The following is a full transcript of the entire “Abrams Report” show from February 19, 2003. It is quite long; the quote from Van Jones praising the human shields as heroes comes near the end.
We present the full transcript here in order to give the unexpurgated context for Jones’ quote.
February 19, 2003 Wednesday
SHOW: THE ABRAMS REPORT 18:00
THE ABRAMS REPORT For February 19 , 2003
BYLINE: Dan Abrams; Karen Brown
GUESTS: Clint Van Zandt; Michael Baden; Ruth Wedgewood; Stephen Push; Van Jones; Jay Sekulow
HIGHLIGHT: Police search Scott Peterson’s home for second day. Suspected 9/11 conspirator gets 15 years, but could be out of prison in less than 10. Can human shield organizers be tried for war crimes?
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, what the police found during today’s search of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home, and why the missing woman’s family is so suspicious of Scott.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just thought he’d be doing everything he could, and it doesn’t seem like he’s doing all he can. So, that’s what leaves suspicion in my mind and in my family’s too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Also ahead, for the first time, a 9/11 suspect convicted. He lived with some of the hijackers, trained in an Afghanistan al Qaeda camp, and now stands convicted of over 3,000 counts of accessory to murder. So why could he be released in less than 10 years? We’ll talk to a victim’s relative who testified at the trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Over 100 Americans and Europeans heading to Iraq to serve as human shields. Could the people behind these efforts be tried for war crimes? We’ve got another great debate on the way.
ANNOUNCER: You’re watching America’s news channel, MSNBC. From the courtroom to the battlefield, the program about justice: THE ABRAMS REPORT. Now, here’s Dan.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. Police continuing to search the house of missing Modesto woman Laci Peterson today. Yesterday morning, they served her husband, Scott, with a search warrant, then scoured the property for nearly 10 hours. Police removed around 50 bags of evidence last night, and have just begun removing more evidence from the Peterson house.
Now before I tell you about my interview with Scott only moments ago, just to put it into context, yesterday in another exclusive interview, Scott’s mother, Jackie, told me she thinks the police are harassing her son, but a police spokesman said today they still hope to clear Scott.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would like to eliminate Scott from the investigation, and we’re trying to do that, and everything we do is either trying to eliminate him or connect him. It doesn’t just mean Scott, it’s other possibilities, that’s part of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Now, I just got off the phone with Scott Peterson a few minutes ago and I asked him whether he agreed with his mother that the police were harassing him. Here’s what he said.
Quote — I hope the police are doing everything they can to find Laci, and I trust that they are.”
Now when I asked him how he’s holding up emotionally, he told me — quote — “I am missing my wife and my child. I can’t drive, I can’t sleep. Sometimes I feel I just can’t do it. I feel like I’m in a dark corner, and I just can’t function.”
He would not answer any other questions about what they found, how he feels, what he said to them, except to repeatedly thank me for keeping Laci’s picture in the public eye and for continuing to follow the investigation. Ladies and gentlemen, he sounds like a broken man.
Let’s check in with KNTV’s Karen Brown, who is on the scene in Modesto, California. Karen, what have we seen there in the last couple of hours?
KAREN BROWN, KNTV-TV REPORTER: Dan, the activity has picked up here in the last couple of hours. Detectives showed up about 9:15 this morning. Fewer detectives than yesterday, but we are also told that district attorney investigators have been here. The district attorney has gone on record a few weeks ago saying that they would not need a body to prosecute a case such as this. He will not talk directly about the Peterson case, but this is what detectives showed up to this morning.
Take a look at this, more cameras than yesterday. The entire street here, Covena, has been shut down because there is so much of a media presence here, as well as spectators have shown up. Now, I also want to show you over here, Dan, if we can, the police tape that they put up earlier today. We are told it is to keep the media away from the house, but one investigator putting up this police tape said indeed they are considering this a crime scene.
The investigator, though, saying that it’s just to keep the media away. About 2:15 investigators did come out into that police van there. It is their crime scene mobile unit and put more evidence in, about 10 bags. They’re being very tight lipped about what they are taking. But we can tell you the sources tell NBC that among the things that they have taken into custody is a binder with photographs, a phone book, as well as a some Viagra. So here at the scene, they are being very tight lipped about what they are taking into custody, although police say they are making progress again today.
