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Jailhouse Snitch Enlisted in War on Terrorism Behind Bars

Scott Lee Martin couldn't help himself. After a decade locked up in a half-dozen federal prisons where snitches, rats, informantsor whatever the regional prison slang calls those who tell on othersare detested, spat upon, beaten, even killed for their acts, Martin decided to become the honorable snitch. "Whether his idiosyncratic personal sense of honor had eroded or improved is unclear," reports Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times. Reality, however, depends on your point of view which, in turn, depends on whether you're a prisoner of America's prison machine or a tough-on-crime hardliner.

Martin wasn't confused about his personal sense of honor in 1995 when he told a Denver federal judge that "Everybody wants to go home from prison, but not everybody is willing to go home at the expense of their honor." Five years later he wasn't confused when he decided to "play the system as much as he could," according to the New York Times. A year later he testified against a white prisoner found with a weapon in USP Marion after a black prisoner, Terry Lamar Walker, was stabbed to deatha hit allegedly sanctioned by the Aryan Brotherhood. Martin also told the jury how prison knives were constructed from such items as door frames and light fixtures. How cutting tools could be made from stainless steel found in wristwatch backs or from inside pencil sharpeners.

Martin was found with a weapon hidden in his rectum, arrested in the same shakedown at USP Marion as Walker's alleged killers, and received 37 more months in prison for his trouble. Apparently, he was not playing the system very effectively. Undeterred, and his snitch-jacket established, Martin went hunting for bigger game, since telling on the Aryan Brotherhood was just a stepping stone. The hunt would last just a few months and end with Martin offering himself to the FBI. He claimed he could win the confidence of al-Qaeda conspirators and gather incriminating evidence. The FBI cleared Martin for his intelligence enterprise and shipped him to New York.

It was only weeks before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. The previous fall, a suspected Osama Bin Laden aide, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, attempted to take hostages and escape from the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC). He stabbed a guard through the eye with a hard plastic comb. As 9/11 approached the guards were still on high alert at the high-security federal detention center in lower Manhattan. Four Muslim prisoners and suspected al-Qaeda associates were awaiting trial at MCC for the 1998 East Africa bombings of American embassies. One day they met Scott Lee Martin. He had found his game.

Martin first entered the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after pleading guilty to three Seattle bank robberies in 1990. He was just 19. Carrying a ten-year sentence, he was sent to his first federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. In the first five months he was written up 23 times for such violations as threatening bodily harm, assault, possessing dangerous drugs, setting a fire, and possessing dangerous weapons. Indicted on LSD possession, he received another 2½ years.

From there, Martin toured some of the country's many federal pens including stays in Lompoc, Lewisburg, Leavenworth, Atlanta, Marion, and Florence. It was in 1995, after pleading guilty to possessing an 11-inch Plexiglas knife at Florence, which he told a federal judge of his honor. But his 1999 USP Marion experience led to his first known formal snitching gig and against the Aryan Brotherhood. Martin's suspected affiliation was with the white supremacist group the Dirty White Boys. In all, Martin was indicted three times for crimes inside the BOP and received over 100 write-ups for just about every violation under the sun.

As a child, Martin skipped school, stole record albums and cassette tapes. By his youth he had graduated to burglary, theft, and a $300-a-day heroin habit. He was well on his way to his BOP future. Once, while testifying in court, Martin was asked if he was ever a Boy Scout. Martin replied: "I was not. I was a criminal."

And what better cover? A bad guy with access to bad guys. "Who even has access to bad guys other than bad guys?" said an unnamed official quoted in the New York Times. "Here's a guy who doesn't need a cover story to explain his being in prison," said another unidentified official, "he was seen as against the system."

The information Martin gathered from the unsuspecting accused terrorists went through a "firewall" established by the United States Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was purpoertedly screened by prosecutors and FBI agents not part of the terrorism prosecution to ensure it was not covered under the terrorists attorney-client privilege. Just what information Martin learned and provided through his statements and an electronic listening device in his cell is unclear. He may have provided information on threats on a federal witness's life, according to the New York Times.

Attorney Joshua L. Dratel filed for a new trial on behalf of his client, Wadih el-Hage, and el-Hage's three terrorist compatriots based on Martin acting as a government informant, violating their right to counsel and due process. Today, the peripatetic Martin, 33, is persona non grata on the societal plane. In other words, even the New York Times couldn't find him.

The three USP Marion prisoners charged with Walker's murder saw him testify against them as they faced the death penalty. Not surprisingly, there are death threats against Martin, according to yet another jailhouse informant.

On March 2, 2004, a mistrial was declared in the prosecution against Sahakian, McIntosh and Knorr as the jury was unable to reach a verdict after seven months of trial and 8 days of deliberations. The government has vowed to seek a retrial as it continues to seek the death penalty against the defendants. The Southern reported that because the government is seeking the death penalty, the defense costs alone in the first aborted trial are over $3 million. Presumably Martin and other informants will be called upon to repeat their testimony in the second case.

Jailhouse informants are prevalent throughout America's carcereal machine. In the Florence federal Administrative Maximum, also known as ADX, "Supermax" or "Alcatraz of the Rockies," a once secret H-unit was established to allow secret intelligence gathering from jailhouse informants. [PLN, Apr. 2003, p. 16] Martin is just another example of psychotic career criminals who become snitches to continue their predatory ways a la Sammy "the Bull" Gravano. Maybe Martin is sitting in a cell listening to the criminal exploits of his cellmate and preparing a reprise role as the honorable snitch.

Source: New York Times, The Southern

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