I just spent three days this week watching Najibullah Zazi in U.S. District Court from the galleries here in Denver, Colorado where I work as a trial lawyer. No, I don't legally represent Zazi nor would I if given the opportunity. Defending al-Qaeda operatives is not my thing.
Zazi has an attorney named Art Folsom. I don't know Folsom despite my having practiced law in Denver for nearly 30 years. Neither do most other Colorado criminal law practitioners. Folsom though is certainly making a name for himself.
Who needs torture or enhanced interrogation techniques when you have Art Folsom on the case? For three straight days, Folsom and Zazi walked through downtown Denver to exhaustive meetings at FBI HQ until calling off the fourth visit. That resulted in an arrest for, you guessed it, lying to the FBI during the interrogation.
It is Criminal Defense 101 that you do not allow your client to speak to law enforcement except for the rare circumstance that you are convinced that you can persuade them of your client's innocence. First and foremost, you have to put yourself in a position to know as best you can what the interrogators know about your client. Here, where Zazi's laptop had been seized and wiretaps had been run, it is extraordinary that competent counsel would so quickly advise his client to cooperate with authorities -- at least not without some favorable deal.
Given time and Zazi's talking, the FBI has now been able to put together far more against Zazi and apparently disrupted a plot to use weapons of mass destruction against innocent Americans. The problem though is that many members of this apparent al-Qaeda squad of annihilation remain at large. Could it be that Zazi's publicly trumpeted interrogation, along with his media interviews, were designed to alert his accomplices to scatter and go to Plan B?
Predictably this morning, federal Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer sent Zazi immediately packing to New York City where a Grand Jury indicted him for a major terrorism charge. Zazi now faces life in prison and amazingly, he probably still has Art Folsom as his lawyer. Folsom came out of the courtroom this morning and announced that he is headed to New York City to further represent Zazi.
Folsom may not be well known in the Denver legal community but he is taking steps to remedy that by not only taking on this huge case but hiring a top shelf publicist. Wendy Aiello was quoted as saying that the way this little known attorney is handling the Zazi matter will "position Mr. Folsom as a premier attorney" in this field.
Coloradans are familiar with Folsom Field up in Boulder where the CU Buffalo football team plays, but this kind of legal strategy befuddles experienced practitioners. Experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers are scratching their heads about the Folsom strategy in the Zazi case. Is there a method to this madness? Has Zazi turned government witness and is this new life in prison charge just a cover for continued cooperation?
Who is paying for Folsom and co-counsel? Zazi recently declared bankruptcy. Zazi's dad, Mohamed Wali Zazi, also charged with lying to the FBI, is indigent and was appointed a federal public defender. Who is paying for Folsom's publicist?
It appears that Zazi is caught dead to rights. He was buying the caustic chemicals designed to create an improvised explosive device similar to that detonated in the horrific 7/7 London subway bombing. He drove from Aurora, Colorado to New York right before September 11, 2009 and met with apparent accomplices. Wiretapped conversations reveal his fear of law enforcement detection. Bomb-making instructions in his own handwriting was found in a file on his laptop. The FBI knows of his recent extended travel to the Peshawar Tribal Region in Pakistan -- al-Qaeda HQ.
The evil of Najibullah Zazi appears staggering. Participation in a plot to use chemicals to kill mass numbers of American men, women and children on 9/11 in New York is despicable. Who are all the accomplices? I sure hope the FBI knows.
A new President was about to be tested in the first year of his first term by a 9/11 attack as suffered by his predecessor. One big difference -- this attack got stopped by the federal government.
Where is Dick Cheney? He just had back surgery and I hope he is feeling better and strong enough to get to a microphone (Rush Limbaugh is always willing to have him on as a guest). I have to believe he wants to offer his hearty congratulations to the commander-in-chief for stopping the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Americans with the federal takedown of the Zazi al-Qaeda operation.
Why do El Rushbo, Sean Hannity, and their many chattering conservative colleagues decline to yet offer personal congratulations? Here we are -- September of the first term of a United States President and al-Qaeda is trying to kill a maximum number of Americans on the homeland. On the fateful 9/11s, one new president had a team that got the bad guys behind bars. The other sat in a Florida elementary school trying to remember that barely read August Presidential Daily Briefing that Condi had given him.
The sad truth is that nobody in the government can relax to accept kudos given that the danger from the Zazi-Afzali crew and others of their ilk is far from over. This is a foreign born terrorist operation born in Peshawar in the Taliban/al-Qaeda tribal region of Pakistan where Najibullah Zazi went to train for many months not too long ago. We know that the foreign-initiated, coordinated, organized attacks usually involve teams of like-minded murderous martyrs. It is fair to assume that many remain at large and perhaps ready to imminently act.
Let us pray and hope that with the help of the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and Art Folsom, this plot to kill mass numbers of Americans gets further foiled.