ABRAMS: Karen, we talk about the fact they’re tight lipped, but why would they release the fact that they’ve taken Viagra from his house, except to sort of be sticking it to Scott?
BROWN: There is a lot of talk of that out here on the street, that the police are definitely focusing on Scott Peterson and that this is indeed putting pressure on him. So, again, as you take a look behind me investigators are back inside the backyard. They’ve meticulously measured the perimeter of this house today, the front yard, the backyard, taking detailed measurements. So again, Dan, you’re right, a lot of talk out here that they are putting pressure on Scott Peterson, but on the record, police are saying that he is not an official suspect. They just have not been able to rule him out. And actually, that they would like to do just that.
ABRAMS: Well, Karen, didn’t you say — you said that one investigator told you that they are treating this as a crime scene now? I mean, we don’t know that Laci Peterson was necessarily abducted from her home.
BROWN: That is absolutely correct, Dan. A lot of semantics going on out here. Modesto P.D. being careful about their case. Again, as you know, if they have to build a case on circumstantial evidence, every little detail is crucial. So getting mixed signals, the official word is that the crime scene tape has been put to up to keep the media away. And as, again, Dan, if we could show you how many people are here, and this is just one side of the group here. On the other side of me is just about as many cameras, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) trucks everywhere.
BROWN: So, again, they’re not saying it is an official crime scene, but that everybody needs to stay out of this area as they take their measurements, as they gather their evidence and put together any kind of case they can.
ABRAMS: Yes, I’m sure the neighbors are all thrilled. Karen Brown, thank you very much for coming back on the program. And again, great job last night with that interview. Thanks again.
All right, let’s bring in forensic pathologist Michael Baden, the famous Michael Baden joins us. And former FBI profiler, also famous now, Clint Van Zandt. All right gentlemen…
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR. FBI PROFILER: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: … let me — Clint, what do you make of this? I mean…
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: … one investigator saying it’s a crime scene, they’re continuing to try and pretend like this is a missing person’s case. This is a crime scene, this is a criminal investigation, and they are, are they not, targeting Scott Peterson?
VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, we’re semantics here, Dan. You know, are they targeting Scott Peterson? I mean, this is a guy, Dan, who continues to shoot himself in the foot and wonder why he’s bleeding. You know, he’s got a relationship outside of marriage, now we’re tying Viagra into that. Who knows what that means, and who cares at this point? But we’ve got a guy, Dan, who sells his wife’s vehicle, who supposedly is going to sell the house, takes out a life insurance policy, runs down to Mexico for work or whatever.
You know, I notice now, Dan, he’s grown a mustache and he’s grown a beard. You know, I’ve worked with the families of kidnapped victims for years and the one thing they do is always do is keep everything constant because when their loved one comes home they believe they want everything to be the same. This guy has changed everything.
It’s like he’s closed the book and he’s moving on with his life. He says one thing, he does another…
VAN ZANDT: … and that’s what bothers me about him, Dan.
ABRAMS: It was kind of odd when I spoke to him today, again, asking him the question about the police and the harassment and his response was, you know, again, that the police are — could we put up the quote again from Scott Peterson, the first one, where he talks about the police doing everything they can to find Laci and he trusts — “I hope the police are doing everything they can to find Laci and I trust that they are.”
You know, look, I’m not going to necessarily say that what this means. It just felt like a kind of odd response. Michael Baden, I just want to let you know we’re trying to fix your video. I’m going to come to you any minute. We’re just having a little trouble with your video there. We’re going to correct that. Let me — in the meantime, let me let you listen to what the spokesman for the Modesto police had to say today, a lot of people are saying is this the break in the case? Does this mean there’s going to be an arrest. Here’s what he said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. DOUG RIDENOUR, MODESTO POLICE SPOKESMAN: There is no planned press conferences or anything breaking that we’re aware of, no imminent arrest, any of that type of thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He also said earlier there was no specific break in the case. All right, Michael Baden, I think you’re good and you’re with us. What do you make of this?
