December 8, 2005, - 6:50 am
By Debbie Schlussel
My friend, Michael Eisenstadt, dedicated his life, among other things, to seeing terrorist leader Sami Al-Arian face justice.
In September, Mike, spokesman for Tampa’s Jewish community, died of lung cancer. While his passing is a source of great sadness, I’m glad Mike didn’t get to see Al-Arian’s acquittal, Tuesday.
It was a sad day in America, but not one that was unexpected. At least by me. Everyone predicted that the jury would throw the book at the man who was a founder of terrorist group Islamic Jihad, and ran its worldwide headquarters from his University of South Florida offices.
But not me.
I followed the trial and predicted all along (here and here) that Sami Al-Arian and his three co-defendants would walk. Why? Because our Justice Department, while desperate for victories, is really not serious about the War on Terror. In fact, more important to Gonzalez and Company (and before that, Ashcroft and Company) is outreach to radical Islamic individuals and groups that support terrorists like Al-Arian and prosecution of anything they perceive as “hate crimes” against those Muslims.
One need only look at the Justice Department record of fighting terrorism in court. It’s a complete failure.
It’s not just this case, blown big-time by Cherie Krigsman and other prosecutors on the prosecution team, but a host of other high profile case that were either flat-out lost or botched beyond belief.
Take the Sami Omar Al-Hussayen. A Saudi graduate student living in Boise, Idaho, he used his computer expertise to set up websites for Islamic terrorist groups and help them recruit members and financial donors. The evidence was pretty clear. One of the sites urged followers to use planes as weapons, flying them into American buildings. And that was BEFORE 9/11. And did I mention, he was here illegally?
Yet, the Justice Department–with all resources at its disposal–managed to lose. Al-Hussayen was acquitted.
Then, there is the Detroit Al-Qaeda terror cell trial. It was the first major jury terror trial after 9/11. The four men he was trying lived in Detroit house they shared with Nabil Al-Marabh, a Bin Laden associate who was among the FBI’s 25 most wanted. They had over 100 extremist jihadi tapes urging the murder of Americans, Christians, and Jews. They also took videotape of major American sites and tourist attractions with girls singing Al-Qaeda songs in the background of the tapes. They had diagrams of American and Israeli F-16 and AWACS planes and their order of take-off from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
Sounds like a slam-dunk, right? Well, not exactly.
Prosecutor Richard Convertino’s superiors at the Justice Department repeatedly, deliberately put obstacles in his way at every turn. His own boss, then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins, didn’t want Convertino to win this case, let alone pursue it. The men had ties to Detroit’s Islamic community, whom the ambitious Collins was aggressively courting, ad absurdum.
The accused terrorists received thousands of dollars in federal job training money from a major Detroit Arab welfare agency, dominated by Muslims. The “job training” consisted of commercial driving lessons and attempts to get hazardous materials hauling certificates–exactly what an Al-Qaeda operative wanting to blow things up would have on his Ramadan gift wish list. Collins could not afford to see these men convicted because it would embarrass the Islamic community and–especially–himself.
So when Convertino won terror convictions against the Detroit terror cell, Collins and the Justice Department higher-ups, like then-Assistant Attorney General James Comey and Justice Department official Barry Sabin set to get the convictions overturned. They began a witch-hunt investigation and searched Convertino’s office, looking for ways to get his successful verdict against terrorists overturned. They also set out to destroy Convertino’s reputation in a campaign of whispers in cooperation with the case’s judge, Gerald Rosen and a fabricating Detroit News reporter.
Since then, Detroit’s new U.S. Attorney, Stephen Murphy III, has made it his priority to prosecute not terrorism, but trumped up “hate crimes” against Detroit area Muslims.
Remember, this is OUR Justice Department. But it seems like someone else’s. Someone who prays at an extremist mosque and wants to destroy America.
Then, there is the much touted Krigsman and other “prosecutors” in the Al-Arian trial. They could have taken a few lessons from Convertino. He had as much evidence as she did in her trial. But he knew how to trim the fat from the meat. The Al-Arian “prosecutors” took over five months to put on her case–five months in which they threw in every piece of evidence no matter how weak, causing jurors’ eyes to repeatedly glaze over. A Tampa TV reporter I know told me that he and other reporters were so bored, they stayed awake by betting on which juror would fall asleep next.
Clearly, “prosecutors” were out of touch with the jury and didn’t know what they were doing. They had strong evidence, including a videotape of Al-Arian at the Cleveland Mosque–at which he was proudly identified as the chief of “armed operations” for Islamic Jihad and he and the Cleveland Mosque imam, Fawaz Abu Damra, call for violent jihad and death to America, Christians, and Jews. They had evidence of money transfers, a letter to Kuwait in which Al-Arian speaks of a merger with “the brothers in HAMAS” which is almost complete, a speech in which Al-Arian calls for a river of gushing blood. The prosecution’s case should have taken a month to put on, but instead they took more than five–confusing the jury with a myriad of weak evidence that ended up overwhelming the strong stuff.
Then, there is the judge. Federal Judge James S. Moody, a Clinton appointee, is the Dancing Judge Ito of terror trials. Caught up in the glamour of intense media coverage, he used the trial to showcase his bad nightclub-style comedy act, just like Judge Rosen in the Detroit terror trial. When a female attorney objected to the inclusion of a certain male juror, he joked that he would get the attorney his phone number after the trial. When one federal prosecutor wrapped up cross-examination on a witness, saying “And finally,” Moody interrupted with, “You’re teasing us, right?” Not the kind of guy you want overseeing a serious terror trial.
If anything is an argument for treating terrorists as a national security problem, instead of a legal one in the courts, this is it. But the judge, jury, and prosecutors are exemplary of America’s psyche, today. We’ve fallen asleep again, forgotten 9/11, and don’t take Islamic terrorism very seriously.
Contrast that with the brave men of yesteryear. Sixty years ago, the Nuremberg trials of Germany’s most heinous war criminals began. “The were evil men, and what they did was our task to expose,” American Nuremberg prosecutor Whitney Harris, now 93, remembers. “And we did get the evidence and we were able to do so.” Twelve of the 21 men on trial were sentenced to death, six received tough prison terms, and only three were acquitted.
Back then, most Americans knew what we were fighting, had the resolve to do it, and we beat the Nazis. Today, we’re just too busy with XBox 360 to notice–or give a damn.
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