Politics & Policy

Wanting to Stay Sealed

Targets of terrorism probe change their plea regarding records.

In an abrupt change of course, several Saudi-financed charities and corporations targeted by the Department of Justice in a terrorism investigation have asked the government not to unseal a federal search-warrant affidavit, after originally demanding that the affidavit be made public.

In a filing on Friday with the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia, federal prosecutors moved to unseal a 100-page search-warrant affidavit issued in connection with the March 2002 raids of several Virginia-based organizations and individuals.

The government’s motion to unseal the affidavit comes as a result of a 50-count indictment handed up in Tampa, Florida, last month. The indictment describes in painstaking detail how the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization (“PIJ”) was headquartered in the United States from 1990 until 1995 under the leadership of Sami al-Arian and Ramadan Shallah. According to the government motion, portions of the Virginia affidavit describe SAAR funding of PIJ operations.

The Virginia-based organizations and individuals form what is known as the “SAAR” network, named after Suleiman Abdel Aziz al-Raghi, the wealthy Saudi patron of the Northern Virginia enterprise.

The SAAR network is suspected of laundering money for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Al-Raghi has been fingered as a prominent al Qaeda supporter, most recently in the newly released “Golden Chain” letter, a list of the 20 original al Qaeda financiers.

After searches of their homes and offices, the principals of the SAAR network quickly professed their innocence and pledged full cooperation with the government, while firing off allegations of Muslim persecution in America. The SAAR Don, Yacub Mirza, told reporters, “We know we have not done anything wrong…we will work with the government agencies and get them whatever they need.” SAAR Executive Mohammad Omeish decried, “The message we are getting is, this war, even though they claim it is against terrorism, is against Muslims.”

As part of their effort to discredit the government investigation, Mirza and the SAAR network initially filed a motion to unseal the search warrant affidavit. The targets apparently believed that exposure of the document would reveal that the government had no case.

However, in a curious twist of fate, the new government filing reveals that upon learning of the government’s intention to unseal the affidavit, “every one of the Searched Parties now oppose unsealing of the affidavits.”

Public documents show that the SAAR network was the primary backer of the PIJ front groups in the United States, World and Islam Studies Enterprise (“WISE”) and Islamic Concern Project (“ICP”). According to the Tampa indictment, WISE and ICP operated as the political and financial command for the PIJ in the United States.

In fact, previously released correspondence and bank checks reveal that SAAR affiliates International Institute of Islamic Thought (“IIIT”) and Safa Trust (“Safa”) funneled tens of thousands of dollars to the PIJ fronts.

In a letter addressed to the University of South Florida, PIJ leader Ramadan Shallah identified IIIT as the “largest contributor” to WISE. IIIT executive Taha al-Alwani attended ICP conferences in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Al-Alwani himself is an unindicted coconspirator in the Florida case.

As the federal prosecutors continue their investigation, and the targeted executives continue to resist government efforts to shed light on their secretive affairs, the question remains, what is it the SAAR patrons do not want us to know?

Matthew Epstein is an attorney and terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism think tank established in 1995.

Most Popular

World

Jared Kushner Was Right

Over the past several years, a new certainty was added to death and taxes: Jared Kushner would fail in his role as the administration’s Middle East point man. It caused considerable merriment among President Donald Trump’s critics (and even some of his well-wishers) when he put his son-in-law in charge of ... Read More
World

Jared Kushner Was Right

Over the past several years, a new certainty was added to death and taxes: Jared Kushner would fail in his role as the administration’s Middle East point man. It caused considerable merriment among President Donald Trump’s critics (and even some of his well-wishers) when he put his son-in-law in charge of ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Barr Is Right About the Prosecution Power

Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech at Hillsdale College on Wednesday that attracted a lot of attention. Much of that attention was for his ill-considered remark (in a question-and-answer session following the speech) that "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, [the pandemic lockdowns ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Barr Is Right About the Prosecution Power

Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech at Hillsdale College on Wednesday that attracted a lot of attention. Much of that attention was for his ill-considered remark (in a question-and-answer session following the speech) that "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, [the pandemic lockdowns ... Read More

Snobs or Mobs?

A   lot of us were feeling pretty good about the future of the media in late September of 2004. Dan Rather and the CBS news division had just tried to derail George W. Bush’s reelection campaign with some genuine fake news — based on fake documents — and, in spite of the manful attempts of ... Read More

Snobs or Mobs?

A   lot of us were feeling pretty good about the future of the media in late September of 2004. Dan Rather and the CBS news division had just tried to derail George W. Bush’s reelection campaign with some genuine fake news — based on fake documents — and, in spite of the manful attempts of ... Read More
U.S.

Zoomers and the Constitution

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center compared generational views on key social and political issues, focusing on the similarities between Millennials and Generation Z. The topics probed include race relations, diversity, climate change, capitalism, socialism, and the role of government. This last item, ... Read More
U.S.

Zoomers and the Constitution

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center compared generational views on key social and political issues, focusing on the similarities between Millennials and Generation Z. The topics probed include race relations, diversity, climate change, capitalism, socialism, and the role of government. This last item, ... Read More

The Mystery of Robert E. Lee

No one who ever met Robert Edward Lee -- whatever the circumstances of the meeting -- failed to be impressed by the man. From his earliest days as a cadet at West Point, through 25 years as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers and six more as a senior cavalry officer, and then as the supreme ... Read More

The Mystery of Robert E. Lee

No one who ever met Robert Edward Lee -- whatever the circumstances of the meeting -- failed to be impressed by the man. From his earliest days as a cadet at West Point, through 25 years as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers and six more as a senior cavalry officer, and then as the supreme ... Read More
World

How Trump Changed U.S. Foreign Policy

On September 16 the editorial board of the New York Times did the impossible. It said something nice about President Trump. “The normalization of relations between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is, on the face of it, a good and beneficial development,” the editors wrote. ... Read More
World

How Trump Changed U.S. Foreign Policy

On September 16 the editorial board of the New York Times did the impossible. It said something nice about President Trump. “The normalization of relations between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is, on the face of it, a good and beneficial development,” the editors wrote. ... Read More