Times Online : Key anti-terror law is a breach of human rights, judge rules

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Key anti-terror law is a breach of human rights, judge rules

by Richard Ford, Home Correspondent | June 29, 2006

THE Government’s anti-terrorism laws were in disarray last night after the High Court ruled that they were illegal and breached the human rights of suspects.

The decision destroyed a key part of the Government’s armoury in the fight against terrorism. Mr Justice Sullivan said in the High Court that the Home Secretary had no power to issue control orders, which place restrictions just short of house arrest on terrorist suspects.

The ruling is the latest clash between the Government and the judiciary over human rights, and will reignite the debate over whether the Human Rights Act should be reformed.

John Reid attacked the ruling yesterday and promised to fight the judgment in the Appeal Court. The Home Secretary said that control orders had been introduced to protect the public against foreign citizens who posed a risk to the country. He said that, if foreign terrorist suspects could not be deported because they might face torture, the Government had to find another way to protect the public if prosecution were not possible.

Mr Reid added: “That is why the Government introduced control-order legislation, which can be used as a last resort to address the threat from both foreign nationals and British citizens. The obligations contained in control orders are necessary to protect the public and proportionate to the threat that these individuals pose.”

The High Court ruling means that half of the 14 control orders now imposed on foreign and British citizens have been declared illegal.

Mr Justice Sullivan said that the orders breached Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents detention without trial.

“It follows that the [Home Secretary] had no power to make the orders and they must therefore all be quashed,” Mr Justice Sullivan said at the end of a High Court case brought by five Iraqis and another suspect.

In April the same judge ruled that control orders were an “affront to justice” because they denied people a right to a fair hearing.

Control orders were introduced after the law lords ruled in December 2004 that holding terrorist suspects in prison without charge or trial was unlawful. Individuals can be restricted to their homes, have curbs placed on access to phones, the internet and other people. They can be ordered to hand in their passports and give the police unrestricted access to their homes.

Natalia Garcia, of law firm Tyndallwoods, representing the five Iraqis and one other suspect, said that the judge’s ruling was a victory for civil liberties. Ms Garcia added: “What they have done is to impose conditions of such draconian severity as to be a deprivation of liberty.”

A spokesman for Tony Blair said that he had not yet seen the full judgment. “Parliament discussed the principle and the implementation of control orders, and we always made it clear that if necessary we would take it through the courts as far as necessary and possible — but let us see what the final judgment is.”

David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary, said: “When control orders were first debated we warned the Government that exactly this might happen, and explicitly offered them the option of extending the time limit on the old legislation, specifically to give them time to think.”

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “This decision shows the dangers of rushed and ill thought out legislation on such an important issue.”

The Government’s terrorism law adviser, Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC, said the Government could amend the details of the orders to comply with human rights laws, for example by reducing the scope of curfews and lifting some restrictions.


Sept 2001 Attacks on Trade Centre in New York and Pentagon

Oct David Blunkett publishes Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill allowing indefinite detention of foreign terrorist suspects without charge or trial

Dec Act becomes law. Eight suspects detained

July 2002 Special Immigration Appeals Commission rulesthat law is discriminatory and unlawful

Oct Court of Appeal overturns the ruling

Dec Law lords rule that law is incompatible with European Convention on Human Rights

Feb 2005 Charles Clarke publishes new Prevention of Terrorism Bill allowing terror suspects to be tagged March Prevention of Terrorism Bill becomes law

June 2006 High Court rules control order law is not compatible with human rights laws

Times Online : Terror law clash 'threatens constitutional crisis'

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Terror law clash 'threatens constitutional crisis'

by Times Online and agencies | June 29, 2006

The Government's clash with the judges over its anti-terror legislation is threatening to spiral into a constitutional crisis, a senior Labour MP warned today.

John Denham, who chairs the home affairs select committee, demanded urgent talks between politicians and the judiciary, saying that public safety was at risk with possible "life and death" consequences.

Yesterday, High Court judge Mr Justice Sullivan undermined one of the main pillars of the government's anti-terror policy, by ruling that control orders made against six foreign terror suspects were unlawful as they were in breach of human rights law.

The Government has lodged an appeal against the ruling, insisting that the controversial orders are crucial to prevent terrorism in Britain. The appeal will be heard on Monday.

Mr Denham told the BBC: "There is a constitutional crisis emerging here I think about the way in which the judges and the courts are approaching these issues.

"When many of us, as I did, supported the Human Rights Act and indeed still support it, we thought that on great matters of state of this sort, if the elected Parliament had taken a careful view of what was in the wider public interest that would be given considerable weight by the courts.

"That doesn’t seem to be what’s happening at the moment and that’s why I don’t think it’s over the top to talk about an emerging constitutional crisis.

"We have got to have a serious discussion between law makers in Parliament, ministers and judges about the way through here. Before we get into too big a conflict, sensible people have got to get round the table and explore the way in which this is going to be handled."

John Reid, the Home Secretary, was said to be furious at Mr Justice Sullivan's ruling and has indicated that he will seek to overturn the judgement on appeal.

If the Appeal Court decides on Monday to uphold the High Court decision, human rights lawyers say that the control order legislation will be in tatters.

Mr Denham said he could see no alternative to the orders.

