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Day 27: Carney Cross-Exam of Kohlmann Initiated: Kohlmann Lacking Most Basic Credentials of Scholarly Expertise

Day 27

Aloke Chakravarty (AC) Direct of Evan Kohlmann (EK), Cont.

EK’s testimony continued this morning by repeating the assertion that Al Qaeda (AQ) relies heavily on media, saying each AQ faction has a media wing. He stated that digital editing of videos and translations of various forms of media are essential for AQ. Throughout his testimony, EK emphasized the importance of translation specifically, though mentioned that various kinds of people (analysts, intelligence agencies, curious observers and “hardcore jihadists”) all rely on these translations. This observation was particularly interesting considering EK’s own deficit in Arabic language understanding—he could not analyze or understand these texts he so obsessively collects without them being translated, and the prosecution is seeking to criminalize this very translation.


On the topic of the importance of the internet, AC asked EK about “electronic jihad,” which he described as intended to wage violent conflict through the internet. He gave examples such as hacking or assisting in spreading propaganda through various mediums including Facebook and YouTube (two non-violent examples; it seems EK is unclear on the concept of violence). AC later pointed out that “electronic jihad” was listed as number 34 in the “39 ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad.” Throughout his testimony EK also repeatedly claimed that he had EVERY SINGLE video, statement, publicly released interview, post on a “jihadi forum,” etc. He claimed to have registered accounts on every site and view these forums daily. Makes you wonder what kind of FBI file he would have.

Lying about logos

EK testified that all official media, like videos, put out by “jihadi groups” include the “watermarks” or logos specific to each respective group. The prosecution then displayed 2 logos from AQ in Iraq. Next the prosecution showed a few random avatars, including one that depicted the words la illaha ilillah Muhammad ar-rasullah (There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God), with a sword and AK-47 underneath and English words “Support our troops.”  EK asserted that this was a play off of the common “support our troops” slogan in the US, but meaning support the mujahideen. Another avatar depicted two flags, one white and one black, with la illaha ilillah Muhammad ar-rasullah written on each. The statement in English below read “I pledge allegiance.” EK claimed that this referred to the flag of the Taliban and pledging allegiance to Mollah Omar (we’re expecting the defense to call attention to this misinformation in the second half of their cross examination Wednesday).

39 Ways to sit at home and be a jihadi

EK stated that  it was difficult for people to seek out and attend training camps, for several reasons, so AQ began to “increasingly encourage people to do as much as possible at home” by reviewing “instructional documents” and videos, such as the encyclopedia of jihad and “39 Ways.” He later contradicted himself by testifying that a message that AQ was trying to get across was that “training camps are available everywhere, so you don’t have an excuse not to go.” He stated that young western Muslim men were especially wanted for recruitment. He also claimed that “39 Ways” is a training/instructional guide that was quite influential, that it was actually most of the well-known training manuals put out by AQ (he called “39 Ways” a training manual several times, another point we anticipate the defense mentioning in cross. There is no way this document could be classified as a training manual or even a manual of any kind. It’s a list. We recommend you check it out on the top secret, password-protected page, Google.com). The purpose of “39 Ways,” EK said, was so that everyday people could support jihad without going to the battlefield.

AC brought up some videos and documents that Tarek didn’t have anything to do with, interspersed with ones that he did translate, for the sake of confusing the jury. AC also had EK explain that AQ began contacting Tibyan publications in 2005 in order to find people to translate for them. Even this desperate line of questioning didn’t produce any evidence that Tarek translations were at the behest of, in coordination with, or on behalf of AQ.

AC later asked EK about Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, and Paul Johnson to point out that they had all been beheaded. EK also volunteered the fact that he had seen a photo of Berg on Tarek’s computer, failing to mention what has already been established by the defense – the image was an internet cached thumbnail. AC went on to list Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia and ask EK to give some details on their relationship to AQ. EK, when asked, reaffirmed that translating, editing and distributing materials provided value to AQ, and that AQ has put out a call for such services.

