Dear Mr. Weiser,
I am a third year law student at City University of New York School of Law, as well as a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism (’02). I have been following the Syed Fahad Hashmi case over the past few months, and I am writing because I found that your article, “Ex-Brooklyn College Student Admits Conspiring to Help Al Qaeda” omitted several crucial pieces of information that would have allowed a reader to understand Fahad Hashmi’s case in context.
First, your article does not make clear that Mr. Hashmi has been in solitary confinement for nearly three years, an extraordinary measure for the government to take pre-trial. Many American citizens would be shocked to hear that this kind of detention is being justified as an “administrative” measure. You also did not mention that Mr. Hashmi was unable to see classified information that the government had planned to use against him. The use of classified information continues to raise serious constitutional concerns about a defendant’s ability to adequately participate in his defense.
I am also curious why your article left out the news that you had reported the day before, the judge’s granting of the government’s last-minute motion for an anonymous jury under extra security measures. The judge’s decision and the speculative basis on which it was granted was an unprecedented extension of the case law proscribing the extremely limited occasion on which anonymous juries are to be granted. There is good reason to be concerned that these measures would have prejudiced the jury. These factors were all highly relevant to the circumstances under which Mr. Hashmi accepted the plea bargain.