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The Al-Arian Verdict and the Patriot Act:
Reading over some of the press coverage of the Al-Arian terrorism case, I find myself somewhat puzzled by descriptions of the verdicts as a setback for the Patriot Act (as opposed to the prosecution and DOJ more generally). Consider the first two paragraphs of Wednesday's front-page Washington Post story by Spencer Hsu and Dan Eggen:
  A federal jury acquitted former Florida professor Sami al-Arian yesterday of conspiring to aid a Palestinian group in killing Israelis through suicide bombings, dealing the U.S. government a setback in its efforts to use secretly gathered intelligence in criminal cases against terrorism suspects.
  The trial was a crucial test of government power under the USA Patriot Act, which lowered barriers that had prevented intelligence agencies from sharing secretly monitored communications with prosecutors. The case was the first criminal terrorism prosecution to rely mainly on vast amounts of materials gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), whose standards for searches and surveillance are less restrictive than those set by criminal courts.
  Am I missing something, or is this desciption of the case rather odd? To be sure, the al-Arian prosecution was a major test case for the Patriot Act; much of the evidence the jury saw was admitted thanks to the Patriot Act. But as I understand it, the jury's verdict didn't have any thing to do with the admissibility of evidence. According to one juror interviewed in the article, the jury acquitted because they didn't think that the evidence proved the case, not because they disagreed with or questioned something in the Patriot Act. They had reasonable doubt about the facts, not the law.

  There was at least one count (and perhaps more) in the indictment that involved substantive crimes amended by the Patriot Act — I'm thinking about the charge of conspiracy to provide material support — and there were legal rulings on the meaning of those crimes. But the al-Arian case was considered a major Patriot Act test case because of the heavy use of foreign intelligence information at trial, and whether such evidence could be used doesn't have an obvious connection to the acquittals. There's a vague connection, but it strikes me as a reach to describe the verdict as a setback for the Patriot Act.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Analyzing the al-Arian Verdict:
  2. The Al-Arian Verdict and the Patriot Act:
  3. Acquittals, Hung Jury in Al-Arian Case:
llamasex (mail) (www):
Because "Attorney General John Ashcroft has cited the Al-Arian case as one of the successes of the Patriot Act as he toured the nation in recent months in defense of the law."

The adminstration kept pointing to this as a success of the patriot act, then when the case falls apart doesn't that imply failure?


"TAMPA, Fla. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday the Patriot Act has helped bring cases against suspected terrorists that couldn't have been brought before, including the one accusing a former University of South Florida professor of financing terrorist attacks.

Ashcroft appeared in Tampa as part of a monthlong tour of more than a dozen cities to counter growing criticism of the Patriot Act. His audience was about 200 law enforcement officers and assistant U.S. attorneys.

"Our final tribute to the dead of Sept. 11 must be to fulfill our responsibility to defend the living, to finish the work," Ashcroft said. "Our greatest memorial to those who have passed must be to protect the lives and liberties of those yet to come."

The nation will mark the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Thursday.

Ashcroft cited the indictment Sami Al-Arian and seven others in his 30-minute speech, saying the Patriot Act helped law enforcement and intelligence agents "connect the dots" to build cases"
12.8.2005 1:57am
TimW:
Ashcroft was claiming a year or two ago that the al-Arian case showed the success of the Patriot Act. Ashcroft may have been (and probably was) wrong about that. But media outlets reported Ashcroft's claims then. We might puzzle over why they did that. But given that, it is hardly surprising that media outlets now say that the acquittal is setback.

An example the AP last year:
"Attorney General John Ashcroft has cited the Al-Arian case as one of the successes of the Patriot Act as he toured the nation in recent months in defense of the law."
http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/01/19/attacks.professor.ap/
12.8.2005 2:10am
Dave:
Orin is still thinking small. Still thinking in terms of actual legislation. The PATRIOT act isn't a law, it's an idea. It can apply to anything.

It was a major setback for the PATRIOT Act, for example, when the ACLU was founded. That's just common knowledge.

