Prosecutors in the first major U.S. terror trial after Sept. 11, 2001, were hindered by superiors from presenting powerful evidence, including testimony from an al Qaeda leader and video footage showing Osama bin Laden’s European operatives casing American landmarks, reports the Associated Press. The department’s terrorism unit “provided no help of any kind in this prosecution,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit wrote in one of several memos obtained by AP. The papers show bitter divisions between front-line prosecutors and their superiors in Washington.
The Detroit case ended last summer with convictions of three men who were accused of operating a sleeper terror cell that possessed plans for attacks around the world. A fourth defendant was acquitted, however, and only two of the four men originally arrested were convicted of terrorism charges. The convictions are in jeopardy because of an internal investigation into allegations that defense lawyers were denied evidence that could have helped them. Internal documents obtained by The Associated Press and more than three dozen interviews with current and former officials detail how the differences between Washington and the field office kept important evidence from the jury. “We were butting heads vigorously with narrow-shouldered bureaucrats in Washington,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino told AP.