"If effective control orders are struck down...I think that probably means that the people go back into the pool of people we are concerned about and the security services will take very difficult decisions about who not to keep an eye on, and let’s just hope they choose the right people and not the wrong people."

The MP said judges in the rest of Europe gave greater weight to public policy that had been "properly considered and endorsed by parliament".

He added: "This is not a battle between Government and the judiciary; this is between the elected parliament and the judiciary.

"We now know, from last year’s London bombings, that the police and security services are taking life and death decisions about who to keep under surveillance. And if you don’t have mechanisms of this sort for people you believe to be dangerous then it is difficult to protect the security of the public in the way we want."

But Michael Mansfield QC, a leading barrister, rejected Mr Denham’s "crisis" warning, insisting that judges were simply doing their job.

"We are not on the verge of a constitutional crisis; what we are on the verge of is recognising at long last that the courts are performing the role they were always there to do.

"Although the Government has been elected, the elected democracy has put in place a judiciary whose job it is to monitor the extent to which legislation is incompatible with human rights.

"That’s exactly what the judges are doing and as soon as they do their job then in comes the Government and says ’oh we don’t like this, we wish to lock up people we think are suspects and subversive’. We can’t tolerate a society in which a Government is allowed that view untrammelled."

The six men, who must not be identified, were all Iraqi nationals whose claims for asylum have been rejected yet to be determined. They were arrested under the anti-terrorism laws but then released without charge.

Instead, control orders were made against them. One was allowed to live in his own home but the others were required to live at designated addresses away from their home areas.

They were obliged to remain indoors for 18 hours a day, between 4pm and 10am, and were subject to other severe restrictions, such as bans on using mobile phones or the internet, or on meeting or talking to anyone who had not been vetted and approved by the Home Office.

The judge ruled the restrictions were so severe that they amounted to a breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human rights and the men were "rather like a prisoner in his cell" and their liberty "non-existent for all practical purposes".

In April the same judge also found the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act - under which control orders are made - "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights because "controlees" had not received a fair hearing.

Both cases are now expected to come before the Court of Appeal next Monday.

Discussions could also take place to consider whether the case should leapfrog the Appeal Court and go straight to the House of Lords.

Guardian : Seeing isn't believing

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Seeing isn't believing

The Guardian | Tuesday June 27, 2006

A year on from 7/7, wild rumours are circulating about who planted the bombs and why. Some people even claim this picture of the four bombers was faked. Mark Honigsbaum, who accidentally triggered at least one of the conspiracy theories, investigates

On July 10 last year, Bridget Dunne opened the Sunday newspapers eager for information about the blasts that had brought death and mayhem to London three days earlier. Like many people that weekend, Dunne was confused by the conflicting reports surrounding what had initially been described as a series of "power surges" on the tube. Why were the Metropolitan Police saying that these surges, which were now being attributed to bombs, had occurred simultaneously at 8.50am, when they had originally been described as taking place over the space of 26 minutes?

Dunne, a 51-year-old foster carer, was also having trouble squaring the Met's statement on July 8 that there was "no evidence to suggest that the attacks were the result of suicide bombings" with the growing speculation that Islamic suicide bombers and al-Qaida were to blame for the blasts that had hit the London underground and a bus in Tavistock Square. The Met Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, had talked himself of "these people who oppose our way of life".

"I'm not a conspiracy theorist," insists Dunne. "I was just trying to make a cohesive, coherent story from the facts."

But while the papers that Sunday were full of interviews with people who had survived the bombs, and there was plenty of speculation about Osama bin Laden's involvement, Dunne could find nothing about the times of the tube trains in and out of King's Cross on the morning of July 7.

When, a few days later, police released the now famous CCTV image of Shehzad Tanweer, Mohammad Sidique Khan, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain entering Luton station, her suspicions deepened. How had police identified the bombers so quickly? And how was it that amid the carnage of twisted metal and bloody body parts they had been able to recover credit cards and other ID placing the men at the scene of the crime?

Suspecting something was not right, Dunne, who lives in Camden, north London, wrote to her local paper. "Do you think we are being told the truth over these bombings?" she asked. "There are so many unanswered questions that just don't make any sense."

Dunne's letter was immediately picked up by a blogger called Blaugustine and within days she found herself the recipient, via the internet, of other intriguing snippets, such as the claim that on the morning of 7/7 a former Scotland Yard anti-terrorism branch official had been staging a training exercise based on bombs going off simultaneously at precisely the stations that had been targeted. Convinced more than ever that something was not right, Dunne decided to share her thoughts with her new friends on the internet.

"I have only one reason for starting this blog," she wrote last August. "It is to ascertain the facts behind the events in London on and since the July 7 2005 ... That the times of trains were totally absent from the public domain was one of the factors which led to my suspicions that what we were being told happened was not what actually happened."

It was a few days after the blasts that I first became aware of the disconnect between what most people believe and accept happened on 7/7 - that four British-born Muslim men decided, of their own volition and for reasons that we may never fully understand, to detonate a series of suicide bombs on the London underground - and what people like Dunne suspect happened.

Like many Londoners, I never reached my office on the morning of July 7 but arrived at the tube at 9.30am to find it already closed. Dispatched by the Guardian's newsdesk directly to Edgware Road, I arrived just as passengers from the bombed westbound Circle line train were emerging from the temporary triage centre that had been set up in Marks & Spencer by a former firefighter, Paul Dadge.

