Pulitzer Prize Winner Hawks 'Protocols of the Elders of the Anti-Islam Movement' in the New Yorker
A document entered into court evidence by Justice Department prosecutors in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history, and later cited affirmatively by the federal judge in the case and cleared by the federal appeals court, would seem an unlikely target for a former journalist to try to spin a conspiratorial tale around, namely slandering others of hawking a racist/"Islamphobic" "Protocols of the Elders of Islam."
And yet that is what David K. Shipler, a former New York Times reporter and winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize, is now trying to do.
Clearly upset that so-called "Islamophobes" have been successful using the document - again, discovered by the FBI, submitted into the evidence by federal prosecutors and approved as genuine by the federal court - to expose the Muslim Brotherhood roots of some of America's largest Islamic organizations, Shipler wields his "Islamophobia" harpoon like Ahab at his "anti-Islam industry" Moby Dick.
He makes his dubious case in a new book out this week, entitled "Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword" (Alfred A. Knopf), which includes an entire chapter on the subject, and summarizes it in an article published on Tuesday in The New Yorker, "Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement." The book received a very lukewarm review in the New York Times this past Sunday.
In the New Yorker article, Shipler claims:
Virtually all the alarm over the coming Islamic takeover and the spread of Sharia law can be traced back to an old document of questionable authority and relevance, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” Dated May 22, 1991, it was found in 2004 by the F.B.I., buried in one of a large number of boxes uncovered during a search of a house in northern Virginia. (I reported on the discovery and the use of the document for my book “Freedom of Speech: Mightier than the Sword.”) It is cited on numerous Web sites, and in articles, videos, and training materials, which quote one another in circular arguments. Its illusion of importance was enhanced by federal prosecutors, who included it in a trove of documents introduced into evidence in the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charitable organization ultimately convicted of sending money to Hamas.
The memo, however, is far from probative. It was never subjected to an adversarial test of its authenticity or significance. Examined closely, it does not stand up as an authoritative prescription for action. Rather, it appears to have been written as a plea to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership for action, by an author we know little about, Mohamed Akram. He is listed elsewhere as a secretary in the Brotherhood, but he writes in the tone of an underling. Islam watchers do not quote his appeal that the recipients “not rush to throw these papers away due to your many occupations and worries. All that I’m asking of you is to read them and to comment on them.” These lines reveal the memo as a mere proposal, now twenty-four years old. No other copies have come to light.
Two features of the memo are highlighted by the Islam watchers: first, its assertion that “the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” and, second, “a list of our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” [emphasis added]
What's remarkable about Shipler's treatment of the Explanatory Memorandum in his article and in his book is how much he is willing to quickly dismiss facts that completely undo his case, and how he pays no attention to the glaring contradictions he ends up wrapping himself into trying to debunk the document. At major points he contradicts himself. He breezes over the mountain of evidence that he has to overcome, but that means he can't plead ignorance of it. One is only left with the conclusion that he's being intentionally mendacious.
I beg the reader's indulgence, for I will quote lengthy passages and on occasions paste screenshots from the court documents themselves so you know I'm not engaged in anything dodgy. Tellingly, most of these quotes never appear in Shipler's book, and if so, only in selectively edited form.
So let's start with the evidence.
The document he is trying to cast doubts on is known generally as the "Explanatory Memorandum," but it's actual title is "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal of the Group in North America." The document is dated May 22, 1991, and was entered into evidence as "Elbarasse Search - 3" by federal prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial in 2008.
Helpfully, the federal court overseeing the case in an unusual move posted the trial evidence on their own website. The Explanatory Memorandum and the FBI translation of the document can be found here.
At this point, we can turn to what the Justice Department said in federal court about the Explanatory Memorandum. In one court filing, available on the ACLU's website, federal prosecutors state (p. 12):
The evidence introduced at trial, for example, established that ISNA and NAIT were among those organizations created by the U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood.8 Govt. Exh. 3-64 (seized from the home of HAMAS leader Ismail Elbarasse); Govt. Exh. 3-3 (Muslim Brotherhood document noting that ISNA was founded by the US-Muslim Brotherhood) ; Govt. Exh. 3-85 (1991 memorandum authored by U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Mohamed Akram Adlouni, recognizing ISNA and NAIT as Muslim Brotherhood organizations.) Government’s Exhibit 3-85, entitled An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal of the Group, described the Brotherhood’s strategic goal as a kind of “grand Jihad”:
The Ikhwan must understand that their role in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious…. [emphasis added]
So the Justice Department states that:
1) Two Islamic organizations - the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) - were created by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood (based on other trial evidence as well as the Explanatory Memorandum);
2) The Explanatory Memorandum was authored by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Mohamed Akram Adlouni;
3) That the memo describes the Brotherhood's strategic goal as "a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying Western Civilization from within."
Now please note that these claims were not made by "Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement" but the Justice Department in a federal court filing. He can tilt at all of the "anti-Islam" windmills he wants, but fundamentally he still has to explain away the court evidence.
And as stated earlier, much to the consternation of Shipler, the federal court agreed in a published opinion with the Justice Department's analysis of the document when Judge Jorge Solis ruled on motions from three separate organizations named as unindicted co-conspirators in the trial -- ISNA, NAIT, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- asking to be removed from the Justice Department's co-conspirator list. The judge's ruling against removing the groups from the unindicted co-conspirator list was unsealed in 2010.
In that ruling, Judge Solis states (p. 15):
Government Exhibit 3-85 is titled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” authored by Mohamed Akram of the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood and dated May 22, 1991. (Gov’t Ex. 3-85 (Elbarasse 3) at 21.) The “Explanatory Memorandum” includes a section titled “Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America,” which states that the work of the Ikhwan in the United States is “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” (Id.) Also contained in that document is a list of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends,” which includes ISNA, NAIT, the Occupied Land Fund (“OLF”) (HLF’s former name), and the United Association for Studies and Research (“UASR”). (Id. at 32.)
So Judge Solis found that:
1) The Explanatory Memorandum was authored by Mohamed Akram of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council;
2) That the document describes the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood's "grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within";
3) That the document lists the Muslim Brotherhood's "organizations and the organizations of our friends," including ISNA and NAIT.
At this point Shipler laughably believes he has room to maneuver. In the New Yorker article and in his book, he makes three general claims:
1) That the judge blindly accepted the Justice Department's argument about the origins and importance of the memo and never allowed adversarial challenges to its provenance;
2) That the Explanatory Memorandum was admitted as hearsay, meaning that the groups named in the memo were never allowed to challenge in court;
3) That the judge failed to distinguish between the memo's list of "our organizations" and "the organizations of our friends."
Let's take these in order.
1) Judge Solis accepted the Justice Department's description of the Explanatory Memorandum unquestioningly and never allowed adversarial challenges.
In discussing the order by Judge Solis in response to the motions of the three Islamic organizations, Shipler states in his book (p. 190):
CAIR and two other groups moved to have themselves removed from the list of unindicted co-conspirators, but the effort backfired and gave Islam watchers more ammunition. Not only was their motion denied by Judge Jorge Solis, who presided over the retrial, conviction, and sentencing of the five Holy Land Foundation defendants (the first trial had ended in a hung jury). He also accepted the government's assertions by citing the seized Elbarasse documents, including the Explanatory Memorandum, without testing their accuracy in an adversarial proceeding. He did not distinguish between the memo's list of "our organizations" and "the organizations of our friends." He ruled, "The Government had produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA [Islamic Society of North America], and NAIT [North American Islamic Trust] with HLF [Holy Land Foundation], the Islamic Association of Palestine ("IAP"), and with Hamas." [emphasis added]
Remarkably, Shipler contradicts himself just a few pages later, quoting a defense attorney for the Holy Land Foundation defendants who said that the Elbarasse documents had, in fact, been challenged by the defense team (p. 198):
The defense team lodged vigorous objections to the introduction of this and the other documents from the Elbarasse search, and two attorneys on the defense team, Nancy Hollander and Marlo Cadeddu, scoffed at Guandolo's statement. "There was no such stipulation by the defense," said Cadeddu. "Nor would we ever have stipulated to any such thing. Any claims to the contrary are simply untrue." Indeed, after the five Holy Land officials and fund-raisers were convicted, their lawyers argued specifically, in an unsuccessful appeal to the Fifth Circuit, that the trial judge had erred in admitting the documents, which the attorneys branded hearsay, irrelevant to the charge that the defendants had funneled money to Hamas. [emphasis added]