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Thursday, March 16, 2006
The Competenence Issue and the Domestic Side of the WoT
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:10 pm

There are a variety of reasons why the Bush administration, despite a deep well of goodwill and high expectations post-9/11, is inspiring doubts from the population.

Specifically in the domestic side of the war on terror, the LAT notes that the Moussaoiui case, where prosecutorial misconduct will affect his sentence, is hardly the only example of administration failing in the area of the prosecution of terrorists: Moussaoui Case Is Latest Misstep in Prosecutions.

Indeed, the Moussaoui case may be the least of the mistakes, as he will get life in prison despite the attempt by a prosecutor to coach seven TSA witnesses.

Here are some of the others.

  • Jose Padilla:
    Gen. John Ashcroft announced in 2002 that Jose Padilla, a Bronx-born Muslim, had been arrested on suspicion of “exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.”

    Padilla was held nearly four years in a military brig without being charged. This year, as his lawyers appealed his case to the Supreme Court, the administration indicted him in Miami on charges of conspiring to aid terrorists abroad. There was no mention of a “dirty bomb.”

  • Brandon Mayfield:
    n May 2004, the FBI arrested Brandon Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer and Muslim convert, saying that his fingerprint was on a bag containing detonators and explosives linked to the Madrid train bombings that had killed 191 people two months before. The former Army officer was held as a material witness even though officials in Spain considered the fingerprint evidence inconclusive.

    Mayfield was freed after almost three weeks in custody and received an apology from the FBI, which blamed the misidentification on a substandard digital image from Spanish authorities.

    The Mayfield case is an especially egregious error, as the man’s picture was shown around the world as a potential al Qaeda member. It is hard to erase that. Further, three week is jail, when one is innocent, is a horrible injustice-imagine how disruptive that would be to your life, not to mention having to actually be in jail.

  • Some others:
    • A computer science student in Idaho was accused of aiding terrorists when he designed a website that included information on terrorists in Chechnya and Israel. A jury in Boise acquitted Sami Omar Al-Hussayen of the charges in June 2004.

    • A Florida college professor was indicted on charges of supporting terrorists by promoting the cause of Palestinian groups. A jury in Tampa acquitted Sami Al-Arian in December.

    • Two Detroit men arrested a week after the Sept. 11 attacks were believed to be plotting a terrorist incident, in part based on sketches found in their apartment. A judge overturned the convictions of Karim Koubriti and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi after he learned that the prosecutor’s key witness had admitted lying to the FBI, a fact the prosecutor had kept hidden.

The only success that comes to mind is that of the Lackawanna Six.

The CSM also notes:

Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at the Guantánamo prison camp where many terrorist detainees are held, was arrested and accused of espionage. writes that, “When returning from duty at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, he was arrested on September 10, 2003, in Jacksonville, Florida and charged with five offenses: sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage, and failure to obey a general order. He was then transferred to a United States Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.” CNN reported at the time that he might also be charged with treason.

The military never said what country Yee was supposed to have been spying for. He was held for 76 days in detention. All court-martial charges against him were “quietly” dropped in March 2004. The US military has never offered an explanation for its actions, or an apology to Yee.


The LA Weekly reported on March 1 that there are now doubts about the FBI case against a father and son accused of terrorism in Lodi, Calif. That case went to trial in February. The Los Angeles Times also reported Wednesday “terrorism experts and even federal officials” are expressing serious doubts about the testimony from the government’s key informant in the case, who said he saw Al Qaeda’s number two, Ayman Zawahiri, in 1999 in Lodi. Government sources say that while Zawahiri was in the US in the early 90s, he had not returned to the US since 1995 at the latest.

The piece also notes the following stats:

The Bush administration says that more than 400 people have been charged with terrorism-related crimes and that 228 have been convicted. But LA Weekly points out that “the vast majority of these cases have involved minor crimes not directly related to terrorism, such as immigration violations.” In June 2005, The Washington Post looked at 361 “terrorism-related” cases, as identified by the Justice Department, and found that only 39 convictions for crimes related to national security or terrorism.

In general, this an unimpressive record, and also one brings into question precisely how concerned we should be about domestic terror cells and/or the actual ability of the federal government to catch them if they are out there.

