Monday, June 9, 2014
by Courtney Clark from Washington, DC.
Last week, the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) and Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims) released a 175-page study of the government’s prosecution strategy in domestic terrorism cases. The study, Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution, reveals that the era of J. Edgar Hoover may be less far removed from the Bureau’s operations than most observers realize. The introduction explains that:
[T]he war on terror has been largely a charade designed to make the American public believe that a terrorist army is loose in the U.S., when the truth is that most of the people convicted of terrorism-related crimes posed no danger to the U.S. and were entrapped by a preventive strategy known as preemptive prosecution.
This week, they will host a press conference to discuss their discoveries on on Thursday, June 12 at 11 a.m. in New York City at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Anyone interested is invited to attend.
Preemptive prosecution is defined as “a law enforcement strategy…to target and prosecute individuals or organizations whose beliefs, ideology, or religious affiliations raise security concerns.” The report intentionally uses the term in relation to “lawfare”—using the law as a weapon of war.
Inventing Terrorists states that the government “has used preemptive prosecution to exaggerate the threat of Muslim extremism to the security of the country.” A list of 399 so-called official terrorism cases published in 2010 by the Department of Justice has been compared to a database put together by Project SALAM, containing terrorism cases dating back from 2001. Of the 399 cases, a remarkable 94% were based on components of preemptive prosecution. Particular cases involving this type of prosecution, untethered from any actual crime or even the plausible threat of one, include José Padilla in Chicago and Florida (2002); Tarek Mehanna in Boston (2012); the Holy Land Five (2007–2012); and Professor Sami Al-Arian in Florida (2003–present).
Inventing Terrorists explains where the concept of preemptive prosecution originated, its tactical patterns, as well as recommendations on changing the unfair practices in today’s cases. The study also includes a description of all 399 referenced cases in the body as well as an extensive bibliography.
One of the many recommendations in the study will actually be put into action starting in July by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. As reported by the study, “The FBI and other federal agencies have a practice of refusing to record formal interviews with defendants, notwithstanding that it is a felony to lie to a federal agent…because the present system of questioning unfairly stacks the deck against a target, most lawyers advise their clients not to appear voluntarily for an interview with the FBI.” Attorney General Eric Holder said on May 22 that recording interviews “will allow us to document that detained individuals are afforded their constitutionally protected rights.”
The study was researched by Kathy Manley and Stephen Downs, both of whom are attorneys, officers of NCPCF, and co-founders of Project SALAM. Download their report to learn more.