FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Lackawanna Six: Bogus Charges and Martial Law

The New York Times reported last week that the Bush administration considered sending in the U.S. military to arrest the so-called “Lackawanna 6″ in 2002. It is appropriate that  was one of the biggest farces of the homefront legal war on terrorism was almost the cover for the most brazen power grabs.

The Lackawanna Six were a half dozen Yemeni-Americans from a Buffalo suburb who traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 2001 and attended an Al Qaeda training camp.  Some members of the group asserted that they fled the camp after they heard appeals for violence against America.

After the six were arrested by the FBI and local police in September 2002, the Justice Department announced that it had “identified, investigated and disrupted an al-Qaeda-trained, terrorist cell on American soil.” President Bush hyped the arrests of an “al-Qaeda cell” in Buffalo in his State of the Union address a few months later.

While the president, the Justice Department,  and legions of federal officials speaking anonymously to the media touted the Lackawanna 6 as terrorists, the feds never dared make such a suggestion in court. Salon noted that “prosecutors never offered evidence that the Lackawanna defendants intended to commit an act of terrorism.” A secret FBI report in early 2005 admitted: “To date, we have not identified any true ‘sleeper’ agents in the US” nor any “evidence of concealed cells or networks acting in the homeland as sleepers.”

But the feds did “persuade” the defendants to plead guilty to “material support of terrorism” – an amorphous charge that could mean something as simple as paying for their food at the camp.  The feds coerced the  plea bargain by threatening to label the men “enemy combatants” and send them to Guantanamo – and to charge them with treason, for which they could be executed.  Neal Sonnett, chairman of the American  Bar Association’s Task Force on Treatment of Enemy Combatants, observed:  “The [Lackawanna] defendants believed that if they didn’t plead guilty, they’d end up in a black hole forever. There’s little difference between beating someone over the head and making a threat like that.”

Georgetown University law professor David Cole commented: “It’s the first time in American history where people are going to prison for going to a training camp.”  Virginia lawyer and human rights activist Elaine Cassel commented: “The idea is, ‘Let’s go out and arrest people before they actually commit a crime, or even think of a crime.'”

The Bush team considered sending in the military in part because of the LACK OF evidence.  The New York Times noted that the Justice department was concerned “that there might not be enough evidence to arrest and successfully prosecute the suspects in Lackawanna.”  Vice President Cheney reportedly “argued that the administration would need a lower threshold of evidence to declare them enemy combatants and keep them in military custody.”

In other words, it should require less evidence to totally nullify all of a person’s rights (including the “right” not to be tortured) then required to  arrest someone on a felony charge.   This judicial philosophy keeps getting stranger and stranger.

Some Pentagon officials supported Cheney’s proposal to send in the troops to grab the Lackawanna Six.  Other administration officials objected, and Bush eventually decided to avoid the overt appearance of martial law for this roundup.

Cheney was invoking a secret memo from Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel’s John Yoo, who had written: “The president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States.”

Since some of Yoo’s memos leaked out in recent years, we have heard that they are irrelevant because they were only academic type posturing.  But the New York Times article makes it clear that Cheney and others wanted to seize new powers and fundamentally change the nature of the United States.

This case illustrates how there are no idle pro-Leviathan legal errors. Instead, any such error is like a ticking time bomb – waiting to be exploded under the people’s rights and liberties.

But apologists for Bush insist that it would not have been a dictatorship because one lawyer in the Justice Department assured  Vice President Cheney that the White House was entitled to such power.  Supposedly, it only takes one weasel lawyer to nullify all the constitutional checks-and-balances accumulated over centuries.

Some Bush administration officials view using the military for the Lackawanna arrests as “testing the Constitution.”   In reality, it would have tested how much dictatorial power Americans would permit the Bush team to seize.  And the mainstream media might have raised scant protest.   As one wag quipped online: “If the tanks rolled down the streets on the same day the American Idol winner was named, you’d never even hear about the tanks.”

The Bush administration’s internal disputes over the Lackawanna arrests vivify how easily government can almost  totally slip the leash.   Unfortunately, the media and most Americans view Bush administration depredations as ancient history. But there is no reason to assume that the new rulers in Washington love power any less than their predecessors.

JAMES BOVARD serves as a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation and is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books. Bovard is on the USA Today Board of Contributors. He is on Twitter at @jimbovard. His website is at www.jimbovard.com  This essay was originally published by Future of Freedom Foundation.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
February 28, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Socialism Question
Vijay Prashad
Witnessing the Hell a Migrant Can Face
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Knives Out
Andrew Levine
Bloomberg: What Is He Good For?
T.J. Coles
The Space Force Becomes a Weapons System, Arms Companies Profit
Paul Street
The So-Called Party of the People: From Nevada to South Carolina
Matthew Stevenson
Carolina and Super Tuesday on My Mind
Robert Hunziker
Forever-Chemicals Tap Water
Pete Dolack
No Thinking Please, We’re Red-Baiting
Nick Pemberton
If Bernie Sanders Is Unelectable, Then What The Hell Are The Rest Of You?
Jacob Hornberger
Immunity for Killings by Immigration Police
John Curiel – Jack R. Williams
Analysis of the 2019 Bolivia Election: No Evidence of Irregular Trends or Fraud
Ramzy Baroud
Israel at the Cusp of a Bleak Era
Ron Jacobs
Bloomberg’s Billionaire BS
Farzana Versey
Who Will Douse Delhi’s Flames?
Joseph Natoli
Dispelling the Darkness
Marshall Auerback
Boris Johnson, Not Donald Trump, is the Real Blue-Collar Conservative
Steve Early
VoteVets for Buttigieg:  Who’s Really Keeping Us in the Dark About Campaign Funding?
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Those Meddling Kids …
Arshad Khan
Trump Visits Modi and Delhi Erupts in Anti-Muslim Riots
Karen J. Greenberg
How Democracy Ends
Tom Clifford
Corona and Flu in Beijing: a Report From the Chinese Capital
Scott Tucker
Pete Buttigieg: The Energizer Bunny of Hegemony
Victor Grossman
Breakthroughs Against the Rightwing Menace in Germany
William Hartung
It’s Time to Debate Pentagon Spending
Seth Sandronsky
Struggling for Shelter: Resistance to California’s Housing Crisis Grows 
Daniel Warner
The UN, Homeostasis and China
Eve Ottenberg
Police Torture in Chicago
Kenn Orphan
The Ruling Class Will Stop at Nothing
Sean Reynolds
A Difficult Peace
W. T. Whitney
For the Climate: Protecting the Commons and Fixing Democracy
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Political Offences and Legal Restraints
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad – Jamie Buell
Does This Economy Work for Black Americans?
Tracey L. Rogers
Reflections on “Black Excellence”
Jill Richardson
Stop Calling Harmful Bigotry “Religious Freedom”
Barbara G. Ellis
Don’t Depend on FEMA to Save Us From Global-Warming’s Armageddon
Mike Garrity
Why We Sued Trump’s BLM Over Its Sagebrush-Juniper Burning Project in Montana
Christopher Brauchli
The Modi/Trump Anti-Muslim Alliance
John Kendall Hawkins
Science and the Turf Wars of Consciousness
John Peeler
Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Nicky Reid
Socialism Without Anti-Imperialism: A Different Flavor of Tyranny
Louis Proyect
Spies, Lies and Videotapes
David Yearsley
The Beef with Kobe
Andrew Stewart
How Netflix And “Manning Marable” Killed Malcolm X (The Third Time)
Elliot Sperber
Capitán Capital 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail