Monday, April 21, 2008

Few Clear Wins In U.S. Anti-Terror Cases

This week in Criminology we focused on the documentary "The Enemy Within" and the relatively few successful prosecutions the government has had in domestic terror-related cases. This WaPo article today follows up with some more numbers.

The [Justice] department's domestic terrorism record to date -- no new attacks, but few blockbuster convictions and some high-profile hung juries or acquittals -- has provoked criticism of its early strategy for going after homegrown terrorist cells and the people who fund plots well before deadly events occur.

Jurors appear to be particularly troubled by a controversial element in the Miami case, part of several other early prosecutions, in which FBI informants encouraged others to perform acts they otherwise may not have done.

This week, federal prosecutors in Miami will announce whether they will seek to try the [Miami Seven] defendants for the third time. The government's incentive to do so is powerful: Two years ago, it intended the case to be a model for intervention against potential terrorists before they acquire the weapons and insight needed to act.

As the one professor is quoted as saying, the government may be doing a better job at this than they are getting credit for, but using the lack of another terrorist attack since 9/11 strikes many as a dubious barometer. Prosecuting criminals (or terrorists) and rates of crime (or terrorism) aren't correlated in the least.

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