Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who leads American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, would still like to capture Osama bin Laden alive, The New York Times The Caucus blog reported Wednesday.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday at a House hearing that bin Laden would “never appear in a U.S. courtroom” because he would commit suicide or be killed by others before the U.S. government could prosecute him. “The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden,” Holder said in response to a hypothetical situation posed by Republicans where bin Laden had the rights of a U.S. citizen in a civilian court.
But McChrystal said he thought that capturing bin Laden alive is “something that is understood by everyone.”
“If Osama bin Laden comes inside Afghanistan, we would certainly go after trying to capture him alive and bring him to justice,” McChrystal said.
Attorney General Eric Holder lashed out Tuesday on Capitol Hill at his critics who allege that terrorism suspects would be given extra rights if they are tried in a civilian court instead of a military commission.
Holder told members of the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and science subcommittee that claims that only a military court would aggressively prosecute terrorism suspects, such as self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “tends to get my blood boiling.” He said terrorism suspects in civilian courts, like murderers, aren’t being “coddled” and handled in “an inappropriate or special way.”
“They have the same rights that a Charles Manson would have,” Holder said.
Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said the Attorney General’s analogy was “incredible,” since the United States is at war with terrorist groups. He said most Americans see terrorism suspects like KSM as war criminals, not mass murderers like Manson.
“This is where the disconnect between the administration and your mindset is so completely opposite that of where the vast majority of the American people are,” Culberson said.
Holder rejected a hypothetical situation proposed by Culberson in which bin Laden had the rights of American citizens in a civilian court.
“You’re talking about a hypothetical that would never occur. The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden. He will never appear in a U.S. courtroom. That’s the reality,” said Holder.
Last November, Holder announced that KSM and four of his alleged co-conspirators would be tried in a New York federal court instead of before a military commission. But the White House has faced pressure from both sides of the aisle to reverse Holder’s decision, and President Barack Obama is now personally involved in selecting the location of the KSM trial.
Obama is close to recommending that KSM and four alleged co-conspirators be tried before a military tribunal instead of a civilian court. Holder said the final decision is only weeks, not months, away.
Holder said he is willing to use military commissions for terrorism suspects, but doesn’t want to rule out civilian courts.
“We remain committed to using all of the tools that we have to try to win this war,” Holder said.
Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the subcommittee chairman, said military commissions and civilian courts can both be used appropriately to handle terrorism prosecutions. He noted that about 300 defendants in terrorism cases have been successfully prosecuted in federal courts.
“I think it would be a mistake to categorically deny you access to the civilian system, especially in light of its established track record of success in terrorism prosecutions,” Mollohan said. He added: “The decision about whether to try a case in a civilian court is best left for the Department of Justice to determine, void of politics, just as was done in the previous administration.”
Holder appeared before the subcommittee to detail the Justice Department’s fiscal 2011 budget request. It includes $73 million to be used for the prosecution of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Ryan J. Reilly contributed to this report.
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The Obama administration is considering holding a trial in Washington, D.C., for alleged terrorist Riduan Isamuddin, the Guantánamo Bay detainee who is suspected of planning the deadly nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002, The Associated Press reported Friday.
According to the AP, “U.S. officials briefed on the plan” said other terrorism trials could be held in Washington and New York City under a proposal being discussed by the administration. The officials said the Obama administration could make a decision in a matter of weeks, though the idea of trying Hambali in D.C. has been floated for months.
In August The Washington Post reported that DOJ officials were considering trying Isamuddin — better known by his nom de guerre, Hambali – in Washington, apparently as a kind of consolation prize for D.C. not being considered to host the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial.
At the time, the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia were vying to prosecute the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, after Attorney General Eric Holder decided Mohammed should be moved out of Guantanamo Bay and tried in federal court. Manhattan won out over the Alexandria, Va.-based Eastern District, helping to secure its reputation as a premier venue for prestigious national security cases.
On Sunday, The Washington Examiner reported that “security experts” said Washington wasn’t equipped to handle Hambali. The Examiner said facilities in Alexandria, Va., where al-Qaeda supporter Zacarias Moussaoui’s was convicted, would be a better fit.
Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t even decided if the Hambali case will be tried in military or civilian court. ”The attorney general has made no decision on forum for this case, let alone on where such a case would be tried if it were sent to federal courts,” said Boyd.
Despite DOJ’s unwillingness to confirm or deny the reports, The Hill reported Friday that Republicans were slamming the potential move. ”Moving terrorist detainees to within a mile of the White House and blocks from the U.S. Capitol for show trials is a mistake,” Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille similarly criticized the prospect of having the trial in his city. ”The city’s opposed to having any terrorist tried in our city,” he said. “It’s not about what we’ll be known as but protecting the quality of life of our residents.”
