Wednesday, May 1, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: "Terrorists' Lawyer" Talks About Boston Bombing Investigation

Civil rights attorney Randy Hamud

In the summer of 2001, attorney Randy Hamud was running a successful, and uncontroversial, legal practice in San Diego. But that all changed on 9/11. Within days of the terrorist attack, Hamud took on several new clients who had befriended Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, the two San Diego-based Al Qaeda hijackers who piloted American Airlines flight #77 into the Pentagon. Subsequently, Hamud also agreed to represent the family of Zacarias Moussaiui, the so-called 20th hijacker in the 9/11 plot.

Hamud quickly became ubiquitous. Bombarded with media queries, he received countless death threats and was even dubbed the "terrorists' lawyer." Truth is, Hamud has never represented a convicted terrorist. He worked for Moussaoui's family, not Moussaoui, and all his San Diego clients were subsequently released from custody. 

Nonetheless, Hamud is now a controversial and even polarizing public figure. But he is greatly misunderstood. During my coverage of 9/11 for Newsweek, I grew to know and respect the man. Mind you, I don't always agree with him; we've had some lively debates over the years about everything from politics to religion to who should coach the San Diego Chargers. But I admire his unwavering love for the U.S. Constitution, which he describes as "the most perfect governmental instrument ever written." 

Hamud, who's of Lebanese descent, was born and raised in Los Angeles. A family man and passionate football fan whose hero is Gen. George Patton, Hamud is a secular Muslim who speaks Spanish but not Arabic. He loves riding horses and wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson. In 2005, he authored Osama Bin Laden: America's Enemy in His Own Words (right), which employs bin Laden's published quotes to illustrate why the now-deceased Al Qaeda leader was the most dangerous man in the world. 

A fierce civil libertarian and supporter of the Bill of Rights, Hamud has a unique perspective on the terrorist attack in Boston. He says he’s beginning to see “strong similarities” between the 9/11 legal cases and the one developing against 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bombing suspect. 

Hamud notes, for example, that authorities have already begun taking men who knew Tsarnaev into custody and holding them on immigration charges. Of course, two of these men have now been arrested for allegedly removing computers and other items from the suspect's apartment. A third was arrested and then released on bail. 

“Bringing people who knew the alleged terrorists in on immigration charges was a common tactic for law enforcement after 9/11 as well,” says Hamud, who went to UCLA Law School and is a former deputy city attorney in L.A. “This is reminiscent of the Bush Administration’s nationwide sweep in 2001.”

Hamud is troubled by this trend, but I see it as a necessary step in the Boston bombing investigation. It has not come even close to the level we saw immediately after 9/11, when then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called for "aggressive detentions" of Arab and Muslim men as material witnesses in the terror attack. This roundup ultimately netted more than 1,200 men, including Hamud’s clients: Mohdar Abdullah, Omar Bakarbashat, Nawef Alselmi and Osama Awadallah. 

These men were never charged or convicted of any terrorist-related activity and have all long since been released from custody. Three of them were deported, and a fourth still resides in the United States.

“I do not wish this to be a déjà vu situation,” says Hamud, who in the weeks and months after 9/11 emerged as one of the nation's most eloquent defenders of America's civil liberties. “We saw all sorts of violations of constitutional and individual rights after 9/11, including abuse of the material witness statute. Immigration laws became a sword rather than a shield for immigrants. The FBI claims they learned from their mistakes after 9/11, and adopted a different approach. We’ll see."

Hamud, who calls the Boston bombing a "despicable act of terrorism" and believes the evidence will lead to the younger Tsarnaev's conviction, says his hope is that in the process of discovery federal agents don’t try to use the same kinds of broad-brush immigration allegations they did after 9/11 to go through an entire community of Chechnyans.

“I believe we’ve matured as a country since 9/11," Hamud says. "But we’ll see. After all, the FBI does have some egg on its face after questioning the older brother and letting him back in the country.”

Hamud says the hiring this week by Tsarnaev's defense team of Judy Clarke, the infamous San Diego-based attorney who represented would-be terrorist Moussaoui, "Unabomber" Ted Kaczysnki, Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, child murderer Susan Smith, and other notorious clients, is no surprise.

