Defending Against Government Impunity
Put U.S. State Terrorism and its Wars and Occupations on Trial
Demonstrations across the country in October protested the ninth anniversary of the criminal U.S. war against Afghanistan. Everywhere people put forward the demand of the majority to Bring All U.S. Troops Home Now! U.S. wars solve no problems and serve to increase violence and aggression worldwide. They are crimes against humanity and the criminals responsible should be brought to justice. Instead, everywhere, the government is striving to put the peoples resisting, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan or here at home on trial and charge them for organizing resistance. We say Resistance is a Right! Put U.S. State Terrorism and its Wars and Occupations on Trial!
Actions rejected the massive killing of civilians and the continued drone attacks against the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan. These drone attacks are symbolic of how utterly lawless and criminal U.S. aggression is. The military determines targets for attacks in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, anywhere the U.S. decides. People, including U.S. citizens, are targeted for assassination. Civilian massacres and assassinations are carried out, all serving to terrorize the population and quell resistance. The “battlefield” is limited only by the stretch of technology, not by international law that makes aggression a crime, civilian massacres crimes, torture and indefinite detention crimes.
The U.S. state is insisting that people here and abroad accept that this U.S. lawlessness and impunity to commit crimes is the new “rule of law” of the “war on terror.” We are to accept this concept of a “permanent state of emergency,” that allows for any measure to be taken, so long as it protects the U.S. state and its interests. A main problem the U.S. state faces is that increasingly here and abroad the peoples recognize that their interests, their democracy, their rule of law is opposed to the U.S. state and its interests to safeguard the U.S. monopolies.
Numerous measures against the rights of the people are taken. In the recent period these have included mass round-ups of Muslims, mass detentions, torture and indefinite detention in concentration camps like Guantánamo. Similarly mass round ups of immigrants and record rates of deportations are also justified in the name of “securing the border,” in the “fight against terrorism.” The massive use of police violence and pre-emptive arrests against demonstrators at the 2008 Republican National Convention, again with the G20 in Pittsburgh, and now with raids and subpoenas of leading organizers in the movements against U.S. wars and occupations and for rights — are all done in the name of the “exceptional” circumstances of the “war on terror.”
The most recent raids against organizers are not the actions of a rogue FBI, as some in government are putting forward. The fact that Joint Terrorism Tasks Forces were used in these raids further reveals this reality, as they commonly bring together the military, FBI, Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, state and local police. These “terrorism” task forces are also used in the fabricated cases against Muslims, which rely on informants and where government agents instigate and fund the so-called “conspiracies.” Whole communities are commonly terrorized with raids using a massive show of force — much as is being done against immigrant communities. Further, these Task Forces, like local police, have been armed to the level of the military, with their own mini-tanks and sound and water canons and other weaponry.
Whether raiding homes of organizers or fabricating cases, the actions are those of the U.S. state. They are no more the acts of a “rogue” FBI than the drone attacks are acts of a rogue CIA or rogue military General, like Stanley McChrystal. All are institutions of the single U.S. state, which is increasingly resorting to state terrorism and violence to safeguard U.S. imperialism and the imperialist system of states. The whole notion of “rogue” agencies is a creation of the state to divert from its crimes and to hide its character, as a repressive apparatus in the hands of the imperialists to ensure their continued rule. Use of force and violence is increasingly necessary as the political and economic crises deepen and imperialism acts to hold onto its power, blocking the social progress necessary.
In addition, what stands out is that the military and police powers of the state systematically act above the civil power. Numerous reports about the FBI, CIA and these various Task Forces reveal that organizations are spied on, infiltrated, disrupted, placed on terrorism watch lists, and leaders and others are subpoenaed, harassed, arrested, jailed, held without charges or on fabricated “conspiracy” charges, tortured, threatened with going forever to Guantánamo, and assassinated — all without due process and without crimes being committed. In addition, the entire apparatus of the Homeland Security Department, integrated with the military’s Northern Command for the U.S., Canada and Mexico, are increasing this impunity here at home and preparing for far greater repression.
These attacks on resistance and dissent are occurring in the present. It shows that the Constitutional liberties and civil rights that are supposed to protect people from government impunity by police agencies, do not. The President, as Commander in Chief, is using the “exceptional circumstances,” of the “war on terror,” to act with greater impunity and brutality against the peoples at home and abroad.
