by Patrick Poole
During the House Homeland Security hearing last month on the topic of radicalization in the American Muslim community, one exchange between L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) concerned the relationship between the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and Hamas terrorist front the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Sheriff Baca told the congressman:
We don’t play around with criminals in my world. If CAIR is an organization that is a quote “criminal organization,” prosecute them. Hold them accountable and bring them to trial.
But according to a high-ranking source within the Department of Justice, who spoke exclusively to Pajamas Media on the condition of anonymity, Sheriff Baca, a long-time supporter of CAIR, was probably already in on the joke.
The joke is that a number of leaders of Islamic organizations (all of whom publicly opposed the King hearings on Muslim radicalization) were about to be indicted on terror finance support charges by the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, which had been investigating the case for most of the past decade.
But those indictments were scuttled last year at the direction of top-level political appointees within the Department of Justice (DOJ) — and possibly even the White House.
Included in those indictments was at least one of the co-founders of CAIR, based on “Declination of Prosecution of Omar Ahmad,” a March 31 DOJ legal memo from Assistant Attorney General David Kris to Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler. A second DOJ official familiar with the investigation independently confirmed these details. Omar Ahmad is one of CAIR’s co-founders and its chairman emeritus. He was personally named, along with CAIR itself, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror finance trial in 2007 and 2008. During the trial FBI Agent Lara Burns testified that both Omar Ahmad and current CAIR executive director Nihad Awad were caught on FBI wiretaps attending a 1993 meeting of Hamas leaders in Philadelphia.
Dean Boyd, public affairs representative for the DOJ National Security Division, declined to provide me a copy of the March 31, 2010, memo dropping the Omar Ahmad prosecution. Directing me to submit a FOIA request, Boyd did say that “as a general rule, internal DOJ deliberation memos spelling out arguments for or against potential prosecution of any particular suspect are not public.”
Pajamas Media will be filing a FOIA request for all the related documents in this case.
According to my source, the chief reason outlined in the DOJ memo declining to prosecute CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad was the issue of potential jury nullification. The first Holy Land Foundation trial in 2007 ended in a hung jury. When the case was retried in 2008, all five defendants, former executives of the Holy Land Foundation, were convicted on all 108 counts.
But, according to our DOJ source, possible jury nullification was hardly the primary issue in the DOJ’s scuttling of the terror finance prosecutions. “This was a political decision from the get-go,” the source said.
It was always the plan to initially go after the [Holy Land Foundation] leaders first and then go after the rest of the accomplices in a second round of prosecutions. From a purely legal point of view, the case was solid. Jim Jacks [the U.S. attorney in Dallas who prosecuted the Holy Land Foundation executives] and his team were ready to go. There’s a mountain of evidence against all of these groups that was never introduced during the Holy Land trial and it is damning. We’ve got them on wiretaps. That’s exactly why many of these leaders and groups were named unindicted co-conspirators in the first round of prosecutions.
But from a political perspective there was absolutely no way that they could move forward. That’s why this decision came from the top down. These individuals who were going to be prosecuted are still the administration’s interfaith allies. Not only would these Muslim groups and their friends in the media be screaming “Islamophobia” at the top of their lungs and that this is a war against Islam, but the administration would look like absolute fools. It’s kind of hard to prosecute someone on material support for terrorism when you have pictures of them getting handed awards from DOJ and FBI leaders for their supposed counter-terror efforts. How would Holder explain that when we’re carting off these prominent Islamic leaders in handcuffs for their role in a terror finance conspiracy we’ve been investigating for years? This is how bad the problem is. Why are we continuing to have anything to do with these groups knowing what we know?
“By closing down these prosecutions,” the source added, “the evidence we’ve collected over the past decade that implicates most of the major Islamic organizations will never see the light of day.”
The FBI still has boxes and boxes of stuff that has never even been translated — just like what happened in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But it’s already been made public that they have copies of money transfers sent by NAIT [the North American Islamic Trust, which holds the property titles of many of the mosques in America — Ed.] directly to known Hamas entities and Hamas leaders. Those came out during the [Holy Land Foundation] trial. But what if we won the case against NAIT and its leaders and the U.S. government finds itself the landlord to hundreds of mosques across the country? How well do you think that would that play in the Muslim community?
The actions by the DOJ to crush these prosecutions are just another schizophrenic episode in the U.S. government’s ongoing relationship with Islamic organizations, especially CAIR. After CAIR was named unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial, the FBI was forced to cut ties with the group. In an April 2009 letter to Sen. Jon Kyl, FBI Assistant Director Richard Powers said that “the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner.”
And a February 2010 letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to four congressmen who inquired about the termination of the relationship between the FBI and CAIR — just weeks before the DOJ officially ceased further prosecutions, including of CAIR co-founders — elaborated on the evidence about CAIR that had emerged from the Holy Land trial. Yet, according to my DOJ source, CAIR leaders continue to be regularly received by top DOJ and FBI officials despite the official ban and these statements made to members of Congress.
And just last November, a significant July 2009 memorandum order by Judge Jorge Solis, who supervised the initial Holy Land Foundation trial, was unsealed under direction of the Court of Appeals. It provides the court’s reasons for refusing to remove CAIR and two other prominent Islamic groups, the Islamic Society of North America and NAIT, from the list of unindicted co-conspirators in the case. Judge Solis concluded that “the four pieces of evidence the government relies on, as discussed below, do create at least a prima facie case as to CAIR’s involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas” (p. 7), specifically naming Omar Ahmad’s part in the conspiracy (p. 6) and adding later that “the Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and with Hamas” (p. 15).
As I reported here at Pajamas Media, FBI Director Robert Mueller reiterated these reasons for cutting ties with CAIR before a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting — just two days before The Daily Caller reported that White House officials had publicly praised CAIR.
Adding to the hypocrisy, after the Obama administration scuttled the next round of prosecutions in the Hamas terror financing investigation last March, Attorney General Eric Holder gave the prosecutors and FBI investigators in the Holy Land Foundation case the AG’s Award for Distinguished Service last October for their work in the case.
I asked my DOJ source why they decided to come forward now. The source said:
This is a national security issue. We know that these Muslim leaders and groups are continuing to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation. It was the right thing to do. Then the money started going to KindHearts. We shut them down too. Now the money is going through groups like Islamic Relief and Viva Palestina. Until we act decisively to cut off the financial pipeline to these terrorist groups by putting more of these people in prison, they are going to continue to raise money that will go into the hands of killers. And until Congress starts grilling the people inside DOJ and the FBI who are giving these groups cover, that is not going to change. My biggest fear is that Americans are going to die and it will be the very Muslim leaders we are working with who will be directly or indirectly responsible.
But if the U.S. government publicly acknowledges the terror ties of these groups why do they continue to deal with them?
We tried to do what we could during the Bush administration. After 9/11, we had to do something and [the Holy Land Foundation] was the biggest target. If the mistrial hadn’t have happened, we probably would have gone through the second round of prosecutions before the change in administrations.
To say things are different under Obama and Holder would be an understatement. Many of the people I work with at Justice now see CAIR not just as political allies, but ideological allies. They believe they are fighting the same revolution. It’s scary. And Congress and the American people need to know this is going on.
It remains to be seen how Congress, the American people, and the establishment media — who always seem eager to rise to the defense of CAIR and the other terror-tied Islamic groups — will proceed.
Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Pajamas Media, and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.