US Govt. Loses Key Court Test Of Patriot Act
Government Loses Key Court Test Of Patriot Act
The independent Middle East News Service
[This is a major story. In many respects it is the last 48 hours most important international news story. As the pre-trial Haaretz article below indicated a success for the government would have had implication for the act and would have probably resulted in tis extension. Sooner later it would have impact in Australia as well as our laws are often modelled on the US equivalent.
As usual, the Christian Science Monitor does a wonderful job. However, it does miss the Israeli angle. This is most important extract from Haaretz:
‘The Israeli aspect of the trial is being played down at the moment. As of press time for this article, the two sides had not been asked to reveal their witness lists and to make available all their investigative material to the other side - so it is difficult to estimate how much weight Israel will have in the trial. However, irrespective of the court deliberations, Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an "American-Israeli co-production."
‘The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material, transmitted information about conversations and correspondence and generally connected the dots between Florida, Damascus and Ramallah. During the investigation, delegations of FBI agents visited Israel to collect testimonies about terrorist attacks for which Islamic Jihad was responsible and about the connection of the Jihad people in the U.S. to the attacks. Concurrently, Israel conveyed continual information that helped consolidate the case against Arian and his codefendants.’
Haaretz also highlighted the impact of a US court loss:
‘If the four are indicted they face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If they are acquitted, someone in the U.S. Justice Department will have to familiarize himself with the declaration "Allahu akbar."’
Note: Al-Arian has been acquitted of the terrorism charges. He is however, no saint. I find his attitude in celebrating the killing of innocent Israeli civilians to be totally objectionable. He is no friend of peace. Nor is that attitude likely to help the Palestinians.
The full Haaretz feature is over 5,000 words. The disjointed excerpts below are about a fifth of the original.
- Sol Salbe.]
loses key court test of Patriot Act
Acquittal, hung jury for Florida professor accused of terrorism called 'serious setback' for Justice Department.
By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
December 7, 2005 at 11:00 a.m.
Two years ago, when former Florida professor Sami al-Arian was charged with being part of a Tampa, Fla., terrorist cell that helped fund attacks against Israel, John Ashcroft, then-Attorney General, hailed it as "a milestone in the war on terror." The Tampa Tribune writes that when a jury in Tampa yesterday acquitted Mr. Arian of eight of 17 charges against him, including the major charges of conspiring to commit murder abroad, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, and deadlocked on the other nine charges, the Justice Department's case "crumbled" right before their eyes.
The Tribune reports that the verdicts "mark a stunning defeat for federal prosecutors." Along with Arian, his codefendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Ballut were acquitted on all counts. Hatim Fariz was acquitted on the counts on which jurors could reach a verdict.
"This ranks as one of the most significant defeats for the US government, for the Justice Department since 9/11," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University Law School who has represented other terrorism defendants. "The Justice Department spent copious amounts of money and time to make the case against Al-Arian."
Jihad on trial
By Nathan Guttman (Washington) and Yossi Melman
Last update - 17:00 22/05/2005
Never before has there been an airlift like this. Ahead of the June 6 opening of the most important trial the United States has conducted since launching its global war on terrorism, the U.S. prosecution plans to fly, at its expense, about 100 witnesses from Israel to a district court in Tampa, Florida. They include victims of terrorist attacks, bereaved families, police and other investigators who took testimony at the sites of the attacks and Zaka (rescue and recovery) personnel who collected body parts and dealt with the dead. Never before in the history of the American judicial system have so many foreign nationals been flown to the U.S. to testify at a trial.
And the paperwork is equally unprecedented. Many thousands of Hebrew-language documents await the opening of the deliberations before U.S. District Judge James Moody. In the court transcripts they are known as "the Israeli documents" or "the Israeli material" - terms that refer not only to thousands of pages of text dealing with the terrorist attacks but also to 17 DVDs containing Israeli television reports about a series of terrorist attacks in Israel in the past decade; six CDs of photographs from the scenes of the attacks; 12 video cassettes of criminal-identification investigators from the attack sites; press clippings in Arabic and photographs of bombs and other explosive devices. Just the list of the files of "Israeli material" covers no fewer than 57 pages and includes transcripts of hundreds of telephone calls that were tapped by Israeli intelligence and handed over to the United States.
