(CNSNews.com) – The Justice Department included non-terrorists on a list provided to members of the U.S. Senate as back-up for President Barack Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s claims that hundreds of terrorists have been convicted in civilian federal courts.
In advocating the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison in May 2009, Obama said, “Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.”
That remark sparked the curiosity of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who wrote Attorney General Eric Holder asking for the names and offenses of those “hundreds” of terrorists convicted in civilian courts and sent to civilian prisons.
Kyl did not get a prompt response.
Then Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Holder about Kyl’s request at a Nov. 18 hearing. Holder responded: “I will supply you with those 300 names and what they were convicted of. I'll be glad to do that.”
Like Kyl before him, Sessions did not get a prompt response.
Then in February, in a letter defending his decision to prosecute Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the would-be Northwest Flight 253 underwear bomber) in a civilian court rather than a military tribunal, Holder told Senate Republicans: “In keeping with this policy [of trying terrorists in civilian courts], the Bush administration used the criminal justice system to convict more than 300 individuals on terrorism related charges.”
This prompted yet another request from Senate Republicans for a list of the 300 people who were convicted in civilian courts on terrorism charges.
Finally, on March 26, the Justice Department sent a list of 403 names to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But a preliminary review by CNSNews.com found that more than 30 of the names on that list had nothing to do with terrorism.
One case, for example, included the names of six people who were involved in a securities fraud and racketeering case that centered around an individual named Amr “Anthony” I. Elgindy. Not one of these six people was charged with or convicted of a terrorism-related crime.
Elgindy himself was convicted for his role in a scheme to steal confidential law enforcement information relating to FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into various companies, information which he and others used to profit from trading decisions. Two FBI special agents also were convicted in the case, one for providing Elgindy and his associates with information, another for obstructing justice.
Although law enforcement began probing Elgindy as part of a broad investigation into terrorism that commenced shortly after of 9/11, there was no evidence that anyone involved in the case was tied to terrorism in any way.
The judge in the case halted questions about terrorism, citing no evidence. The 9/11 Commission report later stated that there was no evidence anyone made money from having prior knowledge of 9/11.
In a cover letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee providing them with the list of names to back up Obama’s and Holder’s assertions that hundreds have been convicted in federal civilian court of terrorism charge, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said the list included two categories of terror-related convictions.
The first category included crimes “directly related to terrorism” or providing material support to terrorists. The second category included crimes such as fraud, firearms offenses, false statements or obstruction of justice “where the investigation involved an identified link to international terrorism.”
CNSNews.com asked the Justice Department if the names of the people in the Elgindy case—who had no link to terrorism at all—should be removed.
“It’s our position that every name on the chart fits into either category one or category two,” Justice Department National Security Division Spokesman Dean Boyd told CNSNews.com.
The list does include people with demonstrable ties to terrorist acts or organizations, including, for example, Zacarias Moussaoui, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid and American Taliban John Walker Lindh.
Yet the list also includes 15 people—mostly with Arab names --convicted in a case involving credit card, mortgage and bankruptcy fraud where there was no reported connection to terrorism of any kind. Similarly, the list includes a group of people convicted of crimes related to trafficking—in cigarettes.
The Justice Department points out that the Bush administration initially was responsible for generating the list. Boyd said that “the bulk of the data” on it “was generated by the prior administration and relates to prosecutions that occurred during the prior administration.”
“The Elgindy prosecution was one of the cases that was entered into the database by career prosecutors under the prior administration shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 and was listed as a Category II case since it began as part of the nationwide PENTBOMB investigation that followed the 9/11 attacks and, upon inception, appeared to have a connection to international terrorism,” Boyd told CNSNews.com.
At a 2002 hearing in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Breen pointed out that Elgindy tried to sell $300,000 in stock on Sept. 10, 2001. Breen said, “Perhaps Mr. Elgindy had pre-knowledge of Sept. 11, and rather than report it he attempted to profit from it.” A headline in the May 25, 2002 edition of the New York Times said: “U.S. Suggests, Without Proof, Stock Adviser Knew of 9/11.”
During the trial, U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie halted questions about terrorism, saying, “This case has nothing to do with terrorism,” The New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2004. “You will hear no evidence that Mr. Elgindy or others were involved in 9/11.”
The report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States--better known as the 9/11 Commission--said on page 172 of its report, “Exhaustive investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, FBI and other agencies have uncovered no evidence that anyone with advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks profited through securities transactions.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) issued a statement in response to the list sent to him by the Justice Department. “The overwhelming bulk of these cases are for acts committed by U.S. citizens—which KSM and the Christmas Bomber are not—and occurred before military commissions became fully operational in 2008,” he said. “It is simply disingenuous for the Attorney General to argue that these cases demonstrate that captured enemy combatants, as classified under the 2009 Military Commissions Act, are better tried in civilian rather than military court.”
Stephen Miller, spokesman for the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not respond to inquiries about the lists and Sen. Session’s response to it.