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Credibility:

Max Sawicky e-mailed me asking me to post about alleged FBI malfeasance. Here's the post he pointed me to:

FBI AS GESTAPO: OPPRESSING THE KURDS OF HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA

The following is something that has not hit the media at all, other than a story in the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record that simply repeated FBI propaganda about this awful case. Harrisonburg, Virginia happens to have one of the largest enclaves of Iraqi Kurdish population in the US. They all came in the late 1990s to flee from Saddam Hussein's regime after working for pro-US NGOs and having their lives threatened. They applauded at the fall of Saddam.

However, four of them have been arrested for transferring funds to their families and charitable organizations in Iraqi Kurdistan without a license, a felony offense under the Patriot Act and the act to keep Cubans from sending money to their relatives in Cuba. One has been convicted in a trial in which most of the evidence was not allowed and in which the FBI suggested that the defendant was a terrorist. These people were cowed into not talking to the media, and now they are all in deep trouble. Their homes have been raided, their money seized, even things like medical insurance cards (with one wife pregnant), applications for citizenship are off, they are facing deportation, and so on. They were assigned a Croatian translator for the court. There is a serious string of outrages associated with this with no coverage by any serious media. The FBI agent in charge even told them, "I know you are not the bad guys, but too much paperwork has gone forward on this."

If you are interested in helping these people out, the following are contacts....

InstaPundit likewise links to this, noting "MAX SAWICKY says that the FBI is oppressing the Kurds in Virginia. Sounds like this could use some more scrutiny." [UPDATE: I should note that the post is from the MaxSpeak site, but was written by Max Sawicky's coblogger Barkley Rosser.]

It's certainly quite possible that the FBI is misbehaving. But the question is whether this is in fact so; and the post gives me very little to go on here. It gives a few facts, and no links to original sources or press accounts. It does give lots of opinion — but the opinion is expressed in such an overwrought way, starting with the "Gestapo," that it makes me wonder how much other embellishment there may be in the factual discussion (or how many important facts are omitted).

Sometimes you decide that your enemies are Nazi-like because you know they've done some very bad things. But sometimes your judgment that your enemies have done some very bad things is colored by your assumption that your enemies are Nazi-like. And often there's a complicated positive feedback loop: You see them doing something that looks bad, you get outraged, and your initial outrage clouds your further judgment about the other facts you learn.

Now if I knew the poster well personally, and knew him to be trustworthy — or had lots of experience of his trustworthiness from his past posts — I might trust his judgment even without much factual details. If I knew that he was almost always calm and understated, then his calling someone the "Gestapo" would actually be an important signal that there really was something very bad likely happening.

But if someone doesn't have such preexisting credibility with me, then his using rhetoric about the "Gestapo" only makes his factual characterizations less credible in my eyes rather than more. And I would expect the same would be true of many other readers, including many who read this site and who might follow its links to other sites.

So the best way to make a case — a case which may well be very justified and important, if it is indeed factually sound — that someone is misbehaving is to give (1) lots of factual details (what exactly is the law involved? does it really ban the mailing of any money to anyone in Iraq? what evidence wasn't allowed and why? what was the FBI's basis for suggesting that the defendant was a terrorist?), (2) as many supporting documents as possible, (3) as many links to presumptively neutral sources as possible, while (4) avoiding even slight rhetorical exaggerations that might cast doubt on the precision of the other material. Maybe I'm mistaken on this; but it seems to me to be much more effective for the author's cause, and much more valuable for readers' enlightenment.

dunno:
Shorter Volokh:

A reasonable claim has been made, on which I am unqualified to pass judgement. So I will instead give a writing lesson that makes the claimant look unprofessional.


Engaging with a person's argument and not their personality is classic argumentation.

Ignoring a person's argument to engage their personality is ad hominem argumentation.