Arian's supporters say this is a classic case of political persecution: a public leader of Arab-Americans is arrested, imprisoned and placed on trial because of his opinions, not his actions. The prosecution, though, claims that there are two Arians: the open person, who carried out legitimate public activity, and the covert person, who sent faxes to terrorists and sent money to the families of suicide bombers.
`An American-Israeli co-production'
The Israeli aspect of the trial is being played down at the moment. As of press time for this article, the two sides had not been asked to reveal their witness lists and to make available all their investigative material to the other side - so it is difficult to estimate how much weight Israel will have in the trial. However, irrespective of the court deliberations, Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an "American-Israeli co-production."
The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material, transmitted information about conversations and correspondence and generally connected the dots between Florida, Damascus and Ramallah. During the investigation, delegations of FBI agents visited Israel to collect testimonies about terrorist attacks for which Islamic Jihad was responsible and about the connection of the Jihad people in the U.S. to the attacks. Concurrently, Israel conveyed continual information that helped consolidate the case against Arian and his codefendants.
If the four are indicted they face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If they are acquitted, someone in the U.S. Justice Department will have to familiarize himself with the declaration "Allahu akbar."
Arian's behavior is a crucial element in the indictment. For example, the prosecution charges that on the day after the Islamic Jihad terrorist attack at Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip in November 1994, in which three Israelis were killed and 11 wounded, Arian sent a fax declaring he was proud of the attack, asking Allah to bless Islamic Jihad and the shaheeds (martyrs for the cause) and urging the organization's activists to be cautious now. The next day, according to the prosecution, an official fax of the organization claiming credit for the attack arrived at his Florida office. The indictment states that Arian forwarded the fax to others, whose names are classified.
Arian's next run-in with the university authorities did not occur until after the events of September 11, 2001, when he got into a boisterous argument with Bill O'Reilly, the conservative presenter on Fox News. Senior officials of the university, with the active encouragement of the Jewish community, called for disciplinary measures to be taken against Arian, who among other statements on the program defended his calls of "Death to Israel." Within two months he was suspended and subsequently fired, on the grounds that he had failed to state in the interview that his comments reflected only his own views and not those of the university.
Despite the aggressive posture adopted by the university administration, the central institutions of the academic faculty supported their ousted colleague - support which did not flag even after the filing of the indictment against him. They repeatedly cite a report in Haaretz about two years ago, according to which Israel was among the bodies that persuaded the university to dismiss Arian, as proof that Arian is being systematically persecuted because of his outspoken political position against Israel.
The defense card
The indictment against those suspected of aiding Islamic Jihad in the United States is not only the most important American case in the struggle against international terrorism; it is also the most significant test case of the Patriot Act, that collection of regulations which was passed hastily after September 11 and which greatly expanded the powers of surveillance, wiretapping and transfer of information by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies in the United States.
If the Patriot Act did not exist, Arian would not have been indicted. In pre-9/11 America, information gleaned from surveillance and wiretapping could not be transferred between federal agencies. For example, if the FBI conducted a terrorist investigation during which the phone of a suspect was tapped, the information obtained from that operation remained in the relevant FBI department and could not be used to support other accusations against the person involved. Now the gates have been opened (not to say kicked in), and information that was collected by various agencies against Arian and the others was used in putting together the criminal indictment. The Justice Department views the Arian case as the first major success of the Patriot Act, and if the case ends in a conviction, the new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, will be able to hold it up with pride to Congress, which is asked to extend the act again and again.
Pappe: "I will never defend suicide bombers. I have gone through enough character assassination, so there is no need to add more incitement against me. I have known Sami al-Arian for a few years and in my opinion the accusations against him are wrong. I am not impressed by the American prosecution. Even though we have disagreements, I maintain that this is a political trial. There is a very large distance between expressing a political opinion and supporting terrorism."
[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]