Star Chamber?
November 3, 2003 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Secret 9/11 case before high court
"It's the case that doesn't exist. Even though two different federal courts have conducted hearings and issued rulings, there has been no public record of any action. No documents are available. No files. No lawyer is allowed to speak about it. Period."
posted by Irontom (23 comments total)
The only reason we know about it is that the appeal was filed with the clerk of the Supreme Court.
posted by Irontom at 9:59 AM on November 3, 2003

Now maybe they will use stealth technique on clerk of Supreme Court...after all, that is the court that gave us a stealth president.
posted by Postroad at 10:07 AM on November 3, 2003

I'm waiting for the right wingers to respond with "oh geez, it's just some stupid case about some illegal immigrant being held - why does the public need to know?" or some such way of trying to downplay this.

The key question here is "why should the public be kept from knowing?"

I am curious, though... to play devil's advocate -- I can't find anything in the article that says why they call it a "9/11 case" or how they know it's about terrorism.. Though I suppose maybe it's a reasonable conclusion to make given the nationality of the person, and the secrecy around it? I dunno...
posted by twiggy at 10:15 AM on November 3, 2003

I was confused too, twiggy. In the sixth paragraph, the case is identified as:
This is among the first of the post-Sept. 11 terrorism cases to wend its way to the nation's highest tribunal.
But then in the tenth paragraph, the defendant is described:
MKB's legal status remains unclear, but it appears unlikely from court documents that he is connected in any way to terrorism.
I just assumed this was similar to those knee-jerk-hysteria arrests that seemed to be popping up all the time in late fall and early winter 2001. Nothing about how Justice or Homeland Security has gone about these things implies any common sense anyway, so, who knows what those morons are up to.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2003

who knows what those morons are up to

I think it's safe to assume the worst. The combination of 9/11 and John Ashcroft as Attorney General is a one-two sucker punch to civil rights. If either one hadn't occurred, I think the effects of the other would've been minimal.

Unfortunately, they're not morons. If only that were the case. No, these are smart, committed people who have goals directly opposite those of civil libertarians.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:01 AM on November 3, 2003

Will the supreme court keep it secret too, if they take it? is that allowed? (and this really is chilling)
posted by amberglow at 11:15 AM on November 3, 2003

Fascinating. Add it to the pile of things the administration is actively working to keep us from knowing. Pretty big pile.
posted by soyjoy at 11:24 AM on November 3, 2003

Please repeat after me, "America is not turning into a police state."
posted by Blue Stone at 11:47 AM on November 3, 2003

Blue Stone's right. we probably shouldn't worry about the secret things the government does.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:05 PM on November 3, 2003

What gets me is this: He has been free since March 2002 on a $10,000 bond.

If this needs to be kept so secret, why is he walking around? Shouldn't he at least be in custody if he's so dangerous that a trial involving him has to be kept under seal?
posted by bshort at 12:07 PM on November 3, 2003

It is equally plausible that these court proceedings are being kept secret despite the principals involved. For example (and I'm not assuming this IS the case, but it's just one example), if the defendant in question is not a citizen of America, then his situation falls under international laws and treaties and agreements made between our country and his. Secrecy may have been one of the requirements for insuring his trial be done in our country.

Admittedly, the present administration goes out of its way to hide things from the American public. Molly Ivins explained it well. I'm paraphrasing here but she explained that the Bush family comes from Texas and here the popular opinion among those with money is that government's purpose is to improve corporate relations and interests. If big business is getting bigger, that's good for everyone. Or so the popular theory assumes. It means a better economy, more and better jobs, and expansion and all kindsa buzzwords, but these are the same people who think inflation is a good sign cuz it means prices are going up which means profits are going up. Ivins doesn't claim to subscribe to this point of view and neither do I. Just sayin' it's a popular theory among people like Shrub.

However, I don't see how keeping this a secret is to the advantage of the present administration or anyone in America. That just perpetuates the paranoia and makes those in power in America look worse, so it's not in their best interests. The secrecy exists despite American interests, not because of them.

Or it could be more simple than we're seeing: looks more like the secrecy is there to protect the defendant. Innocent until proven guilty I think they call it. Rather than letting the press rake him over hot coals before they even get to the opening statements. There are other court cases all over court tv right now which prove it may be best to keep the public in the dark, if the alternative is to watch the escalation of an international incident. There's enough of those going around as it is.

