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The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Saturday, 07 April 2007 15:34
The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian

Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner

Stephen Lendman Sami Al-Arian is one of many dozens, likely hundreds, of political prisoners in the US today but is noteworthy because of his high-profile status and as an especially egregious example of persecution and injustice in post-9/11 America with its climate of state-induced fear and resulting repression with special targeting of Latino immigrants and all Muslims characterized as "Islamofascists" because of their faith and ethnicity.

www.pej.org

The Long Ordeal of Sami Al-Arian

Civil and Human Rights Advocate and Political Prisoner

Stephen Lendman

Sami Al-Arian is one of many dozens, likely hundreds,of political prisoners in the US today but isnoteworthy because of his high-profile status and asan especially egregious example of persecution andinjustice in post-9/11 America with its climate ofstate-induced fear and resulting repression withspecial targeting of Latino immigrants and all Muslimscharacterized as "Islamofascists" because of theirfaith and ethnicity.  One of them is Dr. Sami Al-Arian- Palestinian refugee, scholar, academic, communityleader, civic activist and advocate for freedom andjustice for his people imprisoned since February, 2003on trumped up charges explained below even after ajury exonerated him on eight of the false 17 chargesagainst him, all the ones relating to violence andterrorism, and remained deadlocked 10 - 2 in favor ofacquittal on the other nine.  More on this below.

Al-Arian is a Kuwaiti-born son of Palestinian refugeesforced to flee Palestine during the 1948-49 Nakbacatastrophe when the new state of Israel's "War ofIndependence" ethnically cleansed and willfullyslaughtered 800,000 Palestinians, desecrated theirsacred holy sites, and seized their lands.  The finalmaster Plan D (Dalet) was for a war without mercyagainst defenseless people in which unspeakableatrocities were committed while destroying 531Palestinian villages, 11 urban neighborhoods in citieslike Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, thousands of homesand vast amounts of crops.  Al-Arian's parents werelucky to escape the carnage and destruction alive.

Al-Arian came to the US in 1975, was deniedcitizenship, and taught computer science as adistinguished professor at the University of SouthFlorida (USF) from 1986 until the worst of his ordealbegan in February, 2003.  It was because of hispublic, passionate and effective advocacy for humanand civil rights and the liberation of his people longoppressed for six decades.

Al-Arian is a man of great distinction.  He's a devoutPalestinian Muslim, imam of the Islamic Community ofTampa, and a respected and admired man of principlewho helped empower the Muslim community through hisdedicated hard work and personal relationships withother civic, political and religious leaders inFlorida and across the country in spite of having todo it in a post-9/11 environment when all Muslimsbecame suspect and were viewed as possible"terrorists."

Post-9/11, USF president Judy Genshaft consorted withFlorida Governor Jeb Bush suspending Al-Arian onSeptember 28 with pay on phony grounds of campussafety.  She then tried firing him falsely claiming hesupported terrorists and damaged the university'sreputation even though he was a respectedaward-winning tenured professor guilty of no crime buthis faith, ethnicity and courageous activismencouraging other Muslim Americans to act likewise.Earlier in August, 1996, USF placed Al-Arian on paidleave pending the outcome of a FBI investigation intowhether organizations he was involved with fronted forterrorist groups allowing him to resume teaching twoyears later when it uncovered nothing.

Days before his arrest, indictment and imprisonment inFebruary, 2003, sensing what was to come after monthsof rumors, Al-Arian wrote: "I am crucified todaybecause of who I am: a stateless Palestinian, an Arab,a Muslim and an outspoken advocate for Palestinianrights, but more a persistent defender for civil andconstitutional rights on the home front."  This wasfrom a man Newsweek magazine called the premier civilrights activist in America for his efforts to repealthe use of secret evidence that became HR 2121 thatonly got as far in the 109th Congress as a favorablevote in the House Judiciary Committee, and it's now upto the 110th Congress to take further action.

Earlier, Al-Arian cofounded the Tampa Bay Coalitionfor Justice and Peace, a local organization opposingunconstitutional use of secret evidence and othercivil rights violations as well as slanderous mediaattacks against Muslims and Arabs.  He also cofoundedthe National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom,the nation's leading organization challenging the useof secret evidence serving as its first president in2000.  Because of his efforts, Al-Arian advisedmembers of Congress and was invited to briefingmeetings at the White House personally meetingPresidents Clinton and Bush.

