Fewer than 10% of the people prosecuted for terrorism in the United States since
the September 11 attacks were convicted of crimes related to that or national
security, according to a study conducted by the Washington Post.
Of those 39 people, few had any connection to al-Qaida while the remaining 90%
were acquitted or convicted of lesser crimes such as immigration violations or
making false statements, the study shows.
The report emerged as President George Bush travelled the country to encourage
Congress to renew the Patriot Act, the controversial attempt to counter terrorism
by boosting surveillance powers.
"Federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more
than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charge have been convicted,"
Mr Bush told the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy on Thursday.
But, according to the Washington Post, the vast majority of those arrested
were eventually convicted of only minor violations for which they were either
deported or received relatively short sentences.
The median sentence for all of the cases, related to terrorism or not, was
11 months. Of those who were convicted on terrorist charges, most were involved
not with al-Qaida but causes and crimes such as Colombian drug cartels, Rwanda's
civil war or support for Palestinian groups.
The administration's list does not include those held at Guant?namo Bay or
under US jurisdiction elsewhere in the world.
"What we're seeing over time is the equivalent of mission creep,"
Juliette Kayyem, who heads the national security programme at Harvard University's
Kennedy school of government, told the Post. "Cases that would not be terrorism
cases before September 11 are swept on to the terrorism docket."
· Senator Mel Martinez said the government should consider closing the
Guant?namo Bay prison for terrorism suspects - the first high-profile Republican
to make the suggestion.
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