The surprising guilty pleas in the so-called “Lackawanna Six” terrorism case illustrates how the post-Sept. 11, 2001, legal landscape tilts heavily toward the prosecution, government critics contend.
The first story in a two-part series by the Washington Post reports defendants in future terror cases could face the same choice as the six men: Plead guilty or face the possibility of indefinite imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Defense attorneys said the federal government implicitly threatened to toss the defendants into a secret military prison without trial, where they could languish without access to courts or lawyers. They accepted prison terms of 6 1/2 to 9 years.
Scant information revealed by prosecutors alleged the six belonged to a terrorist “sleeper cell.” They traveled to Afghanistan in the spring of 2001, watched radical propaganda tapes, learned to fire automatic rifles and set off explosions at a military camp run by al Qaeda. Several sipped tea and spoke of jihad with Osama bin Laden.