February 18, 2004

The federal prosecutor who won convictions in the government's first and only terrorism trial after the Sept. 11 attacks has filed a lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft accusing the Justice Department of "gross mismanagement"

No, it wasn't your imagination...Yes, a US District
Attorney is suing John Ashcroft for "gross
mismanagement" in the counter-terrorism struggle...But
what is even more incredible (although, sadly, not
inexplicable)is that there is no sign of this story on
the front page of the NYTwits or on SeeNotNews
(CNN)...Your country is in peril...The "US mainstream
news media" is cowardly at a time when the electorate
needs it the most...Can you imagine what the din in
the "US mainstream news media" would have been like if
a US District Attorney had sued Janet Reno for "gross
mismanagement"?

Shannon McCaffrey, Knight/Ridder: In the suit,
Convertino alleges there was a "lack of support and
cooperation, lack of effective assistance, lack of
resources and intradepartmental infighting" in
terrorism cases. "These concerns directly related to
the ability of the United States to effectively
utilize the criminal justice system as a component in
the `war on terrorism,' " the lawsuit said.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0218-03.htm


Published on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 by
Knight-Ridder
Suit Against Ashcroft Claims Department has Bungled War on Terror
by Shannon McCaffrey

WASHINGTON - The federal prosecutor who won convictions in the government's first and only terrorism trial after the Sept. 11 attacks has filed a lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft accusing the Justice Department of "gross mismanagement" in the war on terrorism.

The highly unusual complaint was filed in U.S.
District Court in Washington by Richard Convertino,
the lead prosecutor in the conviction of three members
of an alleged terrorism sleeper cell in Detroit.

Convertino is facing an internal Justice Department
investigation for failing to turn over a document to
the defense until long after the trial had ended.

Convertino claims the Justice Department is
retaliating against him because he has attacked its
efforts in the war on terrorism and cooperated with
the Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. Charles
Grassley, R-Iowa, a vocal critic of the department.

In his lawsuit, Convertino said the Justice Department
has exaggerated its success in fighting terrorism. He
said heavy-handed officials at Justice Department
headquarters in Washington have hindered prosecutors
in the field.

In the case he handled in Detroit, which Ashcroft has
frequently praised as a success in the war on
terrorism, Convertino said the government failed to
provide the needed federal law enforcement manpower to
help review documents, interview witnesses and prepare
for trial.

Convertino claims he worked the case for months with
the help of only one FBI special agent.

Convertino said he repeatedly asked for additional
help.

In the suit, Convertino alleges there was a "lack of
support and cooperation, lack of effective assistance,
lack of resources and intradepartmental infighting" in
terrorism cases. "These concerns directly related to
the ability of the United States to effectively
utilize the criminal justice system as a component in
the `war on terrorism,' " the lawsuit said.

The suit alleges that a senior official in the Justice
Department's terrorism and violent crimes section told
Convertino that positive news reports concerning the
department's success against terrorism efforts were
overblown.

"The press gives us more credit than we deserve," the
lawsuit quotes the official as telling Convertino.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said Tuesday
the case was being reviewed but wouldn't comment
further.

Convertino's allegations come as the high-profile case
in Detroit appears to be in danger of unraveling.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen said Tuesday that he
was seriously considering granting a new trial for the
three men convicted.

Even before Tuesday's disclosures, the case was in
jeopardy over allegations against Convertino.

A letter from a jailhouse inmate alleged that the
government's star witness, Youssef Hmimssa, had lied.
That letter was turned over to defense lawyers only
last year, well after the trial had concluded in June.


Convertino's lawyer maintained the letter - penned by
a Detroit drug dealer - wouldn't have affected the
trial's outcome.

In his suit, Convertino alleges that his superiors in
Detroit and Washington retaliated against him after he
testified before the Senate Finance Committee. He had
been subpoenaed to appear. Convertino and his boss,
Keith Corbett, were removed from the Detroit case in
September after Convertino appeared before Grassley's
committee.

The Justice Department also launched an investigation
against him after that testimony. The details of that
probe were leaked to the media, which Convertino
claims violated his constitutional rights under the
First Amendment and the Privacy Act. The prosecutor
also said in the lawsuit that Justice Department
officials tried to discredit him by leaking the name
of one of his confidential informants.

That leak put the informant at risk, forcing him to
flee the United States.

The leak "interfered with the ability of the United
States to obtain information from the (confidential
informant) about current and future terrorist
activities" the suit said.

Convertino, 42, a federal prosecutor since 1990, is
being represented by the Washington-based National
Whistleblower Center, which has represented numerous
FBI agents with grievances against the Justice
Department.

Convertino's lawyer, Stephen Kohn, on Tuesday accused
Justice Department officials of engaging in
"constitutional vandalism."

Recently, Convertino was reassigned to the Senate
Caucus on International Narcotics Control in
Washington, a standing committee chaired by Grassley.

In the Detroit case, Convertino won convictions in
June against two men for document fraud and conspiracy
to provide material support for terrorism. One other
was found guilty of document fraud but acquitted of
terror charges. The fourth defendant was acquitted on
all counts.

2004 Knight-Ridder

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Posted by richard at February 18, 2004 02:57 PM