US: Court exposes government lies in post-911 cases
- Moussaoui judge questions government
By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer
Tue Nov 20, 2007
McLEAN, Va. - A federal judge expressed frustration Tuesday that the
government provided incorrect information about evidence in the
prosecution of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and raised the
possibility of ordering a new trial in another high-profile terrorism
At a post-trial hearing Tuesday for Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric
from Virginia sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for soliciting
treason, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she can no longer
trust the CIA and other government agencies on how they represent
classified evidence in terror cases.
Attorneys for al-Timimi have been seeking access to documents. They
also want to depose government witnesses to determine whether the
government improperly failed to disclose the existence of certain
The prosecutors have asked her to dismiss the defense request. The
government has denied the allegations but has done so in secret
pleadings to the judge that defense lawyers are not allowed to see.
Even the lead prosecutors in the al-Timimi case have not had access to
the information; they have relied on the representations of other
After the hearing, the judge issued an order that said she would not
rule on the prosecutors' motion until the government grants needed
security clearances to al-Timimi's defense lawyer, Jonathan Turley,
and the lead trial prosecutor so they can review the secret pleadings.
Brinkema said she no longer feels confident relying on the government
briefs, particularly since prosecutors admitted last week that similar
representations made in the Moussaoui case were false.
In a letter made public Nov. 13, prosecutors in the Moussaoui case
admitted to Brinkema that the CIA had wrongly assured her that no
videotapes or audiotapes existed of interrogations of certain
high-profile terrorism detainees. In fact, two such videotapes and one
audio tape existed.
Moussaoui, who had pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, was sentenced
to life in prison last year. Because Moussaoui admitted his guilt, it
is unlikely that the disclosures of new evidence would result in his
conviction being overturned.
Turley, al-Timimi's defense lawyer, praised Brinkema for taking a
skeptical view of the government's assertions in addressing
"We believe a new trial is warranted," he said in a phone interview.
"We are entirely confident that there are communications that were not
turned over to the defense. These are very serious allegations."
Al-Timimi challenged his conviction in 2005 after revelations that
President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to conduct
certain types of domestic surveillance without a search warrant.
Turley contends that the program is illegal and that any evidence
obtained from such surveillance should have been turned over to
He is confident that al-Timimi, a prominent U.S. Muslim cleric who was
known to keep close ties with radical Saudi clerics would have been a
target of the surveillance program.
Brinkema made no rulings during the brief, 20-minute hearing in
Alexandria, but her displeasure at the government was apparent.
Prosecutors did not have the opportunity to speak during the hearing,
except to note their appearance for the record.
Al-Timimi, a born U.S. citizen from Fairfax, was convicted after
prosecutors portrayed him as the spiritual leader of a group of young
Muslim men from the Washington area who played paintball games in 2000
and 2001 as a means of preparing for holy war around the globe.
After Sept. 11, they said, al-Timimi told his followers that the
attacks were a harbinger of a final apocalyptic battle between Muslims
and nonbelievers and exhorted them to travel to Afghanistan and join
the Taliban to fight U.S. troops.
Several of his followers admitted that they traveled to Pakistan and
received training from a militant Pakistani group called
Lashkar-e-Taiba, but none actually joined the Taliban.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria declined to
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