Long Ordeal Of Sami Al-Arian - Civil And Human Rights Advocate
And Political Prisoner
By Stephen Lendman
06 April, 2007
Sami Al-Arian is one of many
dozens, likely hundreds, of political prisoners in the US today but
is noteworthy because of his high-profile status and as an especially
egregious example of persecution and injustice in post-9/11 America
with its climate of state-induced fear and resulting repression with
special targeting of Latino immigrants and all Muslims characterized
as "Islamofascists" because of their faith and ethnicity.
One of them is Dr. Sami Al-Arian
- Palestinian refugee, scholar,
academic, community leader, civic activist and advocate for freedom
and justice for his people imprisoned since February, 2003 on trumped
up charges explained below even after a jury exonerated him on eight
of the false 17 charges against him, all the ones relating to violence
and terrorism, and remained deadlocked 10 - 2 in favor of acquittal
on the other nine. More on this below.
Al-Arian is a Kuwaiti-born
son of Palestinian refugees forced to flee Palestine during the 1948-49
Nakba catastrophe when the new state of Israel's "War of Independence"
ethnically cleansed and willfully slaughtered 800,000 Palestinians,
desecrated their sacred holy sites, and seized their lands. The final
master Plan D (Dalet) was for a war without mercy against defenseless
people in which unspeakable atrocities were committed while destroying
531 Palestinian villages, 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv,
Haifa and Jerusalem, thousands of homes and vast amounts of crops. Al-Arian's
parents were lucky to escape the carnage and destruction alive.
Al-Arian came to the US in
1975, was denied citizenship, and taught computer science as a distinguished
professor at the University of South Florida (USF) from 1986 until the
worst of his ordeal began in February, 2003. It was because of his public,
passionate and effective advocacy for human and civil rights and the
liberation of his people long oppressed for six decades.
Al-Arian is a man of great
distinction. He's a devout Palestinian Muslim, imam of the Islamic Community
of Tampa, and a respected and admired man of principle who helped empower
the Muslim community through his dedicated hard work and personal relationships
with other civic, political and religious leaders in Florida and across
the country in spite of having to do it in a post-9/11 environment when
all Muslims became suspect and were viewed as possible "terrorists."
Post-9/11, USF president
Judy Genshaft consorted with Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspending Al-Arian
on September 28 with pay on phony grounds of campus safety. She then
tried firing him falsely claiming he supported terrorists and damaged
the university's reputation even though he was a respected award-winning
tenured professor guilty of no crime but his faith, ethnicity and courageous
activism encouraging other Muslim Americans to act likewise.
Earlier in August, 1996,
USF placed Al-Arian on paid leave pending the outcome of a FBI investigation
into whether organizations he was involved with fronted for terrorist
groups allowing him to resume teaching two years later when it uncovered
Days before his arrest, indictment
and imprisonment in February, 2003, sensing what was to come after months
of rumors, Al-Arian wrote: "I am crucified today because of who
I am: a stateless Palestinian, an Arab, a Muslim and an outspoken advocate
for Palestinian rights, but more a persistent defender for civil and
constitutional rights on the home front." This was from a man Newsweek
magazine called the premier civil rights activist in America for his
efforts to repeal the use of secret evidence that became HR 2121 that
only got as far in the 109th Congress as a favorable vote in the House
Judiciary Committee, and it's now up to the 110th Congress to take further
Earlier, Al-Arian cofounded
the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, a local organization
opposing unconstitutional use of secret evidence and other civil rights
violations as well as slanderous media attacks against Muslims and Arabs.
He also cofounded the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom,
the nation's leading organization challenging the use of secret evidence
serving as its first president in 2000. Because of his efforts, Al-Arian
advised members of Congress and was invited to briefing meetings at
the White House personally meeting Presidents Clinton and Bush.