MICHAEL BADEN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Certainly, one can’t eliminate Scott by going to his house. The only reason they’d be going to his house is not to eliminate him. There’s nothing they can find there that will exclude him, and I think that what they’re doing is trying to get as much information as they can. There may be some evidence that they have that she was injured in the house. They’ll be looking at all the traps, all the water, the bathtub.
ABRAMS: But why now?
ABRAMS: They did a search back at the end of December. I mean, this is their second search. Now almost two months later you’re going to tell me suddenly they’re saying to themselves, oh, we should probably do this stuff?
BADEN: Well, I think what may have happened is as a result of the first search, the crime labs has been working on a lot of stuff, they may have found certain kinds of blood drops or DNA or they may have gotten a tip from somebody from — who call is calling in tips from another person, to indicate that there’s something there that they didn’t evaluate the first time around, and that’s why they’re going back. They’re not going back there to eliminate him.
ABRAMS: All right, let me take a quick break. We’ll have more on the Laci Peterson investigation, more on the items they’re finding, and more on the question of whether Scott Peterson is being harassed as his mother claims.
Also ahead, first person to stand trial for making 9/11 happen was sentenced today. He was a member of the al Qaeda terror cell that masterminded the attacks. He received weapons training in a camp run by Osama bin Laden, he wired money to the hijackers and now he can serve less than 10 years behind bars?
Tell us what you think about the show. Send us an e-mail, email@example.com.
ANNOUNCER: You’re watching the program about justice, from the courtroom to the battlefield.
ABRAMS: As more so-called human shields head to sensitive sites in Iraq laying their lives down in the streets of Baghdad to try and stop a possible war, our top military leaders is warning that those who deploy them could be charged with war crimes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKIE PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON’S MOTHER: Scott is a victim in this. We’re talking about Laci’s family, Laci’s family. It’s Scott Peterson, her husband, who is missing his wife and baby. And I think people need to start remembering that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That was Jackie Peterson yesterday in an exclusive interview on this program defending her son, you know, as any mother would, and she’s convinced that her son is being unfairly targeted. Says that she thinks that the Modesto Police Department are now harassing Scott, and that he is, you know, the victim, not a possible suspect.
All right, before I go back to our guests, we’ve been talking about why this all looks like they are targeting Scott Peterson. Very quickly, Michael Baden, what kind of evidence do you think — I mean, they’re carting out the boxes with these photo albums and a key from the Super Bowl and his truck. It all seems to me these are all items that he’s obtained since Laci went missing, meaning, it won’t necessarily be blood, but items that he’s been involved in since she disappeared.
BADEN: Yes, maybe they’re looking for things that a girlfriend may have given him, that sort of thing. But as far as the — whether or not Laci is alive or not, they may be looking for the clothing that somebody says he wore on the day that Laci disappeared, even though it’s gone through a washer, evidence may still be on it. They’ll be looking for blood that may have been washed away on a rug, because even though a rug may have a lot of blood on it and washed away, it will still show blood.
They may be looking for blood in the interstices of the floorboards. They may be — they should be looking for the drainage pipes from the sink and the bathtub. Supposing there was a dismemberment in the bathtub, there may be tissues in the drainpipe. They may be digging up the cellar floor to see if there’s any evidence there. There’s all kinds of things they’d be looking for, mostly to determine whether or not Laci was injured in that house.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Clint.
VAN ZANDT: Yes, there’s other things, of course, that the investigator is looking for, Dan. They’re going to establish — you know, like if you go to the hospital and you get an EKG and they run multiple lines, they want to check different things on you, the investigators are doing the same thing. They’ve established a timeline for Laci from before she was kidnapped until the time she was kidnapped or went missing let’s say.
Same thing with Scott. Where have you been before? Where did you go afterwards? Now, if I was part of that investigative team, I’d be back looking for financial records, credit card receipts…
ABRAMS: And they went through — Scott was going through with them his calendar…
VAN ZANDT: Absolutely.
ABRAMS: … we know with the police explaining to them where he was on particular dates.
