Sousa met with Schakowsky’s staffers, she says, they did not believe her claims. “They asked how did I know [about the mistakes the CIA made in rendering Abu Omar]? I said I read the cables,” De Sousa recalls. She says Schakowsky’s office never followed up. Lee Whack, a spokesman for Schakowsky, told Al Jazeera, “We are unable to comment on this issue. The congresswoman takes very seriously the privacy of anyone who brings issues to the committee. That said, we cannot discuss classified work conducted by the committee.”
De Sousa also met with Feinstein’s staff. The powerful chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), has publicly proclaimed her support for whistleblowers and urged intelligence-community employees to air their grievances with select members of Congress. De Sousa enlisted the human rights organization Human Rights First to help set up the meeting. The organization sent a letter to David Grannis, the staff director for SSCI.
De Sousa communicated via email with Grannis in August 2010 after he expressed interest in hearing what she could disclose about Abu Omar’s rendition. Grannis told her the best way for her to share the information with him “is either by hard-copy delivery” or “via secure fax.” De Sousa prepared a memo and hand delivered it to the SSCI’s security director, Jim Wolfe. She never heard from Grannis or anyone else on the intelligence committee again, she says.
An SSCI staffer, however, denies that the panel did not investigate De Sousa’s claims. The staffer says De Sousa met with “SSCI staff multiple times on subjects that I cannot confirm openly but that she was raising at the time as concerns with CIA actions.”
“Committee staff followed up with CIA independently to seek CIA’s views and explanations,” the staffer says. “Any contention that the SSCI did nothing is simply factually untrue.” De Sousa says she was never informed about any inquiries the committee made about her with the CIA.
At the time De Sousa disclosed details about the Abu Omar rendition to Grannis, the SSCI was one year into a review of the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The committee prepared a voluminous report on the program, the executive summary of which is currently undergoing a declassification review, and concluded that the approximately two dozen “war on terror” suspects were illegally rendered and secretly held by the CIA.
For years, De Sousa believed Abu Omar’s case would be included in the committee’s report. “It has to be,” she says. “It’s such a bungled case and it also involves torture by proxy governments [Egypt].” But the SSCI staffer told Al Jazeera in an email that the “executive summary and findings and conclusions of the committee’s report,” that is the portions due to be declassified, “do not reference Abu Omar.”
“There are passing references to him elsewhere in the report, but I wouldn’t want you to have the impression that the report focuses on him or alleged CIA actions involving him to any significant degree,” the aide said.
The CIA would not comment on the allegations De Sousa leveled against the agency or respond to questions about the Abu Omar rendition.
Recently, Feinstein said that former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden could have and should have come to her with evidence of the agency’s mass surveillance of Americans instead of handing over a trove of highly classified documents to journalists.
De Sousa believes Feinstein would have ignored Snowden, just as her staff did, according to De Sousa, when she came to them with evidence of alleged wrongdoing by the CIA in the Abu Omar case.
And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told NPR’s Terry Gross that Snowden could have “expressed his concerns” in other ways, such as “reaching out to some of the senators” about the legality of NSA spy programs.
But when De Sousa’s attorney, Mark Zaid, wrote to Clinton at the State Department to raise concerns about her treatment and Abu Omar’s rendition and torture he never received a reply.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed an intelligence-spending bill that included new whistleblower protections for intelligence personnel that are supposed to codify Obama’s 2012 policy directive that strengthened whistleblower laws for federal workers. But the bill comes too late for De Sousa. She is now using the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to clear her name. She says she will aggressively try to pry loose government documents to reveal internal discussions about the Abu Omar rendition, whose case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, there is still an international arrest warrant out for her. That makes traveling to visit her mother and siblings difficult.
She hasn’t given up on trying to hold government officials and her former colleagues accountable. “Castelli’s chain of command who approved the rendition — James Pavitt [former CIA deputy director of operations], Stephen Kappes, [a close confidante of Feinstein who was the agency’s deputy director], Tenet, [former chief of CIA covert operations in Europe Tyler] Drumheller, Rodriguez and Rizzo [former CIA general counsel]. Here are the guys I wish to hold accountable,” she says. “Hayden, Rice, Feinstein and Schakowsky also have to be held accountable for the subsequent cover-up and refusal to investigate an issue that is a violation of international law and torture.”
Zaid says that during one of the oversight committee meetings he attended with De Sousa to discuss the Abu Omar case, she had told congressional staffers that she had been unable to secure a job because of the conviction. “One of the staffers actually told her to go back to India and get a job there,” Zaid says. “Can you believe that?”