Score Another One for General Stupidity

Good grief:

Federal prosecutors and investigators in Dallas acknowledged in court documents that they mistakenly gave defense lawyers information about the inner-workings of secretive counterterrorism investigations.

It took federal officials four months to discover that in April they had turned over secret court applications for wiretaps, which often have sensitive information from U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies, according to court papers that were unsealed this week.

The materials were given to lawyers for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and seven of its senior officers, who have been indicted on charges they illegally funneled millions of dollars to support the Hamas militant group. The U.S. government designated Hamas as a terrorist organization in 1995.

The feds don’t need more authority- they can’t be trusted with the power they have.






36 replies
  1. 1
    gratefulcub says:

    Off topic, but i feel like getting beat up.

    If you send money to charities in Palestine, some of that money ends up in the hands of Hamas. Are we sure that everyone we are putting on trial for ‘funneling money to terrorists’ are actually intending on supporting terrorists? Hamas does much more than suicide bombings. They run schools, hospitals, trash collection, almost every facet of life in Palestine. Hizbollah is the same sort of organization.

    I am in no way defending or supporting Hizbollah or Hamas. But, I don’t think we have a clear understanding of the situation in Palestine, Lebanon, etc. It is quite possible that a charity must work with Hamas to get anything done. Hamas was just elected to run the Palestinian government, and it isn’t because of the terrorists acts. We just don’t get the entire picture over here. I am not pretending to understand it.

    My only point, after all of that, is: Are we sure that we are arresting bad guys as opposed to charitable guys? Some of the cases I have heard about don’t make me feel all that comfortable.

  2. 2

    Federal prosecutors and investigators in Dallas acknowledged in court documents that they mistakenly gave defense lawyers information about the inner-workings of secretive counterterrorism investigations.

    Someone once said, Never attribute to malice what can be best described by incompetence. It’s amazing how much damage incompetence can do…

  3. 3
    Pooh says:

    Some have suggested that incompetence is a feature not a bug. I’m not there yet, but when loyalty trumps competence, “oops” happens. Not suggesting that is the case in this instance, because how the hell do I know, but this kind of shit happens far less if there is serious work being done on serious policy.

  4. 4
    Al Maviva says:

    Grateful, that’s a really good point and it’s why a number of parts of the criminal code sections relating to “material support for terrorism” generally require a “knowing” mens rea – that is the donor knew, or a reasonable person would have known, that the donations were going to go to fund terrorism. Because of that requirement the government sometimes has trouble making these types of cases, because unless there is a smoking gun, “I didn’t know exactly where the money was going” is a pretty fair argument for the defense. Also, another real problem in dealing with Hezbollah and Hamas is that they are openly mixed motive organizations. Sure, they’d love to dance around in the blood of Jews and Americans, but they build hospitals and give away food to the hungry as well. It sounds like I’m being snarky there but I’m not, that is a real problem. The Sami Al Arian case is a good example of that – he was the CFO for Hezbollah, or at least its chief fundraiser in the U.S., and the government still couldn’t get a conviction. Hamas, of course, will not be an even more difficult case, since they are the new Palestinian Authority and have claims to legitimacy…

    To add another difficult wrinkle, Islam requires charitable giving, or Zakat. A lot of well-off and well meaning Muslims in the West want to find safe charities to give to, where donations won’t result in charges. The Govt. line on this so far, from what I understand, has been, “good luck,” and not totally without cause. The FBI can’t just show up somwhere in Lebanon and ask to see a charity’s books, to give it a clean bill of health.

  5. 5
    tbrosz says:

    Looking at it from the other side of the glass, it shows the problems with routinely filtering security issues through dozens of “oversight” courtroom and legalistic steps. Every point is a possible leak.

    Not to say it shouldn’t be done, but the flaws have to be considered, too.

  6. 6
    Pooh says:

    Al and tbrosz, two good points.

  7. 7
    Jorge says:

    This is why the 4th amendment doesn’t apply anymore.

    When we use warrants, the terrorists win.

  8. 8
    Steve says:

    The Sami Al Arian case is a good example of that – he was the CFO for Hezbollah, or at least its chief fundraiser in the U.S., and the government still couldn’t get a conviction.

    My impression is that it would have been rather easy to convict the good professor under current law, save for the fact that when the current law was passed, he stopped doing whatever he was doing. Obviously, I’m not familiar with the details, so please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    I think it is wholly appropriate, given the need for concreteness in criminal statutes, to expect the Government to issue some kind of guidance regarding which charities are illegal to give money to. A policy of “donor beware” has an obvious chilling effect.

    I think of this issue every time Michelle Malkin criticizes Code Pink for donating funds to the people of Fallujah, on the theory that even though their city was blown away, some of the money probably ended up in the hands of bad people and therefore Code Pink raises money for terrorists.