VAN ZANDT: Because if he says he was at point “A” on the day she disappeared or a week before or a week after, and it turns out the police find evidence he was really at point “B” or he was at someplace else they didn’t know about, they’re going say, you know, Scott why didn’t you tell us you were at this other location? And, perhaps, then that’s someplace they have to go look for additional clues for this investigation trying to find this poor woman.
ABRAMS: All right, we will continue to follow this investigation, continue our exclusive interviews on this program, and continue to get the best guests like Michael Baden and Clint Van Zandt. Gentlemen, thanks very much, appreciate it.
Coming up, a 9/11 conspirator sentenced today, charged with being an accessory in the murder of over 3,000 people — everyone killed on 9/11. A member of the al Qaeda terror cell, masterminded the attacks. He received weapons training in a camp run by bin Laden, even wired money to the hijackers. But now he can be out in less than 10 years. What is going on?
ABRAMS: Finally, someone has been convicted of helping the 9/11 hijackers plot their attack on America. The trial was held in Germany and under German law, Mounir el Motassadeq could wind up spending less time in prison than, for example, Mercedes murderer Clara Harris, convicted of a sudden passion murder of her husband in Texas. She got 20 years.
She’ll have to serve at least 10 before she’s up for parole. Motassadeq got 10 years and could serve less than nine. He argued he was just normal friends with the 9/11 killers. A panel of five German judges didn’t buy it. Found him guilty of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder, five counts of attempted murder, and belonging to a terrorist organization, al Qaeda.
And prosecutors say he organized logistics, lodging, bank transfers for the cell including money for flight training in the U.S., that he trained in an al Qaeda terror camp in Afghanistan, shared an apartment with lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, and witnessed Atta’s will, I guess if you’re a terrorist that’s what friends are for.
International law expert and Johns Hopkins Professor Ruth Wedgewood joins us. Ruth, the court sentenced Motassadeq to the maximum for accessory to murder, but 15 years seems pretty pathetic. And if he behaves in prison he could get out in something like eight years nine months.
RUTH WEDGEWOOD, INTERNATIONAL LAW EXPERT: You do wonder what we’re supposed to do in eight years and nine months. By American standards, a 15-year sentence for this kind of a crime of a mere 3,000 counts of murder is very lenient indeed and even in the southern district of New York, one would expect at least a life sentence.
ABRAMS: So what happens? Let’s assume for a moment that he gets out in eight years and nine months or nine years, can the U.S. be waiting at the doorstep of that prison cell to arrest him and bring him back here and try him here?
WEDGEWOOD: Well, I’d put a detainer on him for sure. You can make the argument that since there’s a different sovereignty involved that U.S. double jeopardy law would permit his retrial on murder counts here. We have conspiracy also and I think that civil law countries like Germany have a more demanding standard for what it means to be part of a crime, whereas in the U.S. simply agreeing to a criminal enterprise (UNINTELLIGIBLE) can make you guilty of everything to that criminal conspiracy thereafter does. And frankly, also in nine years’ time, some of these current intelligence problems will have resolved themselves, and you probably could give him access to Binalshibh at that point and not have any claim…
ABRAMS: Let’s back up and explain what the issue — I mean…
ABRAMS: … the bottom line is — this is one of the cases where the U.S. and Germany were a little bit at odds as to how much the U.S. was going to help the German prosecutors, right?
WEDGEWOOD: We gave the Germans an intelligence portfolio on what Binalshibh had said. This is a senior al Qaeda person who the defense and Germany thought might corroborate some kind of distancing of this gentleman from the logistics of the cell. And the proviso, as intelligence agencies usually insist upon, was that that portfolio would not be disclosed, and the German judges got upset about the fact that the portfolio couldn’t be given to the defense.
ABRAMS: Why is — I mean, you explain the bottom — the requirements being different in Germany, but you know, I’m getting the sense that there’s not a sense of outrage in this nation, there’s not a sense of outrage in Germany. I mean, this is a guy who’s assisting in plotting 9/11 and we’re talking about a pretty lenient sentence. I mean, where’s the outrage?
