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SIMPLE INTERNET SEARCH KEEPS INDIAN’S CASE ALIVE When Surender Jeet Singh applied for asylum in the United States, his story sounded like something out of an espionage thriller. Singh, a Sikh from India, claimed he had been recruited by a branch of the Indian government called the “Research and Analysis Wing,” similar to the CIA. For 13 years, he said, he investigated Sikh separatists. But when he was ordered to help assassinate one of those he investigated, he testified, he went into hiding and later fled to the U.S. Singh feared that he’d be killed if he went back to India. But the Board of Immigration Appeals didn’t buy his tale, saying there was no proof that the organization known as “RAW” exists. Last week, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said it doesn’t take a spy to figure out that the organization does exist. All it takes is an Internet search. “It has been suggested that we cannot take notice of RAW’s existence and operations because we are limited in our review to the administrative record upon which the deportation order is based and the attorney general’s findings of fact,” Senior Judge John Noonan Jr. wrote. “But it is nonsense to suppose that we are so cabined and confined that we cannot exercise the ordinary power of any court to take notice of facts that are beyond dispute,” Noonan continued. Senior Judge Betty Fletcher and Judge Sidney Thomas concurred. Those facts include evidence from a simple Lexis search that showed more than 1,500 articles on RAW from The New York Times, BBC and other media sources. “If this case had involved an agent’s claimed membership in an agency more well-known in the United States, such as Interpol or the KGB, the [immigration judge] or BIA would not have required evidence of their existence,” Noonan said. The immigration board’s “adverse credibility” finding was reversed and the case sent back for further review. The board’s members presumably will make sure they do some simple research before their next decision. — Justin M. Norton MERRY XMAS FROM ARNOLD Just in time for the holidays, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week granted his first-ever pardons to three men convicted of nonviolent felonies in the 1970s. Those pardoned were James Brown of Arvada, Colo., convicted of burglary and driving under the influence of drugs in Riverside County in 1971; Antonio Garcia of Hacienda Heights, who in 1978 was convicted of two counts of sale of a controlled substance in Los Angeles County; and Alec Webster of Santa Cruz, who, in 1975, was convicted of one count of possessing marijuana for sale and one count of transportation/sale of a controlled substance in Santa Cruz County. Garcia and Webster were placed on probation for their offenses, and Garcia also completed a residential drug treatment program. Brown served five months in a drug treatment program. All three men have gone on to philanthropic work in their various communities, Schwarzenegger’s office said. Gubernatorial pardons, which often come during the holiday season, are granted only to individuals who have demonstrated “exemplary behavior following conviction for a felony,” according to the governor’s office. Those granted a pardon can use it for personal satisfaction, licensing, bonding or other employment purposes. Pardons do not seal or expunge a felony record. Gov. Gray Davis granted no pardons during his term in office. Gov. Pete Wilson granted 13 pardons, Gov. George Deukmejian granted 328, Gov. Jerry Brown, 403, and Gov. Ronald Reagan, 575. — Jill Duman TERROR TAGS AFFIRMED Anyone looking for liberal bias at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals might want to note that two panels — including a unanimous en banc — recently upheld the government’s war on terrorism in a pair of related cases. According to critics, judges at the Ninth Circuit regularly release crazy opinions that go against God, mom and apple pie. The criticism has been one of the main motivations behind recent congressional efforts to break up the circuit. While it’s true the Ninth Circuit excised “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance and likes to stick its nose into death penalty cases, its Supreme Court reversal rate in recent years has been in line with other, less controversial circuits. And last week, the court decided in favor of the Republican-controlled government in two significant cases. Although they dealt with issues that became controversial before the Sept. 11 attacks, both decisions upheld anti-terrorism policies that have been opposed by some liberals. In U.S. v. Afshari, 04 C.D.O.S. 11136, a unanimous three-judge panel upheld the constitutionality of a federal statute that allows the government to designate what foreign organizations qualify as terrorists. The defendants in the case were being prosecuted for soliciting contributions at Los Angeles International Airport for the Committee for Human Rights, a group the government says participated in terrorist activities against Iran and the United States. The en banc panel gave the Bush administration another victory with Humanitarian Law Project v. U.S., 04 C.D.O.S. 11180. The issue in that case was whether the government is required to prove that a defendant knew that a foreign group had been designated as a terrorist organization. The en banc panel rejected a First Amendment challenge to the designation provision. Although mostly a loss for lawyers challenging the government’s ability to designate terrorist groups, there’s still some hope: The panel sent back to district court a controversy regarding the definition of the terms “personnel” and “training.” Lawyers opposing the government hope that will eventually allow their clients to continue giving humanitarian aid to groups without running afoul of the war on terror. — Jeff Chorney

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