Monday, June 06, 2005

Left Prepares al-Arian Defense Strategy

Former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian goes on trial today, accused of helping coordinate Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacks against Israelis and funneling funds to PIJ. Leading lights of the liberal press are busy wringing their hands and looking for ways to discredit the government's case against al-Arian in the court of public opinion.

John Mintz of The Washington Post attacks the apparatus of the investigation, specifically the wiretaps of al-Arian's phones and fax machines:
The wiretaps, approved in 1993 through 2003 on as many as 10 phones by a secret FISA court, were originally intended for use only by FBI agents conducting open-ended "intelligence" probes, and not for use in criminal trials. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the enactment of the USA Patriot Act and a ruling by the supersecret FISA court of appeals allowed much greater use of intelligence material in investigations such as this one.

Many civil liberties experts express grave concern about U.S. officials' introduction into criminal court of years of wiretaps approved by FISA judges under a lower standard of proof than that demanded by criminal-court judges. But U.S. District Judge James Moody has rejected defense attorneys' arguments that the information should not be heard in court.

Using FISA wiretaps in court is "a serious problem" that puts defendants at a disadvantage, said David Cole, a Georgetown University expert on the law related to terrorism. "Unlike with criminal wiretaps, FISA doesn't give defendants any meaningful chance to challenge the validity of the tap."
Eric Lichtblau at the New York Times waves the First Amendment right to free speech:
An impassioned advocate for Palestinian independence, Mr. Al-Arian never made any secret of his disdain for the Israeli occupation. But whether his work crossed the line from outspoken advocacy to terrorism is now a central question as he and three co-defendants go on trial in federal court in Tampa on Monday on terrorism and racketeering charges.

"This case has drawn such intense scrutiny partly because Sami has been so outspoken," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who represented Mr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law in an earlier deportation case that also gained wide exposure. "The government has built a very broad conspiracy case, and the question is whether this will be a trial of Sami Al-Arian and what he actually did or didn't do over the years, or a trial of Palestinian Islamic Jihad itself and guilt by association."
And Jamie Wilson of The Guardian Unlimited (UK) makes the case for racism and profiling in the government's investigation:
However, supporters and lawyers for the Kuwait-born professor claim that it is not a straightforward case of terrorist funding. Instead, they say it raises serious issues about anti-Muslim bias in the US post-September 11, freedom of speech and what they see as a blatant attempt by Israel to silence a powerful Palestinian voice in America.
The Dread Pundit Bluto is shocked, shocked, that so many journalists are busying themselves looking for excuses for al-Arian. Could it be because so many on the left were busying themselves defending al-Arian for the past decade?

In 2002, Eric Boehlert said that the media had created the case against al-Arian
Jan. 19, 2002 | It may not provide him much comfort, but tenured University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, recently fired after his appearance on a conservative talk show revived discredited, years-old allegations of ties to anti-Israel terrorists, may be the first computer science professor ever mugged by four of the nation's most influential news organizations.

The Al-Arian story reveals what happens when journalists, abandoning their role as unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against suspicious foreigners who in a time of war don't have the power of the press or public sympathy to fight back. It's called a pile-on, and this game first began in Tampa, seven years ago.
Events have invalidated Boehlert's story, but it is illustrative of the lengths some on the left will go to protect our enemies.