In Antiterror Fight, Justice Department Looks Beyond Courtrooms


The Justice Department’s record on domestic terrorism – no new attacks, but few blockbuster convictions and some high-profile hung juries or acquittals — has provoked criticism of its early strategy for going after homegrown terrorist cells and the people who fund plots before deadly events occur, reports the Washington Post. Jurors appear to be particularly troubled by cases in which FBI informants encouraged others to perform acts they otherwise may not have done. This week, federal prosecutors in Miami will announce whether they will seek to try a major terrorism case again after two mistrials.

Independent commissions have urged the FBI to become more aggressive at detecting threats and neutralizing them before they explode. Investigators sometimes acted quickly, charging conspiracies to commit minor crimes or immigration and tax violations as a way to preempt potential threats, while avoiding the disclosure of sensitive intelligence. Justice Department officials are pleased to have won a few high-profile convictions and some little-noticed guilty pleas. Authorities say their current goal is broader than a courtroom victory: It is collecting enough intelligence to eradicate a threat by using informants, wiretaps, and other tools to get as clear a picture as possible.


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