WEDGEWOOD: Well, European sentences tend to be more lenient, but frankly, even by the standards of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal that sits in the Hague, General Blaskich (ph) of Eurasia, who did some ethnic cleansing in Central Bosnia that was nickel and dime compared to this got a sentence of 45 years. So, it’s a very lenient sentence. Whether it’s because of the intelligence problem or mischarging or just the need for substantive reform of German law, it’s hard to say.
ABRAMS: Yes, this is — and apparently this is an — again, ladies and gentlemen, this is the maximum he could have faced. Ruth Wedgewood, if you could stick around. I’ve got another topic I want to check in with you.
But in next half hour, we’re going to talk to the husband of a 9/11 victim who testified against Motassadeq at the trial. Stephen Push’s wife was on the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon. He sat face to face with the man who helped kill his wife.
Plus, could the people who are organizing the efforts to send human shields to Iraq be charged themselves with war crimes?
ABRAMS: Coming up, we’ve been talking about it, the first verdict against a 9/11 plotter, a member of the al Qaeda cell that masterminded the attacks, trained in a camp run by bin Laden, and he could be out in less than 10 years. We’re going to talk to man who testified in that trial, a victim, first, the latest news.
ABRAMS: Coming up, more on the very first conviction of a 9/11 conspirator. The husband of a victim on board one of the hijacked planes testified against him and will join us live. What was it like for Stephen Push to face down one of the men responsible for killing his wife?
And those human shields in Iraq, top American military brass saying today that anyone who deploys the people there could face war crimes. Sure, that’s a message for Saddam, but shouldn’t it also include the organizers of the effort?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Deploying human shields is not a military strategy, it’s murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: But they still say it’s their right to do it.
ANNOUNCER: You’re watching America’s news channel, MSNBC. From the courtroom to the battlefield, the program about justice: THE ABRAMS REPORT.
ABRAMS: All right, welcome back. We’re talking again about the first conviction of a 9/11 plotter. It happened today, Mounir Motassadeq, a 28-year-old Moroccan, convicted of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder, belonging to a terrorist organization, apparently a key member of the Hamburg cell, provided money, logistics, support to the killers. He was sentenced to the max, 15 years in prison, but his sentence could be reduced to a minimum of 10 years with another 15 months off for good behavior.
I’m joined by Stephen Push, who lost his wife Lisa in the Pentagon attack. He’s also the treasurer of the Families for September 11, a nonprofit group that advocates for the victims’ family members, and he testified in this trial. Mr. Push, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
STEPHEN PUSH, WIFE DIED IN 9/11 ATTACKS: You’re welcome.
ABRAMS: How frustrated were you at the fact that the maximum sentence here was 15 years where he could get out in less than 10?
PUSH: I was shocked and angered two months ago when I found out that under the charge that they felt they could convict him on, the maximum sentence was 15 years. But that’s a fault of the criminal statutes in Germany. I don’t hold that against the judges or the prosecutors in this case who did the best they could with what they had and won a conviction and gave him the maximum sentence that they could.
ABRAMS: How was it for you to be sitting in that courtroom face to face with a man who was in part responsible for your wife’s death?
PUSH: It was very strange. He showed no emotion throughout the testimony that I and other family members gave. He — and his final pleadings after we left, he said that he was very moved by our testimony, but he showed no emotion at all that I could see. And in fact, at one point, when I wasn’t watching him, I mentioned that my wife’s memorial service was at a synagogue, and when I said that one of the reporters told me that he smiled.
ABRAMS: Really? And you know, I should quote him for a moment. One witness testified that he said that “Jews will die and we will all dance on their graves.” I’m — it’s just hard for me to believe now — you know, look, you’ve been following this since the beginning, we’ve been following this to a certain degree, but the fact that this guy is going to be — could be out in less than 10 years, what are you going to do when he’s released?
PUSH: I’m going — well, I’m going to ask the U.S. government to extradite him and try him on the same charges here in the United States. My understanding is that if they don’t seek the death penalty, they can get an extradition from Germany, or if the defendant is stupid enough to go back to his home country of Morocco, we may be able to extradite him without taking the death penalty off the table.
ABRAMS: Stephen Push, I’ll make one commitment to you. If I still have a program at that time, this is a long time from now, but if I still have a program, I promise you I will be all over that story and we’ll join you in that effort…
PUSH: Thank you.
