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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Because no one
is above the law!


Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

Weekly Update: JW Goes to Gitmo

JW Monitors Trial of KSM and Other 9/11 Terrorists

On May 5, 2012, the five terrorists accused of plotting and executing the attacks of 9/11 were arraigned at Guantanamo Bay.  Judicial Watch had Senior Investigator Lisette Garcia on the ground to observe the proceedings.

Of course, everyone knows the name of 9/11 ringleader Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (KSM). But here are the names of KSM’s followers and co-conspirators according to the Defense Department: Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. (The identities of these terrorists have been difficult to pin down as they reportedly have used many aliases throughout their “careers” and during their detainment.)

According to Lisette (and numerous press reports), the marathon 13-hour arraignment was a bizarre scene to say the least. How bizarre? Throughout the proceeding, the terrorist suspects engaged in a wide variety of disruptive behaviors, including:

  • Refusing to wear any of the various listening devices provided to each of the accused for the purpose of simultaneously interpreting into Arabic everything said in open court;
  • Refusing to answer the judge’s direct questions as to whether the listening devices were actually working, whether the attorneys provided by the U.S. government at no charge on the defendants’ behalf were acceptable to them, and whether they understood the nature of the charges being brought against them;
  • Smiling, giggling, gesturing, talking, passing notes and even sharing a magazine among the five accused. Additionally, alleged mastermind KSM – who sat at the front table on the defense’s side of the courtroom – used a bold marker to make signs which he hung from a computer screen and microphone at his station in view of his alleged followers sitting directly behind him.  (The linguists complained that touching the microphone caused static which impaired their ability to hear and interpret the proceedings. They also complained that side conversations further impaired their ability to hear and interpret the proceedings.)
  • Abruptly rising to engage in a repetitive stand, bend, kneel pattern of prayer at times not related to any recognized worship obligations.
  • Removing clothing while engaging in a verbal outburst to allege mistreatment in confinement.  (During that outburst, the same accused — Bin ‘Attash — claimed that Moammar Ghadafi, a Libyan dictator killed by rebel forces in October 2011, was also being detained in Guantanamo.)

Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge, who also observed the arraignment, reported that “It was clear right out of the gate that the 9/11 suspects came in with a strategy to frustrate and delay the process.” In other words, they were making a statement.

And, at the end of the hearing it got personal. Lisette explains:

The strangest incident may have been a defendant’s parting greeting toward a transparent divider at the rear of the courtroom. Beyond the transparent divider sat a handful of the 9/11 victims’ surviving family members who had been invited to observe the proceedings in person.

Eddie Bracken, whose sister was killed in the World Trade Center prong of the attack, said at a press conference held the following morning that Binalshibh mocked his sister’s death by smiling and giving Bracken a thumbs-up sign the night before.  Although a thumbs-up gesture generally means approval or agreement in the United States, in the Middle East the sign is considered a crass insult.  (You can watch video transcripts of the press conferences here.)

Mr. Bracken responded to the terrorists’ absurd behavior: “They turn around and they converse with each other — that’s good; my sister and those people that were lost, they can’t converse with anybody,” he said according to the New York Times: “It brought up all the old memories and that whole day and up to today. And listening to all their rhetoric and how they perceive themselves and how the lawyers are perceiving them, it’s hurtful because they have no remorse.”

More than 10 years after Mr. Bracken’s sister was murdered, KSM and his co-conspirators face the following charges: terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destroying property in violation of the law of war.

Now, as crazy as this military hearing was as it unfolded, it is a near miracle it unfolded at all given how badly the Obama administration botched the decision to seek justice against KSM.

You remember how this went, right?

First, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the 9/11 terrorists would be tried in a New York civilian court, leading to a massive public backlash and a near revolt in Congress. Then, in January 2010, came press reports indicating the Obama administration had abandoned this ridiculous idea given the “wave of protests” from citizens of New York. A month later The Washington Post was reporting that President Obama had frozen Holder out of the process and would indeed find an appropriate place for a civilian trial (as if there is such a thing).

On the day he announced his re-election campaign (wink, wink) the president reversed course and decided a military tribunal was a good idea after all.

In fact, Paul Orfanedes, JW’s Director of Litigation, made our first trip to the facility back in 2008 to observe the initial arraignment of these terrorists – a legal process that later resulted in the suspects wanting to plead guilty.  Yet, Obama’s legal team shut that process down until, as I described above, they were forced to reopen it again.  But please remember, as you see these terrorists try to make a mockery of our military commission system, that this all could have been over and done with long ago if not for the bungling and ideological decisions of the Obama administration.

So here we are.

Of course, if Obama has his way, ultimately Gitmo will be shut down and additional terrorist detainees released, which would lead to disastrous results. The president claims he will make good on his campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay, even though there are deep divisions within his own administration as to the wisdom of such a move.

But, for now, Gitmo remains open for business and the 9/11 terrorists face a jury trial before a panel of military officers who will decide their fate – as it should be.

It is an honor and a privilege for Judicial Watch to be among the select few to observe these proceedings.  We’ve made six trips to Gitmo to observe terrorist detainee proceedings there.  And we will be there in the future in order to bear witness on behalf of citizens who want justice for the 9/11 atrocities. (To see additional material on our Gitmo activity, click here.)

Judicial Watch Files Taxpayer Lawsuit against City of LA over Illegal Alien Sanctuary Policies

This week we started a new fight with the City of Los Angeles, this time over a new policy that prevents police officers from impounding vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers.

On Wednesday, we filed a taxpayer lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department, Police Chief Charlie Beck and members of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners over Special Order 7. Under this policy, police officers will no longer immediately impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers for 30 days, as long as they meet certain conditions.

It’s no secret that this policy change was made to specifically accommodate illegal aliens.

The problem is that Special Order 7 is unlawful. And, for this reason, Judicial Watch’s lawsuit on behalf of Harold P. Sturgeon, filed May 8, 2012, in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles, seeks to stop the use of taxpayer funds to implement the new policy:

Plaintiff, a taxpayer and resident of the City of Los Angeles, seeks to enjoin Defendants from expending taxpayer funds or taxpayer-financed resources to implement, enforce, maintain, or otherwise carry out the provisions of Special Order 7, which was issued by the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) on April 10, 2012 and which became effective on April 22, 2012. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Special Order 7 is preempted by Article XI, Section 7 of the California Constitution and California Vehicle Code § 21, and therefore is unlawful and void.

Let’s review the policy as it exists. Under the California Vehicle Code, vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers can be impounded for 30 days and, in some circumstances, must be impounded for 30 days.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, however, under the new policy “vehicles of unlicensed drivers will only be impounded for a day, if that person has insurance, valid identification, has not caused an accident and has not been cited previously for unlicensed driving. An exception may be made in some cases if a licensed driver is immediately available to drive the vehicle away.”

As Judicial Watch alleges in its complaint, according to the California Constitution and California Vehicle Code § 21, “a local government has no authority to regulate or control any matter covered by the California Vehicle Code unless such authority is expressly granted by the State of California….Because the provisions of Special Order 7 are not within the purview of any express authorization granted by the State of California Defendants…were without authority to enact Special Order 7….”

While illegal immigration support groups and their government allies – including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Beck– support the policy change, they do not have a lot of company.  Even the city’s own police union doesn’t want Special Order 7! In fact, the Los Angeles Police Protection League, as it is known, has also filed a lawsuit challenging the new policy.

And here’s another group opposed to the policy change – anyone who has ever been harmed by an unlicensed driver.  The Los Angeles Daily News interviewed one such person, Don Rosenberg, whose son was killed by an unlicensed driver in San Francisco in 2010:  “To me, it is clearly illegal,” Rosenberg told the Daily News. “Can you think of one traffic law that when a problem gets worse, they reduce the penalty? I think we should question why this is being done.”

We know why this is being done. This is yet another example of the Los Angeles Police Department’s unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to further Los Angeles’ status as a sanctuary city. LA’s politicians are once again putting politics and ideology before the safety of citizens, police officers and the rule of law.

Special Order 7 is illegal and dangerous. Unlicensed drivers – whether unlawfully present aliens or not – are a menace to the public safety. And that’s why Judicial Watch will do what it can to stop tax dollars from funding it.

We are persistent in advocating for the rule of law.  We previously filed another taxpayer lawsuit against LAPD over Special Order 40, a sanctuary policy that prohibits police officers from “initiat[ing] police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person,” on behalf of a taxpayer.  Despite an obvious conflict with federal law, California state courts refused to let Judicial Watch’s taxpayer legal challenge against Special Order 40 proceed to trial.

Judicial Watch Files New Brief in Lawsuit to Stop Maryland Community College from Providing In-State Tuition Benefits to Illegal Aliens

Speaking of illegal alien sanctuary policies and efforts by taxpayers to stop them…

Judicial Watch filed a new brief this week in our taxpayer lawsuit against Maryland’s Montgomery College over the school’s unlawful policy of charging discounted “in county” tuition rates to students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status.

As I reported to you some time ago, on August 16, 2011, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, dismissed Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of three Montgomery County taxpayers, prompting an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals in Maryland.

Our lawsuit alleges that Montgomery College’s tuition policy violates both Maryland and federal law and places a substantial financial burden on Montgomery County taxpayers, who must subsidize the cost of students attending the community college:

Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges Defendant’s policy is illegal and ultra vires (beyond the scope of legal authority) under both Maryland and federal law. Plaintiff’s lawsuit also alleges that Defendant’s illegal and ultra vires tuition policy has caused and will continue to cause taxpayers to suffer pecuniary injury.

The Circuit Court for Montgomery County dismissed Plaintiff’s lawsuit in a ruling that seriously erodes the rights of Maryland taxpayers to challenge illegal and ultra vires acts by Maryland public officials.

The Circuit Court ruling, which dismissed the lawsuit on the technical grounds that Judicial Watch’s taxpayer clients did not have the right to challenge the policy, is “in contravention of more than 150 years of precedent,” Judicial Watch argues. Long-standing and well-established law in Maryland authorizes taxpayer plaintiffs to bring suit to “enjoin illegal…acts of public officials where those acts are reasonably likely to result in pecuniary loss or an increase in taxes.”

In a landmark case in 1869, Maryland’s Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) explained that:

[I]n this state the Courts have always maintained with jealous vigilance the restraints and limitations imposed by law upon the excise of power by municipal and other corporations; and have not hesitated to exercise their rightful jurisdiction for the purpose of restraining them within the limits of their lawful authority, and of protecting the citizen from the consequence of their unauthorized or illegal acts.

And how much is this tuition policy costing Maryland taxpayers?  About $7,940,374 and rising.

That’s how much we allege Montgomery College failed to collect in tuition and fees in the four academic years between 2007 and 2010 because of the policy, causing “substantial pecuniary losses to taxpayers.” During the course of the lawsuit, the college admitted that its policy had been in place since at least as early as 2002.

So clearly, Montgomery College’s tuition policy is not only unlawful, it also is a shameless waste of taxpayer resources at a time when citizens can ill afford it.

The Circuit Court was wrong to dismiss this case without considering the merits of the arguments. Our taxpayer clients deserve their day in court to uphold the rule of law in Maryland. The Circuit Court’s decision flies in the face of binding precedent in the State of Maryland that allows citizens to challenge the illegal expenditure of taxpayer funds. The College just doesn’t seem to care about the law.

But we do. And we’re hoping to go two-for-two on the issue of discounted tuition for illegal aliens.

You may recall in February, Judicial Watch earned a key victory on behalf of its client in the effort to stop unlawful tuition benefits for illegal aliens. The Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County ruled that the Maryland Dream Act can be subject to referendum on the 2012 ballot in Maryland. Illegal immigration lobbyists wanted to silence the voices of Maryland taxpayers fed up with subsidizing illegal alien education, but to no avail. Voters will get their chance to vote down these subsidies this November.

Until next week…


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