The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian - Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner

The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian - Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner

by Stephen Lendman

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 nothing. 

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 action. 

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 his behalf.

—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 federal authorities
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
follows:

—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 Trial

The trial began in June, 2005, following 11 years of
government hounding and three years preparing for it.
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 George Bush.

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 6,
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
following:

—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 to “cooperate”
further by providing information to prosecutors.

—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 up trial.

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 jury”
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 like Al-Arian.

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 denied
justice.

Muslim Witch-Hunt Harassment and Persecution In An Age
of “Terrorism” and Endless Imperial Wars

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 here.

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 offenses.

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 “resisting.”

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 it.

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 devastating.

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
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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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