Hambali was allegedly Osama bin Laden’s point man in Indonesia, facilitating communications between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group said to be responsible for the Bali nightclub attack that left 202 people dead.
Hambali denied any connection to al-Qaeda at a preliminary military tribunal in 2007. Since his capture in 2003, Hambali was held at a CIA “black site” and the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay.
President Barack Obama’s self-imposed deadline to close Guantánamo Bay is less than a week away, though the president has acknowledged it will not be met.
Closing the detention center has proved to be a difficult task as the administration has been unable to find countries that will take detainees cleared for release. Obama has also had to confront the complicated legal and political issues connected with moving detainees into the U.S. court system.
In August, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Alexandria and Manhattan were “embroiled in intense competition” over the opportunity to prosecute 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other terrorism suspects connected to the attacks. Holder ultimately chose New York to host the trial, a move that immediately came under fire.
“KSM’s first response when he was captured was ‘I will see New York with my lawyer,’ ” former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Fox News Channel. “He got instead a military commission. Now, of course, he is getting the fate of his dreams, which is a courtroom in New York City.”
The Justice Department has also faced major hurdles in its efforts to provide security for the trial. Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimated the cost of security operations for the trials at more than $200 million.
According to the AP, authorities have already started to review the security measures need to try Hambali and others in federal court in Washington.
Trying detainees like Mohammed and Hambali in civilian courts also presents a host of prosecutorial issues. Some have questioned if evidence obtained through “harsh interrogating techniques,” like water-boarding, would be admissible in court. Critics also fear that such trials would disclose sensitive information that could help terrorists.
While Holder has decided that the U.S courts can handle Mohammed’s trial, and possibly Hambali’s, this may not be the case for all of the nearly 200 detainees still at Guantánamo. Holder is currently going through detainees’ files to determine who can be tried in a U.S. court and who should remain in the military commission system, where the rules of evidence are laxer and defendants have fewer rights.
This report has been updated to reflect that The Washington Post broke the news of Hambali’s possible District of Columbia trial in August.
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The FBI incorporated the photograph of a Spanish politician in its age-progressed image of Osama bin Laden.
Apparently, an FBI forensic artist plucked the photo of Gaspar Llamazares off the Internet; the Bureau had touted the new bin Laden image, showing how he might look at age 52, as the product of cutting-edge technology. The FBI adapted the image, and another depicting bin Laden with a beard, from a 1998 photo of the al-Qaeda leader.
Llamazares, the former leader of the United Left coalition in parliament, called the FBI’s use of his photo “shameless,” and said he feared he wouldn’t be able to travel to the U.S. anymore.
“I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist,” he said a news conference. ”It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens’ security.”
Will Ostick, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, told CNN he had called Llamazares to “express regret” on behalf of the embassy.
“That was not normal procedure. It was completely unintentional and the FBI is looking into it to prevent it from happening again,” Ostick said.
Spain’s Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba is scheduled to meet the new American ambassador to Madrid, Alan Solomont, on Monday, according to CNN.
The photos were published on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Web site on Friday.
An FBI spokesman explained the image-altering process in a statement to the BBC:
When producing age-progressed photographs, forensic artists typically select features from a database of stock reference photographs to create the new image.
After a preliminary review, it appears that in this instance the forensic artist was unable to find suitable features among the reference photographs and obtained those features, in part, from a photograph he found on the internet.
The forensic artist was not aware of the identity of the individual depicted in the photograph. The similarities between the photos were unintentional and inadvertent.
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After nearly 30 years, the Department of Justice has finally nabbed one of its most-wanted. Famed film director Roman Polanski (Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Pianist) has being fleeing U.S. authorities since his arrest for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old in 1978. He was taken into custody in Zurich Sunday morning and faces extradition to Los Angeles.
Not surprisingly, the L.A. Times has the best coverage, including his life in photos (nice one with Sharon Tate circa late 1969). He was arrested as he arrived in the Swiss city to accept an award at the Zurich Film Festival.
Polanski’s attorneys are reportedly shocked, shocked.
“We absolutely were not expecting such an arrest, in so far as he regularly goes to Switzerland, and he’s done so for several years,” lawyer Herve Temime told Le Figaro, adding that Polanski “even owns a chalet situated in the Gstaad,” a Swiss ski village.
