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Keep in mind that prior to Sept. 11 our government was relentlessly persecuting many innocent Arabs and Muslims residents of the United States; about two dozen were held on secret evidence, often obtained (as in Al-Najjar's case) from personal and political enemies. As many intelligence officials, including Mike Pheneger, the retired Central Command chief spook, have told me, you can't trust such politically motivated "evidence." Yet, that's exactly what our government chooses to do.
Meanwhile, what was happening while the feds were carrying water for, as their own documents concede, "foreign intelligence services"? Why, the real terrorists, Osama bin Laden's boys, went unnoticed as they plotted their mega-murders.
Was Al-Najjar a terrorist? No. That's not just my opinion.
The federal immigration judge, R. Kevin McHugh, ruled unequivocally in October 2000 that the government had absolutely no proof Al-Najjar was a terrorist, supported terrorism or raised money for bad guys. Attorney General Janet Reno then ordered his release.
Why, then, the re-arrest? First, the government was badly humiliated by the release of Al-Najjar -- "evidence" was exposed as bogus, the lead federal agent exhibited extraordinary ignorance of the Middle East, terrorism and Islam. So, under the 9-11 guise of "fighting terrorism," this was payback time for the government. That's truly scary to anyone who loves liberty.
Al-Najjar has been ordered deported for technical visa violations. A press release issued by the Department of Justice claimed he was hauled back in because he "has established ties to terrorist organizations."
But that's exactly what Judge McHugh (no bleeding-heart liberal but an ex-Marine) said the government didn't prove. He affirmed that Al-Najjar and the think tank were respected and respectable.
In other words, in the finest traditions of Joe Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro, even when a man has been proven innocent, the government has exercised its brute power to toss him in jail -- perhaps for life, if Congress capitulates to the demands of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
I have repeatedly called Dan Nelson, the Justice official who made the statement. I have sent him a fax asking why his claims are so contrary to what Judge McHugh ruled. Nelson is dodging me.
But Grand Inquisitor Ashcroft's motivation is clear. Along with drumhead tribunals (described by the British news-paper The Independent as "legally sanctioned American government death squads"), and a wholesale assault on civil liberties, Ashcroft wants to vastly expand the use of secret evidence. No need to say you're sorry when you don't have to prove your case.
Commenting in the New York Times on Al-Najjar's case, Anthony Lewis wrote: "Ashcroft wants to use this case to establish the right to use secret evidence against aliens. ... Ashcroft and President Bush have assured the country that they will enforce the measures with care, and concern for civil liberties. Their motto is, 'Trust us.' The Al-Najjar case shows there is no basis for that trust."
There is big news wrapped into the tales about Chambliss and Al-Najjar. It's disturbing, and I hate to break it, but bin Laden won.
He accomplished his goal, bringing America to its knees. The sad thing is we haven't got the news yet -- thanks to media clones that are more competitive about which one has the snazziest "America Strikes Back" artwork than which is best at telling the truth.
Bin Laden may be holed up in a cave, or cowering in a hideout in Pakistan. He may have been disassembled into 10,000 bits and pieces by a "daisy cutter" bomb. It doesn't matter. He won.
The flag was handed to him by such men as Ashcroft and Georgia's own poor excuses for Big Brother's little helpers, Miller and Chambliss.
They have proclaimed that freedom is, indeed, slavery to terrorists. Thus, these wise men have told us, to be free of terrorism, we must not be slavish about freedom.
Put another way, bin Laden knows that America has one unique strength, its love of liberty and justice. He needs to destroy that to destroy America. In a putsch against civil liberties, the Bush administration is on its way to handing bin Laden his victory.
A thousand columnists are pecking away on keyboards this week, and a thousand clucking heads are unleashed on cable channels -- all imparting their wisdom on how Sept. 11 has changed America, and why 2001 was somehow a turning point. They'll have predictions for 2002, which basically boil down to "duh?"
In most respects, they're wrong. Planes crashing into the World Trade Center won't really change America. We're not going to be more security conscious. The venality of our culture isn't challenged. Nor is the moral bankruptcy of our sold-to-the-highest-paying-lobbyist political system.
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