Genshaft initially failed to remove him but actedsummarily on February 26, 2003, a week after Al-Arianwas arrested and indicted on charges from which noconviction later resulted.  Genshaft then announced hewas fired because his (entirely legal) non-academicactivities and indictment conflicted with universityinterests meaning Genshaft sacrificed her integrity toserve the interests of the Bush administration'simperialist Global War on Terrorism directed againstall Muslims unfairly targeted.

The Free Sami Al-Arian.com web site details thetimeline ordeal he went through early on.

-- He endured 11 years of FBI investigations, half amillion phone wiretaps, searches and other harassmentcosting many tens of millions of dollars for hispolitical activism and support of civil rights.During his trial, the government alleged he wasconnected to Islamic groups designated "terrorist"organizations meaning they supported freedom andjustice for Palestinians and others and that Al-Arianadvocated effectively for them.

-- Investigations culminated on February 20, 2003.His family watched in horror as FBI agents and JointTerrorism Task Force (JTTF) Department of HomelandSecurity (DHS) officers stormed his home at 5:00 AMguns drawn menacingly.  They arrested him and threeothers separately on charges of supporting terrorism,conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, givingmaterial support to an outlawed group, extortion,perjury and other offenses later proved spurious incourt.  He was detained at a local jail where he wenton a hunger strike to protest hispolitically-motivated incarceration.

The charges against Al-Arian falsely alleged hesupported organizations claimed to be fronts forPalestinian Islamic Jihad on a US "terrorist" watchlist.  They were also made against two otherorganizations he cofounded - the Islamic Committee forPalestine (ICP) involved in raising awareness of theplight of Palestinians and World Islamic StudiesEnterprise think tank (WISE) affiliated with USF, aresearch and academic enterprise promoting dialoguebetween Muslims and the West.  Also cited was theIslamic Academy of Florida Al-Arian also foundedthat's one of the nation's top full-time Islamicschools with over 300 students from preschool throughhigh school.  These organizations have nothing to dowith violence or terrorism.  In fact, two yearsearlier, federal immigration Judge Kevin R. McHughruled "there is no evidence before the Court thatdemonstrates (WISE and ICP were) front(s) for the(Islamic Jihad).  To the contrary, there is evidencein the record to support the conclusion that WISE wasa reputable and scholarly research center and the ICPwas highly regarded."

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is as wellwhich Al-Arian helped establish in 1981 and now is thelargest grass roots Muslim organization in Americacontributing "to the betterment of the Muslimcommunity and society at large....representing Islam,supporting Muslim communities, developing educational,social and outreach programs and fostering goodrelations with other religious communities, and civicand service organizations."

-- USF President Judy Genshaft ignored Al-Arian'simpeccable credentials and remarkable record ofcommunity service and achievements disgracefullyfiring him on February 27, 2003 acting as a stooge forthe Bush administration.

-- At his bail hearing on March 20 lasting four days,the government provided no evidence, no witnesses, andfailed to show Al-Arian and his co-defendants wereflight risks or threats to national security.  Still,he and defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh were denied bail.The others got it.

-- On March 27, Al-Arian and Hammoudeh wereincarcerated in the maximum-security federalpenitentiary in Coleman, Florida.  They were placed insolitary confinement under atrocious conditions inwhat's called the "Special Housing Unit" or "ShoeUnit" for the most dangerous convicted prisoners andheld there and at other federal prisons for two and ahalf years until his first trial.  Al-Arian was deniedbasic privileges convicted murderers have, wasn'tallowed contact with or family visits, didn't receiveadequate materials to work on his case, got limitedaccess to counsel, and was subjected overall to harshpunitive treatment including strip searches and otherindignities.

-- Al-Arian was unable to raise needed funds for hisdefense, received court-appointed attorneys, later wasallowed to fire them for lack of progress and acted ashis own attorney with help from the National Liberty(civil rights) fund (NLF) taking up his case andorganizing events across the country in his behalf.

