As IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy noted Friday, the Islamic Circle of North America has helped update a report on terrorist prosecutions in the United States which claims more than 9 in 10 cases involving Muslim suspects are bogus.
“Many convicted Muslims were sentenced to long years in prison for doing essentially nothing,” says the report, which is entitled “Inventing Terrorists.”
“The study shows that the war on terror has been largely a charade designed to make the American public believe that a terrorist army is loose in the U.S., when the truth is that most of the people convicted of terrorism-related crimes posed no danger to the U.S. and were entrapped by a preventive strategy known as preemptive prosecution.”
The report, which covers prosecutions through 2015, is so shoddy and superficial that it cannot be taken seriously. Even when it acknowledges a threat from radicalized Muslims, it minimizes that threat and, in two cases, simply pretends attacks didn’t happen.
The report is a combined effort by Project SALAM, a Muslim legal advocacy group; the Coalition for Civil Freedoms, an educational and advocacy group “co-founded” by Palestinian Islamic Jihad board member Sami Al-Arian, which is opposed to what it calls “Thought Crime” and “Manufactured Charges” prosecutions; and co-sponsored by ICNA’s Council for Social Justice.
Early on, the report makes a glaring omission:
“It can be said that, since 9/11, there have been 12 potentially significant threats to the U.S., but only two resulted in deaths (the Tsarnaev brothers and Major Nidal Hasan), accounting for seventeen deaths and several hundred injuries.”
This claim ignores the 14 people gunned down during a 2015 San Bernardino office Christmas party by husband and wife terrorists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. They died in a shootout with police an hour later after fleeing the scene.
Investigators determined the couple “self-radicalized” online and learned that Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, though it appeared they acted without formal guidance from the terrorist group.
It also ignores the 2016 massacre of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub. While people tried to argue that the terrorist, Omar Mateen, may have targeted Pulse because he was a homophobe and it was a gay nightclub, his call to 911 during the rampage left no doubt about his motivation:
“This is Mateen. I want to let you know I’m in Orlando and I did the shooting. I pledge my allegiance to [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] of the Islamic State.”
He mentioned “innocent women and children are getting killed in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, okay. You see, now you feel, now you feel how it is, now you feel how it is.”
“Call me Mujahideen, call me the soldier of God,” Mateen said at another point.
There’s not a word about either attack, or the combined 63 murdered victims, in the ICNA report, which argues the threat of Islamist terrorism is a law enforcement creation.
Mateen’s ex-wife said she thought he suffered from mental illness.
That’s especially relevant to the ICNA report, which says numerous proactive prosecution targets were mentally ill, or otherwise susceptible to FBI entrapment.
For example, in casting the case of the “Newburgh 4” among “Unfair Sting Convictions,” the report says: “There was absolutely no evidence that any of the four had any predisposition to terrorism, or any ideology whatsoever. They were just trying to survive in impoverished Newburgh, NY when they were targeted in an FBI sting operation by informant Shahed Hussain.”
But before the FBI informant said anything, defendant James Cromitie said “that he wanted ‘to die like a shahid, a martyr,’ … ‘do something to America’ … and kill President Bush ‘700 times,'” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo summarizing the evidence.
He and three others were charged in connection with a plot to detonate explosives near a Bronx synagogue, and to shoot military planes located at the New York Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y. Recorded conversations show “it was Cromitie who first talked about ‘put[ting] a plan together,'” the memo said. Most defense objections to a pre-sentence report “are similarly cherry picked and out of context.”
That’s a good way to look at the “Inventing Terrorists” report. It often presents the same defense arguments that failed to sway juries and appellate courts as irrefutable facts while ignoring evidence that shows law enforcement’s interest in a suspect was quite reasonable.
It cites a North Carolina terrorism conspiracy case, claiming it was predicated on the flimsiest reason: “Because all the people knew each other, the government claimed that they Ziyad Yaghi must have shared a common ideology.”
The case centered on Daniel Boyd, a convert to Islam who claimed to have fought with the Afghan mujahideen against Russia. Boyd, his sons and other associates engaged in weapons training and traveled abroad hoping to reach a “battlefield” and fight non-believers. When those efforts failed, Boyd started scouting domestic targets to attack, including the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
Boyd pleaded guilty and testified against other defendants.
