U.S. attorney: Patriot Act 'essential tool'

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By Greg Welter
Chico Enterprise-Record

CHICO, Calif. — McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, said the successful 2005 prosecution of a terrorist figure living in Lodi wouldn't have been possible without the Patriot Act.

"It's an absolutely essential tool," he said.

Scott was in Chico Tuesday to address the Rotary Club.

He said the Patriot Act "broke down the wall" that used to exist between the intelligence community and law enforcement, facilitating a better flow of information.

More importantly, he said the Act "updates the law to reflect changes in communication technology."

That includes wiretaps, he said, adding that before the Act was passed such intelligence tools were only permitted in specialized cases. "Terrorism was not on the list," he lamented.

Scott credited wiretaps and other formerly banned intelligence gathering tools with keeping the U.S. free from successful terrorist acts over the past seven years.

"I think it's important to recall predictions after 9-11 that America would suffer numerous other attacks."

Scott points with pride to the case his office prosecuted against Hamid Hayat, now 25.

Hayat, a Lodi resident raised in Pakistan, was suspected of traveling from his home in California to attend a terrorist training camp in the Middle East. After training, and upon his return to California to allegedly await a terrorist assignment, Hayat was intercepted at San Francisco International Airport by the FBI.

When asked about his activities in connection with a terrorist training camp, Hayat categorically denied them, and said he went to Pakistan to help his mother and visit friends.

Scott said Hayat failed a polygraph test, then admitted to participating in terrorist training after the FBI said they had aerial surveillance photos of him at the camp.

Scott said the FBI didn't have such photos, but the claim convinced Hayat to make videotaped confessions, which allegedly became the linchpin in the case against him.

Scott said the FBI and his prosecution team gathered shocking testimony from Hayat, including allegedly gleeful statements about journalist Daniel Pearl being beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.

"A Jew will never be allowed to go to Pakistan," Hayat said.

Scott said a search warrant served on Hayat's Lodi home revealed extremist literature and a "Jihad scrapbook" he had assembled.

In closing arguments at his trial, prosecutors alleged that Hayat "had a Jihadi heart and a Jihadi mind."

He was convicted on four counts of terrorist activity, and lying to a jury, and sentenced to 24 years in a Federal penitentiary. Upon release, he'll be on 10 years of supervised parole, Scott said.

When asked by a Rotary Club member about San Francisco's recent decision to shield juvenile aliens convicted of serious crimes from deportation, Scott called the move "a charade." "I'm not sure I can really explain anything that goes on in San Francisco," Scott said.

Copyright 2008 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers

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