ABRAMS: … to have him extradited. I just find this to be appalling that someone involved in plotting 9/11 could be out of prison in less than 10 years. You know, you can’t count on my career, but you can count on me, so I’ll be there for you if I still have the opportunity.
PUSH: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Thank you very much, Stephen. It’s always good to have you on the program. I appreciate it.
PUSH: You’re welcome.
ABRAMS: As we speak, dozens of Americans who oppose a possible war with Iraq are in Baghdad to act as so-called human shields. These protesters doing voluntarily, obviously risking their lives. Yesterday we talked about whether the shields could be charged with crimes if they survived. What about the people who are helping to organize the effort? Does this comment today from the Joint Chiefs chairman tell us what might happen to them?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN JOINTS CHIEF OF STAFF: It is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets, even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Iraqi actions to do so would not only violate this law, but could be a — it could be considered a war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, so clearly Saddam could be tried as a war criminal if these voluntary human shields are quote — “deployed and killed”. But what about the groups who are sending the protesters there? They are in effect deploying these human shields in Iraq, are they not?
Joining us once again, Professor Ruth Wedgewood, along with Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and Van Jones, attorney for the United for Peace and Justice Network. All right, thank you everyone for joining us.
Professor Wedgewood, let me start with you. Give us the overview of the law here. Can any of these organizers who are in effect deploying human shields in Iraq be charged with war crimes?
WEDGEWOOD: Well, in a common sense way it’s very much like assisted suicide. There’s a very strong principle in the law of war that whether or not you agree with the purpose of the war, you should still allow the war to be fought the right way, and the distinction between military targets and civilians is fundamental. So, it is a war crime to deliberately place civilians around a military target in order to shield that target. It’s not a legitimate way of protesting the purpose of a war.
ABRAMS: Van Jones, what do you make of that?
VAN JONES, ATTY, PEACE AND JUSTICE NETWORK: Well, first of all, I disagree. There are two things that we have to be clear about. First of all, there is no specific provision of the War Crimes Act that these people are violating. So, just because Rumsfeld doesn’t like it or somebody in that White House doesn’t like it doesn’t make it unlawful.
So, first of all, we have to be very clear that they aren’t violating any law that pertains to them. The Geneva Accords apply to states. The U.S. War Crimes Act applies to individuals. They aren’t violating any provision of that.
Number two, even if there were a law created for this purpose, it would be unconstitutional. These people are expressing their First Amendment rights to the expression of association in travel.
Third, even if such a law were not unconstitutional, which this law doesn’t even exist, if one were to create it, and it were to pass constitutional muster, these people have a defense and the defense is the defense of necessity, the necessity to prevent a greater harm, which in this case is the murder of, you know, thousands of innocent Iraqis.
ABRAMS: You know the necessity defense would be rejected, though, right? I mean, let’s assume for a minute that you know that no court, no jury would accept the necessity defense…
JONES: But there’s no law that they can be charged with violating…
ABRAMS: Separate issue…
JONES: They’re not violating…
JONES: … they’re not violating any U.S. law now. And one problem that we have…
JONES: … just to finish — we — you know, Rumsfeld wants to throw out the international law to attack Iraq, he wants to throw out domestic law to attack U.S. citizens, and he’s wrong on both counts.
ABRAMS: All right, go — I know both of you want to jump in. Go ahead Jay.
JAY SEKULOW, AMERICAN CTR. FOR LAW & JUSTICE: Yes, let me say this first, there’s no First Amendment issue here. I do a lot of work with the First Amendment and this is not a First Amendment case. They’re overseas, they’re in a hostile territory and basically, they’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which, by the way, under the definitions of law is treason, so that’s number one.
Number two, the Geneva Convention states, and I’m going to read from Article 28, Section 4, in international conflicts civilians may not be used to protect areas from military operations. If…
SEKULOW: If the leadership of these groups is working in hand, toe-to-toe so to speak, with the leadership of Iraq, I think they do have Geneva conflict violations here…
SEKULOW: … and let me say third, with regard to the issue of enemy combatants here, if, in fact, they take any aggressive action, I mean aggressive, it could be, you know, trying to block tanks entering into Baghdad, U.S. troops involved, they are then putting themselves at risk to be enemy combatants. And as we’ve talked about on this program before, that raises a whole host of issues and the fact that they’re U.S. citizens does not shield them.