  9. 9
    Mr Furious says:

    Screw spying on citizens, perhaps the White House ought to try watching what the fuck the actual governement is doing.

  10. 10
    stickler says:

    The feds don’t need more authority- they can’t be trusted with the power they have.

    But you voted for the man in fall 2004. Were you under the impression that he’d strive for less Federal authority?

  11. 11
    jaime says:

    You know that some portion of the money you pay for gas goes to a terrorist organization or state. Are you funneling money to terrorists everytime you go to Chevron?

  12. 12
    Pb says:

    An oldie, but goodie — check out the definition of ‘terrorism’ from the executive order on this subject:

    d. the term “terrorism” means an activity that —
       i. involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
       ii. appears to be intended —
          A. to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
          B. to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
          C. to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.

    Sounds like there’s a whole lotta terrorism going on!

  13. 13
    srv says:

    Sounds like there’s a whole lotta terrorism going on!

    Yes, Ghandi and MLK would be terrorists today.

    Thank God we have men like GW protecting us from, er, “terrorism”.

  14. 14
    Pb says:

    srv,

    Yep, it seems to cover everything from burning draft cards to–um–bombing Iraq. Go figure.

  15. 15

    ii. appears to be intended— A. to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    B. to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
    C. to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.

    Wait a minute. It’s an either or thing?

    Seems to me terrorism has to meet definition A.

    While I may not agree with them, I think it is perfectly legitimate for a group to fight a seperatist movement by attacking a governmental institution. i.e. military or police forces. I don’t think it’s legitimate for them to attack civilian populations, however, and it’s that distinction which differentiates terrorists from whatever you want to call them… (freedom fighters, insurgents, rebels, asshats, etc.)

    By that definition the very founders of the United States would have been considered terrorists. That seems awfully loose and undermines our very existence as a nation.

  16. 16
    CaseyL says:

    “Terrorism” was redefined along very broad lines in order to justify Bush’s pre-emptive doctrine. Not only does that definition now apply to any struggle against an established ruler/government, Bush’s pre-emptive doctrine itself certainly qualifies as terrorism under that definition.

    Terrorism isn’t too hard to define, if you’re not relabeling it to justify whatever executive actions take your fancy. There used to be perfectly good definition: an attack against civilians, without warning, for the purposes of using fear to change the political status quo. There: easy, see?

    The new, broadened definition includes “coercive” (i.e., not necessarily violent) actions against government itself. That’s a very dangerus broadening. Actions against the government are supposed to be one of those inalienable rights covered by the First Amendment. Any of the civil rights marches, anti-war protests – any mass demonstration at all – could have been labeled as terrorist acts under that definition.

    The new definition is authoritarian, and meant to be a tool for preserving authoritarianism. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for the Bush Admin to bring terrorism charges against organized dissenters.

  17. 17

    As I heard it, Sami the Aryan had connections to Grover Norquist.

    And wasn’t Operation Greenquest closed down by Mueller for the same reason–Grover Norquist?

    By the way, Fitzgerald’s other Judy Miller case, the one where she and the other NYT reporter Shenon allegedly tipped off a Muslim charity prior to a federal raid, is beginning to heat up again.

  18. 18
    Tim F. says:

    Looking at it from the other side of the glass, it shows the problems with routinely filtering security issues through dozens of “oversight” courtroom and legalistic steps. Every point is a possible leak.

    Do you realize how many parts can fall off an airplane?

  19. 19
    Caroline says:

    This makes me mad but handing our ports over to the United Arab Emigrates makes me pretty mad too.

    What the heck are these people thinking?

  20. 20
    ppGaz says:

    Screw spying on citizens, perhaps the White House ought to try watching what the fuck the actual governement is doing.

    Funny. And true.

  21. 21
    Al Maviva says:

    Pooh said: but when loyalty trumps competence, “oops” happens

    Assistant U.S. Attorneys and most DOJ attorneys other than major section heads and administrators are career civil servants, not political appointees. US Attorneys – the chief of each Office of the U.S. Attorney – are appointed, but many have worked their way up through the ranks of the USA’s office; not always the case but often so.

    Having worked on large litigation efforts, it’s not unusual for some screwup to occur and a handful or box full of privileged documents to wind up in with the tens or hundreds of thousands or millions of documents released to opposing counsel as part of discovery or subpoena response or other required disclosure. Yeah, it’s a screwup, and I havn’t made that mistake, though I’ve seen plenty of other good attorneys make it often enough. So I’m not going to throw too many stones here. My practice has always been to seal the stuff up in a box as soon as I realize what it is, take it to the judge and ask for an in camera ruling that any applicable privileges have been destroyed. Exploiting the documents without that ruling can cause ethical problems, and problems later in the litigation, on a sort of “fruit of the poisonous discovery tree” kind of theory, if the later discovery can be traced back to some document that wasn’t supposed to be released. Given the massive amount of litigation support contracting that goes on, and the degree to which document reproduction, sorting, review and shipping is farmed out, it’s not an uncommon error.

