2003 February 20 Thursday
Sami al-Arian Charged As Terrorist Group Leader

The US Patriot Act allowed intelligence agency information to be used against al-Arian.

The criminal case against al-Arian was made possible by the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorist law about a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said. That law removed long-standing legal barriers to bringing information gathered in classified national security investigations into criminal courts.

Al-Arian is accused of being the leader of the US branch of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Authorities arrested the three men Tampa-area defendants and a fourth in Illinois, but the other four remain at large in foreign countries. If convicted, the men face up to life in prison.

The indictment describes Kuwaiti-born al-Arian, 45, as the Islamic Jihad's U.S. leader, head of a terrorist cell in Tampa and secretary of the group's worldwide council. Al-Arian is in the United States as a legal resident alien.

Some Tampa Florida area Muslims believe Sami al-Arian is being persecuted.

"This used to be the land of freedom and democracy," said Lubaba Aldaker, a worker at a Middle Eastern bakery in a strip mall that also has an Arabian grocery and cafe. "Not anymore."

"There is no justice," added Gheyas Swar, a fellow worker at Bonsoir Bakery. "We don't see any evidence. Where is the evidence? They have to show somebody the evidence to arrest him."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is not happy about al-Arian's arrest.

"We are very concerned that the government would bring charges after investigating an individual for many years without offering any evidence of criminal activity," said CAIR board chairman Omar Ahmad in a statement. "This action could leave the impression that Al Arian's arrest is based on political considerations, not legitimate national security concerns."

You might think that al-Arian and other Muslims in America just have a lot of animosity toward Israel and that leaving aside attacks against Israel they otherwise might be opposed to terrorism. Prominent American Muslim organisations are not just soft on terrorists who attack Israel though. For instance, American Muslim Council executive director Eric Ervan Vickers wouldn't even denounce Al Qaeda.

The night before Mueller addressed the AMC, guest host Mike Barnicle on CNBC's Hardball asked Vickers to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah. Vickers would not. Barnicle followed, "How about al-Qaeda?" According to the transcript, Vickers' only response was, "They are involved in a resistance movement."

David Tell has written extensively on Sami al-Arian's activities.

Not so many years ago, for instance, he founded a "think tank" at USF called the World Islam Studies Enterprise and installed a man named Ramadan Abdullah Shallah as its director. There the two men engaged in what Al-Arian calls "intellectual-type activity." Ramadan Abdullah Shallah has since moved on to another-type activity. He is currently head of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. A second Al-Arian-created outfit in Florida, the Islamic Committee for Palestine, once employed a fellow named Tarik Hamdi. Hamdi is personally acquainted with Osama bin Laden and is known to have provided him a battery for the cell phone used to organize the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Professor Al-Arian has hosted public pep rallies for Islamic Jihad founder Abdel Aziz-Odeh and Sheikh Abdul Rahman, mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing. Film exists of Al-Arian at one of these rallies shouting "Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death to Israel! Revolution! Revolution until victory! Rolling into Jerusalem!"

Al-Arian's animosity is obviously not reserved just for Israel. A supporter of Abdul Rahman is not someone who is only fighting for Palestinians.

US policies on granting visas, permanent residency, and even US citizenship are dangerously naive in dealing with people who embrace religious and political beliefs that are incompatible with a liberal secular free society.

Update: Steven Emerson, author of the book American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, first identified Al-Arian as a terrorist leader in 1994.

Back in 1994, I produced and reported "Jihad in America," a PBS documentary that exposed the secret Islamic Jihad cell that Al-Arian ran from Tampa. I interviewed Al-Arian - who, of course, denied any terrorist affiliation. But the documentary also revealed statements by Al-Arian championing terrorism, the existence of Islamic Jihad publications distributed from his office, the use of his academic institute as a cover for Islamic Jihad and actual videos of Islamic Jihad terrorist conferences he organized in the United States.

Virtually every national Islamic "civil rights" group - created with the same guile that fostered the success of Al-Arian's organization - responded by claiming that we were "attacking Islam" and that we were stereotyping all Muslims. That pattern of obeisance to terrorism was repeated yesterday following issuance of the indictment.

Emerson says the Islamist groups in America managed to protect themselves pre-9/11 from serious law enforcement attention by arguing that any investigation of their activities would amount to "racial profiling". What is striking about the prosecution of Al-Arian is that it is happening 17 months after the 9/11 attacks and a full 8 years after Emerson first identified Al-Arian as a terrorist leader. Emerson, working with none of the power of a law enforcement officer, was able to ascertain what Al-Arian was up to 8 years ago. But even once the US Patriot Act was passed and federal prosecutors went after Al-Arian in earnest it took months before charges could be filed.

The Al-Arian case illustrates the inadequacy of conventional law enforcement as a tool for stopping terrorists. It can only work if used in conjunction with better methods of gathering evidence and with much greater control over who is allowed to enter, live in, and get citizenship in Western nations in the first place.

Update II: The New York Times has a good story on why it has taken so long to bring charges against Al-Arian.

But according to former officials and experts intimately familiar with the effort to indict Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in the United States, the investigation suffered from a lack of resources, such as insufficient Arabic translators, and fierce bureaucratic turf battles between the F.B.I. and the Customs Service over control of the investigation.

Update III: A legal ruling that allowed the use of intercepts collected during intelligence operations paved the way for the prosecution of Al-Arian and the others charged with him.

Prosecutors' biggest breakthrough came in November, when a special federal appeals court ruled that the Justice Department had broad new powers to use wiretaps obtained for intelligence operations to prosecute terrorists.

''The case was ready at this point for indictment because it was jump-started three months ago when we examined declassified, intercepted faxes and telephone calls for the first time,'' Perez said Friday.

Islamic Jihad is angry over Al-Arian's arrest but they are trying to hide it. Iran suports IJ and Iran knows that after the US dispatches with Saddam's regime that the US will be in a position and motivated to put pressure on Iran and therefore Iran is telling IJ to not threaten the United States.

``They (Islamic Jihad leaders) know that Iran is today cautious in its policies ... because they know the United States will pressure Iran very hard after Iraq,'' he said, referring to a possible U.S. offensive against Baghdad. ``I don't think Iran will permit the Palestinian Islamic Jihad at this moment to do anything against the United States.''

The US will have more leverage against both Saudi Arabia and Iran after the US controls Iraq.

Update IV: You can read the 50 page indictment against al-Arian as a PDF file.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 February 20 08:12 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

Bob said at February 20, 2003 9:02 PM:

You know, I almost think the backlash is overdue. These dissembling bastards are really starting to irritate me.

"This used to be the land of freedom and democracy" until a bunch of Islamofascist terrorists showed up to destroy all that is good in the world.

"We don't see any evidence. Where is the evidence? They have to show somebody the evidence to arrest him."

They might have to show a judge the evidence or even a grand jury. They don't have to ask some baker's permission first. What's wrong with these morons? Don't they know evidence appears at trial and not at arrest? I'm really getting tired of this song. It's time to haul out the rotten tomatoes for these guys.

CAIR board chairman Omar Ahmad's statement could leave the impression that he's a lying sack o' shi'ite

"They are involved in a resistance movement." Yeah, Vickers, so are we. Suck it up!

Sorry, Randall, but I couldn't resist. It's time to start booing these smug pricks off the stage.

Bob, too said at February 20, 2003 10:34 PM:

As the Angry Clam pointed out, someone had to show some evidence to get the warrant in the first place.

CAIR and the AMC agenda are clear. They are simply anti-U.S.

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