Or something.
12.8.2005 7:42am
Senor Chumbawumba (mail):
I'm glad I'm not the only one who was puzzled by the "major setback" language. If anything, shouldn't this verdict reassure PATRIOT Act critics that the safeguards in American courts are still effective? They might have headlined the verdict as "PATRIOT Act: Not That Bad" or "No Guaranteed Convictions".
12.8.2005 8:02am
rbj:
Exactly, Senor Chumb. Even giving the federal government more powers does not mean they'll get convictions. It is a victory for the rule of law.
12.8.2005 8:16am
Fourth Responder:
One reason why the verdict could be considered a "major setback" is that the verdict may be evidence itself that the PATRIOT Act is not as effective as hoped.

In conventional discourse, it seems the PATRIOT Act was presented a balancing between the cost of a change in the protection of individual civil liberties and the benefit to law enforcement authorities' of the power to marshal various types of necessary evidence to investigate and prosecute terror. In this case, even using evidence collected under the PATRIOT Act, the DOJ was still unable to secure a guilty verdict. This then raises the question, as to whether the sacrifice (that's where people will have the argument) in civil liberties is worth the potentially spurious (second place for an argument) benefit.
12.8.2005 8:23am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Tim W. and llamasex (wow, I just typed "llamasex") are persuasive---the administration can't say "these prosecutions are thanks to the PATRIOT Act" and then shrug and say "no connection" when the feds lose in court.

The original inaccuracy would thus seem to be Ashcroft's, an exceptional lapse in what was ordinarily a brilliant legal mind ...
12.8.2005 8:40am
eeyn524 (mail):
This is a legal blog, and Prof. Kerr is undoubtebly completely correct in what he says.

However, the average non-lawyer doesn't know or much care about the details of the Patriot Act, they just know (because that's what they've been told) that it's about putting away bad guys, and in this case no bad guy got put away. Therefore setback.

Futhermore, in anything related to the whole GWOT, you're either for or against; nuance not allowed. This case was not a "for", so it must be an "against"; therefore setback.

Yes, it's ignorance, but you can't really expect the average person to know more about the law and the case than the slogans that were used to promote it.
12.8.2005 9:28am
Marcus1:
Fourth Responder said what I was going to say.

The idea that it is a set-back for the Patriot Act does assume he was guilty, though. Otherwise it was just a screw up by the prosecutors.

So I guess in the end you can't really be sure what went right or wrong.
12.8.2005 9:53am
minnie:
eeyn 524. What does it mean to be either "for" or "against" the WOT? You are saying that anyone who wants to limit the government's intrusion into people's privacy and stripping away of their civil liberties is "against" the Government's lawful efforts to prevent, find and apprehend terrorists?
12.8.2005 10:09am
Medis:
minnie,

I don't think eeyn 524 was endorsing that view, but rather was just describing what seems like a commonly-held view.

Although personally, I am not so sure that view is really common, at least not anymore.
12.8.2005 10:16am
just me (mail):
I saw an article recently about an acquittal in a murder trial. Must be a big blow against the murder law. Maybe it should be repealed.

Seriously, though, we should not be surprised by press accounts that don't accurately describe legal issues. We should instead be pleasantly surprised when they accidentally get it right.
12.8.2005 10:29am
Per Son:
Just me:

Good point. The entire press is usually terrible at interpreting laws and cases. This can be lobbed at the right and left.
12.8.2005 10:41am
Steve:
The answer is really simple. The Patriot Act was sold on the claim that it would make the apprehension and prosecution of terrorists easier. This case suggests that it has made the wrongful apprehension and prosecution of non-terrorists easier. When you pass a law in order to do something, and the empirical evidence suggests it is not having the intended effect, that's a setback.

If the verdict had been guilty, there is absolutely no doubt that the government would have been trumpeting far and wide how the result confirmed the importance of the information-sharing provisions of the Patriot Act.
12.8.2005 10:45am
xx:
I don't think that describing the verdict as a setback for the Patriot Act is a stretch at all. The article shouldn't attempt to paint it as a legal setback - the evidence got in, after all, but its obvious why a polician would consider it a setback.

First, as previous posters have mentioned, Ashcroft used it as proof of the importance of the Patriot Act.

