Executive Forum on Terrorism Trials a Promising First for CHHS
From July 29 – August 2, 2013, CHHS worked with the U.S. Department of State, Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) on an Executive Forum entitled “Prosecuting Terrorism and Organized Crime in the Philippines.” Six judges and ten prosecutors representing all regions of the Philippines traveled to Washington, D.C. through an ATA program to meet with leading experts on prosecuting terrorism and organized crime. CHHS Founder and Director Michael Greenberger led the program with support from myself and Senior Law & Policy Analysts Trudy Henson and Mike Vesely.
CHHS has worked with ATA on over a dozen Senior Crisis Management Seminars for countries around the world, but this was the first program focused on these legal issues. Because this was a new topic, CHHS staff worked with the program manager to develop the forum from the ground up, securing experts and putting together a curriculum of events that would meet the needs of the delegation.
Over the course of the week, the delegation met with six Federal judges from across the country who spoke to them about their experiences in presiding over terrorism and complicated criminal trials. Three of these judges met with the delegation in their respective courthouses – the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Members of the delegation were able to discuss topics of key interest to them including speedy trial procedures, prosecuting cases with multiple defendants, and courthouse security.
The forum included several other discussions and presentations including a panel of prominent defense attorneys who have represented individuals charged with crimes relating to terrorism. The panel discussed the human rights and civil liberty concerns that go along with cases involving suspected terrorists and the motions and objections they are likely to make in these types of cases. They also heard from a former top Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official who discussed intelligence gathering and analysis, and two cyber security experts presented on cyber crimes and terrorists’ use of the internet to conduct traditional acts of terrorism.
Some of the highlights of the week were the site visits to Federal agencies. The delegation spent a full day at the Department of Justice speaking with some of the country’s top prosecutors about counterterrorism intelligence, witness protection, international cooperation in fighting terrorism, terrorism financing, and procedures for obtaining search warrants. They also toured the U.S. Supreme Court and received a full briefing on the Court’s role and procedures from the Supreme Court Fellow. Finally, they spent a morning at FBI headquarters speaking to lawyers and agents about intelligence gathering and law enforcement/prosecutor cooperation in building cases.
The week was a great experience for both the delegation from the Philippines and the subject matter experts from the U.S. Both countries were able to share best practices and discuss ways they could each improve their processes in investigating and prosecuting terrorists and gangs. CHHS is looking forward to continuing a close relationship with the delegation from the Philippines and we certainly hope to work with ATA on similar forums for other countries in the near future.