Sunday, September 26, 2004

Ashcroft: 0 for 5,000

By David Cole,
The Nation.
September 22, 2004.
Reproduced at Alternet


Taking Liberties

With the latest Detroit convictions overturned, Ashcroft has not convicted a single person of terrorism since 9/11.

On Sept. 2 a federal judge in Detroit threw out the only jury conviction the Justice Department has obtained on a terrorism charge since 9/11. In October 2001, shortly after the men were initially arrested, Attorney General John Ashcroft heralded the case in a national press conference as evidence of the success of his anti-terror campaign. The indictment alleged that the defendants were associated with al Qaeda and planning terrorist attacks. But Ashcroft held no news conference in September when the case was dismissed, nor did he offer any apologies to the defendants who had spent nearly three years in jail. That wouldn't be good for his boss' campaign, which rests on the "war on terrorism." Here, as in Iraq, Bush's war is not going as well as he pretends.

The Detroit case was extremely weak from the outset. The government could never specify exactly what terrorist activity was allegedly being planned and never offered any evidence linking the defendants to al Qaeda. Its case consisted almost entirely of a pair of sketches and a videotape, described by an FBI agent as "casing materials" for a terrorist plot, and the testimony of a witness of highly dubious reliability seeking a generous plea deal. It now turns out that the prosecution failed to disclose to the defense evidence that other government experts did not consider the sketches and videotape to be terrorist casing materials at all and that the government's key witness had admitted to lying.

Until that reversal, the Detroit case had marked the only terrorist conviction obtained from the Justice Department's detention of more than 5,000 foreign nationals in anti-terrorism sweeps since 9/11. So Ashcroft's record is 0 for 5,000.

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