As the peoples step up their resistance and reject all efforts to criminalize their rights, it is critical to target U.S. state terrorism and U.S. crimes as the source of the problems we face. It is U.S. state terrorism and U.S. wars and occupations that must be put on trial and those responsible for these crimes held accountable. The peoples have a right to resist and rebel against a social order based on exploitation, oppression and aggression. They have a right to resist the old and unsustainable imperialist system and fight for new societies with modern democracies that empower the people. Whatever the government may claim, the struggle for the rights of all is just and necessary!
Put U.S. State Terrorism and Its Wars and Occupations on Trial! [TOP]
New Hearing Set for Sami Al-Arian
Though free on bail, Professor Sami Al-Arian remains politically imprisoned like many hundreds of others behind bars. Because of his faith, ethnicity, prominence and political activism, the U.S. accused him of supporting “terrorism” and other outrageous charges.
In fact, he is a Palestinian refugee, a distinguished professor, scholar, community leader, and civil activist, a man deserving honor, not incarceration doing hard time — until released after five and half years of brutal treatment, including solitary confinement in rat and roach-infested cells. He was denied religious services, got no watch or clock, and was kept in windowless cells with artificial lights kept on round the clock. Whenever outside his cell, he was also shackled hands behind his back and to his ankles. In protest, he staged hunger strikes, long enough to endanger is life.
A Brief Timeline of His Case
FBI investigations hounded him for 11 years, spending millions of dollars for half a million phone wiretaps, searches and other forms of harassment.
Events came to a head at 5AM on February 20, 2003 when FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) officers stormed his home guns drawn. They arrested him and three others separately on spurious charges of supporting terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, giving material support to an outlawed group, extortion, perjury, and other offenses proved bogus in court.
On February 27, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft fired him, acting as a Bush administration stooge.
At his four-day March bail hearing in 2003, prosecutors provided no evidence, witnesses, or any reason to hold him. Nonetheless, he and co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh were denied bail.
On March 27, he was incarcerated at a maximum security federal penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, after initially being held in jail. Later he was transferred repeatedly to other federal prisons.
In June 2005, his trial began. It was a witch-hunt travesty with phony evidence, the kind prosecutors use when they have none. Despite spending around $50 million for years of investigations and six months of trial, jurors exonerated him on eight serious charges, remaining deadlocked 10 – 2 for acquittal on nine lesser ones.
On March 2, 2006, fearing retrial, [and likely threatened with being sent indefinitely to Guantánamo or similar threats] he accepted to plead guilty to one minor charge, be freed, then reunited with his family and deported. [The plea agreement included that he would have no further dealings with the DoJ and not be forced to testify, something that was later confirmed by the DoJ.] But it did not end there.
Assistant prosecutor Gordon Kromberg ordered him before a grand jury, violating terms of his plea bargain. He refused, was held in contempt, again imprisoned, and sentenced to 18 months without mitigation – a clear effort to keep hounding and imprison him.
At the time, his attorney, Professor Jonathan Turley, called the Justice Department’s ploy “a classic perjury trap used repeatedly by the government to punish those individuals who could not be convicted before an American jury.”
Al-Arian appealed and remained imprisoned until released on bail on September 2, 2008 under house arrest, pending trial for criminal contempt. For the first time in over five years, he was reunited with his family, but his ordeal continues.
On October 29, 2010, a new hearing will be held before federal Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia to decide whether criminal contempt charges will be pursued or dropped.[Note: The hearing was canceled by the judge, without explanation.]
Under Obama, prosecutors are as ruthlessly corrupted as their predecessors, using every trick in the book to convict, whether guilty or innocent, and when trials are politically motivated, intensifying pressure even more. The Justice Department (DoJ) thus recently filed a motion to deny a defense motion, filed 18 months earlier to dismiss criminal contempt charges. Three previous DoJ motions have been rejected. This time, Holder prosecutors not only requested denying the defense’s dismissal request, but asked Judge Brinkema to reverse her earlier decision letting Al-Arian’s attorneys present evidence in case of trial.
In March 2009, she backed the defense’s request to file a motion to dismiss Al-Arian’s charges, saying she would rule later at further hearings, and expressing concern over government “bait and switch” tactics: “Dr. Al-Arian and his counsel were assured that, if he agreed to plead guilty (to one minor charge), he would not be subject to any further involvement with the Justice Department beyond his deportation following the completion of his sentence.” Bush prosecutors reneged on the agreement, Obama prosecutors are as contemptuous. […]
[The October 29 hearing for Al-Arian was canceled by the judge, without explanation. His supporters contiue to rally in his defesne and support his just demands for immediate release from prison — VOR ed.]
