Thursday, March 29, 2018


The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly reports that a group of men accused of plotting to murder Somali refugees in Kansas are using the Fox News defense:
Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright are on trial in connection with their arrest in a FBI domestic terrorism sting just weeks before the 2016 election. Their defense attorneys, in turn, are putting the FBI on trial ― accusing the nation’s premier law enforcement agency of improperly targeting the three men due to their conservative ideology....

In opening arguments before a nearly all-white jury, defense attorneys argued that their clients were unfairly targeted by a biased FBI. Richard Federico, a federal public defender who previously represented Guantanamo detainees when he was a JAG Corps officer, skillfully weaved a narrative for jurors suggesting his client was a victim of a government conspiracy.

Federico said it was the FBI that plotted and conspired and targeted the defendants, hoping to make an example of them because of their political beliefs.

“Curtis Allen sits before you today because of what he thought, because of what he said, and because of who he associated with,” Federico said.

In a turn of phrase reminiscent of Trump, Federico said the defendants’ discussion of killing Muslim “cockroaches” amounted to “locker room talk.
The voir dire suggests that quite a few people in the jury pool respond to this argument:
One potential juror expressed concerns about honesty and corruption at the top levels of the FBI. Another in the jury pool had concerns about former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ― both Republicans ― and said he personally questioned the stability and integrity of the organization. A third person said he thinks many Americans are concerned about the decisions being made at the top of the FBI, and a fourth potential juror said he’d grown up wanting to be an FBI agent, but he now believes top bureau officials have engaged in wrongdoing. Yet another potential juror, a concealed carry supporter, said he held a negative view of the FBI due to recent events.
Reilly writes, "No prominent FBI detractors during jury selection made it into the final jury." But we don't whether any of the actual jurors share these beliefs but chose not to express them. If you wanted to be picked for this jury and you share these views, you'd probably keep quiet about them. Beyond that, I'm sure at least some of the jurors are conspiracy-curious, or at least suggestible. They may easily fall for this narrative.

There's nothing wrong with being skeptical about law enforcement when the skepticism is based on fact. I don't blame jurors who mistrust police testimony where there's a documented history of "testilying," or who doubt police narratives about violent confrontations when so many confrontations with the unarmed end in death.

But this FBI narrative is based on smoke and mirrors. It's as fabricated as Pizzagate or birtherism.

Reilly describes this as "a defense strategy that could’ve been culled directly from President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed," but it's more accurate to say that it could have been derived from the collected works of Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy, and the rest of the gang at Fox. It's Fox that devotes hours a week to this fairy story.

So what generates boffo ratings for the billionaire Murdoch family just might free some terrorists someday -- maybe not in this case, but eventually, as more and more True Conservatives conclude that everyone in federal law enforcement is a "dirty cop," just the way the elitist Murdochs want them to.

When the social fabric in America frays beyond repair, the Murdochs won't suffer. They'll just tote up their profits and leave the rest of us to deal with the mess.

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