Wrongly Accused of Terrorism: The Sleeper Cell That Wasn't
Produced by Peter Klein Kit Roane
This week’s Retro Report video tells the story of the “Detroit Sleeper Cell,” the first terrorism trial after 9/11. It began six days after September 11th, when FBI agents tracking a suspected terrorist raided a Detroit house and stumbled upon three North African immigrants living in the apartment upstairs. The man the FBI was looking for had moved out. But a sweep of the apartment revealed something suspicious — two old airport badges and fake identity documents.
That was evidence enough for an arrest. But there was more: videotapes of tourist destinations and a suspicious day planner with hieroglyphic-like scrawls and cryptic references – apparently, to a Turkish airport and a Jordanian hospital. Once the prosecution produced a witness to lay out the conspiracy, a jury was convinced. Two of the men were convicted on the most serious charge, that they intended to provide material support to terrorists.
But the real transgression became apparent only later. As the men waited to be sentenced, the federal judge presiding over the trial discovered that key evidence that might have impeached the government’s star witness and cleared the defendants of wrongdoing was never turned over to the defense. What followed was an investigation of the prosecution, one that turned up startling evidence of its own.
Retro Report lays out this story using declassified documents and interviews with those at the center of the case, and asks not only how this travesty could occur after 9/11, but how unlikely it is that such a distortion of justice could happen again today.
More Like This
Sisters Search for Lost Brother Separated by Argentine Dictatorship
Flavia Battistiol has turned to social media in hopes of being reunited with the sibling who disappeared in 1977, when the military junta ruled Argentina.
How the Shootout at Ruby Ridge Resonates in the Gun Debate Today
When armed suspects stand off against the law today, one event continues to cast a shadow on both sides of the police line: the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge.
How ISIS Resembles the Doomsday Cults of the 1970s
Can the lessons we learned from extremist cults decades ago be used to fight ISIS recruitment today?
The Back Story on Bad Forensic Science
With the Trump administration’s move to end a commission investigating flaws in forensic science, Retro Report looks at the history of one now-challenged method: hair analysis.