In a major defeat for law enforcement officials, a jury in Florida failed to return guilty verdicts Tuesday on any of 51 criminal counts against a former Florida professor and three co-defendants accused of operating a North American front for Palestinian terrorists.
The former professor, Sami al-Arian, a fiery advocate for Palestinian causes who became a lightning rod for criticism nationwide over his vocal anti-Israeli stances, was found not guilty on eight criminal counts related to terrorist support, perjury and immigration violations.
The jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts against him after deliberating for 13 days, and it did not return any guilty verdicts against the three other defendants in the case.
"This was a political prosecution from the start, and I think the jury realized that," Linda Moreno, one of Mr. Arian's defense lawyers, said in a telephone interview. "They looked over at Sami al-Arian; they saw a man who had taken unpopular positions on issues thousands of miles away, but they realized he wasn't a terrorist. The truth is a powerful thing."
The above is from Eric Lichtblau's "Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S." in this morning's New York Times. What was it, a week ago, two?, that we noted the administration doesn't win these cases. They can strike a plea bargain but they can't seem to win these cases. Despite all the hype and boasts from the Justice Department. Could it be that they just don't mean the burden of proof?
From the article:
"This was a very important case for us in that it tested both the Patriot Act and the right to political activity," Mr. [Ahmed] Bedier said. "The jury is sending a statement that even in post-9/11 America, the justice system works, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and political association - while it may be unpopular to associate oneself with controversial views - is still not illegal in this country."
It "all changed on 9/11," or so we're told. And that was used to attack our civil rights and our common sense. Muslims-Americans were rounded up for no real reason. Secret deportations took place. (And worse.) The only thing that appears to have "all changed" is that the Justice Dept. no longer felt it needed to meet the burden of proof.
Oh, some other things changed too. How about the rules for flying? Lot of loud talk there too. Zach e-mails to note Ivan Eland's "TSA Treats for Holiday Travelers" (Consortium News):
And while we're at it, the government is soon apparently going to allow airline passengers to once again carry onboard the knives, scissors, fingernail clippers, etc., that were banned after 9/11. Apparently, authorities now believe that blowing up planes with bombs is a bigger threat that hijacking them and running them into buildings.
Does this mean that they were wrong about the major threat for years after 9/11 or that TSA is merely trying to find an excuse to lessen some of the most unpopular security measures that have threatened the agency with bureaucratic extinction?
Finally, although the courts (never ones to stick up for the Constitution) have allowed authorities to search all people and their things at airports and roadblocks designed to catch drunk drivers without "probable cause," don't such general searches explicitly violate the Fourth Amendment?
Oops, such commonsense questions by any thinking air traveler can only make one skeptical of the government’s efforts to provide genuine security. They can also make your life miserable.
Rod notes today's scheduled topics for Democracy Now!:
* On the 30th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor we examine newly declassified U.S. government documents how the U.S. government supported the invasion and occupation.
* British journalist Stephen Grey joins us in our New York studio to discusshow he helped expose that the CIA was flying detainees to secret prisons around the world.
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