When seven officials of the Dallas area-based Islamic charity The Holy Land Foundation were charged yesterday with funneling money to Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, it was John Ashcroft who went before reporters to stress once again that terrorism has ties close to home. In his efforts to keep Americans very, very afraid of the threat of terrorism, Bush's man at Justice really is becoming the boy who cried "terrorist." And, as usual with John-boy's press-appearance pronouncements, the timing of arrests in this 10-year-old investigation is far from incidental. A New York Times article today quotes John Boyd, a lawyer for Holy Land, as saying, "These arrests are a sound bite for this administration in its war on terror." He accused the administration of timing the announcement of the arrests???which grew out of an FBI investigation into Holy Land dating to 1993???to distract attention from the Democratic convention in Boston. The timing has also been tied to respond to the 9/11 Commission report finding that efforts to track the financing of terrorist groups has not been effective. Pre-empting Ashcroft's accusations, the shuttered Islamic charity filed a formal complaint Monday against the FBI, saying the agency falsified evidence and "fabricated a case" against it in an effort to show that it financed Palestinian suicide bombers. The foundation made the complaint with the Justice Department's inspector general and requested an investigation. In their complaint the foundation charged that the FBI used as the crux of its case a "distorted" and erroneous translation of sensitive Israeli intelligence material. The Holy Land group said it hired an independent translating service in Oregon, which cited 67 discrepencies or errors in translation in a four-page F.B.I. document used in the case. (7/29 postscript: see related story in today's New York Times.) Ashcroft's penchant for timing announcements of the "terrorists-apprehended" sort to offset partisan political disadvantages is increasingly transparent. It's interesting to note that these sensitive terror-in-America cases???like that of Jos?? Padilla or Nuradin Abdi won't see the light of full judicial process until Ashcroft has been electorally ejected from the halls of Justice, where his presence has been a travesty of justice.
Jim Rinnert is the art director at In These Times.