Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Federalist Society Panel

By Guest Blogger, Dore Louis

Last night the Federalist Society hosted an event at the Banker's Club entitled "War Zone or Crime Scene: Walking the Tightrope of Justice Ten Years After September 11th."

The panel included every person who held the position of US Attorney since 9/11 - Guy Lewis, Marcos Jimenez, Alex Acosta, Jeff Sloman, Wilfredo Ferrer, and acting Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso, who proved a bit elusive to the camera. Neal Sonnet moderated.

The night included everything one might expect a Federalist Society event to have: a well-stocked bar and plenty of time to mingle; a book co-authored by John Yoo, gifted to the panel members; a regional CIA recruiter mingling with the guests (no joke); Marshals to protect the dignitaries; and, the obligatory "Osama"...oops..."I sometimes say "Obama"" joke by a panelist.

All in all, it looked as if it was going to be a 'hanging jury' for Michael. As anybody who knows Michael would expect, Michael shined.

The discussion was very interesting and quite non-partisan. Essentially, it was a walk trough the history of the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida, from 9/11 onwards. Michael did a great job adding color to the other side of the equation - bringing home the impact that ramped up prosecutions for offenses such as routine immigration violations or the effects prolonged isolated confinement have on people.

Guy Lewis led off. He talked about how he and other members of the office sat watching the terrorist attacks unfold on 9/11 and the eerie "radio silence" that prevailed from DOJ during the attacks. 16 of the 19 hijackers had either lived in the Southern District or otherwise had connections here, and they were simply not on the radar. The day after 9/11 GL convened a meeting of federal and local law enforcement and began to redirect the priority of the office from prosecution of offenses such as violent crime, cyber crime and money laundering to the prosecution and prevention of terrorism.

Marcos Jimenez took over after GL left to D.C., and one of his first impressions was how much the office changed from when he had been a AUSA. MJ really gave the audience a good feel for how much pressure a US Attorney feels while in the office, including the fear that his efforts would not be enough to prevent an attack from happening. MJ specifically mentioned port security and the nightmare scenario that something would happen on a cruse ship, and bunch of people would get killed and he would have "egg on his face."

Other than Michael (who I admit to being partisan to and who will always have my vote), Dean Alex Acosta was the most impressive speaker of the night. I did not realize what an intellectual the guy is. AA gave a terrific overview of military tribunals in the United States, going back to Nazi spies in the beginning of WWII. Whether you agree or disagree with the policies the government pursued post-9/11, it is very apparent that AA had thoroughly thought through the legal basis for the actions taken, and would be able to provide justification for each and every one. Frankly, if AA presents like this always, I fully expect to be calling him Judge in the future - if that is what he is after.

Jeff Sloman, who had been involved in terrorism prosecutions and investigations before 9/11, spoke to a concern that was raised by MJ. Radicalized people who are willing to die for a cause. Such concerns led to cases such as the Liberty City 7 case, that were targeted at neutralizing threats before they became capable of carrying out a terrorist act.

Willy Ferrer was obviously more constrained in what he could say because he is the current US Attorney - he was able to provide statistics and a broad overview of efforts that are ongoing to prevent terrorist acts. But what WF said that struck me most, was the mention of his law school class mate - Geoffrey Cloud, who went to work in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and was killed in the attacks.

I am certain that people like WF, who lost friends during 9/11 will not forget the destruction of that day. Whether you agree or disagree with the policies that our government pursues, folks like those who hold the office of US Attorney in the Southern District of Florida are tasked with keeping us all safe. I want them to remember that day, and I want that memory to drive them to do the best job they can.

Whether ultra left or ultra right, we all hate terrorism and want our government to keep us safe. That is the point that Michael was really able to drive home - yes, we need to be kept safe, but at the same time, we need to protect our Constitutional liberties and hold true to the values that have made us this great Nation.

How far can law enforcement can go to protect us? God forbid something terrible happens again - law enforcement did not go far enough. In the name of terrorism prevention, continue prosecuting immigrants who try to sneak into America with the sole intention of working hard and earning a living - too far.

It is a very difficult question to address, and the reason that we should all encourage participation in more events like the Federalist Society panel discussion. That organization and its leadership deserve a lot of credit for gathering the panelists together to attempt to confront the issues.

The threat is real, it is deadly, and we do not want the people protecting us to forget it.

- Bette and Peter Cloud, the parents of terrorist attack victim Geoffrey Cloud of Sudbury, speak about their son to people gathered for a 9/11 remembrance at the September 11th Memorial Garden at Heritage Park in Sudbury Sunday.


Anonymous said...

No comments about Judge Schlessinger?


Mr. Louis:

This is an excellent article. We very much appreciate your taking the time to write it.

-Jefferson Knight, Director, Federalist Society Miami Chapter