As with other major London crime scenes - the Israeli embassy bombing in Kensington, the Paddington rail crash, the Brixton nail bombing - the situation was one of confusion and flux. The police had only just begun to cordon off the station, while the fire brigade was attributing the incident to a power surge, even though it was already obvious to all but the greenest commuter that three simultaneous incidents on the tube made little sense even by London underground's woeful performance standards.

I asked passengers what they had seen and experienced and was told by two survivors from the bombed train that, at the moment of the blast, the covers on the floor of their carriage had flown up - the phrase they used was "raised up". There was no time to check their statements as moments later the police widened the cordon and I was directed to the opposite pavement, outside the Metropole hotel.

Moments later, Davinia Turrell, the famous "woman in the mask", emerged from M&S together with other injured passengers and I followed them into the hotel. It was from there that at around 11am I phoned a hurried, and what I now know to be flawed, audio report to the Guardian. In the report, broadcast on our website, I said that it "was believed" there had been an explosion "under the carriage of the train". I also said that "some passengers described how the tiles, the covers on the floors of the train, flew up, raised up".

It later became clear from interviewing other passengers who had been closer to the seat of the explosion that the bomb had actually detonated inside the train, not under it, but my comments, disseminated over the internet where they could be replayed ad nauseam, were already taking on a life of their own.

"Did July 7 bombs explode under trains?" read a posting that referred to my report a few weeks later. "Eyewitness accounts appear to contradict the theory that suicide bombers were responsible for killing 39 [sic] passengers on London's tube network that day."

Another went even further: "How Black Ops staged the London bombings: Staged terror events - like magic tricks - rely on misdirection to throw people off the track ... The bombs on the underground were not in the tube carriages. They were under the floors of the carriages."

Soon, internet chatrooms and blog sites were buzzing with even more bizarre theories: the bombers thought they were delivering drugs but were deceived, set up and murdered; or they thought they were carrying dummy "bombs" designed to test London's defences; or the plot was monitored by any number of secret services, from M15 to the CIA to Mossad, who let it happen in order to foment anti-Muslim feeling. Then there are the claims by 9/11 conspiracy theorists that 7/7, like the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, were all part of a cunning scheme to further the pro-Iraq war agenda of the Bush/Blair governments and the "New World Order".

In the past week we have had two more claims. The first came in a book by US journalist Ron Suskind, alleging that Khan was considered so dangerous by the FBI that in 2003 the US placed him on a "no fly list" - a claim that was promptly rubbished by the FBI as a case of mistaken identity.

Then, on Saturday, this paper reported that a computer technician who helped to encrypt emails at an Islamic bookshop in Leeds where Khan and Tanweer used to hang out became so alarmed by their calls for jihad that in October 2003 he delivered a dossier to West Yorkshire anti-terrorist police. Martin Gilbertson's claims have not been denied. West Yorkshire police simply admitted it couldn't say whether or not his dossier had "made its way into the intelligence system".

Given such confusion, the proliferation of 7/7 conspiracy theories is hardly surprising. Ever since the Kennedy assassination, people's faith in the official narratives surrounding seismic political events has been steadily eroding. In their place have come what Don DeLillo, in Libra, his brilliant psychological novel about Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, calls "theories that gleam like jade idols". Such theories are seductive precisely because, as DeLillo puts it, they are "four-faced, graceful". Employing a 20/20 hindsight whose starting point is always cui bono - who benefits? - they masquerade as an interrogation of the facts but are actually a labyrinth of mirrors.

But whereas in 1988, when Libra was published, it took years for conspiracy theories to come together through the sluggish medium of print and telephone, today such networks can be created instantaneously with a few clicks of a mouse.

At first sight, Dunne appears as far removed from this paranoid ether-world as you could imagine. Ushering me into her flat, she says she would dearly love to "turn the clock back to before July 7, before I had all these questions" and, for a moment, I believe her.

"Before my letter was published in the Camden New Journal, I had little idea of how the internet or blogs worked," she tells me. "I was surprised to discover how many people shared my concerns."

Today, however, Dunne appears extremely internet savvy. She has invited a colleague to our meeting - a blogger with long dark hair who gives his name only as the Antagonist. From Dunne's blog you can link directly to the Antagonist and other bookmarked sites including that of the July 7 Truth Campaign.

At first glance this appears to be an objective guide to everything that happened on 7/7 and afterwards. But click a little deeper and it soon becomes apparent that the campaign, with its linked people's inquiry forum and petition calling for the release of "all the evidence" about 7/7, considers the official Home Office account, in which the blame is laid squarely on the four suicide bombers pictured entering Luton station, to be just a "story".

The first "hole" in the narrative is the Home Office's claim that on July 7 the quartet boarded a 7.40am Thameslink train to King's Cross. According to Dunne, when an independent researcher visited Luton and demanded a train schedule from Thameslink, he was told that the 7.40am had never run and that the next available train, the 7.48, had arrived at King's Cross at 8.42 - in other words too late for the bombers to have boarded the three tube trains that exploded, according to the official timings, eight minutes later at Aldgate, Edgware Road and Russell Square.

