On Thursday [Feb 16th] Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka “the underwear bomber”, received the maximum sentence, and now faces a life in prison for attempting to blow up a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Abdulmutallab, who had represented himself for most of the court proceedings, offered a guilty plea back in October, and so it might seem that the case against Abdulmutallab was an open and shut one. This is very much the way most of the news channels and press agencies have reported on his trial. Here, for instance, is a report from Reuters after his sentencing:
But the full story of Abdulmutallab’s trial is a great deal more complicated than it first appears, and to understand a little of what’s been going on behind the scenes, we need to go back to October.
I will begin with what the BBC news reported on October 11th:
A Nigerian man accused of an attempting to bomb a Detroit-bound flight with explosives sewn into his underwear has arrived at a Detroit court for trial.
Although I say that this BBC report is from October 11th, if you search for it, you won’t find it (or at least I can’t), but will instead discover to a different article which appears to be a revised version. Does this matter? Well, the original BBC report, which is quoted above (and which I happened to have saved as a copy on my hard drive) continues as follows:
The 24-year-old is officially representing himself, after firing a team of four lawyers appointed by the Detroit Federal Defender office last year.
Mr Chambers is the “standby counsel” appointed by a federal judge.
He told the Associated Press news agency he had been authorised by Mr Abdulmutallab to deliver the opening statement.
Mr Chambers said his client was “driving the bus” on the ultimate decisions made in the courtroom.
“His self-representation certainly makes it more difficult strategically. But we’re doing the best we can with what we have to work with.”
Whereas in the current version this part is substantially reduced, as follows:
Mr Abdulmutallab is representing himself in this trial. He has been appointed a standby lawyer, Anthony Chambers, but Mr Chambers said his client was “driving the bus” in the trial.
He also conceded self-representation made the case “more difficult strategically”.
The new version therefore fails to recall the sudden and dramatic turn of events in the lead up to the trial when Abdulmutallab had suddenly fired his team of lawyers. The new wording diverting attention from questions about why he might have done this, and what impact this undoubtedly had on the outcome of his trial.
Kurt and Lori Haskell are two lawyers who have paid very close attention to the unfolding saga in the weeks and months prior to Abdulmutallab’s trial. They had a very personal reason for this. Both were aboard the same Christmas Day flight, sat just a few rows back from where Abdulmutallab had attempted to detonate his device. They were eyewitnesses to the attack and, just as importantly, to the events leading up to the attack.
They had personally witnessed Abdulmutallab being helped on to the plane without a visa and, not surprisingly, they wanted to know the reason for this. So their first surprise was to discover that the US authorities refused to accept either of their accounts, and were entirely dismissive of what ought to have been regarded as important eyewitness testimony. Why on earth wouldn’t the authorities be interested in following up their reports, which might very well have led to the uncovering of a much wider plot?
If you type ‘kurt haskell’ into the BBC search engine you find the familiar: Sorry, there are no results for ‘kurt haskell’ in the category ‘News’. The same search does, however, bring up a link from BBC news to ABC news, which mentions Haskell in its own report on sentencing of Abdulmutallab on Friday Feb 17th:
Kurt Haskell, a Michigan lawyer, praised Mason for damping the flames and also criticized what he characterized as lax security that allowed Abdulmutallab to get on the plane. Haskell, who has long promoted a conspiracy theory that asserts the U.S. government was complicit in the attack, repeated his assertion. “I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. agent to stage a false terrorist attack.”2
And this has been the mainstream media’s response almost since the beginning. Like the US authorities, the media simply haven’t wanted to know. Instead we hear that Kurt and Lori Haskell are ‘promoting a conspiracy theory’. It doesn’t matter that they are both key witnesses. It doesn’t matter that they are also lawyers with a reputation to preserve and nothing at all to gain by sticking to their account (which hasn’t changed since the day of the attack). And to get some idea of just how tenaciously the Haskells have pursued the truth, I advise you to read through the many posts on their own blog, or else read my own overview in an earlier post.
