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  1.    #1  
    After a surge, US terror prosecutions drop to pre-9/11 levels
    By Alexandra Marks | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
    NEW YORK

    With great fanfare, the federal government last March announced indictments against 19 people for "racketeering to support a terrorist organization." The allegation: They trafficked in contraband cigarettes and other items and sent some of the profits to Hizbullah in Lebanon, which the US calls a terrorist organization.

    In the announcement, a US attorney said the terror fight is his office's No. 1 priority. But lawyers for some of those charged claim their clients had nothing to do with terror. At best, they say, their clients may have been involved in "nickel-and-dime" criminal activity.

    The contrasting views of this case illustrate the difficulties encountered by the federal government in prosecuting terrorism. A new analysis of federal data since 9/11 also underscores the difficulties: It finds that the number of criminal prosecutions for international terrorism in the US has dropped sharply.

    After spiking up in the aftermath of the attacks, the number of prosecutions started to decline in 2004 and now stands at pre-9/11 levels, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse (N.Y.) University. In addition, the length of sentences served by those convicted of international terror-related crimes has dropped from a median of 41 months prior to 9/11, to 28 days in the two years following the attacks.

    Analysts say one reason for the drop is the intensity of the law-enforcement activity in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, which then leveled off. Critics also point to the way the government conducts its homeland-security policy: They raise questions about the effectiveness of its current surveillance and intelligence operations, and also ask whether the threat of terrorism has been exaggerated.

    The Department of Justice counters that the report "presents a misleading analysis," and it strongly objects to the suggestion that the threat of terrorism may be exaggerated. It says the TRAC report ignores the DOJ's "successful strategy of prevention through prosecution." "It is irresponsible to attempt to measure success in the war on terror without the necessary details about the government's strategies and tactics," said Bryan Sierra in a prepared statement.

    The Justice Department says that by going after small offenses - such as fraud - it's able to disrupt terrorist activity. It declined to provide a spokesperson to address directly some of the issues raised in the TRAC report.

    An independent review by the Monitor of dozens of cases categorized by the government as terrorism or terrorism-related supported the findings in the TRAC report. The Monitor review - which covered cases characterized by the Justice Department as successful terror prosecutions, as well as those included in the TRAC data - found many cases had tenuous connections to terrorism and resulted in little, if any, jail time.

    For instance, the case of a Kentucky businessman who pleaded guilty to lying about selling forklift parts to an Iranian truck manufacturer was categorized as a successful prosecution related to "international terrorism." The businessman was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and a year of probation.

    Other cases, like the Michigan cigarette smugglers, show a pattern of government overreaching, say lawyers for some of the defendants. For instance, they note that in the indictment, many of those named are not charged with an overt act of giving money to a terrorist organization - just associating with people who did.

    "These guys have never contributed a dollar to Hizbullah and wouldn't in a thousand years," says James Burdick, who represents Majid Hammoud and his brother.

    The terrorism cases that did result in longer jail terms (14 resulted in 20 years or more) were usually the result of a government sting operation, like the case of Shahawar Matin Siraj. He was convicted last May of plotting to blow up the Herald Square subway station in New York prior to the Republican National Convention.

    "Had we not intervened, had we not put an informant next to them, would these really have been terrorist attacks? We don't know," says Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif.

    Jenkins and other terrorism experts say they're not surprised by the significant drop in terrorism prosecutions, in part because of the spike in the number of arrests in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

    "The FBI grabbed the good stuff quickly. People who were at risk of being deemed terrorists or were terrorists went underground," says Jonathan Winer, a terrorism expert in Washington. "It may well be that there's not a lot to work with now, only really hard cases with shards of information left."

    That may figure into another TRAC finding: US attorneys declined to prosecute about two out of three cases (748 cases out of 1,391) categorized as "international terrorism" that were referred to them by investigative agencies. In the first six months of this year, nine out of 10 referrals were declined. "That's a very high declination rate," says Christopher Bebel, a former federal prosecutor.

    At least one former FBI agent does not find it unusual that the US attorneys are declining to prosecute the vast majority of terrorism cases brought to them.

    "Terrorism cases are a whole lot of work, and the likelihood of getting a conviction is very low," says Christopher Hamilton, senior fellow for terrorism at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies and the former chief of Palestinian investigations in the FBI.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Very interesting article given the administration's attempts this weekend to paint the picture that they're keeping you safe but you're not safe yet.

  2. #2  
    Uh...we're not prosecuting them any more. We're killing them. By the bushel.

    It was the "terrorism is a law enforcement problem" approach that got us to where we are right now.

    Pity DA will never see this post, since I'm on his banned list and all.
  3. NRG
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    #3  
    Quote Originally Posted by 1911sforever View Post
    Uh...we're not prosecuting them any more.

    Pity DA will never see this post, since I'm on his banned list and all.
    You love that don't you?
  4.    #4  
    < < Edited by Septimus > >
  5. #5  
    Quote Originally Posted by 1911sforever View Post
    Uh...we're not prosecuting them any more. We're killing them. By the bushel.

    It was the "terrorism is a law enforcement problem" approach that got us to where we are right now.