Another thought: the administration has argued that it needs expanded powers via the USA PATRIOT Act, and the NSA wiretapping program, yet we haven’t really caught anybody of great significance. Indeed, the most significant domestic catch to date is Moussaoui, who was caught pre-9/11.

Of course, the 9/11 hijackers themselves weren’t caught-and obviously we want to caught any such future group. I am not saying that there is no potential threat, but there are significant question here. And, of course, I have long thought and argued that the best way to ward out further domestic terrorism is the disruption of terror networks abroad. I fear that, on balance, once they are in the US, catching them is a difficult proposition.

Update: Some minor editing was done several hours after the original post to correct a few typos/errors.

Filed under: US Politics, War on Terror, Criminal Justice | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
His Evil Twin?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

Here’s a twist in the Claude Allen story (the former adviser to Bush who is accused of shoplifting): he has an identical twin brother who has financial problems.

See both the story linked above and the following from Joshua Micah Marshall.

Bizarre, in any event.

Filed under: US Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Moussaoui Trial Problems
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:12 am

Via the NYYT: Judge Calls Halt to Penalty Phase of Terror Trial

An angry federal judge delayed the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on Monday and said she was considering ending the prosecution’s bid to have him executed after the disclosure that a government lawyer had improperly coached some witnesses.

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said she had just learned from prosecutors that a lawyer for the Transportation Security Administration gave portions of last week’s trial proceedings to seven witnesses who have yet to testify. In e-mail messages, the lawyer also seemed to tell some of the witnesses how they should testify to bolster the prosecution’s argument that Mr. Moussaoui bore some responsibility for the deaths caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen a more egregious violation of the rule about witnesses,” Judge Brinkema said before sending the jury home for two days. She said that the actions of the government lawyer, identified in court papers as Carla J. Martin, would make it “very difficult for this case to go forward.”

The the witness tampering was pretty extensive:

According to the filings, Ms. Martin sent e-mail messages to the seven witnesses, all current or former government aviation officials. In most of her messages, Ms. Martin included the transcript of the opening trial statements along with her criticism that prosecutors had, in her view, “created a credibility gap that the defense can drive a truck through.”

And, of course, doing it via e-mail wasn’t too bright.

The question that immediately comes to my mind is how much of this was stupidity and how much of this was Martin feeling either justified in her actions because of Moussaui was a terrorist, and/or general stress over a need to get a conviction in this case.

I fear that it was the because “he was a terrorist” explanation, but I will grant that I have no evidence to that fact, just concern.

Filed under: War on Terror, Criminal Justice | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, March 13, 2006
Milosevic Took the Wrong Drugs
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:52 am

Via Reuters: Milosevic blood showed he took wrong drugs

Groningen University toxicologist Donald Uges told Reuters tests he conducted two weeks ago on Milosevic’s blood showed traces of rifampicin — a drug against leprosy and tuberculosis that would have made other medicines ineffective.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Filed under: Global Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Milosevic’s Death Update
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:41 pm

Via the BBC: Milosevic died of heart failure

Filed under: Global Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Milosevic Dies in Cell
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:03 am

Via Reuters: Milosevic dies in jail: UN tribunal

“Milosevic was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the
United Nations detention unit,” the tribunal said in a statement.

“The guard immediately alerted the detention unit officer in command and the medical officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milosevic was dead.”

So, it ends up he got life in prison, despite the fact that the trial appeared to have no end in sight.

Filed under: Global Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, March 10, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:53 pm

Via the AP: Drinking May Have Fueled Ala. Church Fires

Filed under: Alabama Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Plea Bargain in Cali Cartel Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:06 pm

William Rodríguez Abadía, the son of Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, one of the two main leaders of the Cali Cartel, has accepted a plea bargain in a Miami court, and will testify against his father, and his uncle, Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela.

It should make for some intriguing testimony.

Rodríguez Abadía took over the operation of the Cali Cartel in 1995 when the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers were arrested.

Source: El Tiempo: William Rodríguez Abadía declarará contra su padre y su tío, jefes del cartel de Cali

Wednesday, March 8, 2006
Arrests Made in Alabama Church Fires
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:51 am

Via Reuters: Two arrested in Alabama church fires

Two men were arrested in connection with a spate of fires that damaged or destroyed at least 10 Alabama churches and a third suspect was being sought, investigators said on Wednesday.


The pastor at one of the destroyed churches said investigators notified him of the arrests and described the suspects as white men from the Birmingham area, including a 19-year-old.

Update: Make that three:

Two of the suspects are Ben Moseley and Russell Debusk, both 19 and students at Birmingham Southern College, said Richard Montgomery, Alabama’s state fire marshal.

The third suspect is Matthew Lee Cloyd, a 20-year-old student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said federal law enforcement sources.

Filed under: Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Saturday, March 4, 2006
Criminal Investigation Ordered in Tillman Death
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:39 pm

Via CNN: Tillman friendly fire case to get criminal probe

The U.S. Defense Department inspector general has directed the Army to open a criminal investigation into the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman, CNN learned on Saturday.

We have long known that Tillman was almost certainly killed by friendly fire. That there might be criminality involved is both astonishing and mysterious.

Filed under: US Politics, Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Things that Make you Ask: Why?!?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:44 pm

Via the AP: Teacher Accused of Sex With Student

A former fifth-grade teacher accused of having sex with her 11-year-old student

My. Word.

Filed under: Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Ricin Found at University of Texas Dorm
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:35 pm

Via the Dallas Morning News: Ricin found in UT dorm

A substance found by a University of Texas student at a dorm has tested positive for ricin, a potentially deadly poison, officials said.

Two students were receiving medical attention for potential exposure, although neither has exhibited symptoms, said Dr. Theresa Spalding of UT Student Health Services.

The chunky powder was found by one of them at the Moore-Hill dormitory Thursday afternoon and reported to university police. Preliminary tests came back positive for ricin Friday.


It is unclear if this is one of those “preliminary tests” that often end up being wrong, or if the test is conclusive.

From a local TV station:

A student and her roommate at the University of Texas are being treated for potential exposure to ricin.

One of the girls found a substance that’s tested positive for the potentially deadly poison in a roll of quarters she was using to do her laundry at her dorm. Officials said the quarters had been in the students’ dorm room for several months.

She told university police that she found the chunky powder on Thursday, and preliminary tests for ricin returned positive Friday.

A doctor at the university says neither person being treated has shown symptoms, which can include anything from difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea and sweating to severe vomiting and dehydration.

Filed under: Criminal Justice | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
More Church Fires in Alabama
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:52 pm

Via the AFP: Four more Alabama churches burned.

Filed under: Criminal Justice, Religion | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, February 3, 2006
Sheer Genius
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:17 pm

Via the Orlando Sentinel, Police: Man offered crack to officer in uniform

The Orlando man is accused of offering to sell crack cocaine to a uniform Orange County deputy sitting in a marked patrol car.

Garibay, 34, walked up to Deputy Ed Johnson at a Mobil gas station on Old Winter Garden Road and asked him if he was straight, according to arrest records.

“Do you know what that means,” Garibay asked when the deputy responded that he is straight. “No. It means do you want to buy some cocaine.”

Thinking the tall, 340-pound man was joking, Johnson said, yes, he wanted to buy some dope. That’s when Garibay pulled out a plastic bag containing “several pieces of flat white rocks substances” and asked for cash, records show.

Sometimes story defy commentary.

Filed under: War on Drugs, Criminal Justice | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Church Fires in Alabama
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:41 am

A student just alerted me to the following:

Via the Birmingham News:
Arson suspected in six church fires

Fires damaged or destroyed six rural Alabama churches late Thursday or early this morning, and investigators suspect arson in five of them.

Five of the churches were in Bibb County and one church was under construction in nearby Chilton County. Of the five churches damaged in Bibb County, three were completely destroyed by fire. Two were predominantly white churches, one was a black Baptist church.

Sounds like a nutcase on the loose in Bibb County.

The map below will give those not familiar with Alabama geography a rough idea of where Bibb County is (it is sort of between Montgomery and Birmingham). Chilton County is the southeast neighbor Bibb County.

From the AP:

The fires were set “as fast as they could drive from one location to the next,” said Chief Deputy Kenneth Weems.

Filed under: Criminal Justice, Religion | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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