Genshaft initially failed
to remove him but acted summarily on February 26, 2003, a week after
Al-Arian was arrested and indicted on charges from which no conviction
later resulted. Genshaft then announced he was fired because his (entirely
legal) non-academic activities and indictment conflicted with university
interests meaning Genshaft sacrificed her integrity to serve the interests
of the Bush administration's imperialist Global War on Terrorism directed
against all Muslims unfairly targeted.
The Free Sami Al-Arian.com
web site details the timeline ordeal he went through early on.
-- He endured 11 years of
FBI investigations, half a million phone wiretaps, searches and other
harassment costing many tens of millions of dollars for his political
activism and support of civil rights.
During his trial, the government
alleged he was connected to Islamic groups designated "terrorist"
organizations meaning they
supported freedom and justice for Palestinians and others and that Al-Arian
advocated effectively for them.
-- Investigations culminated
on February 20, 2003.
His family watched in horror
as FBI agents and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) officers stormed his home at 5:00 AM guns drawn menacingly.
They arrested him and three others separately on charges of supporting
terrorism, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, giving material
support to an outlawed group, extortion, perjury and other offenses
later proved spurious in court. He was detained at a local jail where
he went on a hunger strike to protest his politically-motivated incarceration.
The charges against Al-Arian
falsely alleged he supported organizations claimed to be fronts for
Palestinian Islamic Jihad on a US "terrorist" watch list.
They were also made against two other organizations he cofounded - the
Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) involved in raising awareness
of the plight of Palestinians and World Islamic Studies Enterprise think
tank (WISE) affiliated with USF, a research and academic enterprise
promoting dialogue between Muslims and the West. Also cited was the
Islamic Academy of Florida Al-Arian also founded that's one of the nation's
top full-time Islamic schools with over 300 students from preschool
through high school. These organizations have nothing to do with violence
or terrorism. In fact, two years earlier, federal immigration Judge
Kevin R. McHugh ruled "there is no evidence before the Court that
demonstrates (WISE and ICP were) front(s) for the (Islamic Jihad). To
the contrary, there is evidence in the record to support the conclusion
that WISE was a reputable and scholarly research center and the ICP
was highly regarded."
The Islamic Society of North
America (ISNA) is as well which Al-Arian helped establish in 1981 and
now is the largest grass roots Muslim organization in America contributing
"to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large....representing
Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social
and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious
communities, and civic and service organizations."
-- USF President Judy Genshaft
ignored Al-Arian's impeccable credentials and remarkable record of community
service and achievements disgracefully firing him on February 27, 2003
acting as a stooge for the Bush administration.
-- At his bail hearing on
March 20 lasting four days, the government provided no evidence, no
witnesses, and failed to show Al-Arian and his co-defendants were flight
risks or threats to national security. Still, he and defendant Sameeh
Hammoudeh were denied bail.
The others got it.
-- On March 27, Al-Arian
and Hammoudeh were incarcerated in the maximum-security federal penitentiary
in Coleman, Florida. They were placed in solitary confinement under
atrocious conditions in what's called the "Special Housing Unit"
or "Shoe Unit" for the most dangerous convicted prisoners
and held there and at other federal prisons for two and a half years
until his first trial. Al-Arian was denied basic privileges convicted
murderers have, wasn't allowed contact with or family visits, didn't
receive adequate materials to work on his case, got limited access to
counsel, and was subjected overall to harsh punitive treatment including
strip searches and other indignities.
-- Al-Arian was unable to
raise needed funds for his defense, received court-appointed attorneys,
later was allowed to fire them for lack of progress and acted as his
own attorney with help from the National Liberty (civil rights) fund
(NLF) taking up his case and organizing events across the country in
-- Al-Arian remained in prison
until his trial in Tampa Federal District Court in June, 2005. Before
it began, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) condemned
the University of South Florida for violating his rights to due process
and academic freedom. In addition, Amnesty International wrote the Federal
Bureau of Prisons condemning the conditions under which Al-Arian was
held saying his pre-trial detention "appeared to be gratuitously
punitive (and) the restrictions imposed on (him) appeared to go beyond
what were necessary on security grounds and were inconsistent with international
standards for humane treatment."
