AWOL soldier defiant in 1st court appearance

Posted July 29, 2011, at 9:20 p.m.

WACO, Texas — An AWOL soldier accused of plotting to launch an attack on Fort Hood was defiant during his first court appearance on Friday, yelling out the name of the Army psychiatrist blamed in the 2009 deadly shooting rampage at the same Texas base.

Federal prosecutors charged 21-year-old Pfc. Naser Abdo with possessing a destructive device, two days after he was arrested at a motel about three miles from the front gate of Fort Hood. He told authorities he planned to construct two bombs in the motel room using gunpowder and shrapnel packed into pressure cookers and then detonate the explosives at a restaurant frequented by soldiers, court documents released Friday said.

Abdo, who had requested conscientious objector status because his Muslim beliefs prevented him from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, refused to stand up during Friday’s hearing when everyone in the court was asked to rise for the judge.

As he was being led out of the courtroom, he yelled, “Iraq 2006” and the name of the 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered in 2006 by a U.S. soldier. He then shouted: “Nidal Hasan Fort Hood 2009.”

Hasan, an Army major and psychiatrist, is charged in the 2009 deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation.

Judge: Time to unseal Nixon’s Watergate testimony

WASHINGTON — Thirty-six years after Richard Nixon testified to a grand jury about the Watergate break-in that drove him from office, a federal judge on Friday ordered the secret transcript made public.

But the 297 pages of testimony won’t be available immediately, because the government gets time to decide whether to appeal.

The Obama administration opposed the transcript’s release, chiefly to protect the privacy of people discussed during the ex-president’s testimony who are still alive.

Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with historians who sued for release of the documents that the historical significance outweighs arguments for secrecy, because the investigations are long over and Nixon has been dead 17 years.

Nixon was interviewed behind closed doors near his California home for 11 hours over two days in June 1975, 10 months after resigning the presidency. Two grand jurors were flown in and the transcript was read to the rest of the panel sitting back in Washington. It was the first time a former U.S. president testified before a grand jury — Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to do so during the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

At the time of his testimony, Nixon could not be prosecuted for conduct related to Watergate because he had been pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Ten days after Nixon testified, the grand jury was dismissed without making any indictments based on what he told them.

Somali: More aid needed; Troops gain new ground

MOGADISHU, Somalia — African Union and Somali forces traded barrages of fire at a new front line in Mogadishu on Friday, as AU forces gained new territory. The country’s president appealed for more international aid, saying the government can’t feed all the overwhelming number of Somalis suffering from famine.

The African Union military force fears that al-Shabab militants may try to attack the camps that now house tens of thousands of famine refugees in the Somali capital, disrupting the distribution of food aid. A new offensive to push the militant front line farther back from the camps began Thursday.

The African Union and Somali troops have been fighting a concerted offensive against al-Shabab all year, and have gained a large swath of new territory in Mogadishu. But the fight took on a new importance in recent days as tens of thousands of famine refugees began squatting in squalid, hunger-filled refugee camps here.

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