Second, many proponents of the act justify any instrusions on civil liberty that might result under the act as minor compared to the value of increased convictions. If the act does not in fact produce more convictions, then there's no countervailing interest to weigh against the threat to civil liberties.
12.8.2005 10:49am
Bread and Circuses (www):
The portion you quoted described the verdict as a setback for "government power under the USA Patriot Act", not the law itself. I parse that as "they had all this evidence they wouldn't have had otherwise and they still couldn't get a conviction."
12.8.2005 10:58am
JimMNy:
Not a setback for the Patriot Act per se but a setback for the entire terrorism/anti-terrorism concept.
The WaPo language struck me as odd.

These things also strike me as odd:
We have been at this for 4+ years but:
1. there is a very short list of Captured-Tried-Convicted.
Captured-Tried-Acquitted does not make me happy.
2. While there was a clear and specific list of key targeted individuals in Iraq (the deck of cards) where is the similar list for who we need to capture on the terror side? One website I bumped into had a list of nearly 80 reports of the capture of a second-in-command or high-level-Quaeda person but... then what?
3. This past week Condi reports that we have thwarted real attacks in Europe but what are the details?

I grew up under the Threat-of-Communism. Thousands of real missiles with a long range, neighbors building bomb shelters, real armies in the USSR and China etc.

War on Terror? Were's the beef?
12.8.2005 11:12am
Alexander Louis (mail):
The Patriot Act was a contentious piece of legislation. The only thing that convinced skeptics to pass it was the promise that it would lead to the convictions of terrorists. That's why there are so many sunset clauses in there ... And it looks like not much has panned out.
12.8.2005 11:37am
Anomolous:
Hey, don't forget the three years Sami spent at Club Fed while awaiting his aquittal. Those are 3 years behind bars that wouldn't have been possible without the Patriot Act. Might as well chalk it up as a victory.
12.8.2005 11:40am
snead16 (mail):
"War on Terror? Were's the beef?"

The beef was last election cycle -- we have a "war time" president and a "war time" Republican Congress and a "war time" Fox Network.

And in "war time," one shouldn't change presidential horses and certainly not criticize the president. That would be treason not to mention aiding and abetting the enemy.

What's interesting is that on average, more people die every three months on the highway -- according to Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Schelling -- than were murdered on 9/11.

So is the Patriot Act really necessary? Are we really spending our nation's treasure the right way?
12.8.2005 11:41am
BillC (mail):
I understand that there are people who have a civil suit in waiting to kick in after a possible Al-Arian acquittal or subsequent overruling on the sentence (based on perceived unconstitutional holes in the Patriot Act). Given the level of the acquittal, I would be interested to see if they proceed ala post OJ Trial.
12.8.2005 12:00pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Snead16 -- you are doing an excellent PowerLine impression. Keep up the good work!
12.8.2005 12:26pm
Hattio (mail):
I agree with the posters above who pointed out the fact that there is a trade-off between civil liberties and terror convictions, but a lack of convictions makes the trade-off seem not worth it.
However, there is another way to look at the acquittal as being a setback for the Patriot Act (or more specifically, for the rationale for passing it). The administration has consistently defended the Patriot Act from critics by essentially saying Trust us, we won't use this power against people who aren't terrorists. And we definitely won't use this power against people who merely espouse unpopular ideas. Well, this guy has been acquitted, at least possibly because the jury thought he merely espoused unpopular ideas, implying that the administration is using the Patriot Act against the wrong people.
Of course, every acquittal after evidence is gathered under the Patriot Act would justify the same argument, at least in theory. And FWIW, I have no opinion on whether Al-Arian really was just espousing unpopular beliefs. I havne't followed the case that closely.
12.8.2005 12:28pm
Sigivald (mail):
Snead: So? More people die of heart disease each year (about 300,000) than were killed in combat in World War 2 (292,000 and change, and both stats for the US only, of course).

Does this mean "our nation's treasure" should be spent on that? Or maybe that "our nation's treasure" is for things like national defense, and further that deliberate acts by enemies are unrelated to accidental happenings by the mass of people?