Some Final Comments
In July 2003, Amnesty International (AI) wrote U.S. prosecutors, “calling for a review of the pre-trial detention conditions of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, aspects of which it said appeared to be ‘gratuitously punitive,’ ” and a breach of international standards.
In December 2005, AI sought fair procedures to resolve his case after jurors acquitted him of terrorist and other serious charges. AI noted his harsh solitary confinement, calling it “unnecessarily punitive.”
In August 2008, Howard Zinn said:
“I thought that (Al-Arian’s case) was an outrageous violation of human rights, both from a constitutional point of view and as a simple test of justice.”
His former appeals attorney, Professor Peter Erlinder, a former National Lawyers Guild president said:
“The prosecution of Dr. Sami Al-Arian was a blatant attempt to silence political speech and dissent in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. The nature of the political persecution of this case has been demonstrated throughout all its aspects, not only during the trial and the never-ending right-wing media onslaught, but also after the stunning defeat of the government in 2005, and its ill-advised abuse of the grand jury system thereafter.”
Throughout his ordeal, many other individuals and organizations expressed support, demanding justice and an end to prosecutorial ruthlessness, false imprisonment, and contempt for the rule of law.
In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers produced a documentary titled, USA v. Al-Arian. An updated 2009 version is now available. Access the following link to order:
Additional material on Sami Al Arian by Stephan Lendman can be gotten at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com.
February 20, 2010 marked the seventh anniversary of the arrest of Professor Sami Al-Arian by U.S. authorities. On that day, in 2003, former Attorney General John Ashcroft declared in a nationally televised news conference, carried on all major media outlets, that Dr. Al-Arian was one of the most dangerous people in the world.
Based on these assertions, Dr. Al-Arian was held in solitary confinement for 43 straight months during and after his trial, despite the fact that he had never waived his right to a speedy trial. Amnesty International protested the conditions of his detention, calling them "gratuitously punitive."
No Guilty Verdicts
In December 2005, a Florida jury acquitted Dr. Al-Arian on eight counts, and deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal on the remaining nine counts, leading Time magazine to declare the case "one of the Justice Department's most embarrassing legal setbacks since 9/11." Indeed, much of the government's evidence presented to the jury during the six-month trial were speeches Dr. Al-Arian delivered, lectures he presented, articles he wrote, magazines he edited, books he owned, conferences he convened, rallies he attended, interviews he gave, news he heard, and websites he never even accessed.
In fact, several websites, presented to the jury as evidence, were created by anonymous individuals, after his arrest, while he was awaiting trial in solitary confinement in a federal prison. It was therefore no surprise that, with almost 100 counts between all defendants, the jury did not return a single guilty verdict on any count. Two other defendants were totally acquitted on all counts.
A Plea Deal to End Persecution
In April 2006, in an effort to spare his family another long, financially draining, and excruciating trial, Dr. Al-Arian pleaded guilty to violating a 1995 presidential executive order, by providing immigration services in the 1990s to persons associated with the PIJ, a Palestinian organization listed on the U.S. terrorist list. In return, he agreed to immediate deportation from the U.S. despite more than three decades residing in the country.
The details of the plea deal illustrated the true nature of the political persecution of this case. The services admitted in the plea deal were: 1) hiring a lawyer for his brother-in-law during his immigration battle in the late 1990s; 2) sponsoring a Palestinian historian in 1994 to conduct research in the U.S.; and 3) withholding information from a U.S. journalist during a 1995 interview. There was no evidence or admission in the plea deal that showed any illegal financial transactions or material support. Although Dr. Al-Arian was promised a prompt release in exchange for his plea, the U.S. government later admitted that, at the time the plea deal was signed in 2006, federal prosecutors were secretly preparing to call Dr. Al-Arian before a grand jury in Virginia, in a sign of their complete disregard for the overarching purpose of the plea agreement, which was to end any and all business between Dr. Al-Arian and the U.S. government.
In what many observers believed was an attempt to seek retribution for the colossal defeat of the government's case in Florida, Dr. Al-Arian was called to testify before a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia three times between the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2008. The call to the grand jury was a classic prosecutorial trap in which agreeing to testify would result in a charge of perjury, while a refusal to testify would result in a charge of contempt of court. When Dr. Al-Arian refused to testify, invoking his right under the plea deal, he was held for over a year on civil contempt charges. In June 2008, he was charged with criminal contempt.
