The Mike Hawash Case

Tuesday’s WSJ has a front-page article (requires subscription) about Mike Hawash, the Palestinian-American software engineer who has been held without charge – as a “material witness” – by the U.S. government for more than a month. The case has occasioned many questions, both because Hawash wasn’t charged with anything until Monday and because he is a successful and seemingly upstanding person, with prominent defenders (including the management at his employer, Intel).

I have no idea if Hawash is guilty or innocent, though I am troubled that the government would hold a U.S. citizen for over a month without charge. Time will tell. I hope, if Hawash is guilty, that Ashcroft & Co. make their case well. If he turns out to be innocent, or if the government’s arguments are weak, the prominence of this case almost guarantees a political backlash against future anti-terrorism investigations. That might be a good thing to the extent it forced the government to be more careful. But it might be bad if it made investigators too cautious. I hope they know what they’re doing, because there probably are some terrorists out there, and the Justice Department will need all of the credibility it can muster if it is to capture and convict them.