Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I think the part I like best about the news that the Bush Administration considered bringing in the military to arrest the Lackawanna Six is the Times describing Lackawanna as a "Buffalo suburb". Lackawanna is a Buffalo suburb in pretty much exactly the way the Gary is a suburb of Chicago.

The Lackawanna Six prosecution was a grotesque event, a real blotch on the record of the American criminal justice system. The poor bastards were gulled into going to to Afghanistan in spring 2001, and went to an al-Qaeda training camp. When they realized what was going on they high-tailed it out. Their arrest and prosecution amounted to the Arab-American equivalent of Driving While Black. "They were U.S. citizens bound together by their Yemeni heritage. They went to Lackawanna High School ("Home of the Steelers") and played soccer for the varsity team. Aside from that, they kept to themselves and wore jackets emblazoned with the moniker "Arabian Knights." They traveled to Yemen once a year, where they were greeted in their villages like conquering heroes simply for surviving in America." The Lackawanna Six never did anything more than take an ill-advised trip to a scary place, but they were up against the meat grinder of a federal criminal prosecution, and although they were represented by some of the ablest lawyers I know the stakes were too high for them to gamble. They pleaded out, and the US Attorney, the judge and, probably the most shamefully, the Buffalo News pretended it was a great piece of legal work.

Ironically, in a way it was a validation of the legal system, sort of. Mukhtar Al-Bakri, Sahim Alwan, Faysal Galab, Shafal Mosed, Yaseinn Taher, and Yahya Goba were arraigned in federal district court. They were represented by counsel. They were afforded all of the rights that persons accused of crimes are supposed to have in America, and in this regard they are pretty nearly unique. Any argument that the US judicial system is not equipped to deal with terrorism is pretty neatly rebutted by this case.

In a way, I wish Bush had sent a squadron of Marines into Lackawanna. It might have demonstrated to the country just what kind of government we were living under.

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