  22. 22
    Pooh says:

    Al, on the privlege thing, agreed. Hasn’t happened to me, yet, but has happened to friends of mine. And my father, (also an attorney, god help us) has had priviliged documents accidentally disclosed to him several times. Your solution is of course the best practice (though in certain cases, such as clear Atty-Client communications, I might simply return them to the other party as a matter of course before asking the judge for if privilege has been waived.)

    One of course worries that such ‘best practices’ would not neccesarily be followed by the attorneys in a terrorism case.

    Given the massive amount of litigation support contracting that goes on, and the degree to which document reproduction

    Recently had an issue where a set of disclosures seemed to be a bit voluminous for the request, when it was realised that someone an anotated copy of the FRCP had been copied and included in the documents…

  23. 23
    Steve says:

    We’re not talking about privilege here though. We’re talking about national security documents. One would hope the responsibility to protect the deepest secrets of the United States would not be contracted out to IKON Document Services.

  24. 24
    Pooh says:

    One would hope…

  25. 25
    CaseyL says:

    One would hope…

    …and one would hope in vain. The number of governmental services contracted out nowadays is amazing. Large-scale copying is surely one of those – and with reason.

    Do any of you have any idea what’s involved in discovery requests?

    First the files have to be reviewed, and the relevant documents removed for copying. They might need to be redacted – we’re talking tens of thousands of documents to review, redact, and copy. Copies are needed for every attorney for every Party named in the case, plus one for the Court… figure about 100,000 copies – at least. And it all needs to be collated and stapled.

    How many lowly little copy clerks do they have in the US Attorney’s office ? What’s their copier’s capacity? How long will it take them to do the copying in their office, versus sending it out to Kinkos? They’re on a timeline: discovery has deadlines, and canny attorneys use those deadlines, waiting until the last minute to file discovery requests and to respond to discovery requests, to keep the other side off-balance.

    When people bitch and moan about paying too much in taxes, and say the government can “do without all that administrative deadweight,” they’re talking about exactly this kind of thing: file clerks, copy clerks and copying machines.

  26. 26
    Steve says:

    Yeah, I have a great idea what’s involved in large-scale document productions. I worked on the BP-Amoco merger where entire warehouses needed to be reviewed. I still don’t think classified documents are routinely sent out to Kinko’s.

  27. 27
    Pb says:

    They have to go to Kinko’s, where else could they possibly find enough copy machines… *cough*

  28. 28
    Wickedpinto says:

    Well, thats called “judicial review” right?

    Either out of opportunity to dick with the administration, or out of fear of an appeal, they over-reacted?

    Isn’t this a REASON to NOT over-react?

  29. 29
    Steve says:

    Well, of course there are reasons not to overreact. If there weren’t, it wouldn’t be overreacting.

  30. 30
    Al Maviva says:

    Pooh says: (though in certain cases, such as clear Atty-Client communications, I might simply return them to the other party as a matter of course before asking the judge for if privilege has been waived.)

    That would be my first instinct, but I’d first ask whether I owed my client a duty to pursue every little possible advantage to its fullest, and how my client would feel about it if I didn’t. It could be a tactical choice within my purview, or a strategic choice the client would need to know about.

    On the other issue, outsourcing document reproduction, handling and storage is probably as common on the government side as the commercial side. Most litigation I’ve been involved in is subject to “surge” requirements – things like a sudden need to copy 500,000 documents in 5 days, or arrange the reproduction of several hundred building blueprints (which can’t be printed on normal copiers). The government’s “law firms” – Justice and the General Counsel’s shops at the agencies, as well as private law firms, face an expensive choice. Either build copying, filing, storage and delivery into the infrastructure, where it will be expensive to maintain, slack and disused for long periods, or outsource for those services when needed. Consequently, many document handling firms in the D.C. area have paid to obtain security clearances, and now advertise classified duplication, storage and destruction services. I believe some of the legal support contracting firms also have sections permitted to handle classified, and that they provide contract paralegals for document review. This would seem outrageous – letting non-governmental employees handle classified and sensitive government documents – until you consider the parallel example of defense contracting, which produces a lot of highly classified material in private sector hands. Being a defense contractor (or otherwise secure private sector contractor) comes with a lot of strings attached; information security principles are not waived, and the government really gets to poke its nose into corporate business. So it’s not like sham corporations typically get these jobs. And yes, Kinkos is probably in on it to. They aren’t rinky-dink, they do commercial jobs and probably have a chunk of the government market in major cities with a significant Fed presence). As long as there are going to be trusted private sector handlers of classified material, the division of labor between government and private sector probably comes down to a cost/benefits analysis. Were I managing a legal section in the government, I’d have to ask what was worth more to me – a senior attorney at $130k per year (salary + benefits) or a paralegal plus an admin assistant for similar costs. That admin staff of two wouldn’t be big enough to handle surge projects anyhow, but a good senior attorney could steer, supervise, do discovery and write the briefs in a lot of cases. Not saying that’s what happened here, but just generally speaking to the litigation support landscape…

  31. 31
    ChristieS says:

    But you voted for the man in fall 2004. Were you under the impression that he’d strive for less Federal authority?

