Wednesday, June 15, 2005

To Push For Renewal Of The Patriot Act, Bush Spins Patriot Act Convictions

To hear President Bush talk about the Patriot Act, the facts are cut and dry.

"My message to Congress is clear: Terrorist threats against us will not expire at the end of the year and neither should the protections of the Patriot Act," Bush told more than 100 law enforcement officers in Columbus, Ohio on June 9.

Flanked by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush said that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted."

Too bad it's wrong.

An analysis of the Justice Department's own list of terrorism prosecutions by the Washington Post shows that 39 people -- not 200, as officials have implied -- were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security. Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law -- and had nothing to do with terrorism, the June 12 analysis shows.

Surprise, surprise. The facts don't provide enough marketing bang for renewing the USA Patriot Act, so instead, Bush and others in the administration substitute "alternate" facts.

***

Lawmakers passed the Patriot Act in 2001 just 45 days after 9/11. It allowed expanded surveillance of terror suspects, increased use of material witness warrants to hold suspects incommunicado and permitted secret proceedings in immigration cases.

Now, more than a dozen provisions are set to expire. Those provisions, among other things, provide authority for nationwide search warrants, enable the FBI and intelligence agencies to share information about terrorism cases and gave the FBI the power to obtain records in terrorism-related cases from entities such as libraries.

Bush has been pressuring Congress to make the expiring provisions permanent. His administration also is seeking greater powers for the FBI to subpoena records in terrorism investigations without the approval of a judge or grand jury.

His renewed focus came as Congress has begun working on the act's renewal amid fresh criticisms -- from members of both parties -- that it undermines basic freedoms. Bush and others in the administration have defended the act by pointing to "terrorism" convictions.

***

The Post, analyzing the Justice Department's database, found 361 cases defined as terrorism investigations by the department's criminal division between Sept. 11, 2001 and September 2004. (The analysis did not include about 40 cases filed since September, accounting for Bush's total of 400.) The Post was able to analyze 330, as the others were sealed.

Of the 330 cases analyzed, only 142 had connections to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, according to court records, official statements, the 9/11 commission report or news accounts.

Of those, 39 were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security. Of those, 14 were linked to Al Qaeda.

In truth, 14 Al Qaeda convictions is noteworthy, and should be trumpeted by the Bush administration. Would those 14 have been convicted without the Patriot Act? That's unclear. But certainly Bush and his administration should be telling us about those 14, and the 25 other convictions of individuals tied to non-Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

But that's not what the administration is doing.

Apparently unhappy with the truth, Bush and others in the administration push an "alternate" number of terrorism convictions -- a number that plays better before partisan crowds, and is harder for the average local (or perhaps even national) journalist to fact-check. The alternate number is easier for the conservative noise machine to repeat. It sounds better on press releases. It makes for a more convincing argument in Congress.

But in spite of all that, it's still wrong.

***

When Bush and others in the administration imply there have been 200 terrorism convictions, exactly who are they talking about?

According to the Post analysis, they include:

-- Hassan Nasrallah, a Dearborn, Mich., man convicted of credit-card fraud who has the same name as the leader of Hezbollah, or Party of God.

-- Abdul Farid of High Point, N.C., was arrested on a false tip that he was sending money to the Taliban and was deported after admitting he lied on a loan application.

-- Moeen Islam Butt, a Pakistani jewelry-kiosk employee in Pennsylvania, spent eight months in jail before being deported on marriage-fraud and immigration charges.

-- Francois Guagni, a French national who made the mistake of illegally crossing the Canadian border on Sept. 14, 2001, with box cutters in his possession. It turned out that Guagni used the knives in his job as a drywall installer. He was deported in March 2003 after pleading guilty to unlawfully entering the country.

Yes, these people were breaking the law. Yes, they should have been punished. But why does Bush include them when he implies that the Patriot Act has led to 200 terrorism convictions?

Is the truth not good enough?

***

Barry M. Sabin, chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, told the Post that prosecutors frequently turn to lesser charges when they are not confident they can prove crimes such as committing or supporting terrorism. Many defendants also have been prosecuted for relatively minor crimes in exchange for information that is not public but has proved valuable in other terrorism probes, he said.

"A person could not have been put on this list if there was not a concern about national security, at least initially," he said. "Are all these people an ongoing threat presently? Arguably not."

Apparetnly, what Sabin knows to be true doesn't play well in Columbus, or anywhere else that Bush, Gonzales and the rest speak about the Patriot Act. Sabin's facts don't mesh well with the conservatives in Congress pushing for the act's renewal. You probably won't find Sabin being quoted by Rush or Sean or Joe.

Thirty-nine terrorism convictions, including 14 with ties to Al Qaeda, is an accomplshment. Too bad Bush and the rest don't trust the American people with the truth.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mocking the Patriot Act is simply unpatriotic and for that matter idotic. Obviously, JABBS didn't know anybody who died in 9/11. By not supporting the Patriot Act JABBS is spitting on the gave of those who died that horrible day. Liberalism truely is a mental disorder. I'm totally disgusted.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

What a horribly offensive comment.

JABBS isn't mocking the Patriot Act. He's saying that President Bush is spinning the benefits -- the "terrorism convictions" -- brought about by the Patriot Act.

This is America. People have the right to disagree on issues. Disagreeing with the Patriot Act -- or actually, disagree with Bush's misleading statements about the act -- is not "spitting on the grave of those who died." It's exercising first amendment rights, moron.

And nice Michael Savage reference. You do that on all your comments, huh? Real original.

Anyone else horribly offended by the above commenter's ridiculously misplaced jingoism?

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, why even respond to crap like that?

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob: another Doughnut Democrat: Bankrupt of ideas, unpatriotic, bitter, obstructionist, disgrace. Your offensive.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

discussion like these on this blog are absurd. noce to see that some idiot guests from crossfire (or all the copycats that pass as news these days) are now finding bit spots on bloggs. write away--its a free country. but noone should engage such crap. the writer doesnt even believe what they say--just said to elicit response.

and i say that as a bush voter and a centrist overall who is disappointed with all things political these days, and with good reason.

4:25 PM  

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