After five and a half years in prison, most of which was served under deplorable conditions in solitary confinement, and during which Dr. Al-Arian underwent three hunger-strikes that lasted several months requiring hospitalization, Dr. Al-Arian was released in September 2008 under house arrest, where he has spent the last 18 months awaiting trial. During this period, the government made several admissions regarding the plea deal: namely, they affirmed its essence of non-cooperation, but still argued that it should not be taken into account. However, the judge in the case questioned the government's assertions, stating that "the integrity of the Department of Justice," was at stake. A motion to dismiss the case based on the violation of the 2006 plea agreement has been pending since April 2009.
The Persecution of Dr. Al-Arian on Film
In 2007, Norwegian filmmakers released a documentary film entitled USA vs. Al-Arian. The award-winning film chronicles the story of Dr. Al-Arian and his family during and after his Florida trial, illustrating the political nature of his prosecution and the state of the U.S. justice system under the Patriot Act. Since 2003, Dr. Al-Arian's case has attracted the interest of major civil libertarians and human rights organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
Peter Erlinder, a law professor, and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, said: "The prosecution of Dr. Al-Arian was a blatant attempt to silence political speech and dissent in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. The nature of the political persecution of this case has been demonstrated throughout all its aspects, not only during the trial and the never-ending right-wing media onslaught, but also after the stunning defeat of the government in 2005, and its ill-advised abuse of the grand jury system thereafter." […]
A Voice for Freedom and Dialogue
Dr. Al-Arian reiterated his strong belief in the importance of dialogue and education in the only public speech he has given since his release on home confinement, delivered last summer through Skype to the Global Forum on Freedom of Expression in Norway. He said: "Despite my imprisonment and experience, my faith in dialogue and commitment to freedom of expression, will never waver. It has been my life long passion. This experience taught us that when the American people are educated and empowered with truth, they respond positively and display a sense of fairness. I firmly believe that through education and civil engagement people change. Little by little they will understand the plight of the Palestinians and the importance of defending civil liberties and human rights. Increasingly, people realize that no democracy can survive at the altar of sacrificing free speech or dissent."
He continued: "Our charge today is to pledge to defend the rights of our most vulnerable members of our world community: the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience around the world, those who are under occupation or under siege, the millions terrorized by dictators and war lords, the poor and the sick, the uneducated and the exploited, the children, the abused women, and the elderly. Each one of these classes of people needs a voice and an advocate. They need to gain their freedom to realize a life of dignity and peace. So whether we recognize it or not, we are at the forefront of this struggle for their freedom. Let your collective conscience speak on their behalf."
For more information see FreeSamiAlArian.com
Albany, NY –– The Muslim Solidarity Committee of Albany, and the national organization Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims) based in Albany, are outraged at the convictions of James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen in the Newburgh 4 “terrorism” case today.
There are many down-and-out people who would jump at the chance to do just about anything if enough money were dangled in front of them. The FBI could have targeted thousands of people and gotten the same result. But in this case, they once again targeted Muslims, in their mosque.
The defendants had absolutely no intention to commit any terrorist crimes until the FBI agent provocateur, Shahed Hussain, promised them each $5,000 ––and in one case $250,000 –– if they did his bidding. A con artist and professional liar who was chosen and well paid by the FBI to create more victims in this fictional “war on terror,” Hussain engineered the entire case. He posed as a rich man who could give the defendants everything they had ever wanted. He chose the targets, he told them how it would all work, and the FBI paid for everything. The four defendants were petty criminals, none of whom had a car or even a driver’s license. When Hussain wanted Google maps printed, he had to print them himself because they did not even have computers. When the so-called leader, James Cromitie, decided to back away from Hussain’s scheme and refused to answer his calls for about a month, Hussain said, “Brother, I told you you could have $250,000, but you do not want it.” Cromitie’s response: “OK, I’m in.” How is this anything but entrapment?
If the FBI and Hussain can get away with this, they can get away with anything. How does this make the country any safer? Attorney Kathy Manley, who represented another Muslim convicted of terrorism, Albany imam Yassin Aref, in his unsuccessful appeal of the 2003–2004 Aref-Hossain sting case that was also engineered by Shahed Hussain, stated: “In fact, it shows there is more reason to fear the federal government than any supposed ‘terrorists,’ most of whom are figments of the fertile imaginations of FBI agents who create these elaborate sting operations to entrap their hapless victims, to send a message that Muslims should be afraid, and to justify the existence of their Joint Terrorism Task Forces.”
For more information about preemptive prosecution, see www.projectsalam.org