Amnesty spoke out in this
case while in others of equal importance it fails to or doesn't go far
enough when it does, especially when they involve US government-committed
abuses. Al-Arian's case is one of the latter as nothing about his treatment
shows "appearance." It was and continues to be an egregious
example of willful, vindictive injustice against a courageous, distinguished
man who, like all other state repression victims, is no match for the
power federal prosecutors can marshall against him with intent to destroy
him and make him suffer maximally throughout his ordeal.
In Al-Arian's case, it began
with 11 years of investigations and harassment with trumped up charges
leading to his incarceration and trial. While in prison, he endured
a 23 hour lockdown in a rat and roach-infested cell; was denied religious
services; got no watch or clock; and was held in a windowless cell in
which artificial light never went off. He was also shackled hands behind
his back and feet whenever outside his cell. When conferring with his
lawyers, he was forced to make a long walk to reach them uncomfortably
balancing his law files on his back because prison officials refused
to help. During this time, Al-Arian also underwent a hunger strike for
140 days losing 45 pounds and endangering his life as he's diabetic.
-- After three months of
self-representation, Al-Arian hired respected Washington, DC attorney
William Moffitt and local attorney Linda Moreno to represent
him. Later it was learned
destroyed key evidence along
with deliberately committing other injustices against him and stalling
tactics delaying his trial nearly two and a half years following his
arrest. All the while, he remained incarcerated under harsh conditions.
Al-Arian's Prison Odyssey
Nightmare - February 20,
2003 to the Present
Dr. Al-Arian has been imprisoned
since his arrest February 20, 2003 and initially placed in temporary
confinement at Orient Road jail in Tampa, Florida.
From there till today, his
imprisonment odyssey was as
-- March 27, 2003: Maximum
Security US Penitentiary, Coleman, Florida.
-- February 9, 2005: Orient
Road Jail, Tampa, Florida.
-- May 4, 2005: Federal Correctional
Institution, Tallahassee, Florida.
-- June 8, 2006: Maximum
Security US Penitentiary, Atlanta, Georgia
-- June 22, 2006: Medium
Security Federal Correctional Complex, Coleman, Florida
-- September 20, 2006: Maximum
Security US Penitentiary, Atlanta, Georgia.
-- September 21, 2006: Federal
Transfer Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
-- September 25, 2006: Northern
Neck Regional Jail, Warsaw, Virginia.
-- January 3, 2007: Maximum
Security US Penitentiary, Atlanta, Georgia.
-- January 17, 2007: Federal
Correctional Institution, Petersburg, Virginia.
-- January 18, 2007: Alexandria
Regional Jail, Alexandria, Virginia.
-- January 19, 2007: Northern
Neck Regional Jail, Warsaw, Virginia.
-- February 14, 2007: Federal
medical prison, Butner, North Carolina.
Al-Arian's Travesty of a
The trial began in June,
2005, following 11 years of government hounding and three years preparing
It went on for six months
costing prosecutors an estimated $50 million all in vain in the end,
but then again maybe not as explained below. The prosecution called
over 70 witnesses including 21 from Israel. It used portions of hundreds
of phone calls selected from over a half million recorded from over
a decade of harassing surveillance as well as claimed evidence from
intercepted faxes, emails and what was seized from hours of intrusively
searching the Al-Arian home.
It also used phony evidence
from Al-Arian's activist speeches; lectures; conferences, events and
rallies he attended; articles he wrote; books he owned; magazines he
edited; and other publications he read and more amounting to nothing
other than his constitutional rights to speak freely, assemble in public
and read whatever he chose in a country where those rights should mean
something - but don't for Muslims and others targeted in the age of
The defense responded to
the witch-hunt prosecution calling no witnesses and presenting no evidence
resting its case solely on Al-Arian's First Amendment rights. US District
Judge James Moody denied Al-Arian's right to defend his activities based
on Israel's theft and repressive occupation of Palestinian lands that
led to his entirely legal activism against it.