I suggest the latter. (And, oddly, still nobody is saying that mere criticism of the President is "treason". Certainly nobody on this thread did, did they? Is that any more than a complete straw-man?)
12.8.2005 12:33pm
tefta (mail):
I'm not concerned about the Patriot Act, I'm concerned that a person obviously guilty of compromising our national security has been found not guilty.

Was this jury nullification ala OJ Simpson?

Are jury trials no longer to be trusted as vehicles for convicting wrong doers whose poltical agenda happens to be in agreement with the lunatic left?
12.8.2005 12:46pm
Aaron:
Tefta:

Jury nullification? In a FLORIDA COURT??!!!

If this were a case of a Cubano illegally providing aid and money to overthrow Castro, then, maybe I could see nullification. But Baby Bush's citizens on an important terror case for Big Bro Bush? NFW.
12.8.2005 1:09pm
Fishbane (mail):
War on Terror? Were's the beef?

Exactly. Anytime a politician starts talking about a War on [vague thing], grab your wallet and civil rights, because the boogyman will never go away, and fear sells.

I'm all for capturing, trying and convicting terrorists. In extreme situations, I'm all for killing them outright. But 4 years, god-knows how many hundreds of billions of dollars, and several thousand lives in to it, apparently the U.S. public has still not learned that one can't capture or kill an idea.
12.8.2005 1:40pm
Medis:
Aaron,

Maybe we need a term like "jury ratification" (where a jury refuses to convict because the law does not allow them to do so).

Of course, the trick will be making this into a pejorative term ...
12.8.2005 1:43pm
Fishbane (mail):
Are jury trials no longer to be trusted as vehicles for convicting wrong doers whose poltical agenda happens to be in agreement with the lunatic left?

But of course not. The citizen-units being protected from The Big Bad Wolf are clearly not capable of seeing the threat. I also question whether we should let them vote - after all, the lunatic left has so completely compromised the nation and taken over the entire discourse that citizen-units are obviously not voting correctly (just look at all those leftists in power!). And if they can't vote correctly, maybe we should take the vote away. Have to keep them safe, afterall. For that matter, I wonder if stationing troops in homes wouldn't be a bad idea - they could keep an eye on things, spot the terrorists those loony lefties coddle, and generally keep order.

And those libel sheets calling themselves "newspapers"... we should do something about those.
12.8.2005 1:58pm
tefta (mail):
Aaron &Fishbane. It wouldn't be a bad idea to speak to the issue. The tone of your replies is making my argument about the lunatic left for me, but leaving that aside, I take you both think the verdict was the correct one and the jury, after careful deliberation, made the right decision when they concluded that the defendent is innocent of the charges.

If you were absolutely convinced that Sami al-Arian was a terrorist or aided terrorism, would you have voted to convict him if by doing so, you'd make Bush look good?
12.8.2005 2:20pm
Medis:
tefta,

Just an aside, but the government has the burden of proving the defendant's guilt, as opposed to the defendant having the burden of proving his innocence. And it seems like some of the jurors simply did not believe that the government had met its burden.
12.8.2005 2:29pm
The Original TS (mail):
I agree with Hattio.

The big argument for the Patriot Act was "Let Us Get Access to Terrorists' Library Records So We Will Know When They Are Reading Books About Bomb Making" not "Let Us Harrass Innocent Citizens Who Say Unpopular Things And Are Really Foreigners Anyway."
12.8.2005 2:41pm
Fishbane (mail):
I take you both think the verdict was the correct one and the jury, after careful deliberation, made the right decision when they concluded that the defendent is innocent of the charges.

I don't know enough to decide. I wasn't in the court room, I didn't deliberate with the jury, and to be honest, I haven't even made a huge effort to read everything I could about the case.

I even think our system of jury deliberation is imperfect.

That said, I think it is a great system, and like every other citizen, I defer to the judgements juries make. I shudder to consider a system in which a jury of peers is not in place - we've seen too many nations abuse that in too many ways to consider it (and don't tell me that the U.S. is somehow "different" and won't abuse power - nation states are nation states). Were this a normal criminal trial, I seriously doubt anyone would be arguing (putting aside cases involving highly technical issues) that "jury trials [might] no longer [...] be trusted". If you agree with me there, then we only differ on the issue as to whether or not terrorism is somehow different.

