Posted by Clif Burns at 8:04 pm on October 8, 2009
Category: Criminal Penalties • Economic Sanctions
In March, Dawn Hanna was convicted by a jury in Detroit for exporting mobile telecom equipment to Saddam Hussein in violation of the U.S. embargo against Iraq in place at the time of the export. Hanna claimed throughout her trial that the purchaser of the equipment told her that the end user was in Turkey. The government’s sentencing memo, however, cited a number of communications and emails from Hanna where she seemed quite aware that the items were destined for Iraq and not Turkey.
The case, however, recently took an interesting turn of sorts. Apparently the person who approached Hanna to purchase the equipment, a Jordanian named Emad al-Yawer, has come forward and claimed that he was working for the CIA when he approached Hanna. According to al-Yawer, in an affidavit filed in April, the CIA wanted to alter the equipment to track Saddam and listen to his conversations. As al-Yawer said somewhat more colorfully in a recent interview with a Detroit television station:
The whole idea was, once they get to Saddam, send a smart bomb and blow him into smithereens
The judge apparently did not find the new evidence sufficient to grant Hanna a new trial. Prosecutors in the case have said that the new evidence remains under seal, although apparently a redacted version of the al-Yawer affidavit is available on a website set up by Dawn Hanna’s parents.
Of course, the interesting question here is whether it matters at all that al-Yawer was working for (or with) the CIA. Even if he was cooperating with the CIA, the efforts by Hanna’s defenders to say that the sale of the equipment to Hussein was the government’s fault doesn’t seem that convincing. Certainly this argument wouldn’t have been convincing if the purchaser was an undercover U.S. government agent. I suppose that if the alleged CIA agents had directed al-Yawer to buy the equipment from Hanna, this argument might have some legs. Similarly, if the CIA had contacted Hanna directly, identified themselves as CIA agents, enlisted her help in exporting the equipment, and then had her prosecuted, Hanna might have an argument. But there is no evidence that any of this happened.
The defense of “legal impossibilty” may be still alive for completed crimes (opposed to “attempt” crimes), For example, a defendant cannot be convicted of murdering someone who is already dead, even if the defendant thought the individual was alive when they shot them. See People v. Dlugash, 363 N.E. 2d 1155 (1977). The problem for Hanna seems more that you still need a license, even if the government asks (or secrety wants) you to export the item. So the facts do fit the defense.
There are several issues missing: one, Ms. Hanna advises that she was never told the equipment was going to Iraq; rather Turkey. Had she known the equipment was going to Iraq, under the UN program, she could have requested and received permission to send the equipment. Ms. Hanna was deliberately deceived (for responsible purposes) about the destination of the equipment. The immunity from prosecution because this was an executive branch approved operation should extend to Ms. Hanna who was not to know the true destination of the equipment. Minimally, this information should have been known to the defense and the jury before she was convicted.
So let me get this right… in papers filed with the court, she was approached by a guy who wanted to buy this equipment. Over time, emails and communications were found that she knew it was going to Iraq (facts found by the jury).
The purchaser becomes a CIA ‘operative’ a year after he purchases the equipment to send to Iraq. Now, there’s no proof the CIA approached him, no proof he’s a CIA operative, no proof of much of anything except an affidavit saying he was such – and also stipulating that he “believes” Hanna didn’t know the equipment was going to Iraq.
There’s no protection for Hanna, there’s no “executive branch immunity”. The CIA didn’t purchase the equipment, and didn’t arrange to have it shipped. Don’t you think they’d have found a way to make it clear customs?
The jury found she knew it was going to Iraq, and continued transactions. If she had stopped the transactions, she could have been fine. She knew what she was doing was illegal, and continued, without prompting from anyone but the buyer. You can try and say this is entrapment – but you would fail. One, the transaction was initiated before the gov’t got involved. Besides that, the government didn’t need to prod her to keep sending stuff to Iraq. She did it on her own. There is no entrapment.
Now back to the affidavit – the guy admits that he’s lied in the past and covered up the CIA involvement – but now that she’s been sentenced, he felt the need to come forward. Can you honestly tell me (hah) that you’d trust someone who says “I lied before, to all levels of government, but I’m telling the truth now”. It’s no wonder the judge didn’t re-open the case to let this evidence in. It lacks credibility.
And on a final note, there’s a letter from some Army kid who somehow knew Hanna’s daddy. The letter amounts to a textbook definition of hearsay.
It’s a little sad that this is the best defense her lawyers can put forth. I think this amounts to a game that all convicted felons play with the legal system – trying to use any and all means to find a “get out of jail” card.
Every time my guys head to Israel, DSS comes out and warns what great thieves of American techno[ogy the Israeies are.