Many elements of post-9/11 law enforcement are supposed to be justified by a
real, serious, ongoing threat of further domestic terror assaults. Without
that threat, the ways 9/11 supposedly had to change law enforcement become
meaningless - or sinister. So it pays, five years down the line, to recall
some of the highlights of federal arrests and prosecutions of what were
generally announced as domestic terror cells - organized groups in the U.S.
who posed a serious, organized threat of committing terrorist acts, often in
cahoots with overseas foes.
* The first big post-9/11 terror cell arrest, a mere week after the strike,
was in Detroit. And it even ended up in two convictions for terror-related
conspiracy. However, the case was rife with prosecutorial misconduct, was
lame to begin with (despite assurances we were dealing with a "sleeper
operational combat cell") and ended with the convictions overturned and the
prosecutors indicted for lying to the jury in the case. The judge who
overturned the two terror conspiracy convictions (out of four accused - a
third got convicted on document fraud charges) said, "The prosecution
materially misled the court, the jury and the defense as to the nature,
character and complexion of critical evidence that provided important
foundations for the prosecution's case," including identifying doodles as
sketches of targeted planes and military bases. To boot, the main
prosecution witness was a professional con man, and two witnesses who might
have cast doubt on the government's case were deported before trial.
* One actual success, at least in terms of arrests and convictions that have
not yet been overturned, was the takedown of the Lackawanna 6, a bunch of
Buffalo-based Muslims. What they are guilty of is having attended an al
Qaeda training camp, prior to 9/11. What they don't appear to be guilty of,
by any evidence the government was able to present, was planning any
terrorist act in the United States, . . .
* Then there was the Lodi terror cell - a father and son team, . . . An
experienced FBI agent who was kept from testifying on their behalf called
the interrogations at the heart of this case "the sorriest interrogation,
the sorriest confession, I've ever seen."
* The March 2004 conviction of three Muslims in Virginia (part of an initial
group of 11, many of whom pled out to lesser charges) for playing paintball
in the woods - hyped by prosecutors as paramilitary training for jihad when
combined with their connection with a Kashmiri separatist group that was
not, at the time of their possible attendance at one of their training
camps, even on the U.S. list of official terror groups (though it is now).
Again, no convincing evidence of any specific plans to commit mayhem in
America, as even the FBI admitted - saying the arrests were more
"preemption" - a rather scary ground to criminalize playing paintball and
supporting a foreign political cause. . . .
[Brian Doherty is a senior editor of Reason and author of This Is Burning
Man (Little, Brown), just out in paperback. His book on the history of the
American libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism, will be out early
next year from PublicAffairs.]
John Mueller, "Overblown:
How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them," Free Press (November 14, 2006)
VIDEO: I am indebted to David Swanson, press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's
2004 presidential campaign, who has blogged about the dubious 96 words in
Mr. Bush's address this year and who has concluded that of the four
counter-terror claims the president made, he went 0-for-4.--Keith Olbermann,
"President claimed to
stop four terror plots, but where is the evidence?," MSNBC.com,
January 30, 2007
[Prosecutors, who long ago dropped the "dirty bomb" claim that made Padilla
infamous, had sought life sentences for Padilla and two co-defendants, but a
federal judge said authorities never even proved Padilla was a
terrorist.--Curt Anderson, "17 Years for Ex-'dirty Bomb'
Suspect," Associated Press, January 22, 2008]
[ . . . compare the posture of the American justice system to those in other
countries with regard to how victims of illegal War on Terror policies have
been treated.--Glenn Greenwald, "U.S. Justice v.
the world," uruknet.info, February 18, 2011]