What is it called when you ignore a person's argument to lecture them on how to talk?
3.29.2006 8:04pm
Splunge (mail):
Yes, of course you're mistaken. People wouldn't act that way unless it worked. The mistake you've made is to assume the purpose of the communication is to convince someone otherwise undecided that an outrage has been committed by the FBI.

But it's more likely the purpose of the communication is to alert those already convinced that the FBI are bad guys that the FBI has committed a fresh outrage. The juxtaposition of "Gestapo" and "FBI" is from this perspective essential -- a highly effective set of recognition markers, signposts if you will, which alert the target audience that this message is aimed at them.

It's always far easier and faster to organize believers than to convert unbelievers. Especially intellectual unbelievers, who required such giant forklift-loads of factual background, long-winded detailed argument, time to ruminate and draft reports in committee, et cetera and so forth, that the battle is often long over before they can manage to get their boots on.
3.29.2006 8:11pm
dunno:

[The terms] "Gestapo" and "FBI" [are used because they belong to] a highly effective set of recognition markers, signposts if you will, which alert the target audience that this message is aimed at them.

"Gestapo," maybe, but I doubt that the primary intent of using the term "FBI" is that it has certain connotations for "believers." Whether Max Sawicky is right or wrong, I think it's safe to say that he suggests the FBI engaged in these activities not because "FBI" is more evocative than, say, "muppets," but because he actually thinks that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was involved. "Characteristically" is a "signpost." "Hoover's thugs" is a "recognition marker." "FBI" is a part of the federal government.

No, really, it is.
3.29.2006 8:24pm
Ken Arromdee (mail):
Engaging with a person's argument and not their personality is classic argumentation.

While it's true that someone's personality is irrelevant to his logic, it's very relevant to his credibility. If what the guy is saying isn't true--and using inflammatory language *is* a legitimate sign that that could be the case--then it doesn't matter how good his logic is.
3.29.2006 9:17pm
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
This is frustrating to say the least. I checked the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record online. Nothing. I've done Google, Google News, Yahoo, Yahoo News searches. Nothing.

Moreover, I went on the PACER system for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, which covers Harrisonburg. Without a case number, or the name of at least one party, it is impossible to access the Court docket.

It appears that the lack of any identifying or verifiable information is the product of sloppiness, laziness, or a deliberate attempt to conceal relevant facts.

For whatever worth of the incredibly tenuous (and undoubtedly improper) inferences that might be drawn, or just for the heck of it:

It appears that one of the contact people, Christi Kramer, is a poet who participated in Poetry in a Time of War at GMU, and a signatory on a petition to free four Christian Peace Workers.

Another contact person, Kakahama Askary, is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at James Madison University in Virginia.

Another contact person, Mike Medly, in on the faculty of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