The next problem is the CCTV picture. If you look closely at the image, Dunne says, you will see that the railings behind Khan, the man in the white baseball cap, appear to run in front of his left arm while another rail appears to slice through his head. "It's just a theory but some people believe the image was faked in Photoshop," she tells me.

To Dunne's way of thinking, this theory is bolstered by the fact that police have never released the further CCTV footage showing the four emerging on to the concourse at King's Cross where, according to the home office narrative, they are seen hugging and appear "euphoric". Then there is the "fact" that in the only other CCTV sequence of the bombers taken on June 28 (the day police believe they made a test run to London), only three men - Khan, Tanweer and Lindsay - are seen entering Luton station. Hasib Hussain, who would detonate a rucksack bomb on the top deck of the No 30 bus, providing the only above-ground image of what Sir Ian Blair would later call "the largest criminal inquiry in English history", is nowhere to be seen.

"I know people who have spoken to Hasib Hussain's family," says Dunne. "He was in the middle of his college career. He was taking driving lessons. I don't have a conspiracy theory, but until I've seen all the evidence and can personally join the dots I can't say that he or any of these men were suicide bombers."

Dunne and the Antagonist aren't the only ones who would like to see all the evidence. Rachel North, who was travelling in the front carriage of the Piccadilly line train with Lindsay when he detonated his bomb deep beneath Russell Square, and who miraculously escaped with only minor injuries, has also called for an independent public inquiry.

But unlike Dunne she does not think there is any mystery about what happened. "We all know what happened," she says. "We were there. What we want to know is why it happened."

She says that conspiracy theorists have repeatedly twisted her words to make out there was no bomb on her train and even that she is a professional M15 disinformation agent. When she challenged these claims, she says she was subjected to vitriolic abuse. As a consequence, she refuses to have anything to do with the July 7 Truth Campaign or related sites, arguing that they risk undermining the legitimacy of survivors' calls for a public inquiry.

"I have had endless run-ins with these people," she says. "Some of them are fairly well intentioned, if eccentric, others hugely offensive. I worry that they are making all of us look like conspiracy theorists and/or traumatised people who shouldn't be taken seriously."

She argues that given that inquests have yet to be held, and the ongoing mass-murder inquiry, it is hardly surprising that the police have withheld evidence from the public domain. Quite apart from the distress that the release of CCTV images might cause relatives, North says she has been told there are people in the background of the King's Cross CCTV sequence whom police are still trying to trace.

Police have also kept back details of what the bombers were wearing in order to be sure that witness statements taken from people who may have seen them on the Thameslink train can be corroborated. "Train timetables rarely bear any relation to real life," says North dismissively. "Where conspiracy theorists go with this is that the train never ran, so the bombers were never on the train, or the bombers were lured to Luton and then taken away and killed and their body parts were placed on the tube later to incriminate Muslims. They just take these small anomalies, which is what you will get in any rolling, multi-sourced news investigation, and make it into evidence of a conspiracy."

North isn't the only person with first-hand experience of 7/7 whose testimony has been called into question. Paul Dadge, the "hero of Edgware Road" (it was his idea to set up the temporary triage centre in M&S), who was photographed leading Davinia Turrell from M&S to the Metropole hotel, has also been on the receiving end. On internet bulletin boards people have questioned why he is wearing blue surgical gloves in the picture (reproduced on the cover of G2) and wonder why Turrell, who is now 25, appears "so old" and where she got the mask from.

"Basically, people were saying the picture was made up by the government to forward the campaign against terrorism in Iraq," Dadge tells me when we meet near his office in west London.

Dadge never reached work on 7/7 but was forced to interrupt his journey at Baker Street. Travelling on a westbound Hammersmith & City line train just behind the bombed Circle line train, he left the station at 8.53am and began walking towards Paddington when he noticed the fire engines heading towards Edgware Road and decided to investigate. To this day, his abiding memory, like my own, is one of confusion and chaos. In his testimony to the London Assembly, Dadge told the inquiry team looking into the failings of the emergency response that he felt he had no choice but to take command of the situation as the police were clearly overstretched and it was "becoming difficult to establish who was passing public, and who was involved in the incident".

For the record, Dadge who works for the internet provider AOL and whose job there, ironically, involves monitoring discussion threads, says he was not part of any "black ops" but obtained the gloves from a paramedic in M&S. The same paramedics provided Turrell with the mask to protect her burns. Yet although Dadge, like North, has been a target for vitriol - some objected to his being described as a hero - he doesn't seem to mind.

"I don't read the conspiracy theories and get upset," he says. "I read them and I'm intrigued."

Indeed, it is natural after an event as cataclysmic and unexpected as 7/7 to want to interrogate what happened. But interrogation is not the same as understanding, and after a certain point you must move on.

As I leave Dunne's flat, she tells me that she and the Antagonist are in the process of refining the July 7 Truth Campaign site and are still uncovering new "facts". "I can't explain it but something shifted for me that day," she says.

When I get home, I decide to take a look. Under the heading Some Hypotheses is a list of alternative theories. Number one is "al-Qaida mastermind recruited British Muslims as suicide bombers". Number three is "homegrown and autonomous action by four British Muslims with no mastermind." But it is hypothesis eight that attracts my attention: "The four men were chosen or lured to be patsies in a classic 'false flag operation'."