His extradition could take months. U.S. authorities have 60 days to file formal papers requesting his extradition. Polanski can ask the Swiss Federal Penal Court of Justice to reject those papers, and, if he is denied, appeal to a higher court, the Federal Court of Justice.
Back at Main Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has pledged to revitalize the civil rights division with a renewed focus on minority-discrimination cases, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
Under the Bush administration the civil rights division was “destroyed,” John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told the Post. Instead of the traditional civil rights focus, the Bushies expanded the agenda to include complaints of religious discrimination and human trafficking, they also hired lawyers who shared their conservative ideology – some with little to no civil rights experience – for career jobs.
It’s all about Obama’s legacy. Holder has pledged to make the division “’his crown jewel’ by returning its focus to protecting minorities against discrimination,” the Post reports. “What becomes of these cases, and others like them, will help determine the meaning of justice in the Obama administration.”
Rebuilding the civil rights division seems like a cakewalk compared to the legal gauntlet Obama is running when it comes to closing Gitmo.
One of Obama’s biggest obstacles to closing Gitmo by January is determining where to send about 100 Yemenis, the largest single group of prisoners by nationality, Bloomberg reports.
The U.S. wants many of them to go to a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis are refusing to take them and Yemen’s president wants them sent back home. The U.S. wants to avoid that for security reasons.
The Justice Department on Saturday announced that they had agreed to send one former Gitmo detainee back to Yemen and two others to the government of Ireland. The move will leave about 240 detainees remaining at the prison, which the administration conceded this week it may not be able to close by January.
The New York Times weighs in with profiles of the two latest terrorism suspects, one, a Jordanian teenager who allegedly plotted to blow up a Dallas skyscraper, and the other, a U.S. citizen who was targeting a federal building in Springfield, Ill.
Are these two just nice young men or U.S.-hating, cold-blooded terrorists? Friends say each were each extremely helpful to them. A pal of Michael Finton, the suspect in the Illinois plot, even called him a “role model.” But others say Finton, who went by the nickname Talib Islam (student of Islam), “didn’t like America very much” and “thought we needed more rules, so that people would behave.”
Authorities started watching Finton’s every move after a search of his car turned up a letter about his dreams of being a martyr and a document about waiting for a “return letter” from John Walker Lindh.
Friends painted an even more complex portrait of Hosam Maher Husein Smadi. He drove a single mother to the grocery store, lent her money when she didn’t have enough to feed her two children – even gave her a cell phone when hers broke and got her a job as a cashier and drove her to work.
But the criminal complaint reveals a dark side. An agent posing as a senior member of an al Qaeda sleeper cell befriended Smadi, and he responded to the call. He pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, saying “I love him as I love my father,” expressed anger over the invasion of Gaza by the Israelis and vowed he was “ready for the jihadi life.”
According to Politico, Republican Rep. Aaron Schock’s district office in Springfield was on of the targets of Finton’s planned terrorist attack.
The evidence against Finton and Smadi seems pretty solid (Finton was caught in a sting operation while driving a van he thought was loaded with explosives to the Paul Findley Federal Building. He even allegedly parked the car and made phone calls he believed would trigger a blast killing or injuring people inside the building!)
But a new study says federal agencies are only prosecuting about one out of four terrorism suspects and suggests federal agencies can’t even agree on who is a terrorist, according to the Associated Press.
People charged with terrorism often go free because the evidence wasn’t strong enough to bring them to trial, says the study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research group at Syracuse University, the AP reports.
“According to the data, U.S. attorneys reported that the cases brought to them by investigators were often based on weak or insufficient admissible evidence, lacked criminal intent or did not constitute a federal offense.”
Of course, the Justice Department disagrees with TRAC’s analysis and conclusions. A spokesman said the report omits some statistics and uses data that differs from the agency’s information.
Numerous organizations across the federal government – the FBI, IRS, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – just to name a few – enforce the laws associated with terrorism while federal prosecutors determine which cases will be brought to court.
All have different ways of identifying terror-related crimes – and TRAC found that about one-third of the defendants charged with a terrorism offense were not categorized as having a connection to terrorism. The findings led TRAC to conclude that the government must do a better job defining and focusing its terrorism enforcement.
The New York Times also ran a piece about the plummeting Supreme Court docket. In the early 1980s, SCOTUS decided more than 150 cases a year. These days it decides half that many.
What gives? Is SCOTUS getting lazy? The Supreme Court advocacy clinic at Yale Law School held a conference to explore the mystery of the shrinking docket.
“Participants blamed the newer justices, others their clerks. Some blamed Congress for not cranking out enough confusing legislation. And some blamed the Justice Department, which is filing fewer appeals,” the Times reported.
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