Keystone Kops Alert: the Administration may have noted his appeal for calm during the Cartoon Rage riots, and thought it had found a "moderate." When officials found out he was a wanted terrorist, they withdrew the invitation.
"U.S. invites terror suspect to dinner -- he declines," by Les Zaitz in The Oregonian, with thanks to all who sent this in:
The Bush administration may have a new weapon in the war on terror: the dinner invitation.
A designated terrorist with ties to Oregon was invited to sit down with U.S. government officials and their guests at an embassy event Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Soliman al-Buthi, 45, is well known to the Treasury and Justice departments and the National Security Council.
In 2004, he was designated a terrorist under an alternate spelling of his name for his role in operating the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in Ashland. The first entry of a Google search using his name as spelled in the invitation says he "has been linked to al-Qaida funding."
Treasury officials said classified evidence shows the now-shuttered foundation in Ashland helped fund al-Qaida and had "direct links" to Osama bin-Laden. Al-Buthi also was labeled a terrorist by the United Nations and became an international fugitive two years ago when a federal grand jury indicted him for tax fraud and money laundering connected to the Oregon charity.
Al-Buthi has denied any connection to terrorism.
An engineer by training, he popped into the news again last year in a controversy over Danish publication of a cartoon highly insulting to Muslims worldwide. Al-Buthi, speaking for a newly created Islamic organization, appealed for calm as Western embassies were besieged by protesters.
His Portland attorney, Tom Nelson, suspects al-Buthi's posture in the cartoon episode drew the invitation.
An embassy political officer in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, invited al-Buthi to a restaurant dinner honoring the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom....
Nelson said embassy officials must have known they were dealing with a designated terrorist. Nelson said al-Buthi intended to attend the dinner but the lawyer advised him not to step onto embassy grounds, which would make him subject to arrest. Otherwise, he was safe from capture because the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia.
In an e-mail to The Oregonian, al-Buthi said "I was surprised, particularly because I am supposed to be a fugitive from the U.S. government!"
Al-Buthi said the U.S. embassy called Tuesday to confirm he was coming.
On Wednesday, after The Oregonian began questioning federal authorities in Washington, the embassy withdrew its invitation.