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I Could Tell You ….

witness-resize.GIFWhere the defense attorneys at the Padilla trial likely scored some points was with their cross examination of the prosecution’s expert witness, Rohan Gunaratna.

He responded to a question about whom he had worked for in the past with a variation on the classic — I-could-tell-you-but-then -I’d- have -to-kill-you response. He was obtusely mysterious (or mysteriously obtuse) when questioned about his claim to have interviewed purported terrorists for his 2002 book “Inside al-Qaida.”

“In some interviews I worked for government. I do not wish to name these countries, I would be breaching some confidentiality and agreements I signed with governments,” he said. Judge Cooke would not permit a defense lawyer to ask if any of the purported terrorists Gunaratna had interviewed had also been tortured.

So it all boiled down to “I’m a United States Government expert witness. Trust me.”

Gunaratna is being paid $300 an hour for this kind of courtroom testimony, up to a maximum of $53,700.00. Not too shabby.

In 2001 Gunaratna was quoted as saying:

The Americans lack a deep understanding of how to fight terrorism because unlike the European states the experience of America in the fight against terrorism is very limited.

He’s wrong.

Terrorism has played a historic role in United States policy. In some ways you might say America wrote the book on violence and terrorism beginning with the deliberate and well planned terrorist-genocidal dealings with Native Americans. As H. Rap Brown has noted “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” Using violence and terrorism to overthrow regimes the United States doesn’t like is also as American as cherry pie: Chile, Indonesia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Guatemala and, this, my personal favorite from 1893, Hawaii.

I had been told that Gunaratna was quite the Pentagon/Justice Department favorite but I wasn’t buying his testimony. I sent him three e-mails requesting clarification about what he testified to and what he had written. I wanted FDLers to have fresh information. He responded with variations on “I may be done by Tues we can talk about the trial then. Kind regards, Rohan.”

Sorry ya’all, we won’t be hearing from Rohan any time soon I think. Here’s the AP’s Curt Anderson yesterday:

The prosecution’s star witness in the Jose Padilla trial on terrorism support charges apologized Tuesday after being admonished by the judge for speaking to CNN about the bomb investigation in Britain.

“I’m not pleased,” said U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. She has expressed repeated concerns that jurors could be swayed by news accounts of terrorism related events around the world, which have occurred throughout the eight weeks of testimony.

“It is very difficult, or could be very difficult, if one of our jurors were to see you,” Cooke told the expert, Rohan Gunaratna, before jurors arrived in court. “I cannot force you not to speak. I would strongly urge you not to.”

Gunaratna apologized and said he would not do it again while still a witness in the trial of Padilla and co defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi.

“I will not speak to any media on my specialty until I finish my testimony,” said Gunaratna, an al Qaida expert and head of the Singapore based International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

If I hear from him, you’ll be the first to know.

(with Rachel Koch)

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