It appears another contact person, Ruth Stoltzfus Jost, was a Christian Peace Workers Steering Committee Chairperson in 1988, is also a signatory on the petition to free the four Christian Peace Wokers.
3.29.2006 9:27pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Dunno: I'm not sure that you really paid attention to this post (or for that matter to the other post you commented on, in which I faulted the AP). The title of this post is "credibility." The post stresses that I think Sawicky's post didn't give much by way of proven facts (or even really detailed factual allegations), mostly provided his characterization of facts that he claims to know, and thus gave me no way of really engaging with his argument. As Ken Arromdee points out, if a person asks us to take his factual characterizations on faith, his personality and credibility are indeed quite relevant.
3.29.2006 9:34pm
Christopher C (mail):
I agree with Professor Volokh's post. I used to work with the FBI on investigations, while I was employed at the SEC, and did so for about 7 years. I was also a law clerk, years ago, in the USDC, and witnessed many criminal prosecutions, and worked at a large private firm that did criminal defense work (for very high net worth people), primarily involving federal court prosecutions. While some FBI agents make mistakes, or sometimes worse, I never met any "gestapo" agents and can't imagine an agent saying he or she wouldn't dismiss a case because "too much paperwork" has been prepared. The FBI think they are wearing "white hats," and are the good guys; that is why they work for peanuts. They don't go after people they think are innocent. The entire post lacks credibility with me, but I would be happy to work, pro bono, on a writ of habeas corpus petition if the post is factually correct and someone was wrongfully convicted or framed. It just doesn't convince me that this has happened.
3.29.2006 9:37pm
Al Maviva (mail):
You try to ship money out of the country in evasion of tracking requirements and the government will bust you, and it doesn't matter if your names is Iohannes Paulus II. The anti-money laundering provisions of PATRIOT were put into place specifically to stop the terrorist exploitation of the Muslim charitable duty of Zakat, in which terrorist fundraisers posed as charitable leaders, but were in fact running terrorism fundraising scams. The goal was also to stop international money transfers and domestic cash transactions that were intentionally just below the FINCEN reporting requirements. The prior change was aimed at policing "dual use" charities (bullets and bandages if you will), and the latter was a direct response to the modus operandi employed by the 9/11 attackers. Without knowing the money amounts and the manner in which it was transferred, the article is a bunch naked allegations fairly unsupported by facts. The FBI may be persecuting the hell out of these poor Kurds. Then again, it may be enforcing the law in an even handed manner. Without knowing the facts surrounding the transfers it is irresponsible to pass judgment, especially in such strong terms.
3.29.2006 9:40pm
lesterstudent (mail):
I don't have much to add to the credibility debate. However, I grew up 20 minutes away from Harrisonburg, worked there last summer and am currently in school about an hour away. I haven't heard anything. Of course, maybe that shows just how much the mass (and Shenandoah Valley) media is burying this story. Frankly, I wasn't even aware that there was a significant Kurdish population in Harrisonburg, or a significant population, period.
3.29.2006 10:06pm
dunno:
Professor Volokh:
If you believe that an argument generally ignored ("something that has not hit the media at all," admits Max) is unsubstantiated, propping it up on your site with the intention of having an easy time of tearing it down seems bad form. (Or, as a friend used to say, "I'd love to match wits, but my mother taught me not to take advantage of the defenseless").

Now, as Charles Chapman points out, this is ill-sourced not through laziness, but because, well, there doesn't seem to be much to base it on. And I would agree, that is a major flaw. An argument should not be made solely out of connective tissue. But that is not the argument you put forward. Your argument hinged not on whether there is substance to the argument, but only on whether his external sources are readily available to you, through links, and such.

And this is where I had my problem. Because you chose a virtually unsupportable argument to aim your credibility barbs at, you've made it very difficult for those who believe that there are other ways to logical credibilty than hyperlinks and word proscription to make their case.

Now, for example, if you had made your case against an argument that could be supported, it would be easier to judge whether what you say is right. So, say historyblogger X said, "The cry 'kill them all and God will know his own,' dating from the Albigensian Crusade, demonstrates the depths of corruption militarization brought to contemporary religious thought." You might say, "well, I see no hyperlinks. How do I know that was said then, and by the person X goes on to claim said it?" Or, "'Depths of corruption' are strong words for trying to pe persuasive about a contentious topic like religion," &c. Then there can be debate on whether lighter words and more hyperlinks would be more persuasive (by the way, the necessity of these hyperlinks, boy-ee, I don't know how anyone ever won an argument without them), whether blogger X got it just right, or whether there is a third way between.

But you've given us little room to consider. It's obvious that there are no more facts he can add (with or without hyperlinks), so the only two options are write the way he does (in this case, obviously poorly) or take your advice. Picking on the form of an argument that would fail no matter what is done is a great way of making your ideal form look good by comparison.

Of course, if you're right, your conclusions would be generalizable. Candide, with its utter lack of hyperlinks (or even footnotes), its insider-ish sarcasm, and the fact that it was aimed at the narrow audience of Sorbonne theologians would be among the most unpersuasive works of all time.