Despite throwing the book
and piles of taxpayer cash at him, the jury exonerated Al-Arian on December
2005 after 13 days of deliberation
as explained above.
But this didn't end things
as it never does when government prosecutors are out to frame and get
someone targeted like Sami Al-Arian. Realizing his ordeal would continue
unless he could reach accommodation with the government, he agreed to
a plea agreement on March 2, 2006 to bring his case to a close not realizing
it would not as hostile government prosecutors never let up on their
targets till they convict, bankrupt, break or kill them, even though
things don't always go as planned.
The Plea Agreement
Nonetheless, the written
plea agreement stipulated the
-- That Al-Arian engaged
in no violent acts and had no knowledge of any in the US or Middle East.
-- That he would not be required
further by providing information
-- And that he would be released
for time served and voluntarily agreed to be deported.
In the meantime, the agreement
was delivered to Judge Moody on April 17, 2006, and sentencing was scheduled
for May 1, 2006 with Al-Arian forced to remain in custody pending his
sentence and deportation even though as a Palestinian he's a man without
a country unless one accepts him.
Under agreed terms, prosecutors
abandoned their charges, and Al-Arian pled guilty to one watered-down
count of providing services to people associated with the Palestinian
Islamic Jihad. The Statement of Facts in the agreement include:
-- Hiring an attorney for
his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar (an adjunct professor at USF at
the time) during his deportation hearings in the late 1990s.
FBI agents arrested Al-Najjar
May 19, 1997 using secret phony evidence to imprison him (largely on
a minor immigration charge), hold him without charge for three and one
half years before a federal judge ordered his release. He was then arrested
again November 24, 2001 and finally deported August 21, 2002 ending
a long court battle in another case of an innocent man denied his constitutional
rights because of his Muslim faith and ethnicity.
-- Filling out immigration
forms for a resident Palestinian scholar from Britain.
-- And, not disclosing details
of associations to a local reporter.
In return, the prosecution
agreed to dismiss the remaining jury-deadlocked charges and not charge
Al-Arian with other crimes. It also asked for no fine and recommended
"the defendant receive sentence at the low end of the applicable
guideline." It further acknowledged Al-Arian committed no violence,
and there were no victims. For his part, Al-Arian was forced to agree
to an expedited deportation which he decided was worth it for his freedom
and to be reunited with his family and bring his ordeal to an end.
It didn't happen even under
a plea agreement Al-Arian was led to believe would involve a sentence
of no more than time served. Judge Moody had other ideas sentencing
Al-Arian to the maximum 57 months in prison, giving him credit for time
served but leaving a balance of 11 months to be followed by deportation
scheduled for April, 2007 now extended to October,
2008 from his new contempt
charges explained below as his ordeal continues without end.
Last October, assistant prosecutor
Gordon Kromberg, subpoenaed Al-Arian to testify before a grand jury
investigating an Islamic think tank violating his plea agreement stipulating
it was "to conclude, once and for all, all business between the
government and Dr.
Al-Arian." His defense
attorneys filed a motion supporting his right not to testify explaining
he never would have agreed if he remained subject to be called in further
government investigations. Doing so might entrap him in possible or
interpreted perjury leaving him vulnerable to endless government opportunities
to harass and reincarcerate him.
Judge Moody ruled against
Al-Arian, and on November 16, he was brought before the grand jury and
held in civil contempt for refusing to testify. A month later, the grand
jury expired, and a new one convened with Al-Arian again subpoenaed
to testify. Again he refused, was held in contempt which increases his
sentence 18 more months without mitigation, in what's clearly the government's
attempt to renege on its deal to keep Al-Arian locked up forever even
though he committed no crimes and was exonerated by a jury in his trumped
Al-Arian is appealing his
contempt sentencing and government violation of his plea agreement and
is now represented by William Mitchell College of Law professor and
past President of the National Lawyers Guild (1993 - 1997) Peter Erlinder
as his lead attorney. In the meantime, he's still in prison while his
ordeal continues. Erlinder's task is daunting against a government determined
to resist and prosecutors ready to file new charges to keep Al-Arian
imprisoned as long as the Justice Department wants him there.