JONES: Well first of all, the government has already taken off the table whether or not the human shields are combatants. They’ve already declared them to be noncombatants, so that’s off the table. The other thing, which you have to deal with is you’re misreading the Geneva Accords. What you just read applies to states. It does not…
JONES: … apply to individual…
SEKULOW: But it also applies…
ABRAMS: All right…
ABRAMS: … let me let the professor answer that one. Hold on — that issue, I’ll get back to you, Mr. Jones, I promise. Ruth Wedgewood, what about that? I mean, people do interpret the Geneva Convention as applying to states and not individuals, so the argument goes, according to…
WEDGEWOOD: That’s not right.
ABRAMS: … Mr. Jones, you can’t apply it to individuals.
WEDGEWOOD: Treaties are signed by states, but they govern everybody who’s on the territory of the state signatory and you cannot shield a military. Whatever your motivation, however…
WEDGEWOOD: … conscientious, you can’t shield a military target with a human…
JONES: You’re leaving the noun out. A state can’t do it, but individual…
SEKULOW: No, but individuals working with the state that are working with…
SEKULOW: … are violating the Geneva Convention.
ABRAMS: But Jay…
ABRAMS: But Jay, the problem — we’re going to take a break here, but I’m going to ask Jay about this after the break. The problem is and this may sound like a legal technicality, but it’s important…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s not.
ABRAMS: … is how do you relate the fact — you have to prove that they’re working with Iraq as opposed to working with some, you know, group out there who wants to stick these people in these sensitive sites to prevent some war. I think they’re going to have a hard time with that. They may not have a hard time, though, charging these — I think they might have an easier time charging them with treason. Anyway, we’re going to come back. More on this topic, human shields, take a break.
ABRAMS: Coming up, why City Council should stop wasting their time passing resolutions about Iraq. And who will be charged with crimes if and when the American human shields get killed in Iraq, and what if they make it back alive? That’s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: These are not tactics of war. They are crimes of war. Deploying human shields is not a military strategy, it’s murder, the violation of the laws of armed conflict and a crime against humanity, and it will be treated as such.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, it’s obvious that that applies to Saddam Hussein. If Saddam Hussein uses human shields and he’s captured alive, he’s going to be tried as a war criminal, as will anyone who works with him in that effort. The question we’re asking hereis, what about these Americans, these Europeans who are sending over these American and European human shields?
JONES: They’re heroes.
ABRAMS: Could that — well, all right.
JONES: They’re not criminals, they’re heroes.
ABRAMS: All right, Van, before I even get to the intro, Van Jones is jumping in, describing them as heroes. But Ruth Wedgewood, look, apart from the fact that almost everyone doesn’t view them as heroes at all, and everyone in this country particular views the idea of them getting into soldiers’ ways — soldiers’ way in Iraq is extremely disturbing to say the least. Is it a crime, again, Van makes the point that generally this applies to states. I want to know can these organizers, yes or no, be charged with some sort of war crime for sending these people over to Iraq to serve as human shields?
WEDGEWOOD: Well, it’s new territory, but what you keep in mind that the actions they’re taking are going to be carried out in Iraq. So it’s not simply federal, criminal law that would apply, whatever the 1996 War Crimes Act provides or not, there’s going to be a war crimes tribunal in Iraq. And the dilemma that they put servicemen in is the attempt to force them to hold their fire on a legitimate military target by putting themselves as a moral target in front of that…
WEDGEWOOD: … valid military target…
ABRAMS: … and Jay, you and I talked yesterday about the idea of the human shields themselves. I was just — I just felt that they should be charged with something if they make it back to this country and they in any way interfere with our soldiers there. But what do you make of this issue of the organizers, the people who are in effect deploying them there?
SEKULOW: I think the reason it could fall within the Geneva Convention and the War Crimes Act generally is the fact that we know that if American citizens go to Iraq that the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein is not going to let them just run throughout the land. They’re going to control where they are, the government will deploy them, and the leadership, then, of these groups is in cohort. They’re working with them and that violates the Geneva Convention.