    Pity DA will never see this post, since I'm on his banned list and all.
    Not sure why NRG omitted the key point here, which is worth repeating for daT.
  6.    #6  
    When did anyone say law enforcement doesn't involve killing bad guys?
  7. #7  
    Quote Originally Posted by daThomas View Post
    When did anyone say law enforcement doesn't involve killing bad guys?
    Many people, including Bob Kerry and Richard Clarke, have argued that a major mistake in the US approach to terrorism in the 90s was that it treated it as a law enforcement problem, rather than a national security problem.

    When it's handled as a law enforcement issue, you end up having debates in the White House about trying to capture Bin Laden alive instead of just killing him. And you worry about a different standard for rules of evidence and you worry about violating a ban on assasinations. You worry about killing some innocent civilians. And you hesitate to act if there's only 70% confidence in the intelligence. As a result, you let bin Laden survive to carry out more terrorist attacks.


    Bob Kerry: “The most important thing the Clinton administration could have done would have been for the president, either himself or by going to Congress, asking for a congressional declaration to declare war on al-Qaida, a military-political organization that had declared war on us.”
  8.    #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by samkim View Post
    Many people, including Bob Kerry and Richard Clarke, have argued that a major mistake in the US approach to terrorism in the 90s was that it treated it as a law enforcement problem, rather than a national security problem.

    When it's handled as a law enforcement issue, you end up having debates in the White House about trying to capture Bin Laden alive instead of just killing him. And you worry about a different standard for rules of evidence and you worry about violating a ban on assasinations. You worry about killing some innocent civilians. And you hesitate to act if there's only 70% confidence in the intelligence. As a result, you let bin Laden survive to carry out more terrorist attacks.


    Bob Kerry: “The most important thing the Clinton administration could have done would have been for the president, either himself or by going to Congress, asking for a congressional declaration to declare war on al-Qaida, a military-political organization that had declared war on us.”

    Now you're splitting hairs and playing semantics. The point of the phrase "law enforcement" is not limiting force that can be used or rules of evidence. It's the fact that terrorism is a tactic used by any group with any agenda. We should and will always try to avoid OK City bombings and the Olympic Park bombing.

    "War on Terror" is just a bumper sticker phrase for the ignorant masses to embrace.
  9. #9  
    Quote Originally Posted by daThomas View Post
    Now you're splitting hairs and playing semantics. The point of the phrase "law enforcement" is not limiting force that can be used or rules of evidence.
    No, that's exactly what it is.

    It's not semantics when it changes how decisions are made and what decisions are made.

    Tenet said: "What the United States would let the military do is quite different from the rules that govern covert action by the CIA."
  10. #10  
    Quote Originally Posted by daThomas View Post
    Now you're splitting hairs and playing semantics. The point of the phrase "law enforcement" is not limiting force that can be used or rules of evidence. It's the fact that terrorism is a tactic used by any group with any agenda. We should and will always try to avoid OK City bombings and the Olympic Park bombing.

    "War on Terror" is just a bumper sticker phrase for the ignorant masses to embrace.
    I have answered this several times over:

    http://discussion.treocentral.com/sh...9&postcount=99

    http://discussion.treocentral.com/sh...7&postcount=10

    http://discussion.treocentral.com/sh...&postcount=117
  11.    #11  
    Actually, you haven't "answered" anything, you addressed the issue. And with a level of verbosity which tends toi suggest the use of the phrase "war on terror" needs a great deal of explaination to justify.
  12. #12  
    Nice avoidance of the issue. But Okay....I will state it in simple terms:

    AQ issued an official Declaration of War against the United States. They attacked us abroad. They attacked on our own soil. Their official mission statement states that every American man, women, and child is a valid target.

    We have and are engaged in armed conflict with them for a number of consecutive years in several countries.

    If you put Japan in place of AQ above, it could almost sound sound like discription of WWII.
  13.    #13  
    Quote Originally Posted by HobbesIsReal View Post
    Okay....how is this:

    AQ issued an official Declaration of War against the United States. They attacked us abroad. They attacked on our own soil. Their official mission statement states that every American man, women, and child is a valid target.

    We have and are engaged in armed conflict with them for a number of consecutive years in several countries.

    If you put Japan in place of AQ above, it could almost sound sound like discription of WWII.
    However, the use of the term terrorist as in war on terror includes more than AQ.

    Declare war on AQ? I thought that was understood. It's not being fought and Afghanstan is being basically ignored. I believe the only reason a formal declaration was not made was to not legitimize the group in any way.
  14. #14  
    posted this in wrong thread. Moved.
  15. NRG
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    #15  
    Quote Originally Posted by samkim View Post
    Not sure why NRG omitted the key point here, which is worth repeating for daT.
    I wanted to avoid discussing that in length.
  16. #16  
    Quote Originally Posted by daThomas View Post
    However, the use of the term terrorist as in war on terror includes more than AQ.
    I fully agree....but it is also important to note the extreme networking, support, interaction, ect...that various terrorist orgs engage in. Sometimes to the point that is is challenging to determine the accountability of an attack because of multiple sources of support for the attack. AQ has supplied weapons, training, etc... to other orgs with the same or similar goals as theirs. Just like in any war, if someone associates themselves with the enemy that has officially declared war on us during a time of war they then take the responsibility and/or risk of being a participant or target of the war as well.
    Last edited by HobbesIsReal; 09/11/2006 at 06:20 PM.

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