Beneath the headline is an extract from a newspaper interview with a passenger on the Aldgate train, reporting that the metal around the hole in the bomb carriage was "pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train". But it is the next entry that I find most alarming. Highlighted in blue is the sentence: "Mark Honingsbaum [sic] also recorded several witnesses speaking of explosions under the floor of the train."

I click on the link and listen once again to my off-the-cuff recording from the Metropole hotel. Then I press the button and loop the broadcast a second time. In the internet age, it seems, some canards never die.

NYT : F.B.I. Killed Plot in Talking Stage, a Top Aide Says

Saturday, June 24, 2006

F.B.I. Killed Plot in Talking Stage, a Top Aide Says

By SCOTT SHANE and ANDREA ZARATE | June 24, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 23 — A plot to topple the Sears Tower in Chicago and attack the F.B.I. headquarters in Miami was "more aspirational than operational," a top bureau official said Friday, a day after seven Florida men were arrested on terrorism charges.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales answered questions about the plot, which the indictment called "more aspirational than operational."

The official, John S. Pistole, deputy director of the F.B.I., and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said at a news conference that authorities chose to head off the would-be plot, involving scouting potential targets in Florida, when it was largely at the discussion stage.

Mr. Gonzales acknowledged that the men, who had neither weapons nor explosives, posed "no immediate threat." But he added, "they did take sufficient steps that we believe does support this prosecution."

In general, Mr. Gonzales said, homegrown terrorists "may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda."

News of the arrests touched off widespread television coverage of the plot against the Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. But details of the indictment disclosed Friday at news conferences in Washington and Miami presented a less alarming picture. The indictment made clear that a pivotal role was played by an unidentified undercover F.B.I. informer who posed as a Qaeda member and met repeatedly with the reported ringleader of the group, Narseal Batiste.

Last month, after months of meeting the fake Qaeda representative, Mr. Batiste told him that "he was experiencing delays because of various problems within his organization" but still hoped to continue his mission of building an "Islamic army" to wage jihad against the United States, the indictment said.

In Chicago, Police Superintendent Philip J. Cline said there was "never any imminent danger to the Sears Tower or to the city of Chicago."

Florida officials emphasized that the reported attack plans apparently never passed the discussion stage.

The seven defendants, 21 to 32 years old, include five Americans, a legal immigrant from Haiti and an illegal Haitian immigrant. They voiced grandiose goals in the yearlong investigation by the federal agents and the police, officials said.

The indictment charged that Mr. Batiste recruited the others beginning in November "to wage war against the United States government." Mr. Gonzales said the men said they wanted to "kill all the devils we can" in attacks that would be "just as good or greater than 9/11."

The men are accused of conspiring to blow up buildings and to provide "material support" to Al Qaeda. The indictment suggests that they mostly sought support from the fake Qaeda agent.

In one of the first acts, the court papers say, the conspirators gave the informer their shoe sizes so he could buy them military boots. Later, the documents continue, Mr. Batiste gave the informer lists of other items needed for the proposed war like uniforms, binoculars, radios, vehicles, bulletproof vests, machine guns and $50,000 in cash.

The suspects received their boots, the indictment says, but it does not make clear which other items were delivered.

Neighbors said at least some of the men were in a religious group called the Seas of David that appeared to mix Christian and Muslim beliefs. The group wore uniforms bearing a Star of David and met for Bible study, prayer and martial arts in a one-story warehouse in the heart of the predominantly Haitian section of the impoverished Liberty City area.

Workers in Bar-B's Grocery next door said the men were always quiet and polite when they stopped in. But at least five men had been previously arrested on charges of assault, drug and weapons charges, Miami-Dade County records show.

"My husband had an idea that something was up in there," said Tonya Poole, who lives across the street from the warehouse. "He would tell me, 'Baby, something's going on.' We would see them in and out at all times at night."

In addition to Mr. Batiste, 32, who was known as Brother Naz or Prince Manna, the authorities identified others born in the United States as Burson Augustin, 21; Rothschild Augustine, 22; Naudimar Herrera, 22; and Stanley G. Phanor, 31. The two Haitian-born defendants are Patrick Abraham, 27, and Lyglenson Lemorin, 31.

All appeared briefly in court in Miami on Friday except Mr. Phanor, who was jailed for violating his probation on an earlier charge, and Mr. Lemorin, who was arrested in Atlanta.

At Mr. Phanor's neatly landscaped peach-colored house, relatives cried and wailed as they answered questions. "This is tearing this family to pieces," said Mr. Phanor's mother, Elizene Phanor. She said her son was a skilled construction worker and pointed to a tile floor he laid.

"My son would wake up every morning and say he loves Jesus," Ms. Phanor said. "Stan is my son, my friend, my life, and if he dies, I die with him."

Sylvain Poantin, 30, who said he grew up with Mr. Phanor, added, "I'm feeling confused and stressed, because Stan isn't that type of person."

Mr. Poantin said that a year and a half ago he was hanging out with Mr. Phanor when Mr. Batiste approached, wearing a long robe and a cap. "We were all intrigued by him," Mr. Poantin said. "He never spoke of violence, and he would call us beloved or brother."