With Al-Arian now being held
on contempt charges, his original criminal sentence is not running concurrently.
In addition, with two contempt charges, his initial 18 month add-on
sentence could be extended to 36 months under "civil contempt"
and much longer if the prosecution charges him with "criminal contempt."
It means despite the government's
plea agreement to release him based on time served, George Bush's Justice
Department, under rogue Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who flaunts
the law, lied and Al-Arian can be held imprisoned for years without
end as an innocent man guilty of no crime.
That's even clearer after
a three-judge panel of the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously
and "contemptuously" affirmed his civil contempt ruling March
23 saying his plea agreement "contains no language which would
bar the government from compelling appellant's testimony before a grand
even though it clearly does
in plain English stated above. So much for justice from right wing courts
in the age of George Bush where there's none for administration targets
In the meantime, Al-Arian
protested the only way he can, and news of it is prominently reported
in the alternative media like this article, a growing number of others
and in on-air interviews with his wife, family and others. He again
went on a water-only hunger strike January 22 leaving him very weak,
unable to walk or stand on his own, and needing to be confined to a
wheelchair. It lasted two months but was ended at the urging of his
family after losing 55 pounds or one-fourth of his body weight. His
wife, Nahla, reports he's now slowly regaining his strength.
In Al-Arian's case, continuing
a fast is life-threatening because he's diabetic and should be ingesting
regular sustenance to avoid serious health problems.
It took its toll earlier
causing Al-Arian to collapse after which he was moved to a federal prison
medical facility in Butner, North Carolina where he's too weak to walk
and is now subjected to the shoddy kind of medical care everyone imprisoned
gets. It's poor, indifferent and sure to be even worse for anyone in
prison for political reasons any time but especially in the age of George
Bush where justice is an illusion, and Sami Al-Arian's fate is at stake.
His ordeal continues without end, but alternative media writers and
commentators won't be silent about it or about others like him enduring
the same ordeal of injustice for noble principles and a just cause people
of conscience everywhere support and admire. Today, what happened to
Sami Al-Arian can happen to anyone.
Under George Bush rule, we're
all Sami Al-Arians.
Secret US Prison Program
for Muslims and Middle Eastern Prisoners
On February 16, 2007, lawyer
and legal analyst, academic, author and journalist Jennifer Van Bergen
disclosed the US has a secret new illegal prison program targeting Muslims
in an online article in The Raw Story. It's designated for claimed "high-security
risk" Muslim and Middle Eastern (Arab) prisoners to severely limit
or cut them off entirely from contact and communication with the outside
world violating federal law prohibiting such action according to Prison
Legal News editor Paul Wright. He told Van Bergen "segregating
prisoners based on their race, national origin or language directly
contradicts the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Johnson v.
California which held that
the racial segregation of prisoners was illegal." Van Bergen also
reported "Religious discrimination is (also) prohibited by Prison
Bureau regulations." They stipulate "staff shall not discriminate
against inmates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex,
disability, or political belief (including) administrative decisions
(involving) access to work,
housing and programs."
The rule of law means nothing
to the Bush administration that flaunts it including in its new covert
program illegally instituted in December, 2006.
It's called the special "Communications
Management Unit" (CMU), and is presently (as far as known) only
at the Terre Haute, Indiana Federal Correctional Institution but may
also be intended for other federal prisons as well in an age of mass
incarcerations in a nation with the largest prison population in the
world growing by over 1000 new prisoners daily.
Van Bergen asserts the CMU
program violates the Federal Administrative Procedures Act explicitly
requiring all prison regulations comply with this law.