This isn't the place for a long argument on that point, so I'll simply assert that I believe it isn't, and that threats of terrorism can be minimized through means that are far less invasive than the ones being foisted on us, and are far more respecful of the civil rights we've enjoyed (and fought hard for, and with) throughout our history as a nation.
12.8.2005 2:46pm
Bread and Circuses (www):
tefta,

Have you actually read about this case? Are you aware that the jury deadlocked, rather than acquitting, on some of the counts?

You might be interested in this article, which contains comments from multiple jurors about their deliberations.
12.8.2005 2:48pm
The Original TS (mail):
"And it seems like some of the jurors simply did not believe that the government had met its burden."

No kidding, if I understand what happened in trial correctly, it was worse than that. The defendant didn't put on any evidence at all. In other words, the defense didn't try to cast doubt on the facts alleged by the government, the defense just said, "Yeah, so what?" and the jury agreed.

The real setback for the government here is that what the government classifies as terrorism, a jury in Florida classified as free speech and legitimate political activity. God Bless the jury system. This is just the kind of case were it was meant to act as the ultimate barrier against government overreaching.
12.8.2005 2:50pm
Fishbane (mail):
Bread: Thanks for the pointer. From the article:

"People assume. They assume guilt," said Todd. "People really need to think about things before they make a decision. You really need to get the facts first.

"I sat in that room for six months. Until you've sat through something like this . . . you cannot sit in your car or at your house and determine guilt."


This is why we have juries.
12.8.2005 3:12pm
Aaron:
Medis:
LOL! But we already have such a phrase: "a lawful verdict."

Tefta:
I wasn't aware that you were actually serious, so I posted in kind. If you are claiming that there was OVERWHELMING evidence of guilt, and that the jury ignored it to reach their verdict based on political reasons, then you have a far different view of 1. the political background of the venire in South Florida, and 2. the accounts of the case, where the evidence was so huge that the defense mounted a vigorous and sprited rebuttal consisting of "Yeah. And?"

Finally, were I to be empaneled as a juror, sworn to listen to the evidence, obey the judge's instructions on the law, heard evidence from the prosecution convincing me of Al-Arian's guilt beyond all reasonable doubt, then my feelings regarding the worst president in the history of the Republic would be irrelevant. I would vote to convict without hesitation.

However, the fact that you question MY integrity to try to make a cheap rhetorical point speaks volumes about yours. And leads me to question how you would have decided if this case took place in 1993.
12.8.2005 3:24pm
tefta (mail):
I'm not questioning your integrity, only your judgment. I think that politics have reared its ugly head into our legal system and people who hate Bush are frequently so unhinged by BDS that their thinking is impaired.

I don't know what you mean by if the evidence was "overwhelming," but I do know that the prosecutors thought they had a case and I do know that the jury was deadlocked on some issues and the authorities haven't determined whether to bring him to trial again on those charges.

I also know that it's the state's responsibility to prove the defendant guilty, not the other way around. The fact that there was no defense at all seems suspect and even if Florida voters returned both Bush brothers to office doesn't mean the media here, Tampa papers included, aren't as leftwing as they are in the rest of the country and the defendant was played as an innocent among the wolves. A second trial at the same venue will be a waste of time and money.

If the Patriot Act can't be used to convict those who are aiding and abetting terrorism, then we shouldn't try these cases in our courts. We should let military courts deal with them.

Name calling is less than useless as a debating tool.
12.8.2005 3:54pm
The Original TS (mail):
I'm concerned that a person obviously guilty of compromising our national security has been found not guilty.

Tefta, I'm not usually very polemical but somehow, I feel I owe it to those 12 jurors to speak up. The attitude you portray here is a thousand times bigger danger to our "national security" than any number of terrorists. Terrorists can only blow up some buildings and kill some people. The ideas you espouse threaten the ideas that make America what it is. And before you ignore what I'm sayings as the "rantings of the loony left," I'm quite conservative in the traditional Goldwater vein.

Tefta, this is what it's all about. I must confess that I actually got a bit choked up reading this.

