The Third Branch
A federal judge in Minneapolis ruled Friday that the government must provide Mohamed Abdullah Warsame with a more detailed accounting of the terrorism-related allegations he's facing so that he can defend himself at trial.
Warsame, 33, is a former Minneapolis Community College student of Somali descent who has been detained since February 2004 on charges that he lied to federal agents about his activities surrounding an Afghanistan training camp. He stands accused of providing material support to Al-Qaida and of conspiring to support the terrorist network.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim said the government's failure to provide more information was hindering Warsame's efforts to challenge the charges. Specifically, Warsame wants to know the timing of his alleged actions, the identities of his alleged coconspirators, and the identities of anyone who allegedly died as a result of his activities. [Emphasis added]
Mr. Warsame has been held in solitary confinement for three years without knowing exactly what the government is charging him with. It's impossible for him to prepare a defense to the charges under those circumstances. He can't gather evidence showing what he was doing on particular dates without knowing what those dates are. He can't prove that he did not conspire with other individuals to harm the US without knowing the identities of those individuals. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this kind of 'hide the salami' tactic violates every principle of fairness there is. If the basic principles underlying the promise of a fair trial is denied to one defendant, they are denied to all.
The "you know what you did and now you're going to pay for it" theory of criminal justice is deplorable. It's also an extension of this government's rationale for illegal wire tapping and email reading: "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear." The federal judiciary has been doing its job. Now its time for Congress, another branch of government, to start doing its job by revisiting the various bills passed under the guise of Homeland Security.
Labels: Federal Judiciary