But now I come back to the question of why Abdulmutallab may have dismissed his appointed legal team. Here were Kurt Haskell’s thoughts just about a month prior to the trial [Sept 13th]:
Where are we now? We now have The Underwear Bomber (Umar) representing himself with the help of standby attorney Chambers. Attorney Chambers has indicated to me that if he were Umar’s attorney, that the defense would be entrapment and that I would be a key witness. Of course, such a defense would expose the U.S. Government’s involvement in the plot. It is much too convenient to have Umar represent himself and be in charge of what the defense will be, what evidence is presented, what witnesses are called and what questions each witness is asked. A trial with Umar representing himself will leave the relevant facts of this case unknown for generations.
I have quoted this before in my earlier post on the case, which I’d entitled “key witnesses will be excluded from the trial of the underwear bomber”. Soon afterwards, however, some hugely significant developments led to perhaps the most remarkable episode of all – and here is something else that the mainstream media has entirely failed to report on. So let’s forward move to Kurt Haskell’s post on October 6th , which was also the last day of jury selection. It was entitled “Looks like I’ll be a witness for the defense in the underwear bomber case”:
Today was the day for final jury selection in the Underwear Bomber case. I watched some of it on Tuesday and I was interested to see which jurors were picked. The final jury was set to be picked today at 1:30. I adjusted my schedule so that I could be down there at 1:30 today. I had a trial a few blocks away that was due to last until around 1:00 today. My plan was to head over there when I finished my trial. As my trial was ending, I got the following text from my brother “I hear that you will be testifying in the underwear bomber case”. This was news to me as my status as a witness was undetermined as of Tuesday. I gave my brother a call and he said he heard on the radio, that stand-by Anthony Chambers said in court this morning that I would be testifying. While walking to Federal Court to watch final jury selection, I ran into someone that works with stand-by attorney Chambers. He told me that final jury selection was done as it didn’t take as long as expected. He also told me that it was Umar that said he would call me as a witness, not Chambers. He then said Chambers is right there, go talk to him and he pointed across the street. Chambers was standing on the sidewalk across the street. I talked to Chambers for a minute and we agreed to talk again soon. He said I won’t be testifying for approximately another month as the trial is supposed to be lengthy.
Does Kurt Haskell have any further proof that he was about to be called as a witness? Well, there is a link to an article (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/10/05/2666662/final-jury-pool-settled-in-underwear.html)
by Ed White that Kurt Haskell describes as a ‘hatchet job’, but that now seems to have been removed altogether. Kurt Haskell writes:
Note, however, in the above article, Chambers indicates that I may be the only defense witness called. How ironic is it that I will have Umar’s life in my hands just as Umar had my life in his hands (or underwear) on Christmas Day 2009? I will be up to the task. I realize that some may not agree with me and may attempt to harm me. Nevertheless, I will speak the truth and not be intimidated.
Click here to read the full post.
But then roll forward just a week [to Oct 13th], and you’ll find this post by Lori Haskell:
Trial for the Underwear Bomber started this week, on Tuesday. Since neither Kurt or I had been contacted about being witnesses or being sequestered from the courtroom, we decided to head down to the trial in the hopes of being able to observe. Seats were reserved for all victims, and we really wanted to be there as much as possible. When going through security on the first floor of the court, we ran into someone who works for Anthony Chambers, who told us a pre-trial Motion had been filed that morning to exclude Kurt and I from being in the courtroom for the trial as we may be potential witnesses. We decided to head up and see what happened anyway, since the Motion was not ExParte and had not yet been granted.
Headed up to Floor 8, where Judge Edmunds is. Had to go through more security and obtain a pass to wear allowing us in the court. Sat down in the spot indicated for victims and waited for things to start. The trial started with the pre-trial motions, which one was filed by the prosecution and two by the defense. The prosecution actually filed a Motion that listed Kurt and I, by name, asking that we not sit in on trial as we may be witnesses for the defense. Judge Edmunds excluded Kurt from the courtroom, but said she was not excluding me since I was not on the witness list. I had to stand, and she told me that she did not want me to discuss anything with Kurt about the trial, which I agreed to.