I was just objecting that you seemed to be picking on the little kids on the playground, that's all. Go for the big ideas. They're fun.
3.29.2006 10:24pm
Steve Schippert (mail) (www):
Here's a silly question:

Why were Kurds assigned a Croatian interpreter? Or should I read that bit as another complaint against the FBI/Courts/Government? Unlike the rest of the post, the author chose not to elaborate with liberal usage of adjectives.
3.29.2006 11:06pm
Been There, Done That:
While the post may not be well written, it does make some specific factual allegations that are troubling:

1. A croatian translator assigned to a kurd.

2. Medical insurance cards being seized.

3. Money being seized without apparent due process/forfeiture in rem proceedings (nobody keeps dubloons under the mattress anymore, let's see how any of us does if tomorrow we woke up and all our accounts were frozen).

4. People being intimidated not to speak to the media.

And to those who generalize about the good natured wholesomeness of the FBI, please. Yes, most law enforcement personnel are good, honest, hard working people, but that does not mean the FBI is beyond reproach. It has a very regrettable history of civil rights abuses that require no annotation here. Isn't it a Republican congressman who wants to remove Hoover's name from the building? Whatever happened to Lon Horiuchi?

Certainly federal law enforcement officials are not beyond abusive conduct. Witness the ongoing BATFE abuse hearings, in Congress just now these past few days.

And this is just the stuff that makes the news. Anyone with the slightest exposure to the practice of immigration law can recount horrible stories of flimsy deportation hearings. Didn't this blog once highlight a rather embarrassing Seventh Circuit opinion by Posner recounting how the immigration courts are a complete incompetent disaster? Those are run by the Department of Justice, by the way. Y'all stand up straight and salute if you want.

Funny how on some issues, our conservative friends view the federal government as a big regulatory leviathan crushing the natural human aspirations of good Americans. Yet at other, sadly predictable instances, those same conservatives look at the federal government as that great, flag-draped repository of patriotic justice.

I do wish the original blog post contained more information, and did not resort to regrettable Nazi hyperbole. But it raises enough specific accusations of misconduct that, against the background of, imperfect, federal law enforcement conduct, merits more respect than the patronizing disquisition on rhetoric provided here by Prof. Volokh.
3.29.2006 11:08pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
It raises accusations of misconduct. It just doesn't make them terribly credible, since it has no pointers to any source other than the author's own say-so, and the credibility of the author's say-so is undermined by his exaggerated rhetoric. Give me more supporting evidence, and I might well be troubled. But I just don't see that evidence there.
3.29.2006 11:19pm
Been There, Done That:
So you're accusing him of being a possible fabricator? Or just merely unpersuasive?
3.29.2006 11:33pm
Tom Holsinger (mail):
The FBI's reputation in such matters is awful, particularly concerning situations which start with a serious error by an FBI officer. They could give organized crime lessons in Omerta.

The biggest questions about this story, however, are the silence of the local media and the appearance of the usual suspects as its its proponents.

Even paranoids have enemies.
3.30.2006 1:09am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Been There: The Sawicky post sounds like it's not based on the poster's first-hand knowledge, but on his assembly of facts from other sources. I doubt that it's a deliberate lie; I just don't know if the sources, the judgment in which facts to include and which to leave out, or the shorthand summaries of what are doubtless much more complicated accounts are trustworthy. I'd love to hear more details; I just don't see enough to justify a Gestapo label here, and the presence of the Gestapo label just makes me even more skeptical about the story.
3.30.2006 1:22am
elliottg (mail):
Professor Volokh is accusing Siwicky of being left wing. He doesn't like left wingers so he uses this post to tear down Siwicky. Of course Professor Volokh has his own credibility problems so I would take this particular post as nothing more than blowing off steam - bloviation (sp?) at its finest.
3.30.2006 1:30am
Shelby (mail):
What's wrong with saying "this is an examplar of a poorly made argument. Here's how this argument could be made more credible."? Isn't that what Professor Volokh has done?

