The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 8, 2004 - 5
FBI agent insists botched terror trial was success
WASHINGTON (AP) - While the Jus-
tice Department has walked away in embar-
rassment from a major terror conviction in
Detroit, the top FBI official there is insisting
his agency likely thwarted a terrorist attack
by arresting the four men who were pros-
"You should be proud of the excellent
investigative work conducted by the JTTF
(Joint Terrorism Task Force) in Detroit, and
everyone should recognize that their efforts
may have prevented another attack," Special
Agent in Charge Daniel Roberts wrote last
week in an e-mail to his entire office.
The e-mail was obtained by The Associ-
Roberts sent his memo the same day the
Justice Department asked a federal judge
to dismiss convictions on terrorism counts
against Karim Koubriti and other men
accused of operating a terror cell in Detroit.
The government sought a retrial on lesser
The Justice Department said its own pros-
ecutors withheld evidence from defense law-
yers that might have resulted in a different
verdict if the jury had seen it. The judge
agreed to the department's request, unrav-
eling the Bush administration's lone major
terror prosecution since the Sept. 11, 2001,
Justice's court filing questioned the accu-
racy of trial testimony by FBI agents. Rob-
erts on the other hand said the agents "acted
worked very "You should
hard on this
case in an effort work condo
to prevent a ter-
rorist attack." everyone si
said Roberts may have pi
al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden
called off an attack on a Turkish air base used
by U.S. forces because security was height-
ened. Security was raised after sketches of
the air base were found in the Detroit men's
apartment in September 2001.
Roberts described Justice's turnabout as
"strictly a legal decision" necessitated by
prosecutors' failure to turn over certain doc-
uments to defense lawyers during trial.
A lawyer for one defendant expressed sur-
prise yesterday at the FBI e-mail. "It shocks
me that anyone who has seen the govern-
ment's memo on this case would still think
these men are terrorists," said James Gerom- that convictions weren't the only way to mea-
etta, a public defender who represented Kou- sure success against terrorists.
briti. "The FBI's new terrorism mission requires
The lawyer for former lead prosecutor that we work as hard as possible to prevent
be proud of the excellent investigative rorist attack,"
:ted by the JTTCF in Detroit, and "If we hap-
pen to obtain
>uld recognize that their efforts a prosecution
in addition to
evented another attack."ipreddtinto
- Daniel Roberts attack, then
Special Agent In Charge, Detroit FBI that's just icing
on the prover-
Rick Convertino, who was harshly criticized "The most important goal is to prevent the
in the Justice report, said Tuesday the FBI loss of life through our aggressive involve-
e-mail supports his client's position. "Con- ment in terrorism cases, and I believe we
sistent with the FBI e-mail, Rick has always accomplished that in the Koubriti case," he
believed in the propriety of this case, and wrote.
nothing in the government's memorandum Roberts' e-mail is the latest sign of discord
has changed his viewpoint," attorney Wil- between legal managers in Washington and
liam Sullivan said. agents and prosecutors on the front line of
Roberts, transferred earlier this year from anti-terrorism efforts.
built criminal cases against him. The Detroit
prosecutors had wanted to make him part of
Several lawmakers, including Republican
Sens. Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley and
Democrat Patrick Leahy, have questioned
the deportation as well as the leak of an
informant's name that compromised an FBI
The Justice filing quotes former prosecutor
Keith Corbett as saying he would never have
proceeded with the case if he had known
about the evidence that wasn't turned over to
But the filing doesn't mention that Corbett
also complained in writing that Washington
headquarters hampered the case and failed
to provide resources for a major prosecution.
Justice's terrorism unit "provided no help of
any kind in this prosecution," Corbett com-
plained in one memo.
The case also exposed how officials in dif-
ferent cities reacted differently when faced
with the same evidence.
Memos obtained by AP revealed that when
U.S. officials learned in 2002 that a tape found
in an al-Qaida hideout in Madrid showed Las
Vegas casinos and the Golden Gate bridge,
California officials issued a public warning
but Las Vegas officials did not.
FBI headquarters to take over the Detroit
office, said the prosecutor who decided to
drop the charges, Craig Morford, would visit
the Detroit FBI to explain his thinking.
In the interim, Roberts reminded agents
Earlier this year, the Justice Department
deported Nabil al-Marabh, No. 27 on the
FBI's list of most-wanted al-Qaida opera-
tives, to Syria earlier even though prosecu-
tors in Detroit, Chicago and other cities had
Panels slammed for
links to antiterror
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL
BASE, Cuba (AP) - The trial run is over
for military commissions in Guantanamo
Bay, where the government is being chal-
lenged over its choice of panel members.
Defense lawyers argue their links to the
war on terror may disqualify some from
judging suspected terrorists.
At the heart of the challenges is the
friendship between the presiding officer,
Army Col. Peter E. Brownback, and the
retired general in charge of appointing
members to the military commissions,
the first such proceedings since World
Others under challenge are a Marine
commander who lost a reservist work-
ing as a firefighter in the Sept. 11, 2001
terror attacks in the United States;
a Marine who put together the list of
Guantanamo-bound detainees from
Afghanistan; an Air Force lieutenant
colonel who was an intelligence offi-
cer in charge of capturing suspects
in Afghanistan; and an alternate who
acknowledged calling the Guantanamo
Brownback's frustration was evident as
he repeatedly hunched over his desk and
buried his forehead in his hands while
defense attorneys bombarded him with a
steady stream of challenges at preliminary
hearings that began at the end of August.
"It's like a card house," said Michael
Ratner of the Center for Constitutional
Rights in New York City. "It's just a mat-
ter of time before everything will fall
The first trial is scheduled in December
for Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi,
Osama bin Laden's associate and alleged
Commissions spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr.
Susan McGarvey said only three members
are needed for a trial, so retired Gen. John
D. Altenburg Jr., the appointing authority,
could disqualify three of the five panel
members and one alternate.
The U.S. government has said the chal-
lenges will play out and people will even-
tually realize the military trials are fair.
"I think the commissions will be
viewed with great interest, and over time,
people will realize how full and fair they
truly are," McGarvey said.
A difficult task will be deciding wheth-
er to disqualify Brownback, who attended
Altenburg's son's wedding and spoke at
his retirement roast. Brownback's wife
also worked in Altenburg's office.
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