When Justice Department officials held a news conference two weeks ago to say they had broken up a “Virginia jihad network,” they called the group violent and dangerous and “a stark reminder that terrorist organizations of various allegiances are active in the United States.” But a week later, in what were expected to be routine hearings, a judge ordered that five of the men be freed without bond until trial. The judge rebuffed prosecutors’ claim that the men posed a serious threat. Three of the five have been released. A fourth will appear today before a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., to contest prosecutors’ appeal of his release.
The Baltimore Sun says that “For two judges, from one of the nation’s most conservative federal courts, to free defendants in what prosecutors billed as a high-profile terrorism case was a rebuke to the Justice Department. It marked the first time the department had failed in its efforts to hold suspects on terrorism-related charges.”
Some legal analysts suggest that after a long period since Sept. 11, 2001, during which the government enjoyed broad discretion to bring terrorism cases and to hold suspects, the pendulum is starting to swing the other way, with greater scrutiny of the government’s evidence. “The administration is having something of a boy-who-cried-wolf problem,” said law Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.