Jay Carney (JC) Cross Examination of EK: A degree in Islam

JC reestablished that EK, the self-proclaimed expert on terrorism, had never travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, or Yemen and that he doesn’t speak Pashtu, Urdu, Kurdish, or Persian. He doesn’t read, write, speak or understand Arabic fluently. JC pointed out that EK relies on others to translate documents, etc. for him (perhaps he’s hoping Tarek will join his team?). He also admitted that, while his school offered an Arabic language course, he did not even take an introductory class in the language, despite the fact that his focus was on Islam, the Muslim and Arab world, and terrorism. JC questioned EK on a statement that he made in a radio interview in response to a question about whether or not he thought he should learn Arabic and travel to the Muslim world considering his line of work. EK’s response to the question was, “well, I have a degree in Islam.” (You might be wondering, as we were, what exactly that is and how one can obtain it so quickly. We’ll let you know if we find out).

That doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism, does it?

JC went through EK’s education, even pulling out his transcripts, to clarify exactly what courses he took and what would qualify him as such a terrorism expert. JC established that out of a total of 30 courses in law school, only three courses were related to national security (and that was after JC humored him, saying, “I’ll give you the Cyber Crime one,” even after JC had already established the class mostly related to fraud). As he listed the courses, and almost as a wink to what this case is really about, JC had EK agree that the Freedom of Speech/1st Amendment courses had nothing to do with terrorism. Though the reference was most likely lost on EK, this was an important point since this case against Tarek is based around beliefs, speech, and actions protect under the 1st amendment.

‘Al’ and ‘Abu’ are all I need

JC then returned his questioning to EK’s lack of knowledge of Arabic. EK alleged to have gained somewhat of a working knowledge of Arabic. JC tested his claim, referring to footnotes that EK gave the prosecution for his testimony summary. He pulled out one of the Arabic documents from EK’s footnotes, asking if he would be able to read the document. EK refused to flat out say that he would be unable to read the Arabic text, instead made a painful attempt to prove himself: “Well I can read that this says ‘AL’ and this says ‘ABU’…” (The audience stifled laughs). JC responded that it would be impossible. EK stubbornly stated that it would be difficult, not impossible. He also admitted to have not read the Qur’an in ~10-11 years

It’s not that I don’t have access to classified information, it’s just that I prefer open source

The last segment of the cross examination took way longer than it should have on account of EK’s pride and refusal to give straight answers. JC asked him if he had ever worked for the NSA, FBI, CIA, or the defense department. EK said no. JC then tried to have EK agree that there was a lot of classified information about designated foreign terrorist organizations that EK couldn’t see, implying that his lack of security clearance was impeding his ability to be a true expert. EK refused to go along with this line of questioning, instead launching into a series of arguments that were nonsensical and rebutted by JC at every step. First he argued that much of the classified information is so coded or encrypted that even the NSA can’t unscramble it (coded, he said, with a commercially available software; first the mujahideen are too stupid to edit their own videos, now they are outwitting the NSA decoders with their own software?); then EK tried arguing that classified information of higher ups like Osama bin Laden actually weren’t too helpful because of how decentralized AQ now is (“But someone like you,” JC argued, “who doesn’t have a high security clearance, wouldn’t know, right?”); next EK argued that classified information actually isn’t any better than the open source information, since he has seen some declassified information and has compared the two (But, JC argued back, that information was only declassified because it was the same as the open source information!); losing that battle, EK tried to argue that scholars and academics prefer open source information to classified information because open source information is more reliable (“No, it’s because they can’t see classified documents! That’s the point!” JC shouted, exasperated); then he insisted that JC define classified, and disagreed with JC on his definition. JC referred to EK in a thinly veiled way as a pseudo-expert before ending his cross for the day, to be continued.

EK has to testify before Congress (scary that reps are going to listen to this malarkey when deciding on laws that shape our future!) on Tuesday, so he might finish cross Tuesday morning, but it’s a possibility that he’ll be returning on Wednesday to finish his cross examination.


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