PJM Exclusive: New Law Cuts Ties Between FBI and Terror-Tied Groups
Obama signs bill codifying and expanding existing, but frequently ignored, ban on engaging groups like CAIR.
November 22, 2011 - 1:34 am
When Barack Obama signed the continuing resolution this past weekend averting another potential government shutdown, it’s doubtful that he was aware that tucked into the bill, which funds several federal agencies through the fiscal year and extends the continuing resolution for the rest of the government until December 16, is a provision that may dramatically impact what Islamic groups and leaders the FBI and other law enforcement agencies can continue to work with.
Under Division B, Title II of the bill, under the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Salaries and Expenses section, is the following provision:
Liaison partnerships- The conferees support the FBI’s policy prohibiting any formal non-investigative cooperation with unindicted co-conspirators in terrorism cases. The conferees expect the FBI to insist on full compliance with this policy by FBI field offices and to report to the Committees on Appropriations regarding any violation of the policy.
The most obvious group that this will impact is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was named unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case — the largest terrorism-finance trial in American history. During the trial, FBI Dallas Agent Lara Burns testified that CAIR was a front for the terrorist group Hamas.
Following the trial, which resulted in guilty verdicts on all counts and lengthy prison terms for all five Holy Land executives, the FBI was forced to cut ties with CAIR – a decision that CAIR claimed would hurt local communities and that prompted other Muslim groups, like the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), to threaten to stop cooperation with the FBI unless CAIR was reinstated. In a February 2010 letter to members of Congress, Assistant Attorney General Robert Weich forwarded evidence submitted by federal prosecutors in the trial and court testimony concerning CAIR’s ties to the Hamas-controlled Palestine Committee and that committee’s role in supporting Hamas.
Stung by their loss of access to federal law enforcement agencies, some of the Islamic organizations named as unindicted co-conspirators in the case unsuccessfully sued to have their names removed from the list. In a 2009 unsealed decision by federal Judge Jorge Solis, the court found that the government should have submitted the unindicted co-conspirators list under seal, and ordered the list resealed (a hollow victory since the list is readily available), but declined to remove the groups and individuals named.
In fact, in his decision Judge Solis recounted the evidence submitted by the government that justified CAIR’s being named unindicted co-conspirator in the case:
The Government identifies four portions of the record from the first trail that purportedly established that CAIR was a “joint venturer and co-conspirator”: (1) a Government exhibit showing the objective of the Palestine Committee is to support Hamas; (2) a Government exhibit showing CAIR founder Omar Ahmad is part of the Palestine Committee and Mousa Abu Marzook is its head; (3) a Government exhibit listing CAIR as part of the Palestine Committee; and (4) the testimony of Special Agent Lara Burns and accompanying exhibits placing the CAIR founder at the 1993 Philadelphia conference and describing the CAIR founder’s mediation of a dispute between HLF and Ashqar over Hamas fundraising . (Resp. at 12-13.) The Government does not mention any occasion where it used the 801(d)(2)(E) hearsay exception to introduce a statement of CAIR. The four pieces of evidence the government relies on, as discussed below, do create at least a prima facie case as to CAIR‘s involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas. (p. 6-7) (emphasis added)
But it wasn’t just CAIR among the unindicted co-conspirators that Solis focused on, but also the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which bills itself as the largest Muslim umbrella group in the country, and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which owns the property to more than one-quarter of all mosques in North America. Solis wrote that the government had “produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (‘IAP’), and with Hamas.” He also wrote: “The Muslim Brotherhood supervised the creation of the ‘Palestine Committee,’ which was put in charge of other organizations, such as HLF, IAP, UASR, and ISNA.” And also: “During the [1993 Philadelphia] conference, Palestine Committee members discussed using ISNA as official cover for their activities.”
What impact this new legislation will have remains to be seen, but it is clearly intended to roll back the Obama administration’s penchant for relying on groups identified by government prosecutors as fronts for designated terrorist organizations as partners for “outreach.”
As I reported here exclusively at PJ Media last April, the Department of Justice intervened and scuttled the planned prosecution of CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad as a follow-up to the Holy Land trial, which prompted several congressional inquiries. And as a follow-up to that article, I reported an interview with a high-ranking DOJ official who told me that FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni continued to meet with CAIR officials despite the FBI’s official ban on contacts with the Hamas front.
This new law will also curtail relations with the administration’s favorite “outreach” partner, ISNA, which, despite being named unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial, was last month included in a top-level meeting with the Department of Justice where Muslim groups demanded a formal declaration by the DOJ that any criticism of Islam constituted religious and racial discrimination. ISNA’s president, Mohamed Magid, is also a regular at White House functions and has been appointed to several government positions, including advising the Department of Homeland Security.
Congressional sources I spoke with on Monday said that this common-sense legislation was necessitated by the continued practice — in open defiance of the stated FBI policy — of dealing with and legitimizing individuals and groups that federal prosecutors had gone into federal court and identified as assisting terrorist groups.
Perhaps the most notorious case was an instance I reported on last year: Kifah Mustapha, who was personally named in the Holy Land case and who prosecutors had on court evidence videotape singing “I am a member of Hamas,” was included last year in the FBI-Chicago Field Office’s six-week Citizens’ Academy training program and given an escorted tour through the FBI Academy at Quantico and the top-secret National Counterterrorism Center. When I contacted the FBI-Chicago Field Office about the discrepancy, they defended Mustapha’s inclusion in the program despite their warnings to other agencies about the terror cleric’s longtime support for Hamas.
Congressional officials expressed skepticism that the new legislation would permanently stop the schizophrenic government policy of engaging groups and individuals that the government itself has said are tied to terrorist groups, but it puts the Obama administration on notice that the days of the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” outreach policies are drawing to a close.