The Corner

The Friday Embarrassing News Dump: The Criminal Justice System Works Against PETA!

The contention that the civilian criminal justice system is always an effective tool against terrorism, though wrong, is not a frivolous argument. But it is diminished when posited by unserious people — and the people running this Justice Department are embarrassing themselves.

Finally today, after months of delay, DOJ officials released what they claim is the back-up for Attorney General Holder’s oft-repeated and outlandish claim that there are “hundreds” of convicted “terrorists” incarcerated in federal prisons, which “fact” supposedly shows that civilian justice processes are our best method of trying, convicting and securely detaining terrorists.

The Friday data dump is a joke. No wonder they waited ’til everyone was headed out of town to dump it.

An honest disclosure would have said, “Okay, you got us. There are not hundreds of convicted terrorists in custody. That was an exaggeration. The critics were right when they said we were rigging the numbers and inflating our count with hundreds of cases that did not involve terrorism convictions — as well as other cases which, while colorably related to terrorism, are not in the same league as cases involving alien enemy combatants like the 9/11 plotters.” But that’s not what Justice did. Instead, it leaked its disclosure to friendly media (see, e.g., here) which dutifully spun the story to say Justice was “calling the bluff” of its critics. Plainly, Holder & Co. are trying to shape the narrative before anyone actually reads the underlying data. (After watching the media’s shoddy coverage last week of the CBO report on Obamacare, who could blame them for figuring they’d get away with it?)

But the claim that there are 403 terrorists in custody is absurd. DOJ arrives at this figure by counting what it describes as two categories of case. The first involves real terrorism charges. Sounds fair enough, but what types of “terrorism charges” are they counting? Well they include, for example, convictions under statutes barring “Animal Enterprise Terrorism,” “Narco-terrorism,” “crimes against internationally protected persons” (which can be terrorism-related but are not necessarily), hostage-taking (ditto), and offenses like harboring terrorists and material support to terrorism (which are surely terrorism-related, and involve assistance provided to terrorists, but are charges generally brought against facilitators, not actual terrorists).

Not exactly KSM. But these Category I cases, though they blatantly goose up DOJ’s numbers, don’t account for most of DOJ’s claimed 403 terrorists. Over sixty percent belong to “Category II,” which Justice, without a hint of apology, describes as follows:

Category II cases include defendants charged with violating a variety of other statutes where the investigation involved an identified link to international terrorism. These Category II cases include offenses such as those involving fraud, immigration, firearms, drugs, false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, as well as general conspiracy charges [i.e., cases that charge other kinds of conspiracies, not terrorism conspiracies].

This is rich. As I pointed out when DOJ first rolled out this bunk,

When the Bush administration used the immigration laws to boot terror suspects out of the country, the Left and its fellow travelers like CAIR claimed this was racial profiling masquerading as counterterrorism. Now, in the age of Obama, we learn … that “immigration fraud” counts as a “terrorism case” — so the group can boost the numbers and claim that the same Justice Department (under the Bush administration for most of the period covered in the report) has done a great job of combating terrorism in civilian court.

The problem is not simply that Justice’s numbers are bogus, just like Dana Perino, Bill Burck, I, and others said they were. It is that Justice’s purpose is fraudulent. It was the Left, throughout the Bush years, that pooh-poohed these prosecutions as overblown — an exaggeration of the terrorist threat as part of the “politics of fear.” We, to the contrary, have always thought these cases were quite important. One key to stopping terrorism from happening is using less serious crimes and terror facilitation crimes to kill cells and interrupt plots in an early stage.

Furthermore, those of us who oppose the use of civilian courts to try alien enemy combatants during wartime have never said that the civilian courts are not the right forum for prosecuting (a) these terrorism related cases, and (b) actual terrorism cases that do not involve the enemy with which we are at war and as to whom Congress has provided for military commissions. The claim by Attorney General Holder and his minions that we are “denigrating” criminal prosecution or trying to remove the “tool” of law-enforcement from government’s anti-terror arsenal is just specious.

So is today’s release. Specious, and unserious. They ought to be embarrassed.


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