Ashcroft: Not a Single Post 9/11 Terror Conviction
[Note: See update below. Prof. Cole is referring to jury convictions --cases Ashcroft proved at trial.]
Law Professor and civil liberities expert David Cole has some astonishing news today. With the collapse of the Detroit terror convictions a few weeks ago, Ashcrofts record is one of zero terrorism convictions since 9/11.
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. When the attorney general was locking these men up in the immediate wake of the attacks, he held almost daily press conferences to announce how many "suspected terrorists" had been detained. No press conference has been forthcoming to announce that exactly none of them have turned out to be actual terrorists.
Nor, have any higher-ups been convicted in the Abu Graib Iraqi prison abuse scandal. The Bush Administration has not appointed an independent commission to investigate the abuse:
It prefers to leave the investigation to the Justice Department and the Pentagon, the two entities that drafted secret legal memos defending torture.
Cole also brings up Tariq Ramadan, a widely respected scholar that was hired by Notre Dame. The Department of Homeland Security prevented him from entering the U.S., using a provision of the Patriot Act that says one who uses their position of prominence to "endorse" terror organizations can be kept out of the country.
What does Cole make of these three developments? He says they are not isolated mistakes.
The President thinks he can win this war by "acting tough" and treating the rule of law and constitutional freedoms as optional. With enough fearmongering, that attitude may win him the election. But it will lose the war. Bush is playing right into al Qaeda's hands by further alienating those we most need on our side.
Update: As Ebob points out in the comments, Cole likely is referring to jury convictions--cases Ashcroft has proved at trial. At the beginning of the article, Cole writes:
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.
Noah Levitt analyzes the importance of the Department's failure in the Detroit case today at Findlaw, also referring to the case as Ashcroft's only conviction in the terror war:
year ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft boasted that this very prosecution was his first court victory in the war on terror. Since then, it has turned out to be his only such victory. And now, it's clear the prosecution was no victory at all - it was a debacle.
Due to the severity of its mistakes in the Detroit case, the Justice Department asked the Court to reverse the convictions.
In the memorandum, DOJ admitted its prosecution had been riddled with a "pattern of mistakes and oversights." For instance, it admitted that the prosecution deprived the defendants of important discoverable evidence - evidence it was required by law to produce. And it admitted that its lawyers had not been candid - to say the least - about this evidence. To the contrary, DOJ noted, the record of the case was "filled with misleading inferences that such material did not exist" - when actually, it did, and the defendants were legally entitled to it.
Update: From blogger Balta:
The Bush Administration's war on terror. We may not convict terrorists, but we keep old music stars out of the country.
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