The six Iraqis being held in a minimum-security federal lock-up near Los Angeles, say it might as well be death row. The Immigration and Naturalization Service says it has secret information these men are a national security risk and has ordered them deported. CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports for Eye On America.
They say if they are deported back to Iraq, it would mean immediate execution, certain death.
Delivery into the brutal hands of Saddam Hussein some might wish on America's worst enemies, but these men insist they are anything but. They all were part of the CIA-backed Iraqi opposition, fighting to topple Saddam, risking their lives they say. Indeed, Safa Al-Batat is lucky to be alive.
Safa Al-Batat said, "I was subjected to three assassination attempts on the hands of Iraqi agents."
When the opposition collapsed two years ago, they joined sixty-five hundred others evacuated first to Guam, then brought to the U.S. The families of the six men were granted asylum, while they were slapped in jail. The INS says it uncovered classified information they may be double agents.
Paul Virtue, General Counsel of INS said, "We are confident of the evidence that we have that ah, that these gentlemen are not who they claim to be, or, or have some allegiances that present some concerns for the United States."
Warren Marick was senior CIA officer in northern Iraq at the time. He knew two of the men personally and says the INS is dead wrong.
"The people who were interviewing these Iraqis just were out of their depth in terms of technical knowledge and accepted things from ...and accepted accusations that were just baseless,"Marick said.
At their deportation hearing, the Iraqis never got to face their accusers, never got to hear the charges against them. It may sound like some kind of cruel joke, but it is all perfectly legal in immigration cases.
Citing national security, the INS even refused to show secret evidence to the Iraqis' attorneys. And one of them, former CIA director James Woolsey, still has the highest security clearance.
Woolsey said, "This procedure of the immigration service is far more appropriate to Iraq than it is to the United States. These cases are fundamentally at odds with everything the United States stands for."
Such criticism prompted the INS recently to declassify some of the evidence. In hundreds of pages there was nothing solid against the Iraqis.
Still, the INS says given the current climate of terror, the U.S. can't be too safe.
Paul Virtue of the INS said, "We have to be vigilant, particularly in these times, about who we admit to the United States."
Dr. Ali Yassin Mohammed Karin said, "This, I woud expect from Saddam Hussein himself, but from the United States, no."
The Iraqis are appealing their deportation, but all of this has soured them on America. Most say even if they're ultimately released, they plan immediately to move to another country.
Reported by Bill Whitaker
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved