crypto and public policy

Owning Up to What I Said: Mike Hawash

Filed under: Policy August 6, 2003 @ 5:05 pm

Hopefully I won’t have to link to Fox News too often, but it appears that Mike Hawash just pled guilty to charges of attempted terrorism.

Mike is an Intel employee, originally from Lebanon but since naturalized and perfectly integrated into American society. He was said to be a material witness, a cause which allows law enforcement to detain him without proof or even specific charges, though, supposedly, he is entitled to a speedy trial. He initially pled innocent to all charges. I believe his arrest and treatment do not reflect a fair justice system. But now that the truth about his actual involvement in terrorist affairs is coming to light, it makes one think.

I’m a bit stunned. I followed the Free Mike Hawash site, emailed friends and senators about this situation, expressed my outrage, and truly believed we were witnessing a horrible abuse of power. And yet, in the end, it’s probably a good thing that Mike Hawash is off the streets.

As a close friend just noted, this government seems to be accomplishing a number of pretty good things, but in the worst possible way. I firmly believe that the ends can never justify the means in a free society, and thus I remain firmly opposed to what this administration is doing. That said, I cannot stick my head in the sand, a-la Ostrich Politics, and claim that my arguments from 5 months ago are just as strong now.

Yes, of course, process is paramount because, without due process, there can be no true freedom. But let’s be honest: this news makes arguing against the PATRIOT Act and other similarly far-from-patriotic laws that much more difficult. In strategizing to defend our civil liberties,, we’re going to have to find stronger, more definitive arguments.


  1. Lydia Sandon:

    Don’t believe every confession you read.

    Confession is a preferable alternative to telling the truth in certain situations. For example, you’d probably confess if doing so got you a shorter incarceration time and removed the word Treason from the charge against you, particularly under our current administration/regime.

    I have no idea whether Hawash is guilty, but a confession doesn’t mean you were wrong. It could further fuel your case.

  2. Ben Adida:

    That’s true, the confession may be a bargaining tactic, but I get the feeling that, in this case, it’s not. We’ll see how it develops. Maybe I’ll have to eat my words again 🙂

  3. debritto:

    confession != guilty plea. Guilty plea is a legal distinction.

    The last big prosecution of Lackawanna “cell” netted this. Faysal Galab, 26, pleaded guilty Friday to willfully and illegally contributing support to bin Laden and his terrorist organization by attending the camp, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

    Just attending the camp nets you 10 years. Better to plead out, than deal with zealots prosecuting you.

  4. Patrick Logan:

    Are you convinced that Hawash could not have been discovered, arrested, and (postulating) found guilty without all that’s wrong with the Patriot Act?

    Please explain.

  5. Arjun Sanyal:

    For the curious: read the plea agreement:

    Nice post Ben.

  6. Ben Adida:

    A few questions here, which I’ll try to answer:

    – I do believe, given the plea agreement, that Mike Hawash actually committed the crimes to which he just pled guilty. That said, my belief of this is irrelevant to my point. It is the general population’s belief of such a plea which matters.

    – in my book, our legal system cannot live in some imaginary world: we cannot assume legal results are completely unrelated to the truth. If someone pleads guilty to a crime, I have no choice but to assume they are confessing to that crime. So yes, I am equating the two. I still believe that our judicial system is mostly good. But again, this is not relevant to my main point.

    – Could Mike Hawash have been arrested and so forth without the Patriot Act? Yes, sure.

    – My main point is this: I disagree strongly with the Patriot Act and am petrified at the way it violates our civil rights. However, when situations like Hawash’s come about, when a seemingly happy and integrated neighbor turns out to confess to such a crime, it makes arguing for civil liberties more difficult. That doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind on the Patriot Act or on civil liberties! It’s just that when we try to beat down the Patriot Act and similar legislation, we’re going to need better arguments than “what about poor innocent Mike Hawash imprisoned because he happens to be born in Lebanon.” Because this plea agreement makes such a statement very difficult to believe.

    In the fight to obtain principled laws, laws that truly represent the freedom this country stands for, one needs definitive, hard-hitting arguments. The Hawash case is no longer such an argument.

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