An Unwelcome Guest

The Justice Department this summer abruptly cancelled a high-profile “Muslim outreach” event featuring Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after discovering that one of the invited guests was an officer of an organization just named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a major terrorism case.

The scheduled event was slated to take place in the main department auditorium known as the Great Hall of Justice on June 27-with Gonzales billed as the keynote speaker. The program was titled “Securing America: Law Enforcement Partnerships with American Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Communities,” according to the official invitation, which went out to scores of groups and individuals last spring.

But after the invites went out, aides to Gonzales suddenly became alarmed that it could create a new embarrassment for the embattled attorney general. The reason: one of the featured speakers was a prominent Northern Virginia imam who serves as vice president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which had just been branded by federal prosecutors in court papers as a U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood-the international movement, based in Egypt, dedicated to the creation of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. ISNA, which has not been charged with any crime, was among more than a hundred organizations and individuals who were listed in late May as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation-the Texas-based group now on trial in Dallas for allegedly conspiring to funnel funds to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. . .

The very same day as the postponed Justice event, for example, President Bush conducted a similar Muslim outreach event, giving a major speech at the rededication of the Islamic Center in Washington. . .Also invited to the Islamic Center event-and cleared by the White House for attendance-was Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), another organization recently branded by prosecutors as a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate and named to the unindicted co-conspirator list in the Holy Land case. . .

Hooper, the CAIR spokesman, also denounced the listing of his group as an “unindicted co-conspirator” of the Holy Land Foundation, calling it “completely unjustified.” He added: “When you’re named in this way, you have no legal recourse.”

According to one senior law-enforcement official (who asked not to be named talking about an ongoing case), the listing of ISNA, CAIR and other groups as “unindicted co-conspirators” was largely a tactical move by the government. By listing the groups, the official said, it makes it easier for prosecutors to introduce documents, tapes and other evidence mentioning them and which relate to what the government charges is a wide-ranging conspiracy to raise money in the United States in support of Hamas.


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