I have no quarrel with Mr. Sawicky, but I read his post from the Instapundit link and thought, "sounds interesting. Where's the link?" And when I didn't see one, I shrugged and thought "maybe there's not much there." What is his source? Giving email addresses for a few people is *something* but not much. And why is it wrong to point this out?
3.30.2006 1:47am
Max Sawicky (mail) (www):
"It appears that the lack of any identifying or verifiable information is the product of sloppiness, laziness, or a deliberate attempt to conceal relevant facts."

Appearances can be deceiving when you don't know shit.

For anybody else not paying close attention, I did not write the post. It's written by a professor at James Madison Univ whom I trust. He was informed by others whom he trusts. Contact information is included with the post.

We cannot serve up this case fully documented with links and tied up with a nice bow for your entertainment because we don't have all the information, and because the media has mostly ignored the story. We are economists with full-time jobs. We are not journalists, nor are we trying to be journalists. We are trying to get more information and will provide it as it becomes available. One of the reasons for posting was to exploit the power of the "blogosphere" to turn up additional facts.

Barkley's rhetoric is a little overheated because the facts as he knows them support that reaction. If they prove inaccurate, he will be the first to apologize, and I will be the second.

All I can say is, if some of you dudes had been on the road during Paul Revere's midnight ride, we'd all be having tea and crumpets.

Cheers,
Max Sawicky
3.30.2006 7:07am
James Fulford (mail):
I believe this is the case they're talking about

NEWS RELEASE

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA



John L. Brownlee
United States Attorney

Heidi Coy
Public Affairs Specialist


BB&T Building
310 1st Street, S.W., Room 906
Roanoke, Virginia 24011
(540) 857-2250
FAX (540) 857-2180



January 30, 2006

HARRISONBURG RESIDENT RASHEED QADIR QAMBARI CONVICTED
OF TRANSMITTING MONEY OVERSEAS ILLEGALLY


United States Attorney John L. Brownlee announced today that Rasheed Qadir Qambari, age 37, of Harrisonburg, Virginia, was convicted of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business after a one day jury trial.

Qambari was tried in United States District Court in Harrisonburg, Virginia in front of Judge Glen E. Conrad.

According to evidence presented by the United States, beginning in 1998, Qambari and three other men began operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Qambari and the others would receive checks from people who wanted to transfer money outside the United States to various Middle Eastern and European nations. The money was deposited in various bank accounts controlled by the defendants and then transferred to accounts in other countries. None of the defendants had a license from the Virginia State Corporation Commission or the United States Department of the Treasury, as required by law. Over a six year period, Qambari and his three co-defendants transferred nearly $3,000,000 overseas.
Qambari's three co-defendants are awaiting trial.

The investigation was conducted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Harrisonburg Police Department, the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office, Virginia State Police, Albemarle County Police Department, University of Virginia Police Department, Charlottesville Police Department, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Gould prosecuted the case.
3.30.2006 7:13am
James Fulford (mail):
The announcement of the indictment, from last year, alleges that the defendants also committed public benefit fraud against HUD.

NEWS RELEASE

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA


John L. Brownlee
United States Attorney

Heidi Coy
Public Affairs Specialist


BB&T Building
310 1st Street, S.W., Room 906
Roanoke, Virginia 24011
(540) 857-2250
FAX (540) 857-2180



October 21, 2005

FOUR MEN INDICTED FOR TRANSMITTING MILLIONS
OF DOLLARS OVERSEAS ILLEGALLY


United States Attorney John L. Brownlee announced today that four men have been indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in Charlottesville, Virginia for transmitting millions of dollars overseas illegally.