Jurors say they were strongly affected by the jury instructions. In particular, they kept returning to these words: "Our law does not criminalize beliefs or mere membership in an organization. A person who is in sympathy with the legitimate aim of an organization but does not intend to accomplish that aim by a resort to illegal activity is not punished for adherence to lawful purposes of speech."

Those jurors went into that jury room, applied some of the most basic Constitutional principles to the facts before them and told the entire federal government to get stuffed. They did it without fear or favor and politics be damned.

The need for the government to convince 12 ordinary citizens that it's doing the right thing is one of the main bulwarks of American liberty. It's when people, whether it's you or George Bush, cast asperions on the jury system because it will free people who are "obviously guilty" that we need the protection of our jury system the most.
12.8.2005 3:57pm
Medis:
tefta,

Why are you assuming the result in military courts would be any different? Incidentally, the evidence suggests that jurors tend to be LESS lenient than, say, professional judges when it comes to issues of guilt, not MORE lenient.

Finally, have you checked out Bread and Circuses link? If not, you really should. Here is another excerpt:

"Usually, there were 10 of us for acquittal on the charges, sometimes nine of us," said Ron, a juror from Pasco County . . . .

"Of course, we hate terrorism," said Ron. "But the evidence making these guys terrorists just wasn't there."
12.8.2005 4:03pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Many commenters are opposed to the trampling of civil liberties that occurred in this case, yet not one of them has specifically mentioned any example. Can one of you please be very specific about how someone's liberties were violated?

Also: Say that the government wiretaps a suspect and then brings him to trial for murder, and the person is then acquitted. This is obviously a failure for the government. But were the suspect's rights necessarily violated? Obviously, the standards for conviction must be higher than the standards for bringing someone to trial, which must be higher than the standards for wiretapping.

Also: For those of you who approve of this verdict and think there is a reasonable chance that Al-Arian only committed "free speech and legitimate political activity".
Do you deny that he raised money for PIJ? If not, do you support (not necessarily with money) PIJ yourself? Just as most holocaust deniers appear to support the holocaust, it is my impression that most PIJ deniers (e.g., "he's not a member or leader of PIJ", "PIJ has a charity wing", "more people slip in bathtubs than are killed by PIJ", etc.) are actually PIJ supporters, and they do not really support freedom of speech at all. If I were defending a Nazi accused of a crime that I believed him innocent of, I would make it clear that I thought the man was scum, but innocent of the charges. I'm not hearing this about Al-Arian.
12.8.2005 4:20pm
Fishbane (mail):
Tefta: The fact that there was no defense at all seems suspect

Why is that suspect? It was a demonstration of confidence in the belief that no crime was committed. Think about it: the prosecution had 9 years of wiretaps, the information sharing provisions of the Act That Shall Not Be Named, 80 witnesses, and 6 months in court to prove a crime had been committed. The defendant basically said, "yes. I did all that. Where's the crime?"

The jury mostly agreed with the defendant.

You may feel it was a publicity stunt, but if so, it was an extremely dangerous one. (I, personally, have put up more of a defense against traffic tickets. This guy was risking life in prison.)

What, exactly, is suspect?
12.8.2005 4:22pm
Fishbane (mail):
For those of you who approve of this verdict and think there is a reasonable chance that Al-Arian only committed "free speech and legitimate political activity". [...]

I don't know enough about the facts to answer all of your questions. It seems clear that he has some pretty dispicable sympathies, and supported the PIJ. That's pretty reprehensible. Some of the things he got off on may even have been "just technicalities". But after 9 years of surveillance and the "yeah, so?" defense, I do think that there's "a reasonable chance" that he only "committed" free speech and legitimate political activity.

I do love it how, when the facts are against people, they resort to smear by implication. "Why won't you say you don't support the PIJ?" For the record, I don't support (materially, sympathetically, or even hypothetically) the PIJ. Next strawman?
12.8.2005 4:47pm
Medis:
"Do you deny that he raised money for PIJ? If not, do you support (not necessarily with money) PIJ yourself?"