Mr. Poantin said he attended a Bible study session but found Mr. Batiste "arrogant" and did not join the group.

The indictment follows by three weeks the arrest in Canada of 17 men accused of plotting attacks using fertilizer bombs. Some of those suspects were in contact with two Georgians previously charged in a terrorism investigation.

In his news conference at the Justice Department, Mr. Gonzales linked those cases to the Madrid train bombing in 2004 and the London subway attack last July, saying the attacks represented "a new brand of terrorism" from "smaller, more loosely defined cells that are not affiliated with Al Qaeda, but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message."

"The terrorists and suspected terrorists in Madrid and London and Toronto were not sleeper operatives sent on suicide missions," Mr. Gonzales said. "They were students and business people and members of the community."

At a later briefing, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty answered critics who have said terror prosecutions have often picked out seemingly unsophisticated extremists who are more talk than action. Mr. McNulty said the goal was "prevention through prosecution."

Rather than allow a genuine threat to take shape, he added, investigators move in as soon as there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.

"Today's example is a good example of that approach," he said.

Mr. McNulty said 261 people had been convicted or pleaded guilty in "terrorism or terrorism-related cases" since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. An additional 180 people have been charged and are awaiting trial or have been acquitted, had their charges dismissed, are awaiting extradition or are fugitives, according to statistics released Friday.

Mr. McNulty acknowledged that some of the convictions counted as "terrorism related" included crimes that turned out to have no link to terrorism. He said the statistics might be revised to give a more precise accounting of cases with true terrorist connections.

Scott Shane reported from Washington for this article, and Andrea Zarate from Miami. Terry Aguayo contributed reporting from Miami, and Gretchen Ruethling from Chicago.

Mother Jones : Our Endangered Values

Friday, June 02, 2006

Our Endangered Values

Interview: The former president traces America's "moral crisis" to the rise of fundamentalism.

By Jeff Fleischer | June 2, 2006

Jimmy Carter is without doubt one of the most active and influential ex-presidents in American history.

After leaving office, he established the nonprofit Carter Center, tasked with advancing human rights around the world. Through his and the center’s work, Carter has helped monitor more than 60 democratic elections, worked with governments in sub-Saharan Africa to develop sustainable agriculture, negotiated for peaceful conflict resolution in various countries, and worked to eradicate diseases such as Guinea worm and river blindness. For these and other efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Carter–whose presidency was highlighted by achievements in international diplomacy such as the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, the Panama Canal treaties, and the arms-reducing SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union—is also the author of 20 books. The most recent, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, is a wide-ranging critique of how fundamentalism, both religious and political, is influencing American policy at home and abroad.

President Carter recently spoke with Mother Jones from his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

MotherJones: In your book, you talk about the intersection in recent years of religious and political fundamentalism. What is the origin of this merger?

Jimmy Carter:, I think it was in 1979, when future fundamentalists took control of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is a very important religious and political factor in this country. After that, the Southern Baptist Convention had almost diametrically opposite basic principles than it had previously followed, and there's been an evolution within the Convention toward a more and more rigid and strict creed that embodies the fundamentalist principles that I mention in the book.

Now, I don't think there's any doubt that the elementary principle of fundamentalism has existed for ages, and it obviously permeates other religions as well, such as Islam and Hinduism and others. But this trend continued and, parallel to it, there was in effect a merger of the fundamentalist Christian leaders and the more conservative elements of the Republican Party. And for the last 25 years or so, that merger has become more pronounced and more evident.

MJ.com: Which of the two strains of fundamentalism do you see as leading the other?

JC: I wouldn’t say leading, but both are influencing each other. In the past, there have been two parallel premises for the separation of church and state. One obviously is what Thomas Jefferson declared, stating that he was speaking on behalf of the other founding fathers, when he said we should build a wall between the church and state. And in the Christian faith, we all remember that Christ said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.” This also indicates that there should be a clear separation.

But those premises have been publicly disavowed or challenged by Pat Robertson on the religious side, and even by the former chief justice of the Supreme Court [William Rehnquist]. But nowadays, with the allocation of billions of dollars through what President Bush calls a faith-based initiative, taxpayers' money is distributed to churches and other religious institutions that will comply with the basic principles of the present political administration. And there's no doubt that in public conventions and in individual church speeches and sermons, there's been a prevalent inclination to endorse candidates, primarily Republican candidates.

MJ.com: At this point, 25 years in, do you expect this to remain a permanent situation?

JC: In the last few months at least, I would guess, there has been a reconsideration by many American citizens that that trend was not advisable for our country. This is indicated, at least to some degree, by public-opinion polls. And obviously the popularity in polls of some Republican leaders has deteriorated as well. So there's been a re-thinking in many ways. I think part of it has been caused by some of the practical political decisions that were ill advised and were supported by the religious fundamentalists.

All of us Christians worship the Prince of Peace, but the fundamentalists I referred to earlier publicly supported what I consider the unjust and unnecessary invasion of Iraq. That was one indication of a very radical departure. The reception of public funds to go into the religious activities of a church is almost unprecedented, at least within the Baptist faith, which I share. Other aspects are the almost complete refusal of the fundamentalist Christian leaders to condemn even the torture of prisoners and the intrusion on Americans' privacy and rights as protected under the U.S. Constitution. On those kinds of issues, formerly characterized by a separate opinion on public events between the religious community and the political community, the difference has been eliminated.

