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Profile: Alan M. Dershowitz
Alan M. Dershowitz was a participant or observer in the following events:
Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [CNN, 9/5/1996] In the nearly 6,000-page transcript of the three-month Bojinka trial, there is not a single mention of the “second wave” of Bojinka that closely paralleled the 9/11 plot. Interrogations by Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza had exposed the details of this plot quite clearly (see January 20, 1995 and February-Early May 1995). However, not only does the FBI not call Mendoza to testify, but his name is not even mentioned in the trial, not even by his assistant, who does testify. “The FBI seemed to be going out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11,” author Peter Lance will later note. [Lance, 2003, pp. 350-51] Murad was extensively tortured during his imprisonment in the Philippines (see After January 6, 1995), and some observers such as law professor Alan Dershowitz will assert that Murad’s case proves the reliability of torture, claiming that Murad’s torture prevented a major disaster. However, others disagree. Law professor Stephanie Athey, in her examination of the case, will write in 2007 that Murad’s torture actually produced little useful information. A computer found in Murad’s apartment held key details of the plot (see January 7-11, 1995 and Spring 1995). CIA agent Michael Scheuer will later say that the information collected from Murad’s apartment, not the information gleaned from Murad’s torture, provided actual useful intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), says his lead defense lawyer Stephen Jones “screwed up badly,” accuses Jones of lying to him repeatedly, and says he does not want Jones to continue representing him (see August 14, 1997). The Buffalo News has reported that McVeigh told a reporter: “It’s a cultural clash between us. Jones would be a politician, and I’d be a statesman.… The truth is this guy only succeeded in getting the death sentence and now he doesn’t want to let go.” An appeals court names Robert Nigh Jr., one of McVeigh’s trial lawyers, to be in charge of his appeal. [New York Times, 8/14/1997; New York Times, 8/28/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 319] In a statement given to the press after McVeigh’s sentencing, law professor and appellate lawyer Alan Dershowitz agreed with McVeigh. “When [McVeigh] gets to prison, he’s going to learn that his lawyer did a terrible job,” said Dershowitz. “This is going to be the grist of the eventual appeal. This was an awful, awful defense.… His lawyers seemed to be more interested in their own reputations.” [Washington Post, 6/14/1997] Four days later, Jones agrees to resign as McVeigh’s counsel. Jones denies lying to McVeigh, saying: “No one has lied to Mr. McVeigh on the defense team. Certainly I haven’t lied to him, and I can’t imagine that anybody else” on the defense team has. “I think it would be extremely difficult to represent him in view of these statements he has made that have no basis in fact. He doesn’t have any basis to seek my withdrawal, but I have a basis to seek it.” He refers to McVeigh as a “liar and an ingrate.” McVeigh has said he will leave it to “Congress, the bar, and the judiciary to investigate and discover” the alleged lies and misconduct of Jones. He also has said he bears no ill will towards the jurors who convicted him, stating, “I thought they ruled too much on emotion, but I wanted to convey no personal vendetta against them.” He said some of the prosecution’s evidence against him “was false or some could be reasonably explained by other phenomenon.” [New York Times, 8/19/1997; New York Times, 8/21/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Shortly thereafter, Jones will announce that he has signed a contract to write a book about the trial. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 319] In 1998, the press will report that when McVeigh learned of Jones’s book deal, he considered it a betrayal, and wrote: “Mr. Jones did this without informing me and without my consent. I cannot believe that his account will not be based upon confidential communications. I consider this to be a betrayal.” Jones will respond that McVeigh knew of his book deal, and discussed whether Jones could help his sister Jennifer find an agent to represent her for her own book deal. Jones will write: “I intend to write a book not about Mr. McVeigh, but about my personal experiences of my role and what it was like for me. All the material for this book is either in the court records, the transcripts and exhibits, or in the press. None of it comes from Tim or any source confidential to him.” The writings from McVeigh and Jones will come from documents later unsealed by the court. [New York Times, 2/11/1998]
Bradford Berenson. [Source: PBS]In the weeks following 9/11, government lawyers begin to formulate a legal response to the newly perceived threat of terrorism. Four related issues are at hand: forceful prevention, detention, prosecution, and interrogation. What degree of force can the government employ to prevent acts of terrorism or apprehend suspected terrorists? How and where can it best detain terrorists if captured? How can it best bring them to trial? And how can it best obtain information from them on terrorist organizations and plots? These questions are handled in a new atmosphere that is more tolerant towards flexible interpretations of the law. Bradford Berenson, an associate White House counsel at this time, later recalls: “Legally, the watchword became ‘forward-leaning’ by which everybody meant: ‘We want to be aggressive. We want to take risks.’” [New York Times, 10/24/2004] This attitude is seemingly in line with the president’s thinking. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later recall President Bush saying, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say. We are going to kick some ass” (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 23-24] At the center of legal reconstruction work are Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, his deputy Timothy E. Flanigan, and David S. Addington, legal counsel to Vice President Cheney. [New York Times, 12/19/2004] They will find a helpful hand in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), most notably its head, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee [Los Angeles Times, 6/10/2004] and his deputies John C. Yoo [New York Times, 8/15/2004] and Patrick F. Philbin. Most of the top government lawyers dwell in fairly conservative circles, with many being a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal fraternity. Some have clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, whose ruling effectively lead to the presidency being awarded to George W. Bush after the 2000 presidential election. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] Others worked for Judge Lawrence H. Silberman, who set up secret contacts with the Iranian government under President Reagan leading to the Iran-Contra scandal, and who advised on pursuing allegations of sexual misconduct by President Clinton. [Inter Press Service, 2/6/2004]
From left to right: Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. Three of the five accused Israelis briefly appear on Israeli television in November 2001 after being released and deported. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television] (click image to enlarge)Around this time intense political pressure is put on US officials holding five Israeli men arrested for suspicious behavior at the time of the 9/11 attacks (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and two unidentified “prominent New York congressmen” lobby heavily for their release. According to a source at ABC News, well-known criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz also becomes involved as a negotiator to help get the men released. (Dershowitz will later refuse to comment on the matter.) [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] ABC News will later report that was “high-level negotiations between Israeli and US government officials” over the five men, resulting in a settlement. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Apparently the political pressure will succeed because the men will be released a few weeks later (see November 20, 2001]).
Alan Dershowitz. [Source: Huffington Post]The Los Angeles Times publishes an op-ed piece by Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz arguing that the use of torture should be permissible in situations where an imminent large-scale threat against human life can be averted by forcibly obtaining intelligence from an uncooperative suspect. Dershowitz reasons that in such “ticking bomb” scenarios, a judge should be able to provide “torture warrants,” giving the FBI authorization “to employ specified forms of non-lethal physical pressure to compel” a suspect, who has been granted immunity from prosecution, to talk. He also says that since there is no doubt that torture would be used in such cases anyway, it should be regulated. “If we are to have torture, it should be authorized by the law,” he writes. [Los Angeles Times, 11/8/2001]
In an interview with the Guardian, Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz says that he has heard from former agents that torture “was done and… is done.” He also says that he believes the US “freely subcontracts its torture to Jordan, Egypt, and the Philippines.” Dershowitz identified himself shortly after the September 11 attacks as a proponent of using torture in the war on terrorism when he argued that it should be permissible by law in certain cases (see November 8, 2001). According to William Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is also interviewed by the Guardian, “Dershowitz is not a lone voice. He speaks for a segment of the population, and there is clearly some thought being given to this.” He adds, “It is as American as apple pie,” although he also points out the law clearly prohibits torture. [Guardian, 1/25/2003]
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