-- Al-Arian remained in prison until his trial inTampa Federal District Court in June, 2005.  Before itbegan, the American Association of UniversityProfessors (AAUP) condemned the University of SouthFlorida for violating his rights to due process andacademic freedom.  In addition, Amnesty Internationalwrote the Federal Bureau of Prisons condemning theconditions under which Al-Arian was held saying hispre-trial detention "appeared to be gratuitouslypunitive (and) the restrictions imposed on (him)appeared to go beyond what were necessary on securitygrounds and were inconsistent with internationalstandards for humane treatment."

Amnesty spoke out in this case while in others ofequal importance it fails to or doesn't go far enoughwhen it does, especially when they involve USgovernment-committed abuses.  Al-Arian's case is oneof the latter as nothing about his treatment shows"appearance."  It was and continues to be an egregiousexample of willful, vindictive injustice against acourageous, distinguished man who, like all otherstate repression victims, is no match for the powerfederal prosecutors can marshall against him withintent to destroy him and make him suffer maximallythroughout his ordeal.

In Al-Arian's case, it began with 11 years ofinvestigations and harassment with trumped up chargesleading to his incarceration and trial.  While inprison, he endured a 23 hour lockdown in a rat androach-infested cell; was denied religious services;got no watch or clock; and was held in a windowlesscell in which artificial light never went off.  He wasalso shackled hands behind his back and feet wheneveroutside his cell.  When conferring with his lawyers,he was forced to make a long walk to reach themuncomfortably balancing his law files on his backbecause prison officials refused to help.  During thistime, Al-Arian also underwent a hunger strike for 140days losing 45 pounds and endangering his life as he'sdiabetic.

-- After three months of self-representation, Al-Arianhired respected Washington, DC attorney WilliamMoffitt and local attorney Linda Moreno to representhim.   Later it was learned federal authoritiesdestroyed key evidence along with deliberatelycommitting other injustices against him and stallingtactics delaying his trial nearly two and a half yearsfollowing his arrest.  All the while, he remainedincarcerated under harsh conditions.

Al-Arian's Prison Odyssey Nightmare - February 20,2003 to the Present

Dr. Al-Arian has been imprisoned since his arrestFebruary 20, 2003 and initially placed in temporaryconfinement at Orient Road jail in Tampa, Florida.From there till today, his imprisonment odyssey was asfollows:

-- March 27, 2003: Maximum Security US Penitentiary,Coleman, Florida.

-- February 9, 2005: Orient Road Jail, Tampa, Florida.

-- May 4, 2005: Federal Correctional Institution,Tallahassee, Florida.

-- June 8, 2006: Maximum Security US Penitentiary,Atlanta, Georgia

-- June 22, 2006: Medium Security Federal CorrectionalComplex, Coleman, Florida

-- September 20, 2006: Maximum Security USPenitentiary, Atlanta, Georgia.

-- September 21, 2006: Federal Transfer Center,Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

-- September 25, 2006: Northern Neck Regional Jail,Warsaw, Virginia.

-- January 3, 2007: Maximum Security US Penitentiary,Atlanta, Georgia.

-- January 17, 2007: Federal Correctional Institution,Petersburg, Virginia.

-- January 18, 2007: Alexandria Regional Jail,Alexandria, Virginia.

-- January 19, 2007: Northern Neck Regional Jail,Warsaw, Virginia.

-- February 14, 2007: Federal medical prison, Butner,North Carolina.

Al-Arian's Travesty of a Trial

The trial began in June, 2005, following 11 years ofgovernment hounding and three years preparing for it.It went on for six months costing prosecutors anestimated $50 million all in vain in the end, but thenagain maybe not as explained below.  The prosecutioncalled over 70 witnesses including 21 from Israel.  Itused portions of hundreds of phone calls selected fromover a half million recorded from over a decade ofharassing surveillance as well as claimed evidencefrom intercepted faxes, emails and what was seizedfrom hours of intrusively searching the Al-Arian home. It also used phony evidence from Al-Arian's activistspeeches; lectures; conferences, events and rallies heattended; articles he wrote; books he owned; magazineshe edited; and other publications he read and moreamounting to nothing other than his constitutionalrights to speak freely, assemble in public and readwhatever he chose in a country where those rightsshould mean something - but don't for Muslims andothers targeted in the age of George Bush.

