Sunday, July 24, 2005

Blundering Around Haphazardly

"Real men get things done by blundering around haphazardly". This deep thought about the Bush administration, courtesy of Philaelethes of the blog Bouphonia, summarized my feelings nicely when I read this:

The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.

British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him.

But long before he surfaced as a suspect there, federal prosecutors in Seattle wanted to seek a grand-jury indictment for his involvement in a failed attempt to set up a terrorist-training camp in Bly, Ore., in late 1999. In early 2000, Aswat lived for a couple of months in central Seattle at the Dar-us-Salaam mosque.

A federal indictment of Aswat in 2002 would have resulted in an arrest warrant and his possible detention in Britain for extradition to the United States.

"It was really frustrating," said a former Justice Department official involved in the case. "Guys like that, you just want to sweep them up off the street."

British intelligence officials now think that in the days and hours before the July 7 bombings, Aswat was in cellphone contact with at least two of the four suicide bombers, according to The Times of London.

But wait a minute, was it the same Aswat? The Bush administration has had a lot of trouble with the names of various people who might or might not be terrorist suspects. But it seems to have been easier in the past just to sweep all of them into some nice location where they can be "questioned", so why would they let this guy go free, whether he is the right Aswat or not?

Nobody seems to know for sure why Aswat was released, but this is interesting:

As law-enforcement officials in Seattle prepared to take that case to a federal grand jury here, they had hoped to indict Aswat, Ujaama, Abu Hamza and another associate, according to former and current law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the case.

But that plan was rejected by higher-level officials at Justice Department headquarters, who wanted most of the case to be handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York City, according to sources involved with the case.

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Justice Department had funneled terrorism cases to its New York office, which had a lot of experience in that area. This frustrated law-enforcement officials in Seattle, who thought they also had a track record for handling terrorism prosecutions — such as that of Ahmed Ressam, trained by al-Qaida and arrested Dec. 14, 1999, in Port Angeles with the makings of a powerful bomb hidden in his rental car.

Justice Department supervisors in Washington, D.C., gave the Seattle office the go-ahead to seek an indictment against Ujaama only.

The-biggest-pecker competition amongst the judiciary, perhaps?