Arab American News
September 25, 1998
WASHINGTON, DC – A Washington-based Islamic advocacy group is challenging the objectivity and suggested make-up of a proposed National Commission on Terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says statements from the commission’s sponsor seem to unfairly target Muslims and that the list of suggested commission members includes associates of known Muslim bashers and one person who was indicted for extortion and using firearms during a crime of violence in a case that a judge said “rings of terrorism.” (The Boston Globe, 3/29/97, 4/9/97)
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) yesterday introduced legislation (H.R.4536) that would create the commission. According to materials issued by Wolf’s office, the 15-member body would “examine our national counter-terrorism policies and suggest steps we can take to be more effective in preventing terrorism…” In a letter to his colleagues in Congress, Wolf wrote that the commission will “help to make sure that this issue (terrorism) remains in the spotlight.”
“Everyone supports the goal of combating terrorism. The American Muslim community would support the formation of a national body designed to improve the safety of innocent people in this country and around the globe,” said CAIR Board Member Ihsan Bagby. “Unfortunately, given the legislative history of the current bill’s sponsor, his apparent focus on Islam and Muslims and the backgrounds of several individuals proposed as members of the commission, we have grave reservations about Wolf’s legislation,” said Bagby.
Bagby added that, as proposed, the commission could be used to target American Muslims and Arab-Americans in the same way that earlier counterterrorism legislation was selectively applied to those communities through the use of secret evidence in deportation cases.
Wolf is a driving force behind the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. Muslims have criticized that bill for promoting a double standard in which Islamic countries face sanctions, while countries that expel, torture and kill Muslims would be ignored. (see http://www.cairnet.org/alerts/98/alert172.htm)
An August 24 statement on the formation of the commission by Wolf seems to reiterate his focus on Islam and Muslims. The statement quoted from a recent article in the Journal of Counterterrorism & Security International, a magazine that is currently promoting the conspiracy theories of controversial “terrorism expert” Steven Emerson.
A sidebar to a recent Journal article by Emerson listed nearly all national American Muslim and Arab-American organizations under the headline “Domestic Groups Which Support Middle Eastern Terrorism.” The list included, among many others, major mainstream organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). (Spring, 1998)
It was Emerson who used racist language in 1995 to explain why he believed Muslims were probably to blame for the Oklahoma City bombing. In 1996, he said he was sure a bomb brought down TWA Flight 800 and that it was most likely Muslims who did it. More recently, news reports allege that Emerson attempted to pass doctored background materials to the Associated Press.
One of the people proposed by Wolf for membership (addendum to Aug. 24 statement) on the commission is Ed Badolato, executive director of the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, the group that publishes the Journal of Counterterrorism & Security International.
A 1988 New York Times article cited a Congressional report charging that Badolato, then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Security Affairs, and other federal officials: “…quashed an inquiry into drug trafficking at the Lawrence National Laboratory in California just three days before the investigation reached the laboratory’s most sensitive areas, and then they misled House investigators…” (New York Times, 6/15/88; House of Representatives memorandum)
According to the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian newspaper (5/22/98), the South African office of Badolato’s USAfricon security firm worked with a “frontman for military intelligence during the apartheid era” on a recent proposal to spy on behalf of a South African government official.
Other suggested commission members include Daniel Pipes, a writer who has questioned Muslim religious ties to the city of Jerusalem, and Steven Pomerantz, a security consultant with links to Steven Emerson, Badolato and, according to media reports, to representatives of Israel’s intelligence and military establishment. Florida newspaper editor John Sugg wrote that Emerson and Pomerantz “spend their time (and make money) out of portraying Arabs and Muslims as terrorists…” (Weekly Planet, May 1998)
One of the two Arab-Americans suggested for membership on the commission, Riad Nachef, was indicted by a federal grand jury last year for conspiracy to commit extortion and extortion by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear. Another count charged Nachef with using firearms during a crime of violence. (U.S. Attorney’s Office news release, 5/28/97)
The judge who set bail in the case said the allegations “ring of terrorism.” The defendant, who is due to be sentenced on one remaining count in October, is also allegedly a leader of a pro-Syrian Lebanese group called Al-Ahbash. (U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, and the Boston Globe, 3/29/97)
The other Arab-American suggested for commission membership is Fouad Ajami, a professor who allegedly made anti-Arab racist comments during a 1992 dinner for a foundation that raises funds for Jewish immigrants to Israel. Ajami allegedly said: “I insisted on only one thing: that I be spared the ceremony of eating with a Bedouin…” At the same event, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger allegedly said: “I tend to agree with Fouad (Ajami), you can’t really believe anything an Arab says…” (8/7/92, The Washington Post)
Arab American News