The defense responded to the witch-hunt prosecutioncalling no witnesses and presenting no evidenceresting its case solely on Al-Arian's First Amendmentrights.  US District Judge James Moody deniedAl-Arian's right to defend his activities based onIsrael's theft and repressive occupation ofPalestinian lands that led to his entirely legalactivism against it.

Despite throwing the book and piles of taxpayer cashat him, the jury exonerated Al-Arian on December 6,2005 after 13 days of deliberation as explained above. But this didn't end things as it never does whenprosecutors are out to frame and getsomeone targeted like Sami Al-Arian.  Realizing hisordeal would continue unless he could reachaccommodation with the government, he agreed to a pleaagreement on March 2, 2006 to bring his case to aclose not realizing it would not as hostile governmentprosecutors never let up on their targets till theyconvict, bankrupt, break or kill them, even thoughthings don't always go as planned.

The Plea Agreement

Nonetheless, the written plea agreement stipulated thefollowing:

-- That Al-Arian engaged in no violent acts and had noknowledge of any in the US or Middle East.

-- That he would not be required to "cooperate"further by providing information to prosecutors.

-- And that he would be released for time served andvoluntarily agreed to be deported.

In the meantime, the agreement was delivered to JudgeMoody on April 17, 2006, and sentencing was scheduledfor May 1, 2006 with Al-Arian forced to remain incustody pending his sentence and deportation eventhough as a Palestinian he's a man without a countryunless one accepts him.

Under agreed terms, prosecutors abandoned theircharges, and Al-Arian pled guilty to one watered-downcount of providing services to people associated withthe Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  The Statement of Factsin the agreement include:

-- Hiring an attorney for his brother-in-law, MazenAl-Najjar (an adjunct professor at USF at the time)during his deportation hearings in the late 1990s.FBI agents arrested Al-Najjar May 19, 1997 usingsecret phony evidence to imprison him (largely on aminor immigration charge), hold him without charge forthree and one half years before a federal judgeordered his release.  He was then arrested againNovember 24, 2001 and finally deported August 21, 2002ending a long court battle in another case of aninnocent man denied his constitutional rights becauseof his Muslim faith and ethnicity.

-- Filling out immigration forms for a residentPalestinian scholar from Britain.

-- And, not disclosing details of associations to alocal reporter.

In return, the prosecution agreed to dismiss theremaining jury-deadlocked charges and not chargeAl-Arian with other crimes.  It also asked for no fineand recommended "the defendant receive sentence at thelow end of the applicable guideline."  It furtheracknowledged Al-Arian committed no violence, and therewere no victims.  For his part, Al-Arian was forced toagree to an expedited deportation which he decided wasworth it for his freedom and to be reunited with hisfamily and bring his ordeal to an end.

It didn't happen even under a plea agreement Al-Arianwas led to believe would involve a sentence of no morethan time served.  Judge Moody had other ideassentencing Al-Arian to the maximum 57 months inprison, giving him credit for time served but leavinga balance of 11 months to be followed by deportationscheduled for April, 2007 now extended to October,2008 from his new contempt charges explained below ashis ordeal continues without end.

Last October, assistant prosecutor Gordon Kromberg,subpoenaed Al-Arian to testify before a grand juryinvestigating an Islamic think tank violating his pleaagreement stipulating it was "to conclude, once andfor all, all business between the government and Dr.Al-Arian."  His defense attorneys filed a motionsupporting his right not to testify explaining henever would have agreed if he remained subject to becalled in further government investigations.  Doing somight entrap him in possible or interpreted perjuryleaving him vulnerable to endless governmentopportunities to harass and reincarcerate him.

Judge Moody ruled against Al-Arian, and on November16, he was brought before the grand jury and held incivil contempt for refusing to testify.  A monthlater, the grand jury expired, and a new one convenedwith Al-Arian again subpoenaed to testify.  Again herefused, was held in contempt which increases hissentence 18 more months without mitigation, in what'sclearly the government's attempt to renege on its dealto keep Al-Arian locked up forever even though hecommitted no crimes and was exonerated by a jury inhis trumped up trial.

