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The War on Terror's professional witness

Evan Kohlmann does the rounds

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Speaking practically, using these in absence of physical evidence like explosives and their ingredients or other weapons now appears sufficient to convince that the owner must be a bomber who has been intercepted in the nick of time.

In the US, defenders have tried to have Kohlmann barred from presenting testimony, with poor results.

Marvin Miller, a Virginia attorney who was unsuccessful in getting Kohlmann eliminated from one terror case, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in late 2006 that "He gives an argument to scare the jury about terror and fear". For another newspaper, Miller opined that Kohlmann furnished "good propaganda. He runs off at the mouth and a lot of judges won't control him the way they will other witnesses."

Nevertheless, Miller's client, Ali Chandia, was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorism in a group of convictions which came to be known as cases involving the Virginia Paintball Gang, so named because according to the government, the defendant and others trained to attack American troops by playing it in the VA countryside.

According to a search of Lexis - an inexact and sometimes peevish database of newspaper articles - between 2003 and late 2006 Kohlmann testified in five US terror trials, all wins for prosecution. Various newspaper articles reported Kohlmann earning from $10,000 to $15,000 per case. In the UK, the Crown is thought to pay him over $300/hour plus expenses.

In one case in Albany, NY, for which he was paid $5,000, Kohlmann was deposed by defense attorney Kevin Luibrand.

In the trial of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, prosecutors wanted Kohlmann to comment on a political group - Jamaat e-Islami Bangladesh (JEB)- said to be embraced by one defendant, in one brief surveillance transcript.

Luibrand deposed Kohlmann prior to the trial with the aim of showing the witness to not be an expert. Although the motion to preclude the witness was unsuccessful, Kohlmann stumbled through Luibrand's questions, at points answering "don't know" to quite a few inquiries on the nature of groups and political parties in Bangladesh. It is a slightly complicated bit of business and so the transcripts are furnished in original .pdfs. (1, 2, 3)

Former imam Aref and pizza shop owner Hossain were convicted anyway, in a case which was built upon an FBI sting operation; they were lured into a money-laundering operation/fake terror plot said to be for the financing of the sale of a shoulder-fired missile for the killing of a Pakistani diplomat in New York. The case remains in the news because of its dodgy nature, and has been viewed by many as entrapment served by the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. Aref's lawyers argue he was denied due process and a fair trial, and that US government secret arguments given only to the judge and prosecution abridged both. ®

George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

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