It’s been a wild two weeks since my exclusive Pajamas Media article revealing that political appointees at the Department of Justice had scuttled pending terror finance indictments of several prominent Islamic leaders as part of the Holy Land Foundation case, including Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) co-founder Omar Ahmad. A high-placed DOJ source told me the case was nixed to prevent embarrassment to the Obama administration and to avoid inflaming the Muslim community. House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King then sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding answers about why these prosecutions were stopped.
Then, on Sunday, King went on Fox News and explained that he had spoken directly to the federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas who had investigated the Hamas support network in the United States and had prepared the indictments against Omar Ahmad. King said that the career DOJ prosecutors and the FBI agents who had investigated the case were outraged that the indictments had been nixed by political appointees under Holder.
On Monday, Holder gave a hastily arranged speech at DOJ headquarters, where he responded by saying that his office had prosecuted more terrorists in the past two years than at any time in American history — but failed to acknowledge that domestic terrorism over the past two years is higher than it has ever been.
By Tuesday, Holder had convened another hastily arranged press conference, where he admitted that the DOJ had scuttled the CAIR prosecutions — thereby confirming our reporting — but where he also claimed that they were only following previous decisions made by the Bush administration, back in 2004, when they decided to delay prosecuting the CAIR officials until after the trial of the Holy Land Foundation executives. That trial concluded in late November 2008 — three weeks after the election of Barack Obama — with convictions against the defendants on all 108 counts.
But with Eric Holder blaming the Bush administration for this decision, it will be interesting to see how he explains the fact that, under his leadership, the DOJ has been responsible for scuttling other terror-related investigations — according to congressional investigators looking at the possible political motivations for dropping prosecutions of American Islamic leaders for terrorism support.
According to these congressional sources, one case that was scuttled by Assistant Attorney General David Kris (who wrote the memo declining to prosecute Omar Ahmad in the Holy Land Foundation case) was a tax evasion and money laundering prosecution prepared by the U.S. attorney’s office in the eastern district of Virginia. The targets of these indictments would have been several Muslim leaders of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and the now-defunct SAAR Foundation/SAFA Group, who were investigated and raided for a wide range of activities to support foreign terrorist organizations.
That case was part of an investigation that targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami Al-Arian, who was charged with contempt by the federal judge in the IIIT/SAAR case for refusing to testify about how the groups had financially and materially supported Al-Arian’s PIJ front based in Tampa, Florida, despite his plea agreement requiring him to do so. Because of Al-Arian’s lack of cooperation in the IIIT/SAAR case, federal prosecutors were only prepared to indict the IIIT/SAAR leaders on the money laundering and tax evasion charges.
Congressional investigators who spoke to me also say that one of the Muslim leaders targeted by these indictments was Jamal Barzinji, a longtime IIIT official and former national president of the Muslim Student Association (whose terror ties I reported on here at PJM last August).
At the time of the raids on IIIT and SAAR back in 2003, U.S. Customs Service Special Agent David Kane testified in an affidavit requesting the search warrants, filed in federal court, that Barzinji “is not only closely associated with PIJ (as evidenced by ties to Al-Arian, including documents seized in Tampa in 1995 reflecting direct correspondence between Barzinji and Al-Arian), but also with HAMAS.”
In 2008, Barzinji donated $1,000 to the Barack Obama presidential campaign. In the 2009-2010 cycle, he donated to three Democrats: Rep. Jim Moran (VA); Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), the first Muslim congressman; and Sen. Jim Webb (VA). In 2002, Moran returned $10,000 in campaign contributions from officials associated with IIIT and SAAR.
Congressional investigators say they are also looking into another case nixed by Holder’s DOJ, again involving CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad — to be indicted, allegedly, on obstruction of justice charges in the case of Ahmadullah Niazi. Niazi is a California man who had been charged with lying about his terrorist ties before intervention by political appointees in the DOJ. The charges against Niazi were later dropped after problems developed with the FBI’s confidential informant.
These additional terror-related prosecutions, scuttled by Eric Holder’s DOJ, are currently being investigated by various congressional committees. They may well come up next Tuesday, when Holder appears before the full House Judiciary Committee.
Pajamas Media will be covering that House Judiciary hearing, featuring Attorney General Holder, in May.