Al-Arian is appealing his contempt sentencing andgovernment violation of his plea agreement and is nowrepresented by William Mitchell College of Lawprofessor and past President of the National LawyersGuild (1993 - 1997) Peter Erlinder as his leadattorney.  In the meantime, he's still in prison whilehis ordeal continues.  Erlinder's task is dauntingagainst a government determined to resist andprosecutors ready to file new charges to keep Al-Arianimprisoned as long as the Justice Department wants himthere.

With Al-Arian now being held on contempt charges, hisoriginal criminal sentence is not runningconcurrently.  In addition, with two contempt charges,his initial 18 month add-on sentence could be extendedto 36 months under "civil contempt" and much longer ifthe prosecution charges him with "criminal contempt."It means despite the government's plea agreement torelease him based on time served, George Bush'sJustice Department, under rogue Attorney GeneralAlberto Gonzales who flaunts the law, lied andAl-Arian can be held imprisoned for years without endas an innocent man guilty of no crime.

That's even clearer after a three-judge panel of theFourth US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously and"contemptuously" affirmed his civil contempt rulingMarch 23 saying his plea agreement "contains nolanguage which would bar the government fromcompelling appellant's testimony before a grand jury"even though it clearly does in plain English statedabove.  So much for justice from right wing courts inthe age of George Bush where there's none foradministration targets like Al-Arian.

In the meantime, Al-Arian protested the only way hecan, and news of it is prominently reported in thealternative media like this article, a growing numberof others and in on-air interviews with his wife,family and others.  He again went on a water-onlyhunger strike January 22 leaving him very weak, unableto walk or stand on his own, and needing to beconfined to a wheelchair.  It lasted two months butwas ended at the urging of his family after losing 55pounds or one-fourth of his body weight.  His wife,Nahla, reports he's now slowly regaining his strength.In Al-Arian's case, continuing a fast islife-threatening because he's diabetic and should beingesting regular sustenance to avoid serious healthproblems.

It took its toll earlier causing Al-Arian to collapseafter which he was moved to a federal prison medicalfacility in Butner, North Carolina where he's too weakto walk and is now subjected to the shoddy kind ofmedical care everyone imprisoned gets.  It's poor,indifferent and sure to be even worse for anyone inprison for political reasons any time but especiallyin the age of George Bush where justice is anillusion, and Sami Al-Arian's fate is at stake.  Hisordeal continues without end, but alternative mediawriters and commentators won't be silent about it orabout others like him enduring the same ordeal ofinjustice for noble principles and a just cause peopleof conscience everywhere support and admire.  Today,what happened to Sami Al-Arian can happen to anyone.Under George Bush rule, we're all Sami Al-Arians.

Secret US Prison Program for Muslims and MiddleEastern Prisoners

On February 16, 2007, lawyer and legal analyst,academic, author and journalist Jennifer Van Bergendisclosed the US has a secret new illegal prisonprogram targeting Muslims in an online article in TheRaw Story.  It's designated for claimed "high-securityrisk" Muslim and Middle Eastern (Arab) prisoners toseverely limit or cut them off entirely from contactand communication with the outside world violatingfederal law prohibiting such action according toPrison Legal News editor Paul Wright.  He told VanBergen "segregating prisoners based on their race,national origin or language directly contradicts therecent US Supreme Court ruling in Johnson v.California which held that the racial segregation ofprisoners was illegal."  Van Bergen also reported"Religious discrimination is (also) prohibited byPrison Bureau regulations."  They stipulate "staffshall not discriminate against inmates on the basis ofrace, religion, national origin, sex, disability, orpolitical belief (including) administrative decisions(involving) access to work, housing and programs."

The rule of law means nothing to the Bushadministration that flaunts it including in its newcovert program illegally instituted in December, 2006. It's called the special "Communications ManagementUnit" (CMU), and is presently (as far as known) onlyat the Terre Haute, Indiana Federal CorrectionalInstitution but may also be intended for other federalprisons as well in an age of mass incarcerations in anation with the largest prison population in the worldgrowing by over 1000 new prisoners daily.

