April 27, 2011
By Andrew C. McCarthy
Ah, there’s nothing like transparency.
U.S. attorney general Eric Holder has finally confirmed that Justice Department headquarters intervened to quash the prosecution of a top official of CAIR — the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The attorney general did not identify the CAIR official by name, although, at Pajamas Media, Patrick Poole reports that he is Omar Ahmad — who was in attendance at a 1993 meeting of what the FBI described as Hamas leaders, and who later founded CAIR, an Islamist organization designated by prosecutors as an unindicted coconspirator in a Hamas financing scheme.
(In the just released report by Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, “The Case Against Omar Ahmad,” IPT notes that Ahmad actually “planned, convened and moderated an October 1993 meeting of the Palestine Committee [a Muslim Brotherhood front] in Philadelphia where members discussed ways to ‘derail’ a U.S.-led peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The group knew that their Hamas support was problematic. They agreed to reference the group as sister ‘Samah’ [Hamas spelled backward] and warned each other that the U.S. had just proposed legislation that would designate Hamas as a terror organization.”)
Holder initially dodged questions about Poole’s reporting which, relying on Justice Department sources, relates that political appointees in the Obama Justice Department prevented the prosecution not only of Ahmad and CAIR but of other Islamist organizations designated as unindicted coconspirators in the Hamas financing case — the prosecution in which five officials of an Islamic charity known as the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) were convicted and given long sentences. As Poole noted yesterday, Holder first deflected the questions, by claiming that DOJ has been aggressive in prosecuting terrorism cases and by defending the Justice Department’s “outreach” to Muslim groups (including, as Poole has reported, Muslim Brotherhood connected groups identified as unindicted coconspirators).
Nevertheless, Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that Holder has confirmed that DOJ declined to prosecute the top CAIR official. Yet again, the attorney general appears to have been disingenuous.
As Gerstein observes, Holder claimed that the decision not to prosecute was made by “career folks looking at the evidence.” But Poole’s reporting has related that, in point of fact, the career folks looking at the evidence — namely, the prosecutors in the Dallas U.S. attorney’s office — were in favor of moving forward with a second round of post-HLF prosecutions against the unindicted coconspirators. It was Main Justice political appointees who put the kibosh on the effort. Specifically, and quite contrary to Holder’s intimation, Poole has stated that the case against CAIR’s Omar Ahmad was torpedoed by a memo, dated March 31, 2010, from Assistant Attorney General David Kris to Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler. DOJ officials have declined to provide Poole with a copy of the memo, so he is pursuing it through the Freedom of Information Act . . . notwithstanding that the “most transparent administration in history” is infamous for FOIA non-compliance. (See, e.g., here.)
Looks like Pat Poole had it right. As Gerstein reports, moments after Holder claimed the non-prosecution decision was made by “career folks,” a Justice Department spokesman “clarified” that the decision was actually made by (as Josh puts it) “senior officials who are not career, but political appointees.” (My italics.)
In his remarks, Holder predictably argued that his Department had merely made the same decision reached by the Bush Justice Department in 2004. As I contended last week, that argument is as frivolous as it is predictable: The Bush DOJ decision is highly suspect, but even if it weren’t, much has changed in the last seven years . . . including the disturbing appearance that the Obama Justice Department has adopted a policy — whether formal or unannounced — against prosecutions involving Muslim charities.
Tellingly, Holder also took pains to distance himself from the non-prosecution decision, saying that, because he is attorney general, “some folks think that my hands are in every decision that’s made, especially those they disagree with, but that’s not the case.” Of course, that cop-out would have more weight if the non-prosecution decision had actually been made by career prosecutors, as Holder claimed, rather than by political appointees (most of whom, like Kris and Grindler, report to Holder — the top DOJ political appointee). Recall, for example, that earlier in Holder’s tenure, career appointees had determined that there was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecuting Bush-era CIA interrogators . . . but that didn’t stop Holder and other Obama political appointees from making the transparently political decision to reopen the investigation.
In any event, House Homeland Security chairman Peter King (R., N.Y.), who has been pursuing DOJ’s non-prosecution decision on the HLF unindicted coconspirators, is singularly unimpressed by Holder’s effort to duck responsibility: “I think the attorney general’s hands should be involved in any case involving CAIR and a possible terrorism indictment. . . . He should not be hiding behind the decision of the Bush administration, because that decision was made before the Holy Land Foundation was convicted . . .”