Saudi government official at heart of eavesdropping case
By PAUL ELIAS, The Associated Press
Current rank: # 388 of 5,897
SAN FRANCISCO -
Soliman al-Buthi is a prominent religious leader in Saudi Arabia, a father of three, and a ranking government official.
He's also a terrorist, according to the United States and United Nations.
His lawyers argue that much of the evidence against al-Buthi was misinterpreted by National Security Agency officials who eavesdropped on conversations between al-Buthi and his American attorneys. Those intercepted communications are at the heart of a constitutional challenge to the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which will be heard Wednesday by a federal appeals court in San Francisco.
Among the dozens of lawsuits alleging civil right violations by the secret surveillance program, legal experts say the one involving the Oregon charity al-Buthi controlled has the best shot of succeeding. That's because al-Buthi and his lawyers claim to have proof their communications were monitored: a top-secret NSA call log accidentally turned over to the defense team by government officials.
Al-Buthi will not attend Wednesday's hearing at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because he remains a fugitive in this country. He's also listed on an Interpol "no fly" list and is subject to arrest and deportation to the United States if he steps outside Saudi Arabia, which does not extradite its citizens.
Despite all this, he was recently promoted by the Saudi government to health department director in charge of inspecting restaurants and drafting plans to combat the spread of bird flu.
"I am a very respected person in Riyadh," al-Buthi said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press, referring to Saudi Arabia's most populous city and his hometown.