As of mid-February, it housed
16 prisoners but was expected to be rapidly expanded to 60 - 70 and
might end up with many more ahead in Terre Haute and elsewhere.
One of the Terre Haute prisoners
is Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a Muslim American of Iraqi descent and practicing
oncologist until his license was suspended. He was convicted in a politically
motivated Department of Justice (DOJ) "kangaroo court" trial
of violating the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations (IEEPA) using his own funds
and what he could raise through his Help the Needy charity to bring
desperately needed essential to life humanitarian aid to Iraqi people
unable to get it because of the US/UN-imposed punitive sanctions from
1990 - 2003. For his "Crime of Compassion" (see dhafirtrial.net,
Katherine Hughes), he was convicted of violating the sanctions and a
total of 59 of 60 trumped up charges including tax fraud, money laundering,
and mail and wire fraud resulting in a 22 year prison sentence he's
currently serving in Terre Haute far from his family in Syracuse, New
York. He wasn't charged with or convicted of "terrorism" or
any act of violence, is not a "high-security risk" and yet
is being treated like one because he's a Muslim. He's also, like Sami
Al-Arian, a "trophy" in the Bush administration's phony "war
on terrorism" against Muslims demeaned and persecuted everywhere
because of their faith and ethnicity.
People of conscience aren't
being quiet, and a small group of them in Dhafir's home city Syracuse,
New York protested former US Attorney General John Ashcroft's presence
on campus and speech at Syracuse University March 27. Ashcroft led the
administration's 2001 campaign for the passage of the repressive USA
Patriot Act (written and on his desk before 9/11) used to convict and
imprison men like Dhafir and Al-Arian unjustly. He was likely personally
involved in orchestrating the government's efforts to railroad two esteemed
Muslim community members chosen for high-profile prosecutions, convictions,
imprisonments and extra-harsh treatment under maximum security conditions
and restrictions used only for the most dangerous criminals allowed
more privileges behind bars than these pillars of their communities
Muslim Witch-Hunt Harassment
and Persecution In An Age of "Terrorism" and Endless Imperial
In the wake of 9/11, all
Muslims have been in the Bush administration crosshairs targeted with
abusive harassment and persecution including mass roundups, detentions,
prosecutions and deportations in an age of state-induced phony terror
to scare the public enough to allow the government to get away with
anything. It took full advantage and continues doing it today with a
greatly enhanced Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (DHS/ICE) campaign going after vulnerable undocumented Latino
workers along with targeted Muslims and others designated threats to
national security in an age when anyone is suspect if federal agencies
say so. Who'll object if it's in the interest of "national security."
It began shortly after the
9/11 attacks with the Bush administration declaring a permanent state
of preventive war against claimed threats to national security, especially
targeting Muslims abroad and at home. It resulted in two wars of illegal
aggression without end and mass witch-hunt roundups at home in which
constitutional and international laws are flaunted along with fundamental
principles of human rights and civil liberties. In an atmosphere of
state-induced fear trumpeted by the dominant media, the FBI swung into
action in mass sweeps and detentions affecting many thousands of mainly
Muslim immigrants, citizens and visitors picking the wrong time to be
Even before 9/11, the Clinton
administration and Republican-controlled Congress legalized these activities
in the 1996 Immigrant Responsibility Act
(IIRAIRA) and Anti-Terrorism
and Effective Death Penality Act (AEDPA). They're harsh repressive laws
denying targets their rights of due process and judicial fairness. Today
they allow DHS/ICE agents the right to conduct wiretaps and searches
(the Bush administration does without required warrants), conduct proceedings
in secret courts with permanently sealed rulings, detain immigrants
and other targets called "terrorists," deny them bail, deport
them without discretionary relief, restrict their access to counsel,
deny their right to appeal, and throw the book at them even for minor
The consequences for those
targeted are devastating.
It affected 5000 Muslims
in the immediate aftermath of
9/11 with only three of them
being charged with an offense and not a single "terrorist"
nabbed to show for it even the 9/11 (whitewash) Commission admitted.
