A federal jury could decide as early as today whether five Muslim brothers
in Texas violated export regulations when they shipped computer parts to
Libya and Syria, countries that have been labeled state sponsors of terrorism.
But the three-week-long trial is wrapping up with considerably less fanfare
than the case began with, leading to renewed accusations that President
Bush's war on terror often targets domestic politics as much as
Federal officials have accused the brothers of laundering money for Hamas,
a Palestinian militant group, using their now-defunct computer company.
Bush has alleged that a Texas-based charity connected to the brothers was
also a front for Hamas and was used, among other things, to route money to
the families of suicide bombers.
But while U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft once labeled the brothers
"terrorist moneymen," charges specifically related to terrorism have been
dropped from the trial and are tentatively scheduled to be heard in a
second proceeding this fall.
What's left for now are allegations that the brothers improperly shipped
computer parts to customers in Libya and Syria -- not to the governments
The customers included a Toyota dealer and a bookstore. Prosecutors have
yet to utter the word "Hamas" in court.
And while Justice Department lawyers have said the hardware could have been
used for military purposes, the brothers' representatives insist that most
of it was so dated that it couldn't even have been used to play the latest
Some legal experts have said this is the latest example of the Bush
administration overreaching in its prosecution of the war on terror -- and
tossing aside civil liberties in the process.
"This is exactly what the Founding Fathers were thinking about when they
enacted the Bill of Rights," said David Nevin, a defense lawyer in Boise,
Idaho. "The Bill of Rights wouldn't be there if it wasn't the tendency of
government to reach out and take all the power it can to try to do the
things it wants to do…