Sunday, November 23, 2008

Investigative Project and Senator Pushes DOJ on Islamists

The Department of Justice (DOJ) should cut off outreach efforts with organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist extremist groups, a report from a ranking Senate subcommittee member recommends.

"Justice Denied: Waste & Mismanagement at the Department of Justice," is an 86-page report issued in October by the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security.

The report generated attention for its criticism of the millions of dollars spent annually to send DOJ officials on junkets in luxury resorts such as Palm Springs, Cal. and Hawaii. And it noted that law enforcement officials routinely advise Hollywood producers in television and film projects without seeking compensation for their agencies.

But just as important is its detailing of DOJ outreach with questionable Islamist organizations, including two which are unindicted co-conspirators in a major Hamas support investigation. Those efforts should stop, the report said:

"It is the legal right and obligation of DOJ to bar, withhold or rescind funding for or collaboration with any entities that do not advance the mission of the Department, which is the security and stability of the United States, including its culture, its people, and its form of government."

In a letter contained in the report, Coburn said the investigation was not meant to target DOJ employees, but rather to identify problems for Department leaders to address:

"This report highlights numerous instances of millions of taxpayer dollars thrown at duplicative programs marred by waste, abuse, and lack of accountability. If this problem is ignored, the safety of our nation will be placed further in serious peril as we continue to spend recklessly without demanding results, while failing to support programs with demonstrated and effective outcomes."

Coburn has been focused on issues of Islamist outreach. In July, he and Arizona U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl wrote to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, asking that State set a deadline for cutting off funding to organizations with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The letter also asked that procedures be created to prevent future funding of such groups.

In 2007, Coburn pushed an amendment to the FY 2008 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill which barred DOJ from underwriting any conferences with organizations identified "as an unindicted co-conspirator by the federal government in any criminal prosecution." The Senate passed the provision but when the Senate and House of Representatives met to create one final bill, it was taken out.

The Coburn report on DOJ singles out the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Both are unindicted co-conspirators in the Hamas support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) and five former officials. CAIR and ISNA appear in prosecution exhibits involving the Palestine Committee, a group created by the Muslim Brotherhood to help Hamas. CAIR actually is listed as a committee member, as are the group's co-founders Nihad Awad and Omar Ahmad. ISNA is listed among friendly organizations.

The report notes what it calls an "alarming" agenda for the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. It was written by another Palestine Committee member, Mohamed Akram, in 1991 in a document called "the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America." In the memo, Akram defined the group's role in America as "a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."

CAIR officials appear in other exhibits, adding to the concern, the report said:

"According to court documents, CAIR chairman Omar Ahmad mediated a financial dispute involving the HLF over funding for Hamas founder Sheik Jamil Hamami. CAIR was co-founded by Rafeeq Jaber who was also the president of the American Muslim Society, a group listed in the aforementioned Muslim Brotherhood memorandum to carry out the 'civilization jihad' against the U.S.

Despite these concerns, DOJ has funded and supported CAIR on a number of occasions..."

DOJ's involvement with ISNA was deeper, including its 2007 co-sponsorship of ISNA's national convention. DOJ participated over the objections of some of its own lawyers, the report said. The Labor Day weekend gathering came just a few months after the release of the HLF unindicted co-conspirator list that includes ISNA. DOJ has declined to disclose how much the sponsorship cost. It does acknowledge having staff present at informational booths at past ISNA conventions.

It cited an e-mail from Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, acting deputy chief of DOJ's Voting Rights Division, who touted the event as "an important outreach opportunity, and a chance to reach a community that is at once very much discriminated against, and very wary of the national government and its willingness to protect them."

Participating in the convention represented "a great step forward to break through those barriers. And Chicago is lovely this time of year," Lorenzo-Giguere wrote.

But the report notes DOJ officials put themselves in an awkward position in participating in a convention in which one session was entitled "Ending U.S. Sponsored Torture: A Concern for All People of Faith:"

"The Justice Department is responsible for enforcing the federal law against torture and for signing off on the legality and constitutionality of interrogation techniques, and yet the Department sponsored an event that was accusing the U.S. of having an official government policy of abuse and ‘sponsored torture.'"

The report notes that DOJ stayed away from ISNA's 2008 convention. DOJ has not responded to the recommendations concerning Islamist outreach efforts.

Read the relevant excerpts here. Or, you can read the full report here.

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