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More on Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion

Saturday, September 09, 2006

You may recall a post I put up about three weeks ago titled Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion. In that post I mentioned three Texas men who were arrested and charged with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes. More specifically, the men were buying up large quantities of prepaid cell phones from retailers in Michigan to resell them in Texas. A concerned clerk at a Wal-Mart store thought their actions were suspicious and decided to bring it to the attention of the authorities.
Suffice it to say, their story goes down hill from there. I won't rehash all this story's details in this post, but I wanted to let you know that this story does have a happy ending. carried an AP article that explains the three men were cleared of all terror-related crimes. From the article:
A federal judge threw out conspiracy and money laundering charges Tuesday against three Texas men once accused of plotting a terror attack on Michigan's iconic Mackinac Bridge.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Charles Binder in Bay City ruled that federal prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to justify bringing them to trial on charges involving the buying and resale of prepaid cell phones. They were cleared earlier of the terror charges.
If you'll recall from my earlier post, I stated:
The FBI is essentially relying on 'reasonable suspicion' that these men were up to no good. The problem with their argument is that they themselves have disconnected the men from any 'terrorist acts' or 'terrorist purposes' by admitting they don't have any evidence connecting these three individuals to any known terrorist organizations. They also admit that they believe their activities "can be suspicious," but that they technically have done nothing illegal. Their admissions, in my opinion, pushes their case back under the umbrella protection of 'probable cause'.
Without a nexus to terrorist organizations, the FBI realized that their case fell on its face. They literally had no other choice but to concede to the court's findings.
Maruan Muhareb's (one of the accused men) defense attorney, Mona Fadlallah, said the case highlighted serious problems with the state of the U.S. justice system noting, "This should be frightening for everyone, and not just people of Middle Eastern descent."
What she's warning us of is that this type of charge could have just as easily be leveled at any U.S. citizen. The legal system has been shot so full of holes that law enforcement can now hold and charge Americans on 'reasonable suspicion' evidence instead of 'probable cause' evidence. She, of course, is right to be very concerned, as we all should be.


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