In upholding convictions against Ziyad Yaghi, Hysen Sherifi and Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the evidence showed much more than ideological compatibility. The defendants studied and promoted preaching about jihad by American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who directly inspired Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and numerous other terrorists.
The ruling devotes two full pages to actions Yaghi took to advance an overall conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
“The trial evidence fully supports the jury’s finding that Yaghi believed in violent jihad and acted on those beliefs in concert with coconspirators,” the 4th Circuit ruling said. “Yaghi understood and acquiesced in the objectives of the Count One and Count Two conspiracies, i.e., providing material support and resources for, and committing acts of murder outside the United States. Moreover, numerous overt acts were undertaken in furtherance of each conspiracy, including Yaghi’s 2007 trip to the Middle East and his efforts to recruit others into the conspiracies. The verdict against Yaghi must therefore be sustained.”
Prosecutors could not predict whether Boyd or any one of his associates would have realized their ambition to die as martyrs waging jihad. But they saw criminal violations and broke the group up before anyone got hurt.
The report’s authors seem to believe this action was irresponsible hyping of a terrorist threat.
“This report demonstrates that the government has manufactured most of the terrorism convictions in the country,” it concludes, “and had greatly overstated the threat of terrorism, especially from Muslim extremism.”
Perhaps the weakest example is one that receives the most attention. The report describes the Hamas-support prosecution against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and five former officials as “[p]erhaps the most unfair prosecution under the material support law.”
HLF gave “completely nonviolent and desperately needed charity to civilians in Gaza … through ‘Zakat Committees’ in Gaza,” the report claims. It casts the 2008 convictions as based on “an anonymous Israeli agent [who] was allowed to testify in the HLF case that he could ‘smell Hamas’ on the Zakat Committees.”
That would indeed be a gross injustice for a 21st century American courtroom if it were an accurate account of the evidence. But it is entirely misleading. The report ignores the fungible nature of money and a mountain of evidence presented to the jury that proved a link between HLF’s fundraising and Hamas. It pretends that the Israeli agent’s testimony had nothing to corroborate it.
In fact, the most damning evidence came from HLF and its allies, which the Fifth U.S. Circuit of Appeals cited in upholding the convictions:
“The Government produced voluminous evidence obtained from covert surveillance, searches, and testimony showing a web of complex relationships connecting the defendants to Hamas and its various sub-groups.”
That evidence includes a document designating HLF as “the official organization” for fundraising within a Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas-support network in the United States called the “Palestine Committee.”
|FBI translation of a 1991 Palestine Committee memo regarding bylaws.|
In addition, the Fifth Circuit cited videos of HLF “festivals, conferences, and fundraising events with known Hamas leaders, such as Marzook and [Khalid] Mishal. The Hamas flag was visible at some of these events, and many of the videos showed [defendant Mufid] Abdulqader’s band performing songs that praised Hamas. Moreover, HLF advertised in pro-Hamas magazines … One such magazine contained a poem written by [HLF President Shukri Abu] Baker stating, in part, that ‘we will not accept other than Hamas.'”
A former HLF fundraiser “testified that HLF’s purpose was to support Hamas,” the appellate court wrote. “He testified about attending closed meetings with the individual defendants and Hamas leaders. He described one meeting in 1994 where Marzook introduced Mishal, who spoke about the emergence of Hamas and the participants’ roles in supporting the Hamas movement.”
This is just a small sampling of the evidence connecting HLF to Hamas. Implying it was based on testimony by one Israeli agent, in a report compiled by lawyers and activists, simply is not honest.
But it does say something about the “Inventing Terrorists” report. In trying to argue that the FBI and Department of Justice are engaged in a “charade,” ginning up unjust terrorism-related prosecutions to “manufacture” a threat from Muslim extremists, the report makes assertions it fails to substantiate and paints what can only be viewed as a deliberately misleading case. It’s no wonder these arguments have failed to persuade the courts.
This column was originally published at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.