    “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” and I don’t think Mr. Peabody lives in John’s neighborhood, anyway. Can we stop beating up on him because of his vote? There’s not a damned thing that anyone can do about it now.

    At least he sees the danger NOW and is trying to accomplish something to help prevent more damage. To me, that is more important. It’s nobody’s life to walk on water, nowadays. I do believe he is suitably chastened. Quit beating that dead horse.

    Jeez, I think I need a break from blogs. I’m getting too cranky for words. I’m going to my room for a time out.

  32. 32

    “Sami Al-Arian–A professor at the University of South Florida who campaigned for George Bush and later visited him in the White House. Al-Arian was allegedly a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 2003, he was arrested on dozens of charges, among them conspiracy to finance terrorist attacks that killed more than a hundred people, including two Americans.” -from House Of Bush, House Of Saud, Craig Unger, page 287.

    More stuff. Al-Arian, at a fund-raiser, called Jews “monkeys and pigs” and “begged for $500 to kill a Jew.” Al-Arian, in Steve Emerson’s American Jihad, was connected to fellows in the first WTC bombing.

    Just a shout out, Stormy.

  33. 33
  34. 34

    More about Grover Norquist and suicide bombers here:
    http://www.theweeklystandard.c.....a.asp?pg=1

  35. 35

    More about Operation Green Quest:

    Reaction to the raids suggests the Feds inflicted serious injury on the Wahhabi lobby, the Saudi-backed extremist network that largely controls Islam in America. Officials of the targeted groups as well as their non-Muslim apologists–notably GOP operative Grover Norquist, the chief enabler of Islamic extremists seeking access to the White House–have condemned the raids as civil rights violations.

    The convoluted system of interlocking directorates, global banking transactions, and ideological activities exposed in Northern Virginia will take time to sort out. Operation Green Quest has drawn attention to a previously overlooked aspect of support for extremism in this country: The principal threat comes not from the thousands of working-class Arab immigrants in places like New Jersey and Michigan who contribute modest sums to the so-called Islamic charities, but from the Arab elite.

    The Saudis stand behind all of it. The kingdom pledged $400 million last year for the support of “martyrs’ families,” according to the Saudi Embassy website. At $5,300 per “martyr,” that works out to about 75,000 martyrs, suggesting the Saudi princes anticipate a lot more suicide bombings than Israel has yet suffered. The Saudis offered a fraudulent “peace” plan this year intended to divert attention from their involvement in the horrors of September 11.

    The keystone of the Saudi-sponsored Northern Virginia network is the Saar Foundation, created by Suleiman Abdul Al-Aziz al-Rajhi, a scion of one of the richest Saudi families. The Saar Foundation is connected to Al-Taqwa, a shell company formerly based in Switzerland, where its leading figures included a notorious neo-Nazi and Islamist, Ahmed Huber. Subsequently moved to the United States, Al-Taqwa was shut down after September 11 and its assets frozen by U.S. presidential order. But operations continued, as the Wahhabi lobby shifted to its backup institutions here.

    Saar has also been linked to Khalid bin Mahfouz, former lead financial adviser to the Saudi royal family and ex-head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia. Mahfouz has been named by French intelligence as a backer of Osama bin Laden; Mahfouz endowed the Muwafaq Foundation, which U.S. authorities confirm was an arm of bin Laden’s terror organization. Muwafaq’s former chief, Yassin al-Qadi, oversaw the financial penetration of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania by Wahhabi terrorists in the late 1990s.

    Men like al-Rajhi, Mahfouz, and al-Qadi are the big players in the financing of Islamic extremism. And their paths repeatedly lead back to Northern Virginia. They don’t play for small stakes: Saar received $1.7 billion in donations in 1998, although this was left out of the foundation’s tax filings until 2000. No explanation has been offered for this bit of accounting sorcery.

    …Just drown that government in a bathtub, eh Grover?

  36. 36
    Lines says:

    Can’t we talk about the good that happens from turning over confidential documents to a terrorist defense team? Why do we always have to be so negative? What about the schools!?

Comments are closed.