No and no. The legal standard, as I understand it, is that he had to know or intend that his support for the PIJ would be used to further their illegal activities. And apparently most of the jurors did not think the government had satisfied its burden on this issue.
12.8.2005 5:15pm
Dan Simon (www):
The news story to which Bread and Circuses linked gives the strong impression that the jury concluded that al-Arian's long period of active participation in the leadership of an international terrorist organization was in fact not illegal under US law at the time he was so involved (that is, before the Patriot Act). In other words, the acquittals were a clear vindication of the Patriot Act, which closed several massively gaping loopholes in the pre-existing criminal law. (As I pointed out three years ago, even al Qaeda "sleeper" cells stationed in the US wouldn't necessarily have been breaking the law pre-Patriot Act.)
12.8.2005 8:21pm
Medis:
Dan,

I believe you have the wrong timeline. The material support law dates back to 1996 (it was part of Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)). The other key fact in this case is that Secretary of State Albright designated the PIJ as a foreign terrorist organization on October 9, 1997 (also pursuant to AEDPA).
12.8.2005 11:49pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Medis: Fair enough--but it appears as though even AEDPA wasn't passed in time. Here's the relevant text from the news story....
While they knew that Al-Arian had phone conversations with PIJ leadership, jurors said, they still had trouble finding proof of illegal acts, since his conversations occurred before the PIJ was declared a Foreign Terrorist Organization, making association illegal.

There was much discussion among jurors over what prosecutors considered one of their best pieces of evidence: a 1995 letter Al-Arian wrote to a Kuwaiti legislator requesting money so actions, similar to a suicide bombing in Gaza, "could continue."
The obvious lesson to draw about anti-terrorism legislation is not that it's useless or even dangerous, but rather that it was awfully late in coming.
12.9.2005 1:24am
Medis:
Dan,

But "anti-terrorism legislation" is an awfully broad category. The proposition that the material support provisions of AEDPA were both useful and justified does not imply that every provision of the PATRIOT Act is also useful and justified, simply because they could all be described as "anti-terrorism legislation".
12.9.2005 7:56am
Aaron:
Tefta:
"I'm not questioning your integrity, only your judgment. I think that politics have reared its ugly head into our legal system and people who hate Bush are frequently so unhinged by BDS that their thinking is impaired."

Which part of my judgement are you questioning? I said that I would uphold the law and my oath--I take it that you find honesty to be a matter of poor judgement? Or is it that you don't believe that I would listen to the evidence objectively? Given that that is a part of the juror's duty, again, it seems as though you are questioning my integrity. Everything else that you have stated is "politics rearing its ugly head" ("unhinged"? "impaired"?).

"I don't know what you mean by if the evidence was "overwhelming," but I do know that the prosecutors thought they had a case and I do know that the jury was deadlocked on some issues and the authorities haven't determined whether to bring him to trial again on those charges."

I don't know if you are an attorney, so I will break it down for you: it is the prosecutor's burden to prove all elements of every charge beyond all reasonable doubt. TO do that, a prosecutor must present some quantum of evidence in support of his theory. Collectively, the evidence must be of such weight and pursuasiveness as to convince an ordinary citizen of reasonable intelligence, skill, and common sense, that the defendant committed the crimes charged, and that there is no doubt for which a reason could be given. This burden of proof is the highest which our legal system imposes; it not, therefore, unreasonable to state that a prosecutor confident in his case, with more than NINE years of wiretaps, transcripts, documents, and other physical and testimonial evidence, presented all relevant, and admissible evidence (and let us not forget that the PATRIOT Act makes more of the evidence admissible); the defense faced this mountain of evidence felt no need to put on a case, confident that quantity did not equal quality. The jury agreed with the defense.

Furthermore, an ethical prosecutor must believe in her case, otherwise, it would be misconduct to bring it to trial. What the prosecutor believes is not evidence. The evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to convince the jury.

"If the Patriot Act can't be used to convict those who are aiding and abetting terrorism, then we shouldn't try these cases in our courts. We should let military courts deal with them."

Begs the question. If convictions aren't secured, then they weren't "aiding and abetting terrorism" were they? You are upset with the outcome because you wanted Al-Arian to be guilty. Stop trying to forum shop, looking for a breakdown in the rule of law.

WHY are you so bent on undermining a safeguard that the Framers deemed essential to preserving liberty? Why do you hate freedom?
12.9.2005 1:01pm