Two Hamas Fundraisers Still On the Run
Here's what I learned after my round of calls:
The last anyone heard, Mishal was living in the protective custody of Syria, which plays host to cousin Khalid Mishal and all of Hamas' other top leaders. Among these is another former Dallas resident who helped set up the Holy Land Foundation, Musa Abu Marzook.
As for Maghawari, he is believed to be living in either Lebanon or Gaza, or moves between them.
There is no known currently active American effort to hunt them down. The CIA or the intelligence branch of the FBI would be the agencies involved. These American agencies would no doubt have to work in concert with foreign intelligence services, like maybe Mossad, to track and corner either man for a capture. But no one I spoke to was aware of anything fresh going on. If anything, the plan is to sit back and hope.
A few years back, red notices -- the equivalents of arrest warrants -- were filed for Mishal and Maghawri with Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization.
But all this means is that Interpol's 187 participating member law enforcement agencies keep the fugitives' names on travel lists. They'd be captured and extradited only if either man makes the mistake of trying to travel through the wrong friendly country and gets noticed. Until then, they're probably relatively safe staying in lands that are hostile to the U.S.:
"This is one of those things where the most efficient thing is to assume they're going to want to travel some day," said Jim Jacks, the lead HLF prosecutor who is now Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. "One of these days they'll enter the wrong airport."
One federal agent still on the government payroll explained that U.S. interest in finding Mishal and Maghawri hasn't always been passive. A few years ago, American authorities heard one of the fugitives was visiting a "semi-friendly" Arab country. The U.S. tried to work out a capture with the locals but things didn't work out, the agent told me, purposefully offering few details. Also at one time, the American authorities reached out to the Syrians -- dubbed by Bush by that time as part of an international "axis of evil" -- about maybe working something out for the handover of Akram Misal, the agent said. That obviously didn't bear fruit.
Former Supervisory Special Agent Tino Perez left the bureau four years ago but spent years working the HLF investigation. No longer in the know, or in the bureau, Perez was blunt in his speculative assessment:
If they catch them, it'll probably be by accident. What's the severity of their crimes? If life and limb were at stake, there would be a CIA operation abroad or the FBI would coordinate. But something as benign as fund raising -- I don't mean to belittle that -- but fund raising is not a threat per se. They're probably on the B list, if that high.
One current FBI agent offered this assurance:
As long as they're out there, they're going to have to watch their backs. They're good for 15-65 (year prison terms). They're not going to be forgotten, at least not while some of us are still employed.
Perhaps no one followed the HLF investigation and trials more closely than Mark Briskman, head of the Dallas branch of the Anti-Defamation League. When I called Briskman, he admitted, "I've not even asked the question, quite candidly. But it's a good question."
He believes the nation never hears about Mishal and Maghawri because:
The media hasn't paid attention to them. That would be important, to make people understand that there are still two fugitives. As successful as the government has been with of five of the seven, the work is still undone. Clearly if they're not captured they'll continue to do their work in supporting the terrorist organization Hamas. I don't think the final chapter is over. That's my clear belief.