MJ.com: The definition of fundamentalism you provide in the book includes the unwillingness to cooperate or negotiate with others. Where do you see that tendency as most dangerous at the moment?

JC: The danger comes when those kinds of principles are applied on the international scene. That brought about a whole gamut of things. One, obviously, is the unprecedented preemptive war that President Bush has declared to be a policy of our country. Another is the total abandonment, and often the derogation, of every nuclear-arms agreement that has been negotiated by previous presidents, beginning in the time of Dwight Eisenhower.

At home, it brought about the deterioration of our commitment to environmental quality. Another [effect] is the enormous preference that has been given in tax laws recently to the extremely rich at the expense of working-class and poorer people. Then there's the implied melding of science and religion, where even the president himself has expressed the opinion that religious beliefs should be taught in scientific classrooms. That's unprecedented. And there is a unique and special emphasis—which is a recent development too—within the religious community, an obsession with the condemnation of homosexuality. Now, in the bible homosexuality is condemned, but along with divorce and greed and callousness toward poor people. So its elevation to a highest priority among some religious groups has been very disturbing to me.

One point I believe is important, looking at the political side once more, is that this is not a Democratic-versus-Republican or a liberal-versus-conservative concern. This is a departure in all those points, compared to all previous Republican presidents—compared to George Bush Sr. or Ronald Reagan, compared to Gerald Ford or Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the Democratic presidents. It's a radical departure.

MJ.com: As you know, the Bible stresses the need to help the poor, and yet the government appears to have moved away from that notion in recent years.

JC: I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. And one point that is made openly by some so-called neoconservatives is that we need to drive the nation into debt – which they’ve done grossly – to prevent future administrations from having the funding flexibility to increase government services to the poor. Whether in the field of housing or education or health care or social services, there’s a deliberate idea there that is quoted quite freely in some of the right-wing political periodicals.

MJ.com: Do you think the Hurricane Katrina disaster has changed that dynamic at all?

JC: If it is, I haven’t seen the results of it. There has been some verbal recognition of the plight of the poor, but when you look at the total commitment and the sending out of the poorest people in the Katrina region, help has been pretty well absent. I think this has been a scandalous thing for the Bush administration, something that has been acknowledged not just by critics like me but by the Congress itself. The reaction of FEMA – which used to be a sterling organization – and the neglect of the poorest people suffering in New Orleans and other places has been a complete embarrassment.

MJ.com: You mentioned the Iraq war, and you were an early critic. Given the situation as it stands now, are you at all hopeful about the prospects for a stable democracy emerging?

JC: Well, I'm hopeful. I pray that there will be a successful democratic system established in Iraq that can keep the country together and avoid further violence. I think what we should do is get out of Iraq as quickly as possible, and this can be done in a number of ways. I think one of the best ways would be for us to surreptitiously ask the new leaders of Iraq to publicly request that the U.S. troops withdraw. Then, instead of taking the initiative and saying we have failed in Iraq, we could say that we are honoring the new democracy established in Iraq. That's one scenario that could lead to a withdrawal of U.S. troops within a year. But my own belief is that no one in the top levels in Washington now intends to ever pull all the American troops from Iraq. I think there was a strong motivation to go into Iraq to establish a permanent military presence there of some kind. And I don't believe there's anyone in the top levels in Washington who's willing to relinquish the privileged position we have in the acquisition and marketing of Iraqi oil, to open it up to France or Russia or China.

So I think there's still a strong feeling in Washington to retain a strong permanent military and economic presence in Iraq. My belief is that a lot of the violence that continues in Iraq right now between different religious groups is caused in part by the continued presence of American troops. I believe that if American troops withdrew, almost immediately the level of violence would decrease.

MJ.com: Having monitored many elections yourself, what other conditions do you think must be in place for a viable democracy to work in Iraq?

JC: I don't think we can start the election procedure all the way over. Now I think the decision is going to be up to the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Kurds to try to work out some sort of arrangement among themselves based on ethnic and religious backgrounds, similar to what has existed for several generations in Lebanon. There the president comes from one group, the prime minister comes from another group, and you have some degree of autonomy depending on whether people live in a certain place or have a certain ethnic or religious background. That's what we still hope for. Based on the previous election held in Iraq last December, that’s still a hopeful possibility, and it would certainly be my preference.

MJ.com: As you note in your book, the situation in Iraq poses a conflict of American values, in the sense that promoting democracy could, for example, lead to an elected government that takes away things such as women's rights. How does America walk that line?

JC: We can't completely control what the Iraqis prefer in their social policies. Obviously, we saw the terrible circumstances in Afghanistan when the Taliban made women almost complete servants and debased them. Under Saddam Hussein of course, and even under the former Shah of Iran, there was a more enlightened treatment of women, as there is in Egypt and some other Muslim countries. What I understand, though, is that the strong inclination of the Shiite plurality – they don't quite have a majority - in the new government is to implement sharia law as far as women's dress is concerned and the subjugation of women to an acknowledged male domination. From what I understand, that's under consideration in the draft of the new constitution. Unfortunately, we can't just go in and order the Shiites to change their basic beliefs that women should wear veils or shouldn't be educated and so forth. I deplore this, but it's not something the United States can control.

