That's Sami Al-Arian speaking, boasting to his fellow-Islamist, Fawaz Damra back in 2000 or 2001, reports WEWS Channel 5 in Cleveland. (Al-Arian is the former University of South Florida computer specialist now in a U.S. jail for raising money for and directing Palestinian Islamic Jihad; Damra is the Cleveland imam convicted yesterday for the same thing.) Here are two snippets in full as we know them from the Damra trial now available:
A 1998 phone conversation:
Damra: "All the aid and such. You have received it?"
Al-Arian: "May God reward you and bless you."
Damra: "You will be receiving a second portion."
And the second one from 2000 or 2001:
Al-Arian: "Last week I saw Clinton."
Damra "You met him?"
Al-Arian: "Yes by God."
Comment: As court cases such as Damra's and Al-Arian's wend their way through the system, more such classified information will become known. (September 21, 2004)
April 22, 2005 update: Al-Arian's lawyer, William B. Moffitt, has written a letter to the U.S. attorney (dated Sept. 24, 2004, but only just released) asking for more information, and along the way Moffitt provides a wealth of detail, based on information provided by Al-Arian, about his client's contacts with over twenty politicians before his indictment in 2003. The letter states Al-Arian
met with the President of the United States either George Bush or Bill Clinton or at the White House in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001. He was briefed at the Justice Department in July of 2001, met with Bill Clinton May of 1999 and April 2000, with Al Gore in November 1998, with Hillary Clinton in October of 1999 and George Bush in March 2003. President (George Bush) sent a written apology to Dr. Al-Arian's wife, Nahla Al-Arian, in 2001, when Dr. Al-Arian's son was denied to the White House of that same year.
Not surprisingly, Al-Arian is making use of these contacts to protect himself from the charges against him. Moffitt writes that each of these meetings
occurred at a time during that the government is alleging that Dr. Al-Arian was somehow a dangerous terrorist involved in a conspiracy to kill Americans. Dr. Al-Arian's access to these political figures coupled with the fact there was public-source information regarding many of the contentions that form the basis of the government's indictment seem to belie the notion that Dr. Al-Arian was in anyway considered by anyone in the intelligence or law enforcement communities to be any kind of threat to the United States or a threat to harm any officials of the United States.
Moffitt's argument is specious (the government has made plenty of mistakes regarding Islamists) but it does reiterate the need for special caution in the White House when it comes to Muslim leaders.
Other high-ranking political figures Al-Arian indicates in the letter that he had contact with include Republicans Spencer Abraham, Bob Barr, Tom Campbell, Tom Davis, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Asa Hutchinson, Henry Hyde, Trent Lott, Grover Norquist, and Karl Rove; and Democrats David Bonior, Barney Frank, Cynthia McKinney, James Moran, and Nick Rahall. All of them should have red faces; and all of them should learn an important lesson from this fiasco about not consorting with Islamists.
Aug. 24, 2005 update: As an aside, it came out in testimony yesterday that "During its 10-year investigation of Al-Arian and defendants Ghassan Ballut, Hatim Fariz and Sameeh Hammoudeh, the FBI intercepted 472,239 telephone calls on 18 tapped lines." No wonder it's taken a while for this case to reach the courtroom.
Nov. 14, 2005 update: Into the dog-that-did-not-bark file goes a creative piece by Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun, "Politicians Who Courted Al-Arian Dodge Embarrassment at His Trial." During the trial's opening arguments in June, Al-Arian's attorney, William Moffitt, stated his intention to exploit his client's political connections to pooh-pooh notions that he was an organizer for a murderous organization like Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Because Sami Al-Arian not only did not testify in his defense, but his lawyers mounted no defense at all on his behalf, that formidable bevy of politicians listed above escaped the embarrassment that is their due. Moffitt explained this decision by arguing that the prosecution had failed to show Al-Arian had broken the law. "The government has not proven Dr. Al-Arian did anything but speak." Also, Judge James Moody prohibited the defense from making certain arguments, and this might have influenced the decision to stay away from the politicians.