James Ujaama's case has taken on a frustrating pattern. Seemingly in vain, Ujaama's attorneys point out violations of Ujaama's constitutional rights; the judge picks up those arguments and trashes the federal prosecutors, but then, like a "knowing" parent who doesn't feel compelled to justify his or her final decision, rules against Ujaama.
This was certainly the case when the U.S. District Court ruled early last month (based on mysterious witnesses and veiled evidence) that Ujaama, suspected of aiding al Qaeda, had to remain in detention during his trial.
And it also seemed to be the case on Tuesday, October 29, when U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein got her Judge Judy on, skewering prosecutors for trying to control Ujaama's client-attorney relationship but failing to rule against them.
The Justice Department wants to have control over the materials Ujaama's lawyers share with their client. (The feds think Ujaama will use his attorneys to relay messages to terrorists.) Ujaama's attorneys have correctly argued that prosecutors are "impermissibly interfering with Ujaama's right to counsel."
Judge Rothstein appeared to agree with the defense--wholeheartedly! Sporting frosted brown hair, a cream-colored scarf, bright pink lipstick, and smarts, Rothstein had Ujaama's family laughing as she pounced on the nervous prosecutors, demanding to know why they thought they had the right to arbitrate the proceedings, and warning that she was going to have a "problem" with their "methodology."
However, at the conclusion of the hearing, it appeared that Rothstein would keep most of the restrictions--known as special administrative measures, or SAMs--in place, asking the parties to reach their own agreement.
In the era of President Bush's USA PATRIOT Act (where citizens' homes and offices can be secretly searched without probable cause, where the FBI can have broad access to personal records without showing evidence of a crime, and where a broad new crime that includes definitions like "activities that appear to be intended to influence the policy of government by intimidation or coercion" has been created), it's hardly surprising that Ujaama's rights are being whittled away.
Allegra Wiborg contributed to this article.