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Government by Google

16 August 2006

Government by Google

Green MP Keith Locke is worried about "government by Google" in the case of Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali, the Yemeni flying student deported from New Zealand on May 30 because of his alleged links with September 11 bombers.

"Immigration Minister David Cunliffe had indicated in his reply to my June 29 written question that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade made enquiries as to Mr Ali's whereabouts and access to his family. Yesterday, nearly seven weeks later, I found out in a letter from Mr Cunliffe that no information has come back through Ministry channels. Mr Cunliffe noted however, "that a recent report on a CBS News website indicates that Mr Ali has recently been released.'

"This information seemed wrong, from the outset. I have been in touch with Rayed's family and they hadn't mentioned his release. I emailed Rayed's brother, and this morning received back a reply that the CBS report was 'not true' and that he had spoken to their mother the previous night and that the family was going to visit Rayed in prison today. The family are allowed one fortnightly visit, and a phone call each alternate week.

"Even worse, much of the New Zealand government's case against Rayed Ali seems to have been constructed on misleading 'googled' information. A Google search brings up the 9/11 Commission report, with a line accusing Mr Ali of giving 'extremist speeches' in a Phoenix mosque. This is included in New Zealand Immigration's dossier against Mr Ali and doesn't seem to have been checked - although the New Zealand media have, subsequently, discredited the accusation.

"The dossier also contained the easily googleable fact that September 11 bomber Hani Hanjour (briefly) flatted with Rayed Ali - but New Zealand Immigration seems to have made no attempt to discover Mr Ali's explanation or why the FBI, after interviewing him, was happy to let him stay in the United States.

"The only non-googleable "fact" in the dossier was an accusation from a 'not yet discloseable source' of a 'direct association' between Rayed Ali and September 11 bomber Nawaf al-Hamzi. Of course, this could be another intelligence agency making a 'google' mistake, because Rayed Ali had been met on his arrival in Florida in 1997 by a old school friend with a similar name, Bandar al-Hamzi, no relation to Nawaf.

"The intelligence services and MFAT got increased Budget funding. Yet when can we expect to see the New Zealand authorities resort to something more reliable than web surfing?

"The New Zealand government also has to take some responsibility for Mr Ali's continued detention is Saudi Arabia. Because he had been living freely in Saudi Arabia, working in the family clothing business, before he came to New Zealand and his highly tenuous links to September 11 were brought up once again."

ENDS


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