Saturday, June 24

Free the Liberty Seven

Real life is not like C.S.I. When I went to jury duty a few months ago, these were practically the first words out of the mouth of the prosecutor. 'This is not C.S.I." We were not going to see crystal clear evidence of the defendants guilt, verified to a scientific certainty by an errant fingerprint, piece of cloth, blood or head lice. That's just Hollywood.

That very night I attended a Hollywood Premier, a festival for the USC Film School which included one film "Fast Money" that happened to feature Archie Kao, one of the cast members of C.S.I. I also met one of the other cast members, David Berman (aka "Super Dave") who as it turns out actually is a forensic scientist in "Real life". I told him exactly what the prosecutor had told me earlier in the day - he smiled a knowing smile.

Criminology is not an exacting science, largely because the information has to be filtered and evaludated by people - who bring to it all thier own biases and preconceptions.

Speaking of biases and preconceptions: let's talk about the Liberty Seven - the seven alleged wannabe members of Al Qaeda from Liberty Florida who didn't have a car, gun or explosives yet were still arrested this week for allegedly talking about blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Ladies and Gentleman, we have now entered the age of the thought crime. Think something outloud to the wrong person at the wrong time - and without any physical or forensic evidence what-so-ever you too just might wind up in Gitmo, doing the stress-position tango.

Let's just look closely at this case:

Citing an investigation that began months before Thursday's raid, the source said the group talked about an attack on the Sears Tower and the FBI headquarters in North Miami Beach -- but that they had no ``overt explosives or other things.''

The group thought that they ''were doing [the attacks] in conjunction with al Qaeda'' but were really dealing with undercover law enforcement, the official said.

It was ''pretty much talk, we were on top of them,'' the source said.

Another law enforcement source said the group had no actual ties to al Qaeda.

Family identified one of the men arrested as Stanley Phanor, 31, who called the warehouse the group's place of worship.

According to Stanley's sister, the group, which formed about a year ago, called itself the Seas of David. The 40 to 50 members consider themselves ''soldiers of God'' and are against the war in Iraq. Like soldiers, they incorporate discipline into their daily lives: exercise, no drinking, no drugs and no meat.

Phanor and his friends had been living in the warehouse for about eight months, and they often fed homeless people and helped them find jobs, his sister said.

''All of them worked so hard,'' she said.

Militant Black Muslims, they've been called, raising spectors of Malcolm X and his AK-47 at the ready - or the Black Panthers of the 70's with their shotguns, black leather jackets and berets.

Dangerous. Deadly. Pissed-off And BLACK!

It's not like we haven't had "Homegrown" terrorist before like Tim McVeigh or Eric Rudolph (who actually did blow some shit up) That's what the newsagencies have been touting for the last 36 hours. We're safer now because the G-men caught this Black Muslim Bastards who apparently wanted to...Talk us to death.

The key to this entire case seems to be the FBI's undercover al-Qaeda "Plant" who promised to supply this bunch of losers with supplies and a plan. The reason I'm so skeptical of this entire scenario is because I've seen this movie before.

This is in large part what happened to Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), the former Black Panther member who spent over 20 years in prison for a murder he couldn't have committed. According to an FBI source, an illegal wiretap proved that Pratt had been over 400 miles away in Oakland when the shooting he was accused off took place in LA. Pratt (who was also Tupac Shakur's Godfather) remained in prison until the key witness against him was revealed as a paid Sherrif's informant. The survellance, arrest and conviction of Pratt was a part of the goverments COINTELPRO program of the 70's, which was intended to suppress anti-war pro-communist sympathese at the time. The extra-legal activities taken by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon eventually led to the forming of the Church Commission and the formation of the FISA Court. (That's right, the Court that the NSA was afraid to go through before illegally tapping thousands of American calls and emails)

History it seems, just might be repeating itself.

The next steps, what happens in the next few days while in custody will either make or break this case. What I mean, is that the FBI will next attempt to coerce a confession from one or all of the "conspirators" just as they did in the much more recent case against Hamid Hayat.

In this case, the FBI again used an informant, name Khan, to suggest to Hayat, an impressionable teenager from Lodi, that he should "join Al Qaeda".
The FBI had come calling on Khan in the weeks after 9/11. He was living in Oregon, working double duty at McDonald's and managing a convenience store, bringing home $7 an hour to an American girl who was falling in love with him. He did his best to impress the two agents. Yes, he was familiar with the Pakistani community in Lodi. In fact, a few years earlier, he had seen Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, coming in and out of the mosque on Poplar Street. And not only him. Among the men on their hands and knees praying were the main suspects in two bombings of U.S. embassies and a military complex in Saudi Arabia.

The FBI would later concede that Khan's sightings [of Zawahiri] were almost certainly false.

