Merchant of Death
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Problems with the DOJ Numbers
The Washington Post today carried a look at problems with the Justice Department's accounting of the number of terrorism cases it handles and other issues.

One thing stands out: the statement that U.S. attorneys "counted hundreds of terrorism cases that did not qualify for the designation because they involved minor crimes with no connection to terrorist activities."

This may be true in a technical sense, and there may be some deep problems with DOJ record keeping. As the Inspector General said, it may be decentralized, haphazard and in need of an overhaul.

But it is also wrong to summarily discount the cases made against suspected terrorists on other charges, because those are the charges that could be brought.

The notion that cases involving drug trafficking, marriage fraud and other things are unrelated to terrorism is simply naive and legalistic. Any of these crimes can (an perhaps have been) used to further terrorist activities in this country.

Under the IG's thinking, Al Capone would have counted as a tax case, not an organized crime case, because he was put out of business on tax charges. He would have been convicted of only minor crimes with no connection to organized criminal activity.

Making terrorism cases stick is difficult, time consuming and expensive. The practitioners of terrorism are well versed in denial and deception, covering their tracks and skirting the law. This leaves DOJ often with the option of going for what it can get rather than what it would like in a perfect world.

DOJ may have some serious problems, every agency does. But the standardization of accounting of terrorist cases should not simply throw out every other type of prosecution because it does not fit the preconceived notion of what terrorism crimes really entail.

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