Oregon Federal Public Defender Wax describes the obstacles faced by lawyers representing people accused of terrorist activities.
Those interested in an inside account of how attorneys represent unpopular clients will learn a great deal from the behind-the-scenes strategy sessions detailed here. Both of Wax’s clients, Oregon lawyer and Islam convert Brandon Mayfield and Sudanese hospital administrator Adele Hassan Amad, were eventually released and the charges against them dropped, but not before they had their privacy violated. Mayfield, who had defended someone convicted of terrorist activities, was arrested as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid bombings because the FBI misidentified his fingerprints. Amad, accused of associating with terrorists, was imprisoned at Guantánamo, where he was frequently interrogated and beaten, although the U.S. government declined to reveal why he was a suspect. Descriptions of the judicial wrangling and the impact of the procedures on the defendants’ families are dramatic and far from subtle. Wax, a former prosecutor who worked on the “Son of Sam” case, delivers a screed against the policies of the Bush administration: “For five years now, the administration has acted as though U.S. law and the Constitution do not reach Guantánamo and has done everything in its power to obstruct Adele and other prisoners from having as day in court or contact with the outside world.” While acknowledging that after 9/11 the government was right to beef up prosecution of terror suspects, the author contends it could be accomplished in a more prudent, nuanced manner.
One-sided and too long, but offers important insights into what can happen when overzealous prosecutors believe that the ends justify any means.