November 9, 2012 | 20 comments
Islamists know how to play the game.
On March 20, 2002, officers from the FBI, customs, immigration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives raided 19 offices and residences in Virginia and Georgia in the largest action against suspected terrorism financing in American history. One of the targets of “Operation Green Quest” was the Washington, D.C.-area residence of Iqbal Unus, a nuclear physicist, along with his wife, Aysha Nudrat and their 18-year-old daughter, Hanaa.
The Unus family responded to the raid by filing an implausible but important lawsuit two years later in the U.S. district court for Eastern Virginia. The three plaintiffs claimed there had been no probable cause to search their house, they further alleged a “conspiracy to violate [their] constitutional rights,” and they sought punitive damages from several individuals associated with the raid:
• David Kane, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who signed the 106-page affidavit that justified the search.
• Rita Katz, a private counterterrorism specialist and director of what is now called the SITE Intelligence Group.
• “All unknown named federal agents…who searched plaintiffs’ home.” Those agents, the Unus family claimed, “knew or should have known that the affidavit did not contain probable cause for the search…for financial documents.” (The agents, later named, numbered 11 in all: four customs agents, four Internal Revenue Service agents, an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent, a Secret Service agent, and a postal inspector.)
These defendants together stood accused of conspiring to “contrive allegations” that documents relevant to the financing of terrorism were located at their house. In plain English, the Unus family alleged that Kane, Katz, and the federal agents fabricated reasons for the raid.
In other words, the Unus family ascribed responsibility for the search of their house, a sovereign decision of the U.S. government, to specific federal employees and, even more bizarrely, to a private person (Katz) who had never served as a U.S. government employee. They justified suing Katz because she had claimed in her autobiography, Terrorist Hunter, and on the CBS program 60 Minutes to having unearthed the information that led to Kane’s affidavit. Accordingly, the Unus family deemed her “the impetus” behind the search warrant and the source for its “every piece of information.”
The Unus lawsuit, only recently settled, warrants scrutiny because it fits a common pattern of what I call predatory exploitation of U.S. courts by Islamists. It raises several questions: What did the Unus family hope to achieve from its lawsuit? How does this incident fit into the larger scheme of Islamist ambitions? How can this abuse of the U.S. legal system be prevented?
The main target of the raids was a small office building at 555 Grove Street in Herndon, Virginia, the site of more than 100 closely related commercial companies, think tanks, religious organizations, and nonprofit charities controlled by a handful of individuals, known collectively as the Safa Group, after one of the major companies in that network, or the SAAR network, after the initials of Sulaiman Abdel-Aziz al-Rajhi, the Saudi financier alleged to have funded the enterprises.
Kane’s affidavit stated that several members of the Safa Group “maintained a financial and ideological relationship with persons and entities with known affiliations to the designated terrorist groups PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and HAMAS.” The affidavit connected Iqbal Unus to the Safa Group in two main ways. First, it said he worked for the Safa Group via e-mail accounts registered to his home address, serving variously as manager, officer, director, or administrative and billing contact. He acted in these capacities for such Safa Group companies as the International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Fiqh Council of North America, the Child Development Foundation, the Sterling Charitable Gift Fund, Sterling Management Group, and the International Islamic Charitable Organization.
Second, the Internet registration for the Fiqh Council of North America’s website, http://www.fiqhcouncil.org/, “identifies Iqbal Unus as the billing and administrative contact for this domain, with an email contact address of email@example.com. According to records received from America Online, the email account firstname.lastname@example.org is subscribed to by Iqbal Unus at 12607 Rock Ridge Road in Herndon.” (This fact had particular relevance in justifying a search of the Unus residence.)
This documentation, the U.S. government argued, established the Green Quest raids as “completely lawful.” The judge in the Unus case, Leonie M. Brinkema, agreed. In January 2005, she made short shrift of the Unus family’s argument, dismissing it not just with prejudice but with disdain: “there’s no way in which Ms. Katz could ever be held liable under this fact scenario.” Further, she found the Unus family’s claim against Katz “frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless,” and ordered them to pay her $41,105.70 to reimburse her legal expenses.
Subsequent rulings confirmed this decision: in November 2007, Brinkema granted a government motion to throw out the remaining part of the Unus case, which focused on tactics the government agents on entering their house, rejecting the Unus family claims to false imprisonment, assault and battery, conspiracy, and unconstitutional search and seizure.
In May 2009, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Brinkema’s decision, finding
that “the plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently identify any
factual misrepresentations in the Affidavit, and therefore, have
failed to identify how Katz caused any injury.”
The appellate court reversed Brinkema only on one small but significant point — her ruling that the Unus family must pay Katz’s $41,105.70 for her legal fees, on the grounds that the Unus’s allegations did deserve “serious and careful consideration in a court of law.” The Unus legal effort apparently completely bombed.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?