Tuesday, December 6


What does this headline mean: Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S.

The former professor, Sami al-Arian, a fiery advocate for Palestinian causes who became a lightning rod for criticism nationwide over his vocal anti-Israeli stances, was found not guilty on eight criminal counts related to terrorist support, perjury and immigration violations.

The jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts against him after deliberating for 13 days, and it did not return any guilty verdicts against the three other defendants in the case.

This is a story about a government prosecution of a university professor largely based on 10-year-old wiretaps of conversations in which he expressed disdain for Israel, opposition to its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and celebrated Palestinian attacks on that country. All objectionable to most Americans, perhaps, but hardly illegal. Many Americans of Irish descent have not only openly sympathized with deadly IRA attacks upon Irish Protestants and British soldiers and officials, but have actually donated big bucks to the organization. How many of them have been prosecuted?

A Tampa, Florida jury finds 20,000 hours of wiretap conversations insufficient to convict the man, and THAT'S A SETBACK FOR THE U.S.? Why isn't it, rather, an affirmation of our system of justice?

The failure of the prosecution to win convictions against al-Arian and his associates may be a setback to certain law enforcement agents, it may be a setback to Bush administration public relations aspirations, but setback to the U.S.? Our country isn't defined by individuals, political parties, even presidents -- it's defined by our laws and our values.

That this headline could pass editorial review is terribly revealing -- it leads one to suspect that despite Judy Miller's departure, nothing much has changed at the Times.

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