Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In the first major national security case of the Obama administration, lawyers representing the government took the exact same position as the Bush administration. Government attorneys asked a judge to throw out a torture case, citing the need to preserve state secrets. Some human rights activists now say they feel betrayed by an administration that had promised greater openness and transparency.
Friday, February 6, 2009
The 7th Circuit refused to overturn the conviction of a former spy for Saddam Hussein who came to the United States as an unwitting "sleeper agent" for the Iraqi Intelligence Service and obtained U.S. citizenship by lying on his application.
Sami Latchin actively served in the IIS from 1979 to 1993, and was selected as one of the sleeper agents in Hussein's plan to plant spies around the world to gain positions of influence, gather intelligence and influence policy in favor of Hussein's Ba'athist regime.
"All spy programs, of course, operate on deception - the spies pretend to be people they aren't," Judge Evans wrote. "But Saddam's plan took it to a whole new level - not even the spies would know they were part of the program until they were activated many years down the road."
Friday, January 30, 2009
From Law.com: "A military judge at Guantanamo on Thursday rejected a White House request to suspend a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, creating an unexpected challenge for the administration as it reviews how America puts suspected terrorists on trial.
The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said his decision was difficult but necessary to protect "the public interest in a speedy trial." The ruling came in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The bombing of the Navy destroyer in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 U.S. sailors.
It seemed to take the Pentagon and White House by surprise.
"We just learned of the ruling ... and we are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in the case," said White Press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that he doubted the decision would hamper the administration's ability to decide how to move forward from Guantanamo." Full Story from Law.com... [Michele Berry]
Thursday, January 22, 2009
NPR.org: On Day 2 of his presidency, Barack Obama signed executive orders "designed to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, prohibit extreme interrogation practices and revisit military tribunals for suspected terrorists.
'Shutting the detention facility is intended to show that U.S. foreign policy is in metamorphosis. The message that we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism' but will do so 'in a manner consistent with our values and our ideals," Obama said while signing the orders. Full story from NPR.org... [Michele Berry]
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Even before his adorable dance moves with First Lady Michelle (video here), President Obama's first move came in the criminal law arena-- an order via Defense Secretary Robert Gates to military prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals to request a 120 day stay in all pending cases. The stay will allow the Obama administration a chance to review all the pending cases. His order came just hours after his oath of office. Thus far proceedings are frozen in the case against Canadian Omar Khadr, who was captured at age 15 and is accused of murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan. A stay was also granted in the death penalty case against five prisoners accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks. More from CNN.com... [Michele Berry]
Seton Hall LawProf Mark Denbeaux, Iowa LawProf Tung Yin, and UC Davis LawProf Diane Amann comment on the dilemma the Obama administration faces as it sifts through the Guantanamo cases. A "charge or release" policy seems to be the consensus; there is also agreement that some prosecutions may not be possible due to evidence tainted by torture techniques. But Yin points out that it may be a bad move to release high profile detainees such as Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, who admitted to being the mastermind of the 911 attacks but who also was subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics. "In a regular criminal case we would say the government violated the constitutional rules so the remedy is to suppress the evidence. The government can't make its case without the suppressed evidence so the defendant has to be let go...I think there is going to be some discomfort level with simply releasing Khaled Shaikh Mohammed." Yin says the prospect of releasing so-called high value terror suspects may force the new administration to create a system of preventive incapacitation similar to Bush's enemy combatant detention.
But Amann warns that "it would be a mistake to continue to rely on a version of the Bush enemy combatant detention regime." "Are we going to depart from 200 years of legal tradition prohibiting this kind of detention [without charge] and craft an entirely new program" for the probable handful of detainees who pose a threat?
Denbeaux points out that releasing terror suspects could advance US intelligence. "Agents could be tasked to watch them, trace their movements overseas, and tap their phones. If former detainees seek to contact Al Qaeda, their movements and contacts could provide fresh intelligence on the terror group. To me, released detainees are a window into the world that is out there, and if we are not looking through that window it is a waste." More from the Christian Science Monitor... [Michele Berry]
Thursday, January 15, 2009
A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, issued a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a specific court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.
The court decision, made in August 2008 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, came in an unclassified, redacted form.
The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has the power to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping that may involve Americans.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Federal prosecutors are seeking yet another sentencing for would-be millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam — this time without credit for helping to convict a fellow terrorist.
Ressam was sentenced for the second time last week to 22 years in prison for plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the millennium. Prosecutors said at the time that the sentence wasn't long enough, and the guideline range is 65 years to life.
In a motion made public today, the U.S. Attorney's Office asked to withdraw a document prosecutors filed several years ago acknowledging that Ressam cooperated. They say that motion, which provided part of the basis for the lenient sentence, is no longer valid because Ressam told the judge last week he wanted to take back every statement he made to the government, including his testimony against a coconspirator.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Nov. 24 upheld the admission of statements elicited overseas by U.S. agents from suspects in the custody of a country that does not provide a right to counsel during interrogations. “[I]nsofar as Miranda might apply to interrogations conducted overseas, that decision is satisfied when a U.S. agent informs a foreign detainee of his rights under the U.S. Constitution when questioned overseas,” the court said (In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies (Fifth Amendment Challenges), 2d Cir., No. 01-1535-cr(L), 11/24/08).
