Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Commentary; Evan Kohlman: "Doogie Huckster expert: "A Terrorism expert’s secret relationship with the FBI;" Writer Trevor Aaronson asks how expert - and how independent - the U.S. government’s go-to expert witness in terrorism prosecutions really is? 'The Intercept.

COMMENTARY: "Doogie huckster expert: A Terrorism expert’s secret relationship with the FBI," by Trevor Aaronson, published by The Intercept on July 27, 2015.  (Trevor Aaronson is a contributing writer at The Intercept and executive director of the nonprofit Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Previously, he was a reporter with Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and a fellow at the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley. He has also been an editor and reporter at newspapers in Florida and Tennessee.);

GIST: "Evan  Kohlman is  the U.S. government’s go-to expert witness in terrorism prosecutions. Since 2004, Kohlmann has been asked to testify as an expert about terrorist organizations, radicalization and homegrown threats in more than 30 trials. It’s well-paying work — as much as $400 per hour. In all, the U.S. government has paid Kohlmann and his company at least $1.4 million for testifying in trials around the country, assisting with FBI investigations and consulting with agencies ranging from the Defense Department to the Internal Revenue Service.  He has also received another benefit, Uncle Sam’s mark of credibility, which has allowed him to work for NBC News and its cable sibling, MSNBC, for more than a decade as an on-air “terrorism analyst.” Kohlmann’s claimed expertise is his ability to explore the dark corners of the Internet — the so-called deep web, which isn’t indexed by commercial search engines — and monitor what the Islamic State, al Qaeda and their sympathizers are saying, as well as network the relationships among these various actors. Kohlmann doesn’t speak Arabic, however, and aside from a few days each in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Dubai and Qatar, has hardly any experience in the Arab world. Kohlmann’s research is gleaned primarily from the Internet. Indeed, Kohlmann is not a traditional expert. Much of his research is not peer-reviewed. Kohlmann’s key theory, to which he has testified several times on the witness stand, involves a series of indicators that he claims determine whether someone is likely a homegrown terrorist. Yet he has never tested the theory against a randomly selected control group to account for bias or coincidence. For these and other reasons, Kohlmann’s critics describe him as a huckster.........In a court filing, Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer who has been called to the witness stand several times to discredit Kohlmann’s claims, described his testimony and reports as “so biased, one-sided and contextually inaccurate that they do not provide a fair and balanced context for the specific evidence to be presented at a legal hearing.” In recent months, however, the small cohort of defense lawyers nationwide who battle the government in terrorism prosecutions have been asking themselves another question: What’s in the government’s mysteriously classified materials about Kohlmann?.........With his book and stint with the Investigative Project on Terrorism as credentials, Kohlmann became an expert witness for the Justice Department and a consultant for the FBI. An FBI agent described the baby-faced expert as “the Doogie Howser of Terrorism,” and a George Washington University law professor described Kohlmann to New York magazine as having been “grown hydroponically in the basement of the Bush Justice Department.”.........Sageman also alleged in the same report that Kohlmann views his expert testimony not as well-researched and settled science to be discussed honestly at trial, but as a kind of information clay to be molded for the prosecution’s benefit. Referring to a conversation he had with Kohlmann over lunch, Sageman wrote: “He selects what is most supportive for the side that retains him. Indeed, he told me so at one time when I challenged him about his testimony in the [Hammad] Khurshid case in Copenhagen, because he had neglected to mention important facts under oath. He justified his one-sidedness by saying that it was an adversarial process and it was up to the defense attorneys to cross examine him.”........ The primary criticism  of Kohlmann’s work is that his knowledge about terrorist groups and purported expertise are based primarily on Internet research. The other concern is a question of impartiality, and how much information from the deep web Kohlmann may be giving the FBI for investigations. Yet the U.S. Department of Justice continues to employ Kohlmann as an expert witness. Most recently, he was proposed as an expert in the prosecution of Agron Hasbajrami, an Albanian citizen who pleaded guilty on June 26 in New York to attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, before Kohlmann could testify in his trial. In other cases, Kohlmann has testified to the fact that he has assisted the FBI with investigations — but it’s unclear how far Kohlmann’s work crosses the line from independent expert and consultant to paid criminal investigator for the FBI. That’s why, among defense lawyers in terrorism cases, there’s a lot of interest in what the government is hiding in classified materials about Kohlmann.........Jeffrey Aaron, who represented Kabir, asked the judge to force the government to provide the classified materials on Kohlmann. “We felt that he didn’t seem like a legitimate academic expert to us,” Aaron said. “He seemed like an advocate, and it seemed to us that he was a witness who would always find a way to support the government’s case. We suspect that the material under top-secret protection probably dealt with him cooperating with the FBI or being a quasi-government agent. And honestly, we thought that was very disturbing.”

The entire commentary can be found at:



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