Carl Strock Daily Gazette, Schenectady 7/03/08

No surprise that the U.S. Court of Appeals turned down Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, the two Albany Muslims convicted of supporting terrorism as the result of an FBI set-up.

I thought the arguments in their favor were compelling, but I could hardly imagine an appeals court overturning a jury verdict in something so sensitive as Muslim terrorism, even if the terrorism was imaginary.

For you students of the War on Terror, the decision means it’s OK for the FBI to lure law-abiding citizens (Hossain is a citizen, Aref a refugee) into doing something illegal that they had no idea of doing on their own and that they probably understood only imperfectly and then to arrest them for it. That’s the long and short of this case.

“We put them to the test,” as the U.S. attorney in charge of prosecuting the case put it. And if you’re concerned that a person with such a view of fair play should become a federal judge, all I can say is, I share your concern, but alas, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is in a position to veto Suddaby’s appointment to the bench by the Bush administration, does not.

In an interview at the Daily Gazette not long ago he said he would let Suddaby pass.
For legal beagles, of greatest interest, perhaps, is the Court of Appeals’ agreement that it was OK for the trial court to keep classified information away from Aref and his lawyer, since that information was not used as evidence against him in the trial.

It was in all likelihood transcripts of phone calls that were wiretapped by the National Security Agency in defiance of federal law, though we’ll never know for sure. All we know is that Judge Thomas McAvoy, at the trial, assured the jurors the government had “good and valid reasons” for going after Aref and the jurors were not to concern themselves with what those reasons were.

Whether anyone else would have considered the reasons good and valid, again we don’t know. But when we’re dealing with an administration that thought it had good and valid reasons to invade Iraq, I guess we’re entitled to a little skepticism.