Van Bergen asserts the CMU program violates theFederal Administrative Procedures Act explicitlyrequiring all prison regulations comply with this law. As of mid-February, it housed 16 prisoners but wasexpected to be rapidly expanded to 60 - 70 and mightend up with many more ahead in Terre Haute andelsewhere.

One of the Terre Haute prisoners is Dr. Rafil Dhafir,a Muslim American of Iraqi descent and practicingoncologist until his license was suspended.  He wasconvicted in a politically motivated Department ofJustice (DOJ) "kangaroo court" trial of violating theIraqi Sanctions Regulations (IEEPA) using his ownfunds and what he could raise through his Help theNeedy charity to bring desperately needed essential tolife humanitarian aid to Iraqi people unable to get itbecause of the US/UN-imposed punitive sanctions from1990 - 2003.  For his "Crime of Compassion" (seedhafirtrial.net, Katherine Hughes), he was convictedof violating the sanctions and a total of 59 of 60trumped up charges including tax fraud, moneylaundering, and mail and wire fraud resulting in a 22year prison sentence he's currently serving in TerreHaute far from his family in Syracuse, New York.  Hewasn't charged with or convicted of "terrorism" or anyact of violence, is not a "high-security risk" and yetis being treated like one because he's a Muslim.  He'salso, like Sami Al-Arian, a "trophy" in the Bushadministration's phony "war on terrorism" againstMuslims demeaned and persecuted everywhere because oftheir faith and ethnicity.

People of conscience aren't being quiet, and a smallgroup of them in Dhafir's home city Syracuse, New Yorkprotested former US Attorney General John Ashcroft'spresence on campus and speech at Syracuse UniversityMarch 27.  Ashcroft led the administration's 2001campaign for the passage of the repressive USA PatriotAct (written and on his desk before 9/11) used toconvict and imprison men like Dhafir and Al-Arianunjustly.  He was likely personally involved inorchestrating the government's efforts to railroad twoesteemed Muslim community members chosen forhigh-profile prosecutions, convictions, imprisonmentsand extra-harsh treatment under maximum securityconditions and restrictions used only for the mostdangerous criminals allowed more privileges behindbars than these pillars of their communities deniedjustice.

Muslim Witch-Hunt Harassment and Persecution In An Ageof "Terrorism" and Endless Imperial Wars

In the wake of 9/11, all Muslims have been in the Bushadministration crosshairs targeted with abusiveharassment and persecution including mass roundups,detentions, prosecutions and deportations in an age ofstate-induced phony terror to scare the public enoughto allow the government to get away with anything.  Ittook full advantage and continues doing it today witha greatly enhanced Department of HomelandSecurity/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE)campaign going after vulnerable undocumented Latinoworkers along with targeted Muslims and othersdesignated threats to national security in an age whenanyone is suspect if federal agencies say so.  Who'llobject if it's in the interest of "national security."

It began shortly after the 9/11 attacks with the Bushadministration declaring a permanent state ofpreventive war against claimed threats to nationalsecurity, especially targeting Muslims abroad and athome.  It resulted in two wars of illegal aggressionwithout end and mass witch-hunt roundups at home inwhich constitutional and international laws areflaunted along with fundamental principles of humanrights and civil liberties.  In an atmosphere ofstate-induced fear trumpeted by the dominant media,the FBI swung into action in mass sweeps anddetentions affecting many thousands of mainly Muslimimmigrants, citizens and visitors picking the wrongtime to be here.

Even before 9/11, the Clinton administration andRepublican-controlled Congress legalized theseactivities in the 1996 Immigrant Responsibility Act(IIRAIRA) and Anti-Terrorism and Effective DeathPenality Act (AEDPA).  They're harsh repressive lawsdenying targets their rights of due process andjudicial fairness.  Today they allow DHS/ICE agentsthe right to conduct wiretaps and searches (the Bushadministration does without required warrants),conduct proceedings in secret courts with permanentlysealed rulings, detain immigrants and other targetscalled "terrorists," deny them bail, deport themwithout discretionary relief, restrict their access tocounsel, deny their right to appeal, and throw thebook at them even for minor offenses.

