Monday, September 28, 2009

Some "Terra"-ble Bushco Style "Justice"

(And I also posted here.)

This news story tells us the following…

WASHINGTON -- The government is prosecuting only about one out of four of those charged in connection with terrorism, according to a study that suggests federal agencies don't agree on who is a terrorist. People charged with terrorism often go free because the evidence wasn't strong enough to bring them to trial, says the study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research group at Syracuse University.

Since 2002, the percentage of terrorism cases that federal prosecutors declined to pursue has grown from 31 percent to 73 percent, the TRAC study found.

Nearly 6,000 of the close to 8,900 cases referred for prosecution by federal investigators between 2004 and 2008 were closed without action. Of the remaining cases, 2,302 people were convicted and 1,245 went to prison, the study found, and just 52 were sentenced to 20 years or more.
And by the way, in case anyone is keen to do the “ciphering” on this one, I’ll save you the trouble and tell you that 2,302 convictions divided by 8,900 cases gives you a conviction rate of barely 26 percent.

How exactly could this have happened under Bushco? I think this gives us more than a bit of a hint…

The Justice Department admitted yesterday it botched a high-profile terrorism prosecution in Detroit, the latest in a string of setbacks in post-Sept. 11 terrorism investigations.

In an unusually self-critical filing, Justice Department attorneys asked a judge to throw out the June 2003 convictions of three men in the so-called "Detroit sleeper cell The Detroit Sleeper Cell is a group of men of Middle-Eastern descent who the United States Department of Justice believed were plotting an attack on Disneyland. The members of the alleged cell were Farouk Ali-Haimoud, Ahmed Hannan, Karim Koubriti, and Abdel Ilah Elmardoudi. " and to permit a new trial on lesser, nonterrorism-related charges.

The department's retreat came in the midst of an all-out push by Republicans at their convention in New York New York, this week to portray President Bush as an unflinching and successful leader in the war on terror.

The 60-page filing is filled with blunt language more common to an attack on an opponent's case.

"In its best light, the record would show that the prosecution committed a pattern of mistakes and oversights that deprived the defendants of discoverable evidence ... and created a record filled with misleading inferences that such material did not exist," it states.
And brings us another reminder (here – yep, “water wet, sky blue” time, I know)…

The Bush administration brought the same mentality to locking up suspects after 9/11 that the Soviet Union used for the potato harvest from collective farms. It didn’t matter how many bushels of potatoes were rotten, or how many bushels were lost or pilfered along the way, or how many bushels never really existed except in the minds of the commissars who burnished the official reports. All that mattered was the total number. In the same way, the success of the immediate federal response to 9/11 was gauged largely by the number of people rounded up, regardless of their guilt or innocence.
One such case of a bungled arrest involved an Oregon lawyer named Brandon Mayfield, held for his alleged involvement in the March 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured 2,000 (James Bovard provides the details here in his second of two articles)…

Though the FBI never possessed anything on Mayfield aside from a misidentified fingerprint, it did not hesitate to cast him in sinister colors. The FBI informed a federal judge: “It is believed that Mayfield may have traveled under a false or fictitious name.” But Mayfield, whose passport expired the previous year, insisted he had not left the country. The FBI apparently never bothered to check whether Mayfield had been absent from the U.S. before making one of the most high-profile terrorism arrests of the year.

On May 20, after Spanish authorities announced that they had found a clean match with the fingerprint, the Justice Department acquiesced to Mayfield’s release. A few weeks later, Attorney General Ashcroft informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that his case vindicated the American system of justice: “As a matter of fact, the pride of our system is that people are found innocent because we adjudicate these things.” But there was effectively no adjudication in this case because Mayfield was classified as a “material witness”— which meant that the feds could hold him as long as they chose, or at least until his detention became too embarrassing. Ashcroft also testified, “When we learned that the reservations of the Spanish were so substantial, we went to the court, asked for the release of Mr. Mayfield.” In reality, the Justice Department did not acquiesce until the Spanish government announced that they had arrested the Algerian whose fingerprint matched that on the bag.
I don’t think we should despair completely, though; this story tells us that Attorney General Eric Holder has praised the Justice Department’s use of terrorism laws to disrupt the illegal distribution of human growth hormone (hGH…sooo, will we have better luck detecting those trying to kill us by the their enlarged neck and head sizes? Does this mean there’s a lucrative new intelligence consulting industry awaiting former major league baseball players?).

However, given our prior regime’s previously stated conviction rate, I’d be more concerned about those “bad apples” out there who beat their rap due to Bushco bungling (as well as those radicalized by the process itself) than I’ll ever be about, say, anyone at Guantanamo who may yet end up at one of our supermax prisons, as noted here.

No comments: