The Biggest D.C. Spy Scandal You Haven't Heard About (Part Two)
In Part One, I explored the court documents in the case of Ghulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of the Kashmiri American Center (KAC) who admitted in a 26-page Statement of Facts at the time of his plea deal last December that he was an influence agent working for the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI. He penetrated the halls of Congress and successive administrations over a 20-year period to help shape U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan’s favor.
As noted in the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Sarah Webb Linden that was the basis for the criminal charges filed in federal court against Fai, he was in constant communication with his ISI handlers, exchanging more than 4,000 emails between June 2008 and his arrest in July 2011. According to the FBI, the ISI spent more than $4 million funding Fai’s operation, funneling money to straw donors in the Pakistani-American community. The operation was coordinated by Zaheer Ahmad, a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan who was charged along with Fai in the case.
As I noted in Part One, while the establishment media reported on Fai’s arrest, the story virtually disappeared from all of the leading news outlets. But while the U.S. media was ignoring the scandal entirely, the matter was the subject of considerable media scrutiny in Indian and Pakistani media.
One curious episode that received no attention from the U.S. media was the strange death of Fai’s conspirator, Zaheer Ahmad.
Several months after Fai’s arrest, an extensive investigative piece (the only one ever published on the topic) by ProPublica noted Ahmad’s ties to Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. Mahmood had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri prior to 9/11, wanting to help al-Qaeda obtain nuclear weapons. Ahmad told the ProPublica researchers:
In a phone conversation, Ahmad said he was free and working at Shifa. "Until this case is finished, I can't discuss this," Ahmad told a ProPublica reporter. "And it could be dangerous for you, too."
Two days after the ProPublica exposé appeared, a bombshell report from the Hindustan Times placed Ahmad (Fai's conspirator) at the meeting with Mahmood, Bin Laden, and Zawahiri just weeks prior to the 9/11 attacks.
Two days after that Hindustan Times article appeared tying him to the meeting with al-Qaeda leaders, Ahmad, who was living in Pakistan, dropped dead from a “cerebral hemorrhage”.
So within one week the following happened: ProPublica published an exposé examining Fai’s efforts on Capitol Hill on behalf of Pakistani intelligence; another report tied Fai’s charged conspirator in the case with meeting with Osama bin Laden just weeks prior to the 9/11 attacks; and the conspirator dropped dead.
Yet that was not sufficient to stoke the curiosity of the American media.
Why did this story get buried?
The official response to that question will be that Fai’s arrest was part of the diplomatic game between the U.S., India, and Pakistan, which is entirely true. In fact, as the New York Times reported, the FBI’s efforts to arrest Fai in 2011 were repeatedly opposed by the State Department and the CIA.
And considering the tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan after the raid that killed bin Laden in May 2011 and the subsequent closing of U.S. supply routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan, that certainly explains the reason why the U.S. government was so willing to cut a plea deal with Fai (which it did).
But it doesn’t explain the hands-off policy of the story by the U.S. media.
One possible reason: Fai’s operation had seen considerable success under the Clinton and Bush administrations, and documents obtained by the FBI in the raid of KAC showed that Fai anticipated his efforts would flourish in the new Obama administration. Was the media merely protecting Obama?
According to the FBI, a “plan of action” for 2009 submitted to his ISI handlers showed Fai’s plan to expand his operations by building new alliances with the State Department, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon under the incoming Obama administration. In 2010, his list of proposed activities included 61 key events planned for the year, including 10 briefings for members of Congress and their staff. In 2011, Fai was directed by the Pakistan Embassy in D.C. to expand his outreach even further by contacting and building relationships with 11 members of the media and six think-tank personnel.
It’s doubtful anyone in the establishment media was eager to investigate whom at the State Department, White House/National Security Council, and the Pentagon Fai had been meeting with.
Another possible reason for the media’s lack of attention to the Fai scandal can be seen in Fai’s own biography:
His articles appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Plain Dealer, Baltimore Sun, and many other foreign policy journals in the United States and around the world.
Not only did he have the political establishment fooled for 20 years, he had the media establishment snookered as well.
However, while the diplomatic sensitivities of the Fai case, the protection of the Obama administration, and self-interest were all possible contributing factors to the media’s sitting on the biggest spy scandal on Capitol Hill in recent memory, there is a more evident motive as to why the media took a pass.
Ghulam Nabi Fai was not only active in leadership roles in many of the largest Islamic groups in the U.S. -- particularly those leading the U.S. government’s Islamic “outreach” efforts. These groups also actively aided in his operations.
The ProPublica exposé noted some of these ties:
The late Ismail Raji al-Faruqi was a professor specializing in Islam at Temple and would soon help found the International Institute of Islamic Thought. (The institute later came under investigation in a federal probe into terrorism funding, although no charges were filed.) Another professor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a respected Islamic scholar, was trying to "Islamicize" the social sciences, Fai said.
At Temple, Fai became president of the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. & Canada, an organization started in part by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had spread from Egypt through the Middle East. Some branches of the Brotherhood were hardline; others, more moderate.
Fai also started working for the ISI in about 1985 while at Temple, according to correspondence cited by the FBI, although the affidavit does not make clear what he was doing.
After earning his doctorate in 1988, Fai joined the advisory council for the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group started by the Muslim Students Association that also received Saudi funding. [PP – as federal prosecutors noted, Fai falsely claimed to have received his doctorate and presented himself as “Doctor”, but in fact he never obtained the degree.]
But that’s not all:
Incorporation documents filed in Maryland in April 1990 show Fai was one of three people who established the Kashmir center. A second founder was Rafia Syeed, the wife of Sayyid Syeed, one of the organizers of ISNA. The third founder’s father, who retired from the Pakistani military, also held a key post in a charity run by Fai’s alleged accomplice, Zaheer Ahmad. The Syeeds did not reply to requests for comment. The third founder, Mohammad Bilal Yousaf, denied knowing Fai. “I have never heard of Dr. Fai before, only what’s been reported in the media,” he said.
IRS filings show the group got startup funds from two board members and a $20,000 loan from the North American Islamic Trust, an ISNA-linked group that holds titles to about 300 U.S. mosques, Islamic centers and schools.
To summarize what we know of Ghulam Nabi Fai:
- He came to the U.S. to study under one of the top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Ismail Faruqi, who founded the International Institute for Islamic Thought, which was identified by U.S. Customs as the hub of terrorism financing in the U.S.
- Fai later served as national president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), during which time, according to an email cited in the FBI affidavit, he began serving on behalf of his Pakistani ISI masters.
- He then served on the Shura Council for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
- The wife of ISNA’s longtime Secretary General and present Director of Interfaith Outreach Sayyid Syeed was one of the original incorporators of KAC. Syeed had preceded Fai as national president of the MSA.
- According to IRS filings, KAC’s Pakistani intelligence influence operation was launched with a $20,000 loan from the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which owns the property to hundreds of mosques around the country.
No doubt these organizations would say that their associations with Fai are ancient history and that they had no knowledge that Fai was operating on behalf of Pakistani intelligence.
But Fai’s involvement with these organizations continues to this day.
In fact, just two weeks before his arrest, Fai was speaking at ISNA’s annual conference, as seen in this video:
After his arrest, many of these Islamic groups -- again, which are closely tied to the U.S. government -- issued a statement in support of Fai under the rubric of the “American Muslim Taskforce” (AMT). This is how the AMT describes itself:
AMT is an umbrella organization that includes American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society-Freedom (MAS-F), Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), National Association of Imams (NAIF) and United Muslims of America (UMA).
After that August 2, 2011 AMT press release, media mentions of Fai’s case, save for his plea deal and sentencing, virtually disappear.
Even after Fai entered into a plea deal and signed a 26-page Statement of Facts admitting his work on Capitol Hill on behalf of Pakistani intelligence, these same Islamic groups continue to support Fai.
In fact, after Fai’s sentencing and before he reported to federal prison, many of these U.S. Islamic groups hosted fundraising dinners across the country in support of Fai and his legal expenses, hailing him as a hero.
One of these events was held in Newark, California, on June 21, and was promoted by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and co-sponsored by such prominent groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and ISNA.
Here’s a flyer for the event:
The audio of the event speakers in support of Fai can be found here.
ICNA president Zahid Bukhari sent a letter in support of Fai to the federal judge, urging a lenient sentence:
Dr. Fai was himself a victim of the Indian Government’s inhumane polices in the occupied Kashmir. He was not able to visit his parents and family living in Kashmir since his departure from that part of world several decades ago. In America, he became the globally recognized face of the plight of Kashmiri people.
He presented the Kashmiri case in 17 sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva from 2006 until June 2011. He participated in all summits of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) since 1991, and met with over 50 Heads of State over the last 20 years. He addressed the preliminary session at the Centennial Conference of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Chicago in August 1993. Dr. Fai also organized ten International Kashmir Peace Conferences at the Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Federal prosecutors told the court in a sentencing memo that Fai’s cooperation with the FBI was lacking following his plea deal, particularly noting his lack of cooperation regarding “his involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Pakistani terrorist groups.” (p. 9, fn. 3)
The story of the Pakistani ISI’s 20-year penetration into the heart of Congress, the State Department, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon should have been big news, especially since the U.S. government has identified the ISI as a terrorist organization in military tribunal documents.
But it wasn’t.
The media savaged Rep. Michele Bachmann and her congressional colleagues for daring to request an investigation into organizations that the U.S. government has gone into federal court and identified as front groups for the international Muslim Brotherhood yet somehow still considers helpful outreach partners. The story of how these same Islamic groups and leaders rushed to the support of Ghulam Nabi Fai and hailed Pakistan intelligence’s influence man on Capitol Hill as a hero even after admitting his crimes should be equally major news.
But it’s even worse than that. Fai was not only supported by these Islamic organizations, he served in senior leadership of these very organizations, which the U.S. government continues to consult with to help shape our domestic and foreign policy. These very same organizations are welcomed into the halls of Congress, the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon to this day.
That’s the reason I believe the story of Ghulam Nabi Fai, the Kashmiri American Council, and the Pakistani ISI is the biggest D.C. spy scandal you’ve never heard about.
The staggering implications of what federal prosecutors presented in court about this matter under any other circumstances would have shaken Washington, D.C., to its core. Instead, the political and media establishment closes their eyes in self-imposed blindness.
And in the end, it will be the American people who reap the consequences.