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Capital Region News

Advocates: FBI Entrapment Is 'Inventing Terrorists'

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

A Muslim advocacy group is out with a study critical of methods used by the federal government to identify, entrap and prosecute terrorists.

Project SALAM — Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims — co-released the study entitled "Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution, about the government’s post-9/11 strategy of preemptive prosecution of domestic terrorism cases" along with and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms. It’s the first paper of its kind to directly examine and critique cases involving what the groups label "preemptive prosecution" that targets and prosecutes people whose beliefs or religious affiliations raise security concerns for the government.

Report co-author Attorney Kathy Manley:   "74 percent of the cases that they call terrorist were what we call pure preemptive prosecution cases.  Another 87 of them, or 20 percent, were what we call elements of preemptive prosecution, where there's some real crime going on, often a fraud crime or something like that. And the government was suspicious of the people so they called it a terrorist case or they added terrorist-related charges that didn't really fit."
Manley, vice-president of the Capital Region Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, noted that out of 399 cases of convicted terrorists in the U.S., just four had planned acts of violence WITHOUT the involvement of a government provacateur.   "The threat of Muslim terrorism is used to justify a lot of abuses that this country is engaged in. So showing that that threat is actually much smaller than the government claims I think is pretty important."

The report suggests several recommendations the U.S. Justice Department "should employ," including accurately identifying people who offer material support for terrorism, strengthening the “entrapment” defense in the courts; abolishing “terror-enhanced sentencing” that triples or quadruples jail time in cases linked to terrorist acts; disallowing secret court proceedings, and immediately notifying defendants if any evidence in their case is derived from secret surveillance.

The report further recommends so-called "little Gitmo" Muslim prisons in the Midwest be closed.  Project SALAM president Lynn Jackson:  "Working on these cases has shown me the horror of what happens when our government targets a group of people and prosecutes innocent people."

FBI spokesman Paul Holstein says the agency has a copy of the document and it will be reviewed by the appropriate personnell.   Jackson explained many families have been ruined financially after their breadwinners were incarcerated for crimes that never really happened, and many children grow up without fathers.  "And if their father is unfortunate enough to be incarcerated in one of those special restrictive Muslim prisons, they may only know their father by speaking with him through a plexiglass window."

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