Viewpoints on trying the 9/11 detainees

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning that five alleged terrorists believed to have taken part in planning the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will be brought from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to New York City, where they’ll be tried in federal court.

From House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio:

“The Obama Administration’s irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ‘not guilty’ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.

“These men are part of a global terrorist network dedicated to attacking America and civilization itself, and on that awful day nine years ago, they succeeded in killing nearly 3,000 men, women, and children. These terrorists were already being tried by military commissions, which were specifically designed to prosecute such heinous acts.

“This decision is further evidence that the White House is reverting to a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality – treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and hoping for the best. We need a real strategy for fighting and winning the war on America’s terrorist enemies that includes an effective, credible, and consistent plan for all terrorist detainees.”

From Iraq War veteran and VoteVets.org chairman Jon Soltz:

“Finally, after years and years, those responsible for the worst terror attack on America will start to face American justice.

“Showing the world that we operate on a higher moral plane than fiefdoms, theocracies and dictatorships when it comes to justice will be a dagger in the heart of al Qaeda recruiting, as Guantanamo Bay has been one of the terror group’s most effective recruiting posters. That helps our troops, and protects America.

“Additionally, this will prove that Liz and Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and their cohorts have been engaging in pure politics. Contrary to what they’ve said, transferring detainees to the U.S. to face justice and punishment will be secure, safe, and strong, as it has been for nearly 200 other terrorists. Once that becomes evident, it will be clear that their only interest in opposing real justice was to take down President Obama — American security be damned.”

Read Holder’s remarks at this morning’s news conference in their entirety, after the jump…
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Lawmakers press for clear medical pot policy

Both the California Legislature and Congress want the Obama Administration to better explain its policy on medical marijuana.

State Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, late Monday introduced a joint resolution urging the federal government to end medical marijuana raids in California and to “create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it.”

The Obama Administration has signaled a willingness to change federal policy – saying it’ll raid only traffickers who masquerade as medical dispensaries, using states’ medical marijuana laws as a shield – but hasn’t yet produced a clear implementation plan. There’ve been several raids in California since the apparent shift, leaving federal agents and prosecutors in the awkward position of determining who is and isn’t obeying state law.

Leno’s resolution, SJR 14, not only asks President Obama and Congress to “move quickly to end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical marijuana law,” but also asks the federal government to establish “an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and local law…” Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in the Oakland-based Gonzales v. Raich case, marijuana defendants can’t defend themselves in federal court using a medical or state-law defense.

“Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids,” Leno said in a news release. “This resolution will clearly state the Legislature’s opposition to federal interference with California’s medical marijuana law and support for expanded federal reform and medical research.”

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee is pushing for clarity in the Obama administration’s policy by adding language to the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., the language states, “There have been conflicting public reports about the Department’s enforcement of medical marijuana policies. Within 60 days of enactment, the Department shall provide to the Committee clarification of the Department’s policy regarding enforcement of federal laws and use of federal resources against individuals involved in medical marijuana activities.”

Hinchey and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, in each of the last several Congresses have sponsored an amendment aimed at ending Drug Enforcement Administration raids on state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers.


Oakland’s Tony West sworn in for Justice post

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder swore in Oakland attorney Tony West today as Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

President Barack Obama nominated West to the post Jan. 22; his confirmation hearing last month went off without a hitch; and the U.S. Senate confirmed him Monday on an 82-4 vote.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, attended the ceremony and had this to say afterward:

“Tony is an excellent addition to President Obama’s administration and has long been considered one of California’s rising stars in both legal and political circles.

“Tony brings a wealth of experience and knowledge as one of California’s most prominent litigators. He served in the U. S. Department of Justice and the California Department of Justice, as well as the Clinton Administration, during which he worked as an aide to Attorney General Janet Reno.

“I congratulate my friend on this well-deserved appointment, and I look forward to working with him in the future.”


Don Perata’s former staffers rise to support him

More than a dozen of Don Perata‘s former staffers have joined the former state Senate President Pro Tem from Oakland in urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to put the kibosh on a years-long federal corruption probe.

Lawyers for the former lawmaker and his son, Nick Perata, wrote in the past month to Holder, to the Justice Department’s Inspector General and to members of the House Judiciary Committee asking them to review the decision of Lawrence Brown — the Sacramento-based acting U.S. Attorney for California’s Eastern District — to examine evidence FBI agents have gathered on Perata and his associates over the past four years even though Northern District federal prosecutors in San Francisco decided not to indict.

“This ordeal has affected our lives, our families and our reputations. It has resulted in reporter calls at home at night, inquiries by neighbors, questions by our children,” the staffers’ March 18 letter says. “In an effort to cooperate with the San Francisco office, Senator Perata repeatedly waived his rights, thereby extending the investigation well beyond the statute of limitations. He — and everyone associated with him — are now being punished for cooperating.

“We all understand what it means to do a job that relies on public confidence. We understand that the FBI’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office have jobs to do and we respect that. But it would seem those jobs came to conclusion when the office in charge of the investigation declined to prosecute.”


What Don Perata said about the FBI probe

With all the hubbub about the FBI taking evidence against former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata to federal prosecutors in Sacramento now that federal prosecutors in San Francisco have decided after four years not to file any charges, I figured I’d ask the Don himself when I saw him in court yesterday on an unrelated matter.

Perata said the FBI’s action, and Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown‘s agreement to review the case after his peers in San Francisco tracked it for years and then took a pass on it, “seems to be unprecedented,” something he chalks up to there being “nobody in charge” as the Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys shift between administrations.

“It has to play itself out,” he said, noting he’s at least glad that federal prosecutors in San Francisco broke with tradition and actually told him there would be no indictment here; usually these things just die in silence. So far, Perata said, nobody at Justice or in Congress has responded to his attorneys’ letters asking for an investigation of this attempted change of venue.

What letters, you ask? These letters:

  • a Feb. 26 letter from Elliot Peters (the attorney representing Don Perata’s son, Nick Perata) to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder;
  • a March 4 letter from George O’Connell (Don Perata’s attorney) to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and committee members Zoe Lofrgen, D-San Jose, and Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood;
  • a March 11 letter from O’Connell to U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine; and
  • a March 11 letter from O’Connell to Brown and to U.S. Justice Department Public Integrity Section chief Eric Olshan.