Zazi Ends Talks With FBI, Blasts False Media Reports

Najibullah Zazi and his attorney "abruptly broke off talks with FBI agents this morning."

"Mr. Zazi and Mr. Folsom will not be meeting with the FBI today," Folsom's spokeswoman Wendy Aiello told The Denver Post Saturday morning. She said they've decided that it is in his best interest given the progress of negotiations so far, Aiello said.

Zazi did give a phone interview to the Denver Post this morning in which he denied the media accounts which say he confessed to anything: [More...]

[H]e has not admitted any link to the terrorist group, to participation in insurgency training in Pakistan or to involvement in a terrorist plot. "It's not true," Zazi said. "I have nothing to hide. It's all media publications reporting whatever they want. They have been reporting all this nonsense."

He has a point. Law enforcement is leaking like a sieve about his statements. The FBI has insisted he and his lawyer refrain from commenting about specific questions he is being asked, yet officials from NY to Denver are reporting incriminating details about his answers to every major media outlet.

Supposedly the whole point of Zazi's talking to the FBI was to clear his name. The leaked details are having the opposite effect.

There's Zazi the complete innocent. Or, Zazi the unwitting pawn of Afghan or Pakistani terrorists. Or, Zazi the knowing participant. Had he stayed silent in the first place, no one would know what to believe. Now, due to media reports emanating from law enforcement or the Justice Department which have him confessing to terror ties and seeking a plea deal, he is quickly losing the battle in the court of public opinion. His tell-all strategy seems to have fallen apart. If his back-up strategy was in fact to get a plea deal, that seems to have fallen apart as well.

Developing....updates to follow.

Update (3:00 pm MT): There is no new information as of now from Camp Zazi, so I'll speculate as to some scenarios as to what could have led to the cancellation of talks. Keep in mind I have no personal information about Zazi or this particular terror investigation:

1. It may be the feds don't believe Zazi but want him to keep talking. After he's answered all their questions, and they've had time to evaluate his information, they'll let him know whether they will offer him anything for his cooperation. He may have been told he won't get a complete pass, and he'll have to plead at a minimum to a count of providing material support to terrorists (or attending a terrorism training camp.) The minimum sentence before cooperation reductions, which he might or might not get, would be ten years. And, they will not agree to bond once charges are filed.

2. Since this is no longer an interview but an interrogation, if it's clear Zazi is going to be charged, his lawyer may think it's time to call in an attorney with federal criminal experience, particularly in terrorism investigations. This could be a problem, because it doesn't seem like Zazi can afford that kind of representation. The Court doesn't appoint counsel until there's some kind of court action, such as the filing of criminal charges or issuance of a material witness warrant or at least a grand jury subpoena. So if the writing is on the wall that he is going to be charged, he may decide he's better off trying to force their hand to do it now so he gets the Federal Defenders office appointed to represent him. Colorado has a terrific Federal Defender's office.

3. The feds may not want to charge Zazi now and share details of their investigation with Zazi and his lawyer since their case isn't ready against others they think are involved in the plot. Once a criminal case is filed, discovery rules will force them to turn over information they'd rather keep secret. So they just want Zazi to keep talking with no assurances and with him completely in the dark as to what information they have obtained about him from surveillances, wiretaps, informants and other intelligence. Zazi realizes he's not getting his apology from the feds, and continuing to talk is a one-way street and no longer has a reason to talk to them.

5. The feds may have told Zazi and his attorney they will charge Zazi in New York. They may decide it's better for them to prosecute a single case in a single jurisdiction, adding new defendants to it later. His lawyer could be trying to arrange for New York counsel there to take over.

One thing that would be helpful to know is whether they got a criminal search warrant for Zazi or a FISA search warrant.

I'm off to the jail to see a client. I'm sure I'll think of lots more scenarios on the hour drive there and back, so I'll update again when I return.

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  • Display: Sort:
    You and me on the same page (none / 0) (#1)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 05:51:23 PM EST
    The whole thing stinks.

    If they had enough to arrest him even on a material witness warrant they would have. You just don't let terrorists go home from their interrogations at night and roam around free for for four days. If he were a terrorist, for public safety's sake, you'd think they'd have arrested him for the inconsistencies in his bankruptcy filing.

    It seems like the kid is getting tried in the media by the FBI like they did Richard Jewell. But on some level I have to feel a little relief that he's just in a good old-fashined American media circus and that he wasn't rounded up and flown in an unmarked Learjet to Uzbekistan under the cover of darkness.

    Baby steps.

    Now the focus... (none / 0) (#2)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 06:07:04 PM EST
    ...in on his test messages and that he "studied" football and baseball stadiums and the facilities used in Fashion Week?

    This just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Are the Feds functioning as a leak clearinghouse these days?

    leak or fabrication? (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 07:19:57 PM EST
    It'sone thing if the FBI is fabricating the content of the leaks.  On the other hand, if Zazi really said it and is just mad that it leaked then I'd have a bit less sympathy.  They probably videotaped or audiotaped the interviews, I would hope.
    Why exactly should the FBI be bound to aid someone's strategy to win in the court of public opinion is beyond me.  

    They picked him up through NSA monitoring (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 08:01:55 PM EST
    whether it was legal (through FISA) or not, and now are trying to build the case backwards so as to sanitize it and avoid having to reveal the existence of the tap.

    It seems almost like the case of that pizza guy from the Albany, NY area who was illegally tapped, and then they sent in a snitch to get him talking about illegal things.  When the defense counsel tried to get the fact of the illegal wiretap before the Court, the judge just about had counsel locked up.

    in Peoria (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:58:05 PM EST
    If Zazi was doing what they leaked then in Peoria they'll be thrilled that he was picked up, sanitized warrant or no.