Something is Fishy

Andrew McCarthy says something is fishy:

This complaint lays out valuable information: It tells the world Shahzad has confessed (which means he has spoken cooperatively and probably truthfully to the government, and that for all anyone knows he is still doing so), it describes his contacts in Pakistan, and it lays out other details that would be of great interest to anyone else who is involved in the plot and would naturally want to know what an arrested plotter is telling the authorities.

Now sometimes, these revelations are unavoidable. When you make an arrest, you do so assuming you will have to reveal the basis for the arrest in a public complaint. You never assume cooperation. You calculate that getting a dangerous suspect off the street is worth the price of disclosing your evidence. And sometimes a defendant will not make up his mind to cooperate until after the complaint has already been filed — in which case, to make the cooperation more effective, everyone acts like it’s a normal arrest situation: the defendant appears in court, the presentment is held, counsel is appointed, a bail/detention hearing is scheduled, and no one lets on to the outside world that the defendant and his lawyer are actually spilling the beans to the prosecutor and the agents.

But in Shahzad’s case, neither of those scenarios is in play. He was arrested late on May 3 and the complaint was not filed until the next day. In a sensitive case, complaints are usually filed under seal and not unsealed until the defendant appears in court. Since Shahzad obviously waived his right to be presented, there was either no need to write the complaint yet or, if it was already written and filed when he started cooperating, there was no need to unseal it. Further, if Shahzad started cooperating only after the public filing of the complaint — which doesn’t seem possible under the circumstances — the thing to do would have been to go ahead and have the presentment in court, thereby doing what you could do to avoid tipping the bad guys off about the cooperation.

So why unnecessarily release a complaint that lays out valuable information and then refrain from holding the presentment? By doing that, the Justice Department has told the world — including anyone who might have been working with Shahzad — both what Shahzad has told investigators and that he is continuing to help investigators. Why would we want to do that? 

The cynic in me is suspicious. Needlessly making the complaint public may harm the ongoing investigation, but it is savvy public relations. It gives the Justice Department and the administration a script with which to portray themselves as super-competent and the civilian justice system as so effective that Bush-era relics like military detention are unnecessary. I hope there’s a better explanation than that. If there’s not, then the administration has prioritized scoring political points over effective investigation and intelligence gathering.

It looks like our President is the anti-Bush. Bush always refused to release any info, even if doing so would make him look bad. In fact, he insisted that he would handle the political ramifications, the authorities were to do whatever would be most effective against the terrorists, even if it made him look bad.

So now we have the opposite. A weak president, trying to get points any way he can.


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