Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball write in Newsweek, about Sami Al-Arian's "Friends in High Places"
The lawyer for a Florida-based professor accused of leading a violent Palestinian terror group will seek to embarrass the U.S. government next month by introducing evidence that his client attended numerous meetings at the White House and met with high-level figures in both political parties, including Hillary Clinton and White House political director Karl Rove, according to recent court records.
Former computer science professor Sami Al-Arian--a longstanding prime spokesman for Arab-American political causes--goes on trial next month on charges that he served as a secret leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The PIJ is a State Department-designated terrorist organization that U.S. officials charge is responsible for a rash of suicide bombings and other attacks that led to the deaths of Israeli and American civilians...
Just how much access Al-Arian had is detailed in a letter written to federal prosecutors by his lawyer, William Moffit, that was recently entered into the court record. Moffit states that Al-Arian attended meetings at the White House with both Clinton and Bush every year between 1998 and 2001. In addition, the letter states, Al-Arian also attended a briefing at the Justice Department in July 2001, met with Al Gore in November 1998 and Hillary Clinton in October 1999. It also states that President Bush sent a written apology to Al-Arian's wife in 2001 when the couple son's was denied access to the White House--reportedly because of his connection to his father.
"Each of these events occurred at a time that the government is alleging that Dr. Al-Arian was somehow a dangerous terrorist involved in a conspiracy to kill Americans," Moffit wrote in his letter.
"Dr. Al-Arian's access to these political figures coupled with the fact there was public-source information regarding many of the contentions that form the basis of the government's indictment seem to belie the notion that Dr. Al-Arian was in anyway considered by anyone in the intelligence or law enforcement communities to be any kind of threat to the United States or a threat to harm any officials of the United States."
Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor, is charged with conspiring to commit murder, conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group, extortion, visa fraud, perjury and other crimes--all in connection with his alleged service as a member of the "Shura Council," the top governing body of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
According to the indictment, which relies heavily on secret wiretaps, Al-Arian regularly communicated with top PIJ officials in the Mideast, helping to manage their finances, dispatching funds to the group and relaying messages among its top leaders. In some of the intercepted conversations, Al-Arian allegedly praised suicide bombings, kidnappings and drive-by shootings by PIJ. "I call upon you to try to extend true support to the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue," he wrote in one fund-raising appeal after a suicide bombing that killed 22 Israelis in 1995....
There is another related story in The St. Petersburg Times profiling the Al-Arian children for those interested.