I guess what I'm trying to say is maybe we shouldn't be looking for conspiracies under every rock, when there's already enough snakes on top of the rocks, sunning themselves.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:10 PM on November 3, 2003

I'm not sure why the speculation on the subject of why. The justice department's reasoning is quite clearly stated in the last couple of paragraphs. We could certainly debate the validity of that reasoning, but it seems silly to wonder what it is, when simply reading the article all the way through to the end would answer that question.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:39 PM on November 3, 2003

See, I was arguing that same media-related point with a friend of mine last night. It seems to me that the degree of secrecy here is excessive, to say the least. There is no reason to keep the very existence of a case secret. If there's a concern about media influence, just keep cameras and journalists out of the courtroom and seal the documents until the case is decided. Secrecy should not be used unless there is a specific reason for its use, and then it shouldn't be used to a degree beyond that neccesary to ensure that reasoning is met. Our system is stated to be a government by and for the people, with its leaders chosen by the people. Open hearings are meant to ensure that those in power aren't abusing their power. We the public need to know that justice is being properly served, otherwise the whole system is bunk.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:44 PM on November 3, 2003

What part of In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial don't they understand?
posted by anewc2 at 1:35 PM on November 3, 2003

we probably shouldn't worry about the secret things the government does.

Indeed. Why start now, after 227 years?
posted by kindall at 1:38 PM on November 3, 2003

In other news, today I saw a guy speaking to an interested crowd in Union Square about why people should be concerned about what the government was doing hauled off by police for "disturbing the peace." That was fun.
posted by rushmc at 12:29 AM on November 4, 2003

More administration secrecy/revisionism: White House edits transcript of speech re: China, changing meaning to virtual opposite, walks away whistling casually.
posted by soyjoy at 10:28 AM on November 4, 2003

So - here's a question - if this case turns into a public spectacle and the US government loses the opportunity to plant a mole in Al Qaeda, will any of you notice or care?

Not that secret trials are any good - they're not.

I just wonder what else you all propose.

Remember - not only did the federal prosecutors have to apply for secrecy, the judge AND the appellate court panel had to uphold it.

And if the Supreme court upholds it and you never hear about it again - will you be convinced that it's a big conspiracy, or will you grant the possibility that in the name of national security sometimes the rules need to bend?
posted by swerdloff at 10:49 AM on November 4, 2003

If you can't win by adhering to the rules, you deserve to lose.
posted by rushmc at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2003

In other news, today I saw a guy speaking to an interested crowd in Union Square about why people should be concerned about what the government was doing hauled off by police for "disturbing the peace." That was fun.

Link to photo.
posted by rushmc at 1:04 PM on November 4, 2003

That guy has a beard, he's obviously a terrorist. Where's the problem?
*feels own chin*

To get serious for a moment: I don't know if this has already been posted, but I've just gotten around to the Anthony Lewis article in the Oct. 23 NYRB, and it's some scary stuff.
The Times of London last May published a letter to the editor from Tony Willoughby of Willoughby & Partners, a firm of solicitors. "The head of IT [information technology] at our law firm," he wrote,
is a Muslim. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word. His fanaticism, if he has any, is restricted to cricket. Last Sunday he went on a business trip to California. On arrival at Los Angeles he was detained and interrogated on suspicion of being a terrorist....

For the first 12 hours he was refused access to a telephone. After 16 hours, not having been given any food, he asked if he could have some. He was given ham sandwiches and, when he explained that he could not eat pork, was told: "You eat what you are given." He did not eat. He was eventually escorted back to the airport in handcuffs and deported.
Mr. Willoughby wrote to American officials seeking an explanation. He got back what he calls "a fobbing-off letter"—and his firm's laptop computer, which had been confiscated at the airport. Its data had been wiped out.

That is a mild example, very mild, of what has happened to the US government's treatment of aliens since September 11, 2001. Mr. Willoughby's colleague was evidently picked out, treated with contempt, and denied entry to this country because of his religion and, possibly, his ethnic antecedents; his family came to Britain, decades ago, from Pakistan. But in a sense he was lucky. He was not detained for months in secret, prevented from calling a lawyer, humiliated and beaten by prison guards. All those things have happened to aliens swept off American streets at the order of Attorney General John Ashcroft....
I know we've all gotten the idea by now, but it's spelled out very clearly here.
posted by languagehat at 1:36 PM on November 4, 2003

swerdloff - I'm with rushmc. If you can't win while playing by the rules, then you don't deserve to win.

Especially here, when our rules and principles were what made us such a great nation.
posted by Irontom at 5:46 AM on November 5, 2003

hey - that's my friend!
posted by goneill at 8:50 AM on November 5, 2003

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