The grand jury charges that beginning in 1998, four men, Ahmed Haji Abdullah, age 31, Fadhil Noroly, age 39, Rasheed Qadir Qambari, age 37, and Amir Rashid, age 35, all of Harrisonburg, Virginia, operated an unlicensed money transmitting business. Abdullah, Noroly, Qambari, and Rashid would receive checks from people who wanted to transfer money outside the United States to various Middle Eastern and European nations. The money was deposited in various bank accounts controlled by the defendants and then transferred to accounts in other countries. None of the defendants had a license from the Virginia State Corporation Commission or the United States Department of Treasury, as required by law. The four defendants transferred nearly $3,000,000 overseas over six years.

In addition and in order to facilitate their unlicensed money transmitting business, Ahmed Abdullah and Fadhil Noroly would receive housing assistance payments from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Abdullah and Noroly would submit inaccurate applications and reauthorization forms, misrepresenting the amount of assets and number of bank accounts they controlled. The grand jury alleges Abdullah stole $12,767 in housing assistance, and Noroly stole $7,994 in housing assistance.

"This type of unlicensed money transfer business undercuts the integrity of our banking system, which is regulated to prevent the funding of illegal international organizations and to facilitate reliability and public confidence," said United States Attorney John Brownlee. "We cannot allow anyone to operate this type of unlicensed money supply system."

Ahmed Haji Abdullah and Fadhil Noroly are charged in two separate indictments with operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, theft of public money, and criminal forfeiture.

Rasheed Qadir Qambari, and Amir Rashid are charged in two separate indictments with operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business and criminal forfeiture.

The investigation was conducted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Harrisonburg Police Department, Rockingham County Sheriff's Office, Virginia State Police, Albemarle County Police Department, University of Virginia Police Department, Charlottesville Police Department, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Assistant United States Attorney Tim Heaphy will prosecute the case.
3.30.2006 7:18am
Eric Wilner (mail) (www):

We cannot serve up this case fully documented with links and tied up with a nice bow for your entertainment because we don't have all the information,
Er... Max? you didn't provide any information, never mind all of it. Any hook that could have been used to identify the case would have been useful; none was provided. No names of people involved, only contact information for advocates.
This puts me in mind of "Call now for more information!" or "Wonderful business opportunity! You must listen to this cassette!" -- rightly or wrongly, I perceive a reluctance to put any details in writing.

Now, if James Fulford has correctly identified the case, it sounds like there's a heck of a lot more to it than individuals sending a few bucks home to their families.

This doesn't mean the FBI and/or prosecutors didn't go overboard, nor that the defense wasn't inept... but, if specifics are available, wouldn't it make a lot more sense for the advocates to type it up, once, post it on the Web, and link to it, rather than only making it available in response to individual phone calls and e-mails?

Incidentally,

"I know you are not the bad guys, but too much paperwork has gone forward on this."
could also be read as, "Darn... we don't really object to what you've been up to, guys, but it looks like you're guilty of multiple felonies, and the evidence is too well documented by now for us to sweep it under the rug."
3.30.2006 9:53am
Jens Fiederer (mail) (www):
It looks to me like Volokh was not tearing anybody down, but doing somebody a favor. Sawicky asked him to post, he posted and got the word out, a pretty major favor. He also offered some editorial commentary on how the post could have been made more informative and convincing. Not out of line at all from where I sit!
3.30.2006 12:41pm
Max Sawicky (mail) (www):
I appreciate GV's link, even w/his jaundiced remarks. I provided all the information I had, including the links above when they were made available to me. Anyone who can read minds enough to know what I "really" intended is wasting his time writing comments here; he should join the carnival.

There are separate issues here:

1. Is the Patriot Act overdrawn to the disfavor of individual rights.

2. More particularly, are the money laundering components too broad.

3. Aside from whether the laws are just or good policy, are the parties guilty of any of the charges.

4. Did the FBI behave unprofessionally.

If the facts as relayed by Barkley are true, the answer to #4 looks like yes, though unreasonable people may differ, and that would be one bit of anecdotal evidence on the other questions.

