With today’s “unleashing [of] a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea,” global eyes in this endless “war on terror” are clearly focused on Syria today. But take a look at the front page of the New York Times this morning, and you might be struck instead by coverage of another avenue available to stop terror, or at least terrorizing circumstances - lawsuits!
First, a jury has for the first time, found a bank liable for damages “for knowingly supporting terrorism efforts connected to two dozen attacks in the Middle East.” Writes the Times,
Arab Bank, a major Middle Eastern bank with $46 billion in assets, was accused of knowingly supporting specific terrorist acts in and around Israel during the second Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s.
The verdict is expected to have a strong impact on similar legal efforts to hold financial institutions responsible for wrongdoing by their clients, even if the institutions followed banking rules, and could be seen as a deterrent for banks that conduct business in violent areas.
Later in the article, we learn some of what the jury did and didn’t hear:
The bank refused to turn over a large number of the requested documents in the case, citing the privacy laws of the countries where it does business. As a result, a judge who oversaw the case issued sanctions, including one that prevented Arab Bank from telling the jury why it withheld those documents, though the plaintiffs were free to tell the jury that the documents had been held back.
The bank then asked the Supreme Court to overturn the sanctions. The Obama administration was split: The State Department pushed for Supreme Court intervention; Jordan, where the bank has its headquarters, is a loyal ally, officials there said. Others wanted the court to stay out of it: Tax and treasury officials did not want banks to hide behind foreign bank-secrecy laws in their investigations, and other justice divisions felt that the department should not be intervening against American victims of terrorist attacks.
The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and it went to trial with a version of the sanctions in place. Along with the ruling about document withholding, those sanctions specified that jurors “may, but are not required to, infer” that the defendant provided financial services to Hamas, and that the defendant did so knowingly, according to instructions from the judge, Brian M. Cogan.
The case now goes to the Second Circuit. In light of all this, the bank's attorneys believe they have a good case. We’ll be watching.
Turning to the terrifying world of U.S. prisons, specifically New York’s Rikers Island, we have one very angry U.S. Attorney who has now, “criticized the [New York City Mayor Bill] de Blasio administration for the first time, suggesting that New York officials were not moving quickly enough to make reforms at Rikers and warning that his office stood ready to file a civil rights lawsuit against the city to force changes.” This all comes in the wake of yesterday’s New York Times story, “which revealed that key portions of a report on violence at Rikers had been withheld from federal investigators and that officials involved in reporting distorted data were promoted.” Specifically,
A dozen investigators eventually produced a confidential report, obtained by The New York Times, which concluded that hundreds of inmate fights had been omitted from departmental statistics; that the warden, William Clemons, and the deputy warden, Turhan Gumusdere, had “abdicated all responsibility” in reporting the statistics and that both should be demoted.
Here’s more of what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said yesterday:
If, as has been reported, incomplete and inaccurate information has been provided to us, and questionable promotions may have occurred, it does not instill confidence in us that the City will quickly meet its constitutional obligations. We are not, at this early stage, jumping to conclusions about the City’s commitment to change, and our dialogue is ongoing. However, now that the 49-day waiting period has elapsed and all options are available to us, we stand ready to take legal action to compel long-overdue reforms at Rikers, if that becomes necessary to get the job done.
Read those New York Times articles for a full understanding of prison terror in our own back yard. And here's another lesson - withholding information usually backfires. Just ask, I dunno, the tobacco industry, Richard Nixon, General Motors...