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"Nope, it's all in my book," Kerik said when asked in 2002 if there was "anything embarrassing that he wouldn't want the public to know about." In "The Lost Son," Kerik admitted fathering a daughter while he was a soldier in Korea and said his mother, a prostitute, was murdered.
In a beefed-up indictment issued Tuesday, Manhattan federal prosecutors said Kerik should have owned up to his ties to a mob-linked contractor as well as his failure to pay taxes for a nanny he employed.
Monday, November 24, 2008
A federal appeals court in Manhattan upheld the convictions on Monday of three Al Qaeda operatives in a ruling that bolsters the government’s power to investigate terrorism by holding that a key Constitutional protection afforded to Americans does not apply overseas.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holds for the first time that government agents may obtain admissible evidence against United States citizens through warrantless searches abroad.
The searches must still be reasonable, as the Constitution requires, Judge José A. Cabranes wrote, adding that the government had met that standard in its search of the home and monitoring of the telephone of one defendant, Wadih El-Hage, a close aide to Osama bin Laden, who was a naturalized American citizen living in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The Fourth Amendment’s requirement of reasonableness — but not the Warrant Clause — applies to extraterritorial searches and seizures of U.S. citizens,” the judge wrote.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Detainees released from U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan live shattered lives as a result of U.S. policies in the war on terror, according to a new report by human rights experts at the University of California, Berkeley. The report, "Guantanamo and Its Aftermath: U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Detainees," based on a two-year study, reveals in graphic detail the cumulative effect of Bush Administration policies on the lives of 62 released detainees. Many of the prisoners were sold into captivity and subjected to brutal treatment in U.S. prison camps in Afghanistan. Once in Guantanamo, prisoners were denied access to civilian courts to challenge the legality of their detention. Almost two-thirds of the former detainees interviewed reported having psychological problems since leaving Guantanamo.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Hopes that Obama would move swiftly to dismantle the detention facility rose after the Associated Press reported today that his legal advisers were drafting plans to ship scores of inmates from the offshore prison to the mainland to stand trial in US courts.
Under plans drawn up by Obama's advisers, between 60 and 80 detainees would be put on trial in the US in a mix of civilian criminal courts and the court martial system. About 17 high-level detainees, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would also go on trial but before a new version of a national security court - not the Bush administration's much criticised military tribunals.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The Pentagon official in charge of prosecutions at Guantanamo on Tuesday dismissed war-charges against five detainees, the latest setback to the government’s military commission system.
The official, Susan J. Crawford, has broad power over the military commission tribunals, including the power to dismiss charges, but she does not have to provide public explanations for her decisions and did not on Tuesday.
But a statement from her office said the charges against the five were dismissed without prejudice, which means “the government can raise the charges again at a later time.”
After the decision was announced, Col. Lawrence J. Morris, the chief military prosecutor, said that supervising lawyers in his office had asked Ms. Crawford to withdraw the charges. He said all five would be resubmitted after a review of their files, which had been handled by a prosecutor who left the office after questioning the judicial fairness at Guantanamo.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.
Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.
The department started sending letters of notification Saturday to the activists, inviting them to review their files before they are purged from the databases, Sheridan said.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Finding that a Yemeni cleric and his assistant had been deprived of a fair trial because of errors by the presiding judge, a federal appeals panel in New York on Thursday overturned their convictions in a prominent terrorism case once hailed by the Bush administration as a significant blow to Al Qaeda.
The appeals court judges found that the defendants, Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad and his aide, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, did not receive a fair trial because the trial judge, Sterling Johnson Jr., allowed the jury to hear inflammatory testimony and other evidence that prejudiced the defendants’ case.
The appeals panel sent the case back to the lower court, Federal District Court in Brooklyn, but in a highly unusual step, directed that it be assigned to a different judge.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Signs of a terrorist? Or simply a passenger nervous about a cross-country flight?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
But the jury failed to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of a conspiracy to have suicide bombers detonate soft-drink bottles filled with liquid explosives aboard seven airliners headed for the United States and Canada.
The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counterterrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said that the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Police Department is working on a plan to track every vehicle that enters Manhattan to strengthen the city’s guard against a potential terror attack, the department’s chief spokesman said.
The proposal — called Operation Sentinel — relies on integrating layers of technologies, some that are still being perfected. It calls for photographing, and scanning the license plates of, cars and trucks at all bridges and tunnels and using sensors to detect the presence of radioactivity.
Data on each vehicle — its time-stamped image, license plate imprint and radiological signature — would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be indexed and stored for at least a month as part of a broad security plan that emphasizes protecting the city’s financial district, the spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said. If it were not linked to a suspicious vehicle or a law enforcement investigation, it would be eliminated, he said.
“Our main objective would be to, through intelligence, find out about a plot before it ever got to a stage where a nuclear device or a dirty bomb was coming our way,” Mr. Browne said. “This provides for our defense after a plot has already been launched and a device is on its way.”
[From Ian Weinstein]The case of Salim Hamdan has been on my mind all week. I share the wonder at the jury’s rejection of the more serious conspiracy charge and its imposition of a rather modest sentence but I don’t want to romanticize the Hamdan jury or result. I think history will come to regard this case as emblematic of our era's signal failure of law. This military jury, however, gave the government a nice shove. Their final and unreviewable judgment rejecting some of the charges reflects the real power vested in American jurors. Although the mixed verdict introduced a note of ambiguity, the result is still a testament to the institution of the jury and to these jurors’ courage and clear sightedness.