The Corner

Will Congress Challenge the Justice Department on Those Bogus ‘Terrorist’ Conviction Numbers

It was just brought to my attention that, if you don’t read carefully, the phony figure of 195 convictions of “international terrorists” since 9/11 magically becomes 300 by the time the Justice Department is done with it. Last week, DOJ put out a “fact sheet” on “The Criminal Justice System as a Counterterrorism Tool.” Among other things, it claims (the italics are mine, for reasons that will become clear):

Hundreds of terrorism suspects have been successfully prosecuted in federal court since 9/11. Today, there are more than 300 international or domestic terrorists incarcerated in U.S. federal prison facilities. 

Note first the slippery use of the word “suspect.” All this means is that a person was suspected of being a terrorist at some point in the course of an investigation. It does not mean he actually was one, that he was ever charged with an actual terrorism crime, or that he was ever convicted of such a crime. 

During the Bush years, lawyers sympathetic to suspected terrorists (several of whom now work in the Justice Department) claimed that the Bush administration was overstating the terrorism problem by counting as “terrorism” cases those matters in which suspects were prosecuted for less serious crimes, such as false statements, or perhaps not prosecuted at all — just deported under the immigration laws.

As I said in my column today, the use of immigration procedures in particular was slandered as “racial profiling.” In debates, I would routinely point out that many of those deported were likely terrorists, but that we probably had weak cases because we could not use some of the intelligence we had on them; by deporting them, we were at least able to get them out of the country without having to reveal our intelligence publicly in trial proceedings. Nonsense, the lefty lawyers would scoff: “If these people were really terrorists, we would charge them with terrorism offenses and convict them in court!” Any other position, I was told, violated the presumption of innocence. 

Now that Obama is president and wants to portray civilian courts as effective, however, the presumption is thrown overboard. Now we are supposed to assume someone is a terrorist simply because someone — even someone from the dreaded Bush administration — once suspected, for whatever reason, that he might be a terrorist.

The DOJ “fact sheet” goes on to tell us there are 300 “terrorists” in custody.  But look at what they have to do to get there:  (a) gone is the “since 9/11″ limitation — the 300 figure represents all terrorists ever convicted who are still in jail; and (b) they have to add in domestic terrorists to goose up the numbers — even though no one is contending that domestic terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants. We are at war with al-Qaeda, not PETA.

Quite clearly, the 300 figure is a gross exaggeration if our focus is the number of international terrorists convicted since 9/11. As I show in my column, the Human Rights First report had to include all sorts of non-terrorism crimes just to get to 195. DOJ can’t conceivably get anywhere close to 300.

Congress should be demanding, right now, this disclosure from the Justice Department:

Mr. Attorney General, your Department has represented to the public in a “fact sheet” that “hundreds” of terrorism “suspects” have been ’successfully prosecuted’ since 9/11. Federal law defines international terrorism as involving “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life” that are intended to intimidate a civilian population, influence government policy by coercion, or affect the conduct of government by “mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”  Title 18, United States Code, Sec. 2331.  Please respond to the following: 

1.  Are you saying that the Justice Department has obtained convictions on crimes involving violent acts that fit this legal definition of terrorism?

2.  Provide a list of the hundreds of terrorism suspects you say have been convicted since 9/11, indicating in each case the offenses that were charged and the crimes of conviction, and indicating in each case whether the crimes of conviction involve violent acts that fit the legal definition of terrorism set forth above.

3. Provide a list of the approximately 300 “international or domestic terrorists” you’ve represented are currently incarcerated in U.S. federal prison facilities. In each case, indicate (a) the offenses that were charged, (b) the crimes of conviction, (c) whether the case involved violent acts that fit the legal definition of terrorism set forth above, and (d) whether the crimes occurred before or after the 9/11 attacks.

It would be interesting to see what that “fact sheet” looked like.

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