Re: #4, obviously it can't be proven one way or another with available information. Each side has an interest in fabricating. Somebody I trust said there has been abuse; I believe him; deal with it as you like. As somebody once said, extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Cheers.
3.30.2006 1:23pm
Barkley Rosser (mail) (www):
Hi, I am the guy who posted on Maxspeak about this matter. I fully agree that I should have used a different subject title, but indeed the behavior of the FBI has been pretty awful in this case. Many of these details have now been laid out in the discussion attached to the original posting over on Maxspeak, but led me add a few more for you folks.

1) These people were all very pro-US anti-Saddam people sending money to their families through the only way available. The senders made no money on this, and had nothing to do with terrorists.

2) After 9/11, these people, who were brought to the US by our government because Saddam was killing members of their families and they were working with our NGOs, were suddenly all of them interviewed by the FBI about whether they knew Saddam or Osama bin Laden, and so forth. These were people who were cheering when Saddam fell.

3) Those arrested were so on the day after the new law went into force. One of the men had tried to obtain the necessary license, but could never find out how to do it. We are talking about people with English language limitations, severe ones. I also note the banking system in Iraqi Kurdistan is and was a complete mess. How does one get money back to one's family for medical treatment?

4) They were raided without arrest warrants at dawn. Virtually all their personal possessions were seized, including from their safe deposit boxes. This included all their cash, medical insurance cards, applications for citizenship, and the ledger that was used as the main prosecution piece of evidence. Only the medical insurance cards have been returned, and only after some time, with one of the men's wives being pregnant. During the initial raid she was kept from going to the bathroom in her own home for several hours. (This was probably the item that brought out the "Gestapo" reference.)

5) Without money, they got a cour-appointed attorney. He was not granted access to any material that would allow for constructing a defense, seeing the ledger only a few minutes before the two and a half hour trial started.

6) No one is justifying the Croatian translator, but that is who was provided, and nothing was done about it.

7) This affects one of the charges. Everyone agrees that these folks are technically guilty of the FELONY of transmitting money without a proper business license. However, they are also accusd of stealing or fraudulently getting money out of HUD. This could have been disproven if there had been a proper translator for the ledger. The claim of fraud was based on identifying one bank account as two. How did this happen? The bank was bought by another bank. The incompetent investigators and prosecutors identified this as two accounts. This was not able to be refuted, but on that one they are flat out innocent.

8) They were told not to talk to the media, and they were and are terrified and did not do so. Hence, the only reports out there are this prosecution-provided report that makes them look like terrorists (maybe). They are only now beginning to figure out that they need to. Some of the rhetoric may have been overheated (and I apologize to the extent that I am responsible for that), but there really is a stinking pile here.

9) I am a professor of economics at JMU in Harrisonburg. I know some of the people involved in this, but not all of them. These people are not liars. They are trying to get information about a deep injustice that has been covered up.

10) The FBI has needed some "wins against terrorism" given all the bad publicity they have had about 9/11. If you look at that press release you will realize that a very large bureaucratic train got going on this one, involving 12 different agencies, counting the state and local, all led by a Terrorism Task Force. Pretty god damned impressive. But in the end, and I have had this confirmed, the agents on the ground closest to this know that this is a case that never should have gone forward, a waste of time that is supposed to get somebody in Washington some "anti-terrorism brownie points" with somebody else at the expense of a group of fundamentally harmless people who have been very deeply and badly mistreated.

Hey, they still have not been given their possessions back. Pretty damned hard to function. These people need help, not snide remarks. You can direct the snide remarks at me. I probably deserve them.
3.30.2006 5:06pm
Kamatu (mail):
Actually use of the Nazi symbolism seems to go off the radar whoever is using it. OTOH, regardless of the facts of this case, several federal (as well as state and local) enforcement agencies, including the FBI have a history of high-handedness which can lead to abuses. IMO, such abuses are defacto actions that simulate closely the actions of a certain parts of a certain government on another continent several decades ago. It is an institutional problem that has been creeping forward for decades now. Do I see a way to reverse it? Yes, but not one I'd advocate. At least not quite yet.