The consequences for those targeted are devastating.It affected 5000 Muslims in the immediate aftermath of9/11 with only three of them being charged with anoffense and not a single "terrorist" nabbed to showfor it even the 9/11 (whitewash) Commission admitted.Yet, those swept up then and now are generallydetained on non-criminal administrative charges, oftenwithout their families' knowledge.  They're kept indegrading and inhumane conditions - locked in cells 23hours a day where lights never go off, kept in handand leg shackles whenever outside them, harassed andabused without redress, and denied telephone calls andfamily visitations.

Many are dragged from their homes in the middle of thenight or before dawn in paramilitary-style raids whileothers get picked up in the wrong place at the wrongtime or for willingly coming forward as aliens whenasked to and being punished for it.  In the case ofRafil Dhafir, his door was broken down about 6:00 AMFebruary 26, 2003 when 85 law enforcement agentsshowed up to arrest him including 15 from the FBI,five of whom held guns menacingly to his wifePriscilla's head traumatizing her from the experienceas it would anyone.  This is how things are done in apolice state where victims have no choice but take thepunishment or get shot or pummelled "resisting."

Innocent people like these undergo unspeakablehumiliations and treatment even though most committedno crimes and the few who have only get charged withminor offenses with exceptions like Sami Al-Arian andRafil Dhafir getting the book thrown at them becauseof their high-profile status even though they'reinnocent of any crimes. Virtually no one's been foundguilty of terrorist-related offenses or violence, yetthose rounded up are forced to undergo degradingindignities like strip searches, and are beaten andsexually abused for their race, faith, country oforigin and immigration status because they're Muslimsor impoverished Latinos here for jobs in an age whenthe rule of law is null and void and human rights andcivil liberties are just artifacts from another era.

Early on, the Justice Department boasted itsuccessfully deported hundreds of targeted individualsconnected to 9/11 investigations.  Estimates sincefrom human rights groups, Muslim community leaders andorganizations, peace groups and lawyers show thenumbers skyrocketed amounting to many thousands moreplus tens of thousands of others fleeing the countryin fear after having been surveilled, interrogated anddetained or arrested in a systemic reign of stateterror pattern of abuse leaving scars that won't everheal.  Those here only as visitors won't ever returnor have faith in this country again.  All affected aredevastated by the experience.  It harms individuals,communities and families, tearing them apart andleaving them to wonder how they'll recoup after beingthrough so much.  This is the state of America todaywith horrific cases like Sami Al-Arian's and RafilDhafir's highlighting it.

Early on, those targeted were caught up in thepost-9/11 FBI witch-hunt mass sweep called PENTTBOMinvolving 4000 agents and 3000 support staffinvestigating 96,000 tips from the public in the firstweek alone after the attacks.  By January, 2002, theACLU claimed the FBI received half a million citizencalls with tips and leads resulting in investigationsaffecting 100,000 Muslims and brown-skinned people ifonly 20% of them were followed-up on.

Add to these what's gone on till today.  Thenhighlight Muslims (like Al-Arian and Dhafir) targetedfor supporting Islamic charities and organizationsbanned for their phony claimed links to "terrorist"groups, others for their activism, anyone with apolice record even for minor indiscretions, andoverall all Muslims under suspicion, potentially beingwatched and always fearing a pre-dawn knock on theirdoor or the thud or crash of it being broken in andfacing menacing FBI agents with guns drawn.

It never ends with the Washington Post reporting March25 "thousands of pieces of intelligence informationfrom around the world arrive (daily) in acomputer-filled office in McLean (Virginia), whereanalysts feed them into the nation's central list ofterrorists and terrorism suspects."  It's called theTerrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE)storing data about individuals the intelligencecommunity thinks might harm the country.  It's massivein size, includes foreigners and US citizens,ballooning from under 100,000 files in 2003 to about435,000 now and growing daily in volume enough tooverwhelm people assigned to manage it.  Once put onthe list, it's forever and can lead to thousands ofhorror stories of mixed-up names and unconfirmedinformation.  It's part of what's going on today aspart of a nightmarish Kafkaesque matrix of control inthe age of George Bush where everyone is suspect, andno one is safe from a pre-dawn visit from lawenforcers from which there's no return, guilty orinnocent, if they want it that way.

