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: