Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

L: Greetings Mumia.

M: On a move! How are you?

L: I’m great, I’m hanging in there. I’m resisting, organizing, and trying to bring some light to the tangled web of government conspiracy.

M: The gathering darkness, eh?

L: Yes indeed, Yes, I couldn’t put it better.

M: Well, I have a few questions for you. I know this is something you’re used to and I haven’t done it for a while so it will give me a thrill and it may be good for you too.

L: I think so.

M: First, in your own words, in your own view, why do you think the jury convicted you and your co-defendants?

L: I really do think there was a pervasive fear out there. I think that the government – you know when we talk about fascism, we talk about text book fascism but really it’s an emotion more than anything else- and I think that the jury bought into “we have to protect the country and the way to do that is to back the government.” You know it’s classic to say “If we do what the government tells us, if we do what the government thinks best, then we will be safe.” Which raises that other question, doesn’t it, about whether an empire abroad can ever have a democracy at home?

M: The question, I think, is being answered, and not positively.

L: I think that’s so true, so true.

M: In reading about your case, I saw references to your alleged violation of SAMs.

I’m sure most people have no idea what a SAM is. Could you explain?

L.: Sure. After Sheik Omar was convicted he was sent to middle of America and that wasn’t good enough for the government, so they imposed on him these very harsh prison regulations. As you know, you also are under some very harsh prison regulations, but his I think were even more so. He was only allowed one phone call a month to his family and one a week to his lawyers and that was it. He was not allowed to communicate with the media at all. And there were various other things as well: no outside visitors who were not family, not even for religious reasons. So these very, very restrictive regulations were put in place. And then the lawyers, all of us, myself, Ramsey Clark, Abdeen Jabara; we all were asked to sign on that we were aware that he was under those and that we would abide by them. But it was our thinking: well of course, these prison regulations can not interfere with the legal work. And so as a result we did what we thought we had to do for the client, that is, keeping him advised of those events and things that would influence his case and be important for him to know and understand….

SCI: This call is from a correctional institution and is subject to monitoring and recording.

L.: Who are those people? They seem to follow me around. (Laughter.)

M: Talk about a prescient break, huh?

L: They must know what we are talking about. (Laughter) But at any rate, so they put these very harsh regulations, one of them included the media. And, of course, what I did was I made a press release just as we had been doing for the last four years. And it was only after September 11th that this act which had been done in 2000 suddenly became actionable in the government’s eyes. I always like to talk about, you know, there’s moving the line. You know they talk about I crossed the line, but they moved the line after September 11th, and then they moved it again of course to get this conviction by bringing in all sorts of extraneous, but very prejudicial, things.

M: As you mentioned, one of the Sheik’s lawyers was the former Attorney General Ramsey Clark who has said publicly that he himself signed the SAMs and he related Sheik Omar’s words to the press and yet he wasn’t charged. Now why was that?

L: Well, I think that’s a real comment on our class system. Of course I love Ramsey. Ramsey is the one who introduced me to the Sheik. Ramsey is someone who came in and testified for us although he had been named an unindicted co-conspirator. The nerve of this government to name this former Attorney General who protected the marches of Selma, Alabama and was a history maker by so doing; to name him an unindicted co-conspirator. But he came in and he testified. And he basically said, “We did it because we thought it was the right thing to do for the client”. And I think that’s really the whole case. We thought it was the right thing; they thought it was not the right thing. They came after us and they’re going to come after other lawyers who think they can [quote] “substitute what they think is right for the client for what the government thinks is right”.

M.: It seems like when you speak of the elements of the SAMs, immediately two things leap out to me, of course: a patent violation of the alleged First Amendment and also a kind of ex post facto application of the SAMs to you. Do you see those points?

L.: The judge who’s a commentator now for Fox News, Napalitano said it means that the Bureau of Prisons can make any regulation and then bootstrap that into an indictment to put a lawyer in jail for thirty years- or to threaten to put a lawyer in jail for thirty years. And this is entirely contrary to our notions that legislatures pass laws and the laws are there and people know what’s breaking the law and what isn’t breaking the law. So by the use of the conspiracy law and the Clinton Administration law of materially aiding, they’re able to bootstrap just about anything anyone might do on behalf of any person they say is an enemy of the State into making that person then the enemy of the State.

M.: So it continues to move in other words?

L.: Yeah, exactly. Exactly right.

M.: Can you give me some idea of the support. Now I reference what you said about Judge Napilatano. In fact, I read his article and it was remarkable considering the source. Have you felt support or kind of the invisibility of your fellow lawyers?

L.: Well I think we always have to remember that lawyers are a mirror of the bigger society, and they operate on all classes. Certainly the Lawyers Guild you would expect to be a hundred percent in my corner and they have been a hundred and ten percent in my corner. And then if you go up with that to the American Bar Association, I think they had a line on their web site at one point. So we have mixed results. There are lawyers who are smart enough to understand what the implications of the case are for all lawyers. The Criminal Defense Bar has been very good. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have backed me. And the rank and file, when they’re not scared, will back me. Whether they’ll write a letter or speak out or try to organize the Criminal Bar Associations is another question, however. But we’re working on that. We think that the support of lawyers is not only important for me, its important for them. We’re talking about preserving the so-called playing field, which, of course, we know in cases such as yours Mumia, really don’t exist in the first place.

SCI: This call is coming from a correctional institution and is subjected to monitoring and recording.

L: They sure pick their times, right? (Laughter).

SCI: You have one minute left to talk.

L.: We’re hoping. We’re going to try to organize the Bar just because they should understand and at least it’s being put out to them.

M.: Well, you mentioned conspiracy and it reminded me of something I read a few years ago, I think it was Judge Learned Hand that said “Conspiracy is that darling of the modern prosecutor’s nursery” because it’s used for everything. Do you see an expansion of the use of that law against you, against other lawyers?

L.: Definitely. You know I think the best way to characterize my conviction is I’m convicted of conspiring to conspire to do some unknown terrorist act in an unknown country.

SCI: You have fifteen seconds left to talk.

L.: Bye-bye Mumia.

M.: It is my pleasure Lynne.

L.: Mine too.

M.: All the best.

L.: You too.

M.: Keep rumbling.

L.: Yes, thank you.

M.: All the best.

L. Bye-bye.

M.: Bye.