Also instituted after September 11, 2002 was a programcalled the National Security Entry-Exit RegistrationSystem (NSEERS) affecting 24 Muslim or Arab countriesplus North Korea.  It's administered by DHS/ICE todayto keep track of over 35 million people entering andleaving the country annually for any reason but onlytargeting Muslims for registration with furtherinterrogation, photographing, fingerprinting, anddenial of Sixth Amendment right to counsel and FourthAmendment right to privacy for those singled out.  Theprogram is sweeping and expensive while being nearworthless as a security measure, but its cost toMuslim communities in loss of dignity, unspeakableabuse, and overall punitive repression has been hugeand devastating.

Drs. Sami Al-Arian and Rafil Dhafir are stark examplesof its most egregiously harmed victims with no redressfor them so far as their painful ordeals continuewithout end.  This country prides itself on being anation of laws respecting and protecting the rights ofeveryone.  Untrue now or ever before and wiped fromthe books without pretense in the age of George Bush.What's happening to targeted Muslims and Latinoimmigrants today may be aimed at us ahead in an effortto silence all dissent and go after perceived enemiesof the state including US citizens no longer safe at atime we're all "enemy combatants" if the ChiefExecutive says so.

Witness the case of Jose Padilla, a US citizen seizedat Chicago's O'Hare Airport May 8, 2002 on a materialwitness warrant connected to the 9/11 attacks.  He hadno weapons on his possession at the time but was latercharged, without evidence, with being part of aterrorist plot to detonate "dirty bombs" inside thecountry and declared by the president an "enemycombatant."  He was then held in military confinementfrom May, 2002 till January, 2006 till the Departmentof Justice (DOJ) took over custody while his lawyersargued his case in New York district and appellatecourts winning rulings in his favor to no avail.

The Bush administration challenged them getting theSupreme Court to agree in Rumsfeld v. Padilla 5 - 4 inJune, 2004 dismissing the case as improperly filed andruling for the administration subsequently in afollow-up decision on the Padilla case effectivelygiving the president the right to seize anyone, accusethem without evidence, and keep them internedanywhere, as long as he wishes, under any conditionson his say alone.  And if district and appellatecourts overrule the president, they don't count evenwhen US citizens are arrested and held interminablywith no evidence in degrading and inhuman conditionslike those discussed above.

In the Padilla case, his attorneys argued theyincluded abuses like Al-Arian and Dhafir endureincluding five years of solitary confinement as wellas sensory deprivation, other periods of extremenoise, no right of counsel for two years, beatings,injections with mind-altering drugs, and denial ofmedical treatment all of which destroyed a human beingmaking him unfit for trial and further punishingincarceration.

But that's not how US District Judge Marcia Cooke, andlikely most others on the federal bench today, sawthings.  After nearly five punishing years ofincarceration based on nothing more than charges filedwith no corroborating evidence, she ruled on March 23,Padilla is competent to stand trial even though he'sbeen turned to mush and likely is innocent of allcharges.  Jose Padilla along with Sami Al-Arian andRafil Dhafir are today's examples of what PastorMartin Niemoller warned about in Nazi Germany when thestate targeted enemies removing them while no oneprotested.

Today in America, our turn may be next sooner than wethink, and when it comes there may be no one left tohelp unless people of conscience act en masse inoutrage and protest.  In the age of George Bush, noone is safe, and a nation once proud is slipping muchcloser to passing from democracy to tyranny the wayChalmers Johnson explained it happened in the rise andfall of earlier empires.

Citing ancient Rome, he wrote in his new book, Nemesis- The Last Days of the American Republic, we "areapproaching the edge of a huge waterfall and are aboutto plunge over it" with other notable figuresbelieving we already have failing to heed Jefferson'swords that "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold isfor people of good conscience to remain silent" orEdmund Burke who said "The only thing necessary forthe triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."Hopefully there's still time to act.  Are we payingattention?  Do we understand today we're all SamiAl-Arians, Rafil Dhafirs and Jose Padillas.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com andlisten each week to The Steve Lendman News andInformation Hour on The Micro Effect.com Saturdays atnoon US central time.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 April 2007 15:34
 

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