Yet, those swept up then
and now are generally detained on non-criminal administrative charges,
often without their families' knowledge. They're kept in degrading and
inhumane conditions - locked in cells 23 hours a day where lights never
go off, kept in hand and leg shackles whenever outside them, harassed
and abused without redress, and denied telephone calls and family visitations.
Many are dragged from their
homes in the middle of the night or before dawn in paramilitary-style
raids while others get picked up in the wrong place at the wrong time
or for willingly coming forward as aliens when asked to and being punished
for it. In the case of Rafil Dhafir, his door was broken down about
6:00 AM February 26, 2003 when 85 law enforcement agents showed up to
arrest him including 15 from the FBI, five of whom held guns menacingly
to his wife Priscilla's head traumatizing her from the experience as
it would anyone. This is how things are done in a police state where
victims have no choice but take the punishment or get shot or pummelled
Innocent people like these
undergo unspeakable humiliations and treatment even though most committed
no crimes and the few who have only get charged with minor offenses
with exceptions like Sami Al-Arian and Rafil Dhafir getting the book
thrown at them because of their high-profile status even though they're
innocent of any crimes. Virtually no one's been found guilty of terrorist-related
offenses or violence, yet those rounded up are forced to undergo degrading
indignities like strip searches, and are beaten and sexually abused
for their race, faith, country of origin and immigration status because
they're Muslims or impoverished Latinos here for jobs in an age when
the rule of law is null and void and human rights and civil liberties
are just artifacts from another era.
Early on, the Justice Department
boasted it successfully deported hundreds of targeted individuals connected
to 9/11 investigations. Estimates since from human rights groups, Muslim
community leaders and organizations, peace groups and lawyers show the
numbers skyrocketed amounting to many thousands more plus tens of thousands
of others fleeing the country in fear after having been surveilled,
interrogated and detained or arrested in a systemic reign of state terror
pattern of abuse leaving scars that won't ever heal. Those here only
as visitors won't ever return or have faith in this country again. All
affected are devastated by the experience. It harms individuals, communities
and families, tearing them apart and leaving them to wonder how they'll
recoup after being through so much. This is the state of America today
with horrific cases like Sami Al-Arian's and Rafil Dhafir's highlighting
Early on, those targeted
were caught up in the
post-9/11 FBI witch-hunt
mass sweep called PENTTBOM involving 4000 agents and 3000 support staff
investigating 96,000 tips from the public in the first week alone after
the attacks. By January, 2002, the ACLU claimed the FBI received half
a million citizen calls with tips and leads resulting in investigations
affecting 100,000 Muslims and brown-skinned people if only 20% of them
were followed-up on.
Add to these what's gone
on till today. Then highlight Muslims (like Al-Arian and Dhafir) targeted
for supporting Islamic charities and organizations banned for their
phony claimed links to "terrorist"
groups, others for their
activism, anyone with a police record even for minor indiscretions,
and overall all Muslims under suspicion, potentially being watched and
always fearing a pre-dawn knock on their door or the thud or crash of
it being broken in and facing menacing FBI agents with guns drawn.
It never ends with the Washington
Post reporting March
25 "thousands of pieces
of intelligence information from around the world arrive (daily) in
a computer-filled office in McLean (Virginia), where analysts feed them
into the nation's central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects."
It's called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) storing
data about individuals the intelligence community thinks might harm
the country. It's massive in size, includes foreigners and US citizens,
ballooning from under 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000 now and
growing daily in volume enough to overwhelm people assigned to manage
it. Once put on the list, it's forever and can lead to thousands of
horror stories of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information. It's part
of what's going on today as part of a nightmarish Kafkaesque matrix
of control in the age of George Bush where everyone is suspect, and
no one is safe from a pre-dawn visit from law enforcers from which there's
no return, guilty or innocent, if they want it that way.
