Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bush administration records dismal terror prosecution record

AP , WASHINGTON

Marcy Borders is covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York, in this Sept. 11, 2001 photo.

PHOTO: AFP

The collapse in Detroit of the Justice Department's first post-9/11 prosecution of an alleged terrorist sleeper cell has left the Bush administration with few high-profile major criminal victories in the war on terrorism -- and a growing list of losses and questionable cases.

Justice Department officials insist their record since the 2001 attacks reflects a successful strategy of catching suspected terrorists long before they can launch deadly plots, even if that involves charging them with lesser crimes. Yet some legal experts and Bush administration critics say many such cases are pumped up by overzealous prosecutors.

According to the latest available figures, the Justice Department since Sept. 11, 2001 has charged more than 310 people in terrorism-related cases and won 179 convictions -- many for such relatively minor infractions as document and credit card fraud and immigration violations. With fighting terrorism a cornerstone of President George W. Bush's re-election campaign, the Bush administration has been unapologetic in its aggressive approach. Attorney General John Ashcroft has repeatedly said the best evidence that the strategy works is that no terror attacks on US soil have occurred since Sept. 11.

In the Detroit case, the Justice Department agreed last week with defense lawyers that charges of material support for terrorism should be dropped against two men who were convicted in the first major terrorism prosecution after the attacks. A lengthy internal probe uncovered prosecutorial misconduct that included withholding evidence that tended to bolster the men's claims of innocence.

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