'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Ashcroft Under Fire (Again)

Last June three arab immigrants in Detroit were found guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorism. The federal prosecutor of the case was Richard Convertino. The case was heralded as a major victory in the "war on terrorism". Here's FOX's version, "Three Found Guilty at Michigan Terror Trial", 6/3/03 which states, "Defense lawyers said the defendants were victims of overzealous federal agents who relied on the lies of an admitted con man to build a flimsy case that didn't add up to terrorism." Ashcroft gloated so loudly about this case while it was going on that he was scolded twice by the trial's judge for violating the gag order.

But a couple of months ago doubts about the case lead to an investigation into the FBI's Detroit office and Convertino. The Associated Press, ("Misconduct questions in antiterror probe", 1/30/2004) reported:

The probe into Convertino, who was removed from the case in September, is examining whether he withheld evidence from the defense, threatened a defense lawyer with an unfounded criminal investigation, and arranged to reduce the sentence of an illegal immigrant on trial for drug charges in exchange for acting as an informant in the terrorism case.

Convertino refused to comment on the existence of a department investigation but vehemently denied the charges [...] He said the leak [of Farhat's identity, to a local newspaper,] by Justice Department officials was an attempt to smear him and endangered the life of the drug defendant-turned-informant, Marwan Farhat.

The leak "was meant to deprive me of the opportunity to answer any baseless allegations in the proper form," he said.

Now Convertino is fighting back and launching a suit against Ashcroft: (from "US lawyer sues over terror cases", Guardian, 2/19/04)

An American prosecutor has launched a lawsuit against the US attorney general, John Ashcroft, claiming that the justice department has mismanaged terrorist cases. In an unusual move, Richard Convertino, the assistant US attorney for Detroit, has accused Mr Ashcroft of smearing him and putting an informant's life in jeopardy.

He claims Mr Ashcroft and justice department officials compromised a crucial intelligence source as part of a bureaucratic vendetta.

Mr Convertino says officials punished him for cooperating with a Senate investigation into failures in the war on terror by blowing the cover of an intelligence asset.

It's interesting how similar Ashcroft's attack in this case is to the attack against Joseph Wilson that caused the Plame scandal. Marwan Farhat had been an actual asset in Ashcroft's beloved war on terror, an asset that was squandered to hurt a political opponent. Here's a quote from Marwan Farhat's letter to Special Agent Robert Pertuso whom he claims asked Farhat to steal mail from the terror suspects in exchange for 25% of any money confiscated from the suspects:

I worked around the clock helping and assisting the government of the United States to put Muslims in jail. My life has been destroyed, abused and used to benefit your interests.*

It should be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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