When the Bush administration shut down the nation’s largest Muslim charity five years ago, officials of the Dallas-based foundation denied allegations it was linked to terrorists and insisted that a number of accusations were fabricated by the government.

Now, attorneys for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development say the government’s own documents provide evidence of that claim.

In recent court filings, defense lawyers disclosed striking discrepancies between an official summary and the verbatim transcripts of an FBI-wiretapped conversation in 1996 involving Holy Land officials.

The summary attributes inflammatory, anti-Semitic comments to Holy Land officials that are not found in a 13-page transcript of the recorded conversation. It recently was turned over to the defense by the government in an exchange of evidence.

Citing the unexplained discrepancies, defense lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish in Dallas to declassify thousands of hours of FBI surveillance recordings, so that full transcripts would replace government summaries as evidence.

The demand could force government prosecutors to either declassify evidence it has fought to keep secret or risk losing a critical portion of evidence in its case.

In December, the judge denied a defense request to declassify the documents so they could be examined by defendants in the case. Seven former foundation officials, six of them U.S. citizens, have been charged with funneling money to overseas charities controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The defendants have denied the charges.

Though defense attorneys already have government clearances that allow them to review the material, under the federal Classified Information Procedures Act they have been prohibited from sharing it with their clients. And unless the act’s rules are declared unconstitutional in the case, defense attorneys argue, the defendants will have no way of proving that the statements attributed to them were misconstrued or never made.


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