Also instituted after September
11, 2002 was a program called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration
System (NSEERS) affecting 24 Muslim or Arab countries plus North Korea.
It's administered by DHS/ICE today to keep track of over 35 million
people entering and leaving the country annually for any reason but
only targeting Muslims for registration with further interrogation,
photographing, fingerprinting, and denial of Sixth Amendment right to
counsel and Fourth Amendment right to privacy for those singled out.
The program is sweeping and expensive while being near worthless as
a security measure, but its cost to Muslim communities in loss of dignity,
unspeakable abuse, and overall punitive repression has been huge and
Drs. Sami Al-Arian and Rafil
Dhafir are stark examples of its most egregiously harmed victims with
no redress for them so far as their painful ordeals continue without
end. This country prides itself on being a nation of laws respecting
and protecting the rights of everyone. Untrue now or ever before and
wiped from the books without pretense in the age of George Bush.
What's happening to targeted
Muslims and Latino immigrants today may be aimed at us ahead in an effort
to silence all dissent and go after perceived enemies of the state including
US citizens no longer safe at a time we're all "enemy combatants"
if the Chief Executive says so.
Witness the case of Jose
Padilla, a US citizen seized at Chicago's O'Hare Airport May 8, 2002
on a material witness warrant connected to the 9/11 attacks. He had
no weapons on his possession at the time but was later charged, without
evidence, with being part of a terrorist plot to detonate "dirty
bombs" inside the country and declared by the president an "enemy
combatant." He was then held in military confinement from May,
2002 till January, 2006 till the Department of Justice (DOJ) took over
custody while his lawyers argued his case in New York district and appellate
courts winning rulings in his favor to no avail.
The Bush administration challenged
them getting the Supreme Court to agree in Rumsfeld v. Padilla 5 - 4
in June, 2004 dismissing the case as improperly filed and ruling for
the administration subsequently in a follow-up decision on the Padilla
case effectively giving the president the right to seize anyone, accuse
them without evidence, and keep them interned anywhere, as long as he
wishes, under any conditions on his say alone. And if district and appellate
courts overrule the president, they don't count even when US citizens
are arrested and held interminably with no evidence in degrading and
inhuman conditions like those discussed above.
In the Padilla case, his
attorneys argued they included abuses like Al-Arian and Dhafir endure
including five years of solitary confinement as well as sensory deprivation,
other periods of extreme noise, no right of counsel for two years, beatings,
injections with mind-altering drugs, and denial of medical treatment
all of which destroyed a human being making him unfit for trial and
further punishing incarceration.
But that's not how US District
Judge Marcia Cooke, and likely most others on the federal bench today,
saw things. After nearly five punishing years of incarceration based
on nothing more than charges filed with no corroborating evidence, she
ruled on March 23, Padilla is competent to stand trial even though he's
been turned to mush and likely is innocent of all charges. Jose Padilla
along with Sami Al-Arian and Rafil Dhafir are today's examples of what
Pastor Martin Niemoller warned about in Nazi Germany when the state
targeted enemies removing them while no one protested.
Today in America, our turn
may be next sooner than we think, and when it comes there may be no
one left to help unless people of conscience act en masse in outrage
and protest. In the age of George Bush, no one is safe, and a nation
once proud is slipping much closer to passing from democracy to tyranny
the way Chalmers Johnson explained it happened in the rise and fall
of earlier empires.
Citing ancient Rome, he wrote
in his new book, Nemesis
- The Last Days of the American
Republic, we "are approaching the edge of a huge waterfall and
are about to plunge over it" with other notable figures believing
we already have failing to heed Jefferson's words that "All tyranny
needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain
silent" or Edmund Burke who said "The only thing necessary
for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Hopefully there's still time
to act. Are we paying attention? Do we understand today we're all Sami
Al-Arians, Rafil Dhafirs
and Jose Padillas.
Stephen Lendman lives in
Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site
at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen each week to The Steve Lendman
News and Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com Saturdays at noon
US central time.
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