Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Well, even a delayed pundit can be prescient now and again. On Dec. 11, the department of Justice indicted Zacarias Moussaoui for conspiracy in the Sept. 11 attacks. On Dec. 9, I was musing, apropos of Moussaoui's arrest,

...there was apparently little or no follow-up at other flight schools to ask if other foreign students had shown similarly skewed priorities. If there had been, who knows? Something might have turned up.

Well, the director of the FBI doesn't know; from the press conference at the indictment, after several pointed questions along these lines, his final answer boiled down to this verbalized shrug:

Now, could we have done something else, perhaps, to avoid it in that investigation? Who can say? All I can tell you is that the agents on the scene attempted to follow up aggressively. The attorneys back at FBI determined that there was insufficient probable cause for a FISA, which appears to be an accurate decision. And September 11th happened.

Which doesn't exactly strike me as the voice of an organization which knows it screwed up and is trying to clean up its act.

But the real story here is the indictment of a man advertised now as a full-fledged al-Qaida terrorist for a trial in civilian court. These are the same civilian courts which, Ashcroft was testifying just last week, pose insuperable barriers to the trial of a terrorist, due to clumsy procedures, inadequate safeguards for classified evidence, flamboyant defense lawyers, and so on ad nauseam. When this discrepancy was put to Ashcroft in the press conference (last question --- he almost escaped!), his response:

We look forward to this trial and the presentation of the evidence, which is -- I think the indictments clearly indicated the direction in which we will move. And to go beyond the indictment now and try and describe the trial, it would not be appropriate for me to do that.

Ummmm... right.


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