Exclusive: FBI Severs CAIR Ties – Group's Credibility Takes a Hit from Holy Land Terror Trial
by JOEL HIMELFARB
February 9, 2009
The public image of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), image has taken a huge blow as a result of new revelations that the FBI has severed ties with the group.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a research organization headed by Steven Emerson, has published on its web site a letter sent in October from James. E. Finch, special agent in charge of the bureau's Oklahoma operations, to local Muslims stating that the FBI would not take part in a local outreach conference because of CAIR's participation. An FBI official in Washington told Fox News last month that the agency has directed FBI field offices across the country to cut ties with local affiliates of CAIR.
According to the Investigative Project, the decision to end contacts with CAIR was made quietly last summer while federal prosecutors prepared for the federal retrial in Dallas of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development on charges of financing the terrorist organization Hamas. In October 2007, a federal judge in Dallas had declared a mistrial on most counts in in the U.S. government's first attempt to prosecute the Holy Land Foundation. But in the retrial, foundation officials didn't fare so well: On November 24, 2008, five former leaders of the Dallas-based charity were convicted of providing more than $12 million to the terrorist group Hamas. The men – Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mohamed el-Mazain, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdelrahman Odeh – face up to 20 years in prison for their convictions on charges which include conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
On October 7th (one day before the Finch letter was sent), FBI Special Agent Lara Burns testified at the Holy Land Foundation trial, where she was asked about a statement made by Baker during a 1993 meeting of Hamas sympathizers and Holy Land officials in Philadelphia. During the meeting, which was wiretapped by federal authorities, Baker and others discussed ways to get out their message: that Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations needed to be stopped. Baker stated that radical Islamists needed to come up with an alternative organization to advance their agenda while downplaying the foundation's extremist ties. A prosecutor asked Burns whether any of the organizations formed after the meeting fit this mold. "CAIR," she replied. Indeed, CAIR was formed less than one year after that Philadelphia meeting.
CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, and testimony showed that its founder, Omar Ahmad, and its current executive director and co-founder, Nihad Awad, both participated in the Philadelphia meeting. Additional evidence produced at the trial illustrated the links between CAIR, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Sunni Muslim movement that seeks to spread Shariah around the world. Hamas was formed as the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and U.S.-based Brotherhood officials formed the Palestine Committee, headed by Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk. Ahmad and Awad were active members of that committee, and both were on a phone list of its members. A July 30, 1994, agenda for the Palestine Committee, seized by federal authorities and also introduced at the Holy Land trial, showed that "suggestions to develop the work" of the Holy Land Foundation, CAIR and other groups were on the agenda.
In a November 1994 interview with Mike Wallace of CBS Television's 60 Minutes, Awad defended Hamas' use of "armed resistance" (violence, including terrorism) against Israel. Since that time, numerous other CAIR officials have made statements defending Hezbollah and Hamas and denouncing the U.S. government for designating them as terrorist organizations. Research conducted by veteran journalist Douglas Farah, who closely monitors the activities of Jihadist organizations in the United States, shows that the work of Muslim Brotherhood operatives in this country is anything but benign. Farah points out that at the first Holy Land trial, the government introduced the following 1987 statement describing the mission of Muslim Brotherhood operatives who settle in the United States:
"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process ' with all the word [sic] means. The Ikhwan [brotherhood of Muslims] must understand that their work 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 over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who choose to slack."
Less than one week after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, President Bush visited Washington's Islamic Center, where he appeared with various leaders of Muslim groups, including CAIR. Bush said it "is my honor to be meeting with leaders who feel just the way I do. They're outraged, they're sad. They love America just as much as I do." A few days after the president's remarks, Salon.com correspondent Jake Tapper interviewed CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, who refused to condemn outright Osama bin Laden for September 11th. Tapper reported at the time that CAIR officials also refused to condemn outright terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
Despite this record, over the past seven-plus years, the FBI has spent a considerable amount of time trying to work with CAIR. But it has not always been a pleasant experience for law enforcement. In March 2003, the Miami office of the FBI and CAIR held a joint press conference about the bureau's search for al Qaeda operative Adnan El Shukrijumah, The FBI focused on capturing him after September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was caught in Pakistan. Mohammed fingered El Shukrijumah as a senior al Qaeda terrorist on a par with Mohammed Atta.
The FBI issued a press release calling CAIR "respected members of the Arab-American community." CAIR issued a press release exalting El Shukrijumah's family – even as the accused terrorist's mother made statement's suggesting her son should remain in hiding. According to the Web site Militant Islam Monitor, CAIR's Florida head made a statement appearing to suggest that Mohammed's comments about El Shukrijumah might be invalid because Mohammed had been mistreated by his interrogators.
Now, as an indirect result of the Holy Land Foundation terrorist-financing trial, the FBI is apparently doing something it should have done long ago: Severing ties with the Council on American Islamic Relations.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Joel Himelfarb is the Assistant Editor of the Editorial Page of The Washington Times. The views expressed here are his own.