And then we come to the bombshell:
Day two of trial, I could not attend first thing in the morning, but, I guess I did not miss much. Apparently, as soon as court was called to session, another long meeting happened between Chambers and Umar until around 10:50 AM. Once they came into the court, the Judge was informed that Umar was going to plead guilty to all 8 charges against him. I got there at 10:10 AM and walked into the overflow courtroom. I sat down, ready to take notes and watch, and heard the Judge say something to the effect “How do you plead to count 2…….” and hear Umar say “Guilty”. I think I almost fell over in shock at this point. I stepped back and sat down on a bench and after deciphering between calling Kurt and watching, I started to watch. I watched as he pled guilty on all 8 counts. I watched as he gave him statement to the court. I watched as he was taken away again by probation. I heard the Judge schedule a sentencing for January.
I was floored.
Lori Haskell continues:
So, how do I feel now about this? A variety of emotions, really. Relief is the biggest one. I am glad this guy is permanently off the streets and not able to harm anyone else. I am glad I don’t have to go to trial every day for the next month plus. I am glad I don’t have to worry about Kurt’s safety. I’m also disappointed. I really wanted Kurt to get to testify, however, neither one of us actually thought he ever would be allowed to. Curious–as to “why” he pled guilty, what was really going on behind the scenes that we may never know. I’m also saddened that the general public is never going to see as part of this trial the lies the government told, covered up and participated in. I’m saddened that people like Umar are allowed to travel to this country and put our lives at risk in order to allow the government to further their own personal agendas.
Finally then, we come back to last week and Abdulmutallab’s life sentence. Here is what Kurt Haskell wrote on Wednesday [Feb 15th] on the eve of that sentencing hearing:
Tomorrow at 1:00 P.M. is the sentencing hearing for the Underwear Bomber. This will likely be the final hearing in the case. The charges Umar took a plea to require a mandatory like sentence. Thus, this hearing is really a mere formality. However, Michigan law provides that any victim of a crime can give a victim impact statement before sentencing. Thus, as I am a victim I am entitled to give my statement. I wish I could take an hour to give a fully detailed statement about everything that happened, but Judge Edmunds has limited each passenger to 5 minutes. This will be the first time that I actually get to speak in Court regarding this matter. It will be interesting. I am sure the media will once again try and paint me as a nut job “conspiracy theorist”. Frankly, I don’t care and I will speak the truth. My statement is prepared and I will post it here tomorrow after the hearing.
Click here to read Kurt Haskell’s victim impact statement.
But I will leave the final words to Lori Haskell [posted Feb 16th]:
I was happy that Umar was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. even though I believe Umar is a patsy, I do believe that he wanted to kill us all, and I could see throughout all of this that he is not remorseful at all, and I don’t think he has a chance of being rehabilitated.
My favorite part of the hearing was when Umar addressed Kurt and said “Mr. Haskell, I am not a patty!” (in reference to something Kurt said to him during his statement).
Anyway, glad to close that chapter of my life. Hope everyone else had a less drama filled afternoon.
Here is Mickey McCarter, ‘Homeland Security Today’ Senior Washington Correspondent, dealing with callers’ questions about the underwear bomber during a phone-in on C-Span on Monday 20th February. Just count the times he says, “I’m not aware of that”:
That original video was taken down but here is another version:
1 From an article entitled “’Underwear bomber’ Abdulmutallab in Detroit trial”, published by BBC news on October 11, 2011. I can no longer find this article but instead there is one entitled “’Underwear bomber’ Abdulmutallab in Detroit trial”, apparently published by BBC news on the same day. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15251738
2 From an article entitled “Underwear Bomber Abdulmutallab: “Proud to Kill in the Name of God”, written by Jason Ryan, published by ABC news on February 17, 2012. http://news.yahoo.com/abdulmutallab-proud-kill-name-god-154229013–abc-news.html