If only half of what John Loftus alleges against Sami Al-Arian is true, it is one hell of a bombshell.
Loftus filed a civil suit against Al-Arian (a.k.a. The Martyr), alleging the University of South Florida engineering professor laundered money from Saudi Arabia and funneled it into the most notorious terrorist organizations on our list.
If that is true, the Palestinian activist made suckers out of a lot of intelligent people — including journalists — who have defended him and minimized the disturbing statements and actions that made him news in the first place. I kept reading that poor Sami was being unfairly persecuted. He'd been investigated to the hilt but hadn't been charged with anything, they said. He may have said a few stupid things, we were told, but that sure was a long time ago. He may have been emphatic when he shouted "Death to Israel," but the remark was misinterpreted. He didn't really mean death to the people of Israel, but rather, the notion of Israel, we were told. No, poor Sami, the victim, the Martyr. He doesn't know anything about terrorism except what he reads in the newspaper.
I always wondered, then, why the guy invoked the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination 99 times when testifying in the secret evidence trial for his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar.
What Loftus has done is connect some of the dots of a paper trail that appears to identify Al-Arian as far more involved in terrorist organizations than anyone has publicly alleged before. In fact, his lawsuit suggests that Al-Arian's groups provided financial support to Al Qaida and even purchased communications equipment for Osama bin Laden.
That makes for one fantastic story, too fantastic for me to fully believe, but Loftus, president of the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, knows how to time things and make his point. For example, his suit pinpoints 555 Grove St. in Herndon, Va., as the headquarters for some of Al-Arian's groups.
Around the time Loftus released the lawsuit to the media March 20, the feds raided 555 Grove St., carrying a search warrant bearing Al-Arian's name. The records seized belonged to the International Institute for Islamic Thought, a group that funded activities of Al-Arian's World and Islam Studies Enterprise, his think tank formerly based at USF.
Gotta wonder 'bout that.
I'll tell you one thing: The Al-Arian die-hards should hold off before further investing themselves in that man's defense. They are starting to look like fools.
And, those ready to pounce on Al-Arian shouldn't wave Loftus' lawsuit too high in the air. You have to be suspicious about a non-practicing lawyer who would use the court in this way to make his point. He said he wants to force Al-Arian to respond to questions in a deposition that he had earlier refused to answer, invoking the Fifth. Well, Al-Arian can invoke the Fifth Amendment in a civil case, too. And, some of the remedies Loftus seeks — preventing Al-Arian from publishing and distributing literature for Palestinian Islamic Jihad — violate the First Amendment.
When I finished reading the suit, I reached this conclusion: If it's all true, Al-Arian is one sinister son of a witch. If half of it is true, it is a sorry statement about the U.S. justice system when it can't take down someone who has sponsored terrorism. If even 25 percent of it is true, Al-Arian needs to be prosecuted or deported.
I don't think it's all true, because if it were, Al-Arian would have had to have indeed been brilliant. Sly, calculating, cunning, astute, shrewd and sneeeeeeeeaky. Able to play five chess games at one time. But, this is the same man who went on The O'Reilly Factor, expecting something good to happen? The same Ph.D. who applied for citizenship, then tried to vote at the polls before he even got it? Huh? Is that man smart enough to be the Grand Master of terrorism? Doubt it.
Al-Arian called Loftus a "lunatic" and repeated his tired line that he's pure as snow because "nothing illegal has been found" about his activities. Gee, how would he even know what the feds have found?
The records Loftus cites indicate the feds have of plenty of ammo for prosecution, but his contention that the Clinton administration killed the case for political reasons seems a stretch. The suit contends the money lines trace right to Saudi Arabia — and Saudi royalty, something that would have caused too much embarrassment for the Saudis if it were exposed.
But look how the Clinton administration backed down after the early revelation that the Egypt Air 990 crash was caused deliberately by an Egyptian co-pilot. The Egyptians went crazy, the report vanished from the radar and we waited 2 1/2 years to get the most antiseptic report that didn't judge motives, but did say it appeared to be the co-pilot's actions.