MJ.com: There's been a somewhat similar conflict in the Palestinian territories, where a democratically held election led to the victory of Hamas, which the United States lists as a terrorist organization. What can the United States do in this case?

JC: The Carter Center monitored that election, as well as the two previous Palestinian elections. They've been open and safe elections, as good as any we've seen in the world. [The Palestinian election in January was the 62nd one the Carter Center had monitored.] We're familiar with the situation there, and most of us expected that Hamas would win a plurality, but the fact they won a majority was a surprise to everyone.

Now, I don't believe it's even possible under U.S. law for the United States to deal directly with a government where the ministers and parliament are Hamas members. That's illegal under our laws. However, the president of the Palestinian government is still Mahmoud Abbas, who represents the Fatah Party. He is a moderate, respected, honest—and was anointed a couple years ago by the United States and Israel as their main interlocutor. He is still in charge of the PLO; since Arafat died, he's the head of it. The only political organization that Israel has ever acknowledged is the PLO. And I noticed recently that Abbas was in Norway, calling strongly for peace talks to begin immediately with Israel and saying, accurately, that he has the legal authority to speak for the Palestinians as president and as head of the PLO. So there's nothing that happened in January that prevents the initiation or resumption of peace talks.

MJ.com: In previous interviews you’ve proposed that the United States continue to give aid to the Palestinian people while not dealing with the Hamas government.

JC: That's what I think the United States should do. We can't deal directly with the Hamas government. But I think we should have the same degree of generosity to the Palestinian people who are suffering horribly in their own land. This could be done through UNESCO, through the United Nations Human Rights Organization, through UNICEF, or even through the government of Jordan. Just to finance the payment of schoolteachers or nurses or ambulance services or food distribution to people. This could be done almost completely independently of who is in parliament and who the ministers might be. That's what I've advocated, not just for the United States but also for Europe. I hope there will be some modification in the present actions, which will cause Palestinians to suffer even more than they have in the past and maybe even ultimately create a violent reaction from their hopelessness.

MJ.com: Even looking back at Iraq in the 1990s, the sanctions there seemed to hurt public opinion about the U.S. more than they did Saddam Hussein.

JC: That's true. That was ostensibly focused on Saddam Hussein, but we make the same mistakes in other places. Unfortunately, we do the same thing in Cuba. The animosity against Fidel Castro means we have an embargo against travel, commerce, tourism, and the sale of food and medicine to the Cuban people. This doesn't hurt Castro; in fact, it hurts the people who are already suffering under his dictatorship. And it tends to make him a hero, where he can blame all of his own self-induced economic problems on the United States. So I think whenever we have a bludgeon to economically use sanctions against people in an attempt to hurt the dictator in charge, it's counterproductive.

MJ.com: On the flip side, you note in the book that the American public thinks the country spends much more money on international aid than it actually does.

JC: Polls show that Americans think we spend 10-15 percent of our gross income to help other people, and we spend much less than one half of one percent. And we spend less on a per-capita basis, compared to our income, than any other industrialized nation in the world. And in addition to this stinginess with which we allocate government funds to help humanitarian assistance to needy people, we put horrendous restraints on how our own dollars are expended. For example, we're very interested in trying to control AIDS in Africa, but the Congress puts strings on the money, such as you can't spend it on family planning or the use of condoms. Anybody in his right mind knows that one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of AIDS is for people who have sex to use condoms.

Another thing is that in the last 20 years or so, beginning with President Reagan, we have shifted to letting almost all the USAID [United States Agency for International Development] funds go to American contractors. It used to be that within USAID, we had experts employed by the U.S. government who made sure the money was spent wisely and efficiently. Now that money goes almost exclusively to American contractors who set up offices in foreign countries. They receive the money and dole it out with enormous waste.

MJ.com: By comparison, what have you found effective in your own work that other organizations could learn from?

JC: One thing is that, since I have been president, I'm able to deal directly with the leaders of African governments. I go into the country and let it be known what we want to do in advance, and I ask the president to meet with me and to have his prime minister there as well as his whole cabinet. I negotiate a contract between the Carter Center and, for example, the government of Uganda or Mali or Burkina Faso. That's the first thing. Whereas if the World Health Organization or UNICEF wanted to do this, they would probably – through no fault of their own – be limited to dealing with the minister of health. That's one advantage we have. A second is we have a policy of not sending a large bureaucracy into a country. We usually send in one expert who represents the Carter Center. And all of the workers are local people, Kenyans or Nigerians or Tanzanians. They are the ones who actually do the work in the villages, with us teaching them and providing assistance. And a third thing we do that makes our work effective is I don't put my name on anything when we deal with these diseases. In Africa for instance, we generally call it Global 2000, so the local village leader can say, “My Global 2000 program eradicated Guinea worm.” Or increased the production of corn or wheat. And the president can say the same thing. I think those three things – dealing with the top leadership, depending on local people we train to do the work, and we don't try to take credit for it.

Jeff Fleischer is a Chicago-based journalist and former editorial fellow at MotherJones.com. He has written for publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Chicago Daily Herald, Mental Floss, and Women's eNews.