Over the next six months, Khan would record more than 40 hours of conversations with Hamid and his father, mostly in the privacy of their home. As a job, confidential witness for the FBI's war on terror paid well—more than $225,000—and Khan threw himself into the part with such ardor that he looked more FBI than the agents themselves.
The kicker though wasn't the informant, it was the interrogation - which was reviewed by veteran FBI officer James Wedick.
Hayat shifted in his chair, and his voice grew submissive. One hour, two hours, yawns, cigarette break, yawns, candy break, exhaustion. The freefall never came. Instead, each new revelation, each dramatic turn in his story, was coming from the mouths of the agents first. Rather than ask Hayat to describe what happened, they were describing what happened for him and then taking his "uh-huhs" and "um-hmms" as solemn declarations. He was so open to suggestion that the camp itself went from being a village of mud huts to a building the size of Arco Arena. His fellow trainees numbered 35, 40, 50, 200. The camp was run by a political group, a religious school, his uncle, his grandfather, yes, it was Al Qaeda. The camp's location was all over the map—from Afghanistan to Kashmir to a village in Pakistan called Balakot. As for weapons training, the camp owned one pistol, two rifles and a knife to cut vegetables.

Wedick was troubled by the inability of the agents to pin down the contours of one believable story. They didn't seem to know the terrain of Pakistan or the month of Ramadan. They didn't seem to fully appreciate that they were dealing with an immigrant kid from a lowly Pashtun tribe whose sixth-grade education and poor command of the English language—"Martyred? What does that mean, sir?"—demanded a more skeptical approach. And then there was the matter of the father's confession. Umer Hayat described visiting his son's camp and finding 1,000 men wearing black Ninja Turtle masks and performing "pole vaulting" exercises in huge basement rooms—100 miles from Balakot. The agents going back and forth between the two interrogations that night never attempted to reconcile the vast differences in the confessions.

The video ended and Wedick picked up the phone and called defense attorney Johnny L. Griffin. Whatever hesitation he had about taking on the FBI office that he, more than anyone, had put on the map—the office where his wife still worked as an agent—was now gone. "Johnny, it's the sorriest interrogation, the sorriest confession, I've ever seen."
The prosecution managed to block Wedick from testifying as an expert witness for the defense, Hayat was eventually convicted and faces 39 years for "making false statements to the FBI" and providing "material support" to terrorists [althought the only "terrorist" he ever met was Khan, the FBI informant] After the case was over Wedick visited one of the Jurors.
He saw one juror holding back tears and made a straight line for her apartment. She wouldn't let him in at first, talking through a crack. Two hours, four hours, finally she opened the door and told him what he suspected. She didn't believe Hamid was guilty. So intense was the pressure from fellow jurors to convict him that she had to check into the hospital. Throughout the trial, she said, the foreman kept making the gesture of a noose hanging. "Lynch the Muslim," she took it to mean. Wedick persuaded her to write it all down and sign it. Then he filed the affidavit with the federal court, hoping it might lead to a new trial.
According to data obtained by the Innocence Project, which has used DNA evidence to exonerate 180 persons who had been condemned to death row, 35 times (out of the first 130 cases - or 27%) there was a False Confession and another 21 times (16%) the wrongful conviction was the result of bad information provided by informants and snitches.

Unfortunately, like the Prosecutor said - real life isn't C.S.I., and DNA evidence which can conclusively prove guilt or innocence is rarely available. Certainly not for the other 2 Million people that currently reside in our jails and prisons. (Somewhere between 5-10% of whom - or about 200,000 people conservativel, based on what the Innocence Project exoneration numbers (180) vs Death Row Population (3,314) indicates - are probably completely innocent of the crime for which they were convicted)

If we're sending these guys to prison for a bunch of rude, obnoxious talk, which in all likelyhood was being directed by the FBI informant, then why the bloody hell is Ann Coulter still walking around free considering some of the unruly shit that's been coming out of her mouth for years?
For example:
Her "only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building"

Her only real question about Bill Clinton was "whether to impeach or assassinate."

From what we've seen so far they've got a better case against Scooter Libby and Karl Rove for lying about Matt Cooper than they do against these guys, and they didn't indict Rove.

IMO The Liberty Seven should be afforded bail and released - immediately, or at the very least afforded the protection of an attorney. Meanwhile the evidence should be put before a Grand Jury - as required by the fifth amendment. Every moment they remain in indefinate FBI custody, is a moment where they most likely are undergoing intense interrogation, and like Hayat just might reach a point where they'll basically agree to anything in order for the questioning to finally stop.

These guys are not Al Qaeda, and we shouldn't be wasting time energy and resources on them.

Meanwhile, Osama is laughing at us.

Vyan

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