"She (Clarke) is a consummate expert in death penalty cases, and her goal is to save the life in jeopardy," Hamud says. "Moussaoui had a number of lawyers assigned to the defense team, but among them even then, she generated a lot of respect."

The way Hamud sees it, the Obama administration “did the right thing” not labeling Tsarnaev, a U.S. citizen, as an enemy combatant. 

“It’s important that he be tried in a criminal court,” he says. “He committed a criminal act, and he needs to be punished by the criminal system, by a jury that will give him a fair trial. The evidence is overwhelming in this case. He will be convicted. But there should be justice, whereas in Guantanamo, we have planners and implementers of the 9/11 attacks who still haven’t been tried.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the decision not to treat Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant is "absolutely the right way to go and the appropriate way to go,” and added that because Tsarnaev is a naturalized U.S. citizen, he cannot be tried by a military commission.
"It is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists," Carney said.
Hamud believes that if the deceased brother and suspect Tamerian Tsarnaev had been taken alive he might have been named an enemy combatant because he went back to Russia so recently and for so long. But Hamud acknowledges that “it was different during the Bush administration when they arrested Jose Padilla, an American citizen, in Chicago, and labeled him an enemy combatant and said that he could be held in military prison indefinitely without access to a lawyer. The Constitution does not allow citizens arrested on U.S. soil to be held beyond the reach of the courts.”

Hamud says one other unfortunate similarity between the 9/11 attacks and the Boston bombing is how it has negatively affected innocent Muslims in America.

“The Muslim community in America is once again very guarded and concerned,” he says. “People are beginning to speak out in the hopes of diffusing any animosity that might arise from these terrible acts. I hope that people will be accepting of Islam as a religion rather than an agenda for fanatics.”


  1. Islam IS an ideology and a religion, and Islam IS fanatic. Muslims who don't live fanatically are not being "good" Muslims. They either don't know what Islam expects of them or they ignorant.

    1. Newsflash. Christianity is an ideology as well.

      And I could speak for days about Christians ignoring their religion's literal teachings as well.

      How about we just get rid of religion and get by with our own power?

  2. Carol . . . what exactly are you trying to imply? You can say the same about Jewish and Christian (by the Old Terstament)religions, and maybe other beliefs. Terriorists and other religious biggots use religion to benefit their cause. Look at the catholics and the protestants in Ireland, it was/is fired up by the hatred between the nations rather than their religious beliefs. Catholics who do not follow the chuches rules are not good catholics etc.

  3. Islam is not the same as Christianity or Judaism. Mainstream Islamic doctrine requires killing non-believers and subjugating the world to Islam ("Jihad").

    Recognizing human rights of non-Muslims is contrary to Islam... it's even permitted for Muslims to cannibalize non-Muslims, as the recent video of the Sunni rebel in Syria demonstrated.

    As the Muslim saying goes, "Muslims thirst for death as much as infidels thirst for life".

    1. i am 100% sure you have not come across to quran and you have no knowledge about how Islam treat non-Muslims in Islamic government. just read the history of Spain (Andalusia ) and India ( before Britain colonization)

  4. Hamud asserts Djhokhar "committed a criminal act and he needs to be punished". Is this man demented? He has, before legal proceedings, declared the boy's guilt. There are a thousand holes in the FBI and police accounts of this event. The Tsarnaevs were in my opinion selected as fall guys for a false flag spectacle. As bogus as the 9/11 attack was, this one is even more
    blatantly rigged.

    1. Yep, no shortage of idiots here. It's amazing that some people even have the brain power to eat and breath.

    2. I love comedians. Clearly there are also thousands of holes in your brain. but keep the logic and evident proof coming its truly entertaining.

    3. anyone who believes that the boston bombing or 9/11 were so-called "false flag" events perpetrated by our own government is a lunatic and needs to be taken away in a rubber truck.

    4. Still you have missed the point said in opening post.
      Defense attorney SHOULDN'T newer ever say that their client is guilty before jury has made its verdict or client himself has admitted his guilt.

      Anyway it seems like you all have judged this man already, so why the fuck you want justice, it's Blood that you crave.

  5. pls let us stop this. World peace. okay?

  6. And it was cristian Europe that killed jews not Muslims.

  7. Thanks for sharing such an interesting information.