Remember, it was the illegal underground in some of the Nazi cases where the Nazis had not just their armed troops and their uniform troops that were tried in the war crime, the war tribunal…
ABRAMS: Van Jones, that’s a very interesting point, and I think a good point, and that is that Saddam Hussein is going to in effect be signing off on wherever these human shields are going and that sounds to me like they’re in cahoots with Saddam, war crime.
JONES: Well that’s not — my understanding is that they actually are not in cahoots with Saddam Hussein. Why are these young people there? First of all…
ABRAMS: But that’s a separate issue…
ABRAMS: It is a separate issue of why they’re there.
JONES: … the young people are not there to support Saddam Hussein. The young people are not there because they’re fans of Saddam Hussein.
ABRAMS: But why they’re going is not the issue…
ABRAMS: It is not the issue. If they are there…
ABRAMS: … and they’re interfering with the soldiers, the question I want to know, are the people who are sending them there, who are organizing this, who are deploying them, Jay makes a very good point — that is Saddam Hussein controls this country. They are not going to be able to walk at their leisure on the streets of Baghdad.
JONES: What we do know about — right now this is our conjecture — what we do know about these young people is this. They are the only voice of sanity that we have heard for quite a while in this debate. We have been crushed between the rush to violence by Bush and the rush to violence…
ABRAMS: You’re not answering my question…
JONES: And what these young people represent is a third way out for the whole human…
SEKULOW: But this is not a First Amendment case.
SEKULOW: This isn’t about the First Amendment.
JONES: Well first of all…
SEKULOW: They’re not exercising First Amendment rights in Iraq. I assure you, they don’t have a First Amendment freedom of speech protection.
SEKULOW: They’re interfering with possible military action, and that is serious and is criminal.
WEDGEWOOD: Dan, if I can add, you’re not allowed to veto a war by shielding military targets.
JONES: It’s not a question…
WEDGEWOOD: If Saddam is shooting at us, and we can’t shoot back because some unhappy young soul has put himself in front of the military target, that is…
JONES: Well Professor Wedgewood…
WEDGEWOOD: … asymmetric conflict, it’s not considered…
JONES: Professor Wedgewood…
JONES: … when I was a student of yours at Yale, you were a lot more precise with your language than you are on this program. You and I both know that the state of — the United States has to consider proportionality and necessity when there are civilians who are potentially targets in a U.S. bombing run or…
ABRAMS: Hang on — wait a second…
ABRAMS: Let him finish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let’s talk law.
JONES: The presence of civilians does not prevent the — any military action. It does raise the question of proportionality and necessity.
ABRAMS: All right…
JONES: The reality is that the reason that Rumsfeld is so upset is that he knows that he is going to be launching…
ABRAMS: All right…
JONES: … missiles at civilian targets.
ABRAMS: All right, let me…
ABRAMS: … let professor…
ABRAMS: Let me let your…
ABRAMS: … let me let your professor respond because I’m almost out of time. Professor, tell your student what the real deal is here.
WEDGEWOOD: No, in real life, indeed, you have to make a judgment about proportionality, i.e. the relative military value of the target and the relative damage to civilians every time you target. But by trying to up the ante and putting, say, 500 civilians to shield a tank…
JONES: It’s not a crime.
WEDGEWOOD: … it’s weighting that unfairly and…
JONES: That’s not a crime.
WEDGEWOOD: … private action is covered under the laws of war. It’s customary…
SEKULOW: It’s certainly treason.
WEDGEWOOD: … law as well as treaty law.
SEKULOW: … giving aid and comfort to the enemy…
SEKULOW: … which is a standard of treason.
JONES: Not under the…
ABRAMS: I think it may be…
ABRAMS: I — well, maybe not, but I think…
ABRAMS: … it may actually become treason…
ABRAMS: I think it may become treason as Jay Sekulow points out. All right, Ruth Wedgewood, Jay Sekulow, Van Jones, thank you all very much…
SEKULOW: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: … for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
WEDGEWOOD: Bye Dan.