Wed 9 Feb 2005
John O’Brien of the Post-Standard did not feel that my correction was adequate (see “correction” post below). I disagree. Here is our exchange:
From John O’Brien:
That’s not much of a correction. It would be unacceptable if I wrote it here. You never give the correct information – that the case began as a fraud investigation, not a terrorist investigation.
I don’t agree with you about the correction John. My purpose in writing the first time was to bring attention to the fact that Dr. Dhafir and the others were pretty well tainted with the terrorist brush and then it was conveniently swept under the carpet when years of investigation provided no credible evidence. Then we had this very bizarre criminal trial, part of which was Dr. Dhafir being deprived of his liberty for 2 years (think ENRON, think WorldCom–85 officers didn’t swoop down on one of Ken Lay’s 15 mansions). So why was Dr. Dhafir arrested in this big operation and then held for 2 years? For tax evasion? For Medicare fraud?
I am really glad that Dr. Dhafir did not take a plea bargain but chose not to be an accomplice of the government; we should all be grateful to him for that. I’m not sure I would have had his courage. The proceedings were surreal at times. It is impossible to address what is happening in this case without talking about the terrorism connection that the government made. But you are right I should have been clearer. I don’t know how far into the investigation, a week, a month, a year, 2 years…. that it became a terrorist investigation. But I do know that was how it was portrayed to the public at the time of the arrest, and afterwards. This is the nub of the story for me, even though the government found no evidence of terrorism it has continued to insinuate it: “Shadow boxing” in Michael Powell’s words, a very apt description I think.
And even as recently as August 2004 Governor Pataki talked about it as a case of “people funding terrorists”. The government has been speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It was impossible for me to write about this case without writing about that as being central to what was happening. That’s why much of the proceedings struck me as surreal. Mr. Cannick was brilliant at illustrating this to the jury on several occasions, especially in the last three days of the trial. On cross examination when Mrs. Dhafir was describing the morning that the government came to her house, Cannick still had the Medicare sentence on the large screen opposite the jury. It included a phrase related to over billing that we had all become familiar with over the course of the trial, “…a refund will be requested.” “…a refund will be requested”!, while Mrs. Dhafir described the mayhem at her house on the morning of her husband’s arrest.
It’s in the hands of the jury now and I hope that finally someone will do the right thing in this case. Even so, that won’t take away from the train wreckage of people’s lives that this case has left in its wake.
[Link to: correction.]