Also, the Patriot Act begins to show itself to be far more than "connecting the dots" and "using laws for drug dealers against terrorists". Overreach by using the "national security" cry as cover has been being documented in small cases, this possibly being yet another one (do your own googling, find the libertarian blogs and dig down to the sources). The coming fight over the USDA's lobbyist written NAIS regulations will probably be a blockbuster.

As for the seizure of assets (including the ones under your bed), look up the abuses of the civil forfeiture laws. In some places, if you get pulled over for a speeding ticket, don't let the cop know you have more than $100 in cash. He will take it and you will never see it again, plus have to pay the speeding ticket.

Doesn't work for you guys as a source, but I know personally of someone with no criminal record who got rousted by the local cops and "permission" to search his house extorted from him (you tell me what it is when you are on your face, with your hands cuffed behind you, guns pointed at you and the "invitation" to "allow" the search is accompanied by the threat that your wife can join you in this position and your two children will be turned over to child services if you stand on your constitutional rights while they wait on a warrant. Oops, the warrant will be "justified" by your refusal to allow a warrantless search.) Sorry, small rant. Anyway, in the process of this search, his firearms were taken and some cash they had on hand (DOH!, this is hurricane country, it is recommended you have cash on hand as part of your kit.) It has now been over a year and the cops have flatly refused to return his possessions even though he was never arrested or charged with a crime.
3.30.2006 6:04pm
keatssycamore (mail) (www):

However, they are also accusd of stealing or fraudulently getting money out of HUD. This could have been disproven if there had been a proper translator for the ledger. The claim of fraud was based on identifying one bank account as two. How did this happen? The bank was bought by another bank. The incompetent investigators and prosecutors identified this as two accounts. This was not able to be refuted, but on that one they are flat out innocent.



HUD is incompetent? Why I'm shocked.
3.30.2006 6:46pm
Eric Wilner (mail) (www):
OK, now we're getting specific!
If Mr. Rosser's information is correct, these people have been seriously railroaded... and it sounds like the same sort of thing I've been hearing about, from one interest group or another, at least since the Reagan administration (especially under Clinton, though that may be a function of the interest groups I listen to).
As Kamatu notes, this appears to be (again, assuming this information is correct, and likewise the tales of Waco, Ruby Ridge, and so forth, including various state and local shenanigans) a longstanding institutional problem, existing at many levels of government, and not in any way novel with the current administration.
Alas, I don't see any nonpartisan organization investigating these alleged abuses and widely publicizing the truth about them, whatever it be. Gee, isn't that what the press is supposed to be for?
3.30.2006 9:05pm
Barkley Rosser (mail) (www):
I have met with some principals this afternoon and am able to provide some further details on two matters.

1) The Croatian translator issue. The Croatian translator was there at the indictments. One of the accused has zero English. His court-appointed attorney said that his client "waives his rights" without consulting him, which he could not do anyway because he did not speak Kurdish. Apparently the judge was indignant, but the accused ended up sitting in jail for a week after this. The translator was provided by the State Department.

Qambari, the one who has been tried, was actually himself a translator for the courts, a sign of his status in the community where indeed he was/is a major community leader, which is part of why he was approached by people to send money back to their families. He could not translate as the defendant. The translator provided in that trial was a Kurdish-speaking Syrian, but who spoke a dialect not understood by the character witnesses who participated and was thus utterly useless.

2) The part of the Patriot Act involved is indeed a part passed in 2001. The story of 24 hours is that one of the accused, still awaiting trial, did a transfer the morning after the law came into effect, without knowing it had, and did not make any transfers thereafter. Nevertheless, he is up for having done so on the morning of Oct. 25, 2001, after the law went into effect on Oct. 24, 2001.
3.31.2006 7:31pm