I appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox News Channel to discuss the plea agreement in the Sami al-Arian case. He pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a conspiracy to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (a designated terrorist organization during his years of service) including depositing money into its bank accounts, and he lied about his activities. He brought the top-level PIJ terrorists into the U.S., and no "low-level terrorist" (if there is such a thing) could have pulled that off. This agreement contradicts the claims of innocence by him and his supporters. So this plea agreement is a victory for those in and out of government who spotlighted his activities and pursued his prosecution. You can see the video of my "O'Reilly" interview here.
My CT Blog colleague and friend Bill West, who initiated the federal criminal investigation in 1994 as the senior INS agent in the area, sent me his comments and asked me to quote him:
"It is not, as noted in the family's press release today, a 'voluntary departure' from the U.S.; it is a formal removal/deportation. The plea is actually OUTSTANDING! A good portion of the factual base in the plea relates to immigration violation issues linked to PIJ support...a bit of personal vindication in that for me, given the genesis of the criminal investigation against Al-Arian so very long ago: pursuing criminal immigration fraud on the heels of your documentary, 'Jihad in America,' airing on PBS.
The plea really is also a work of art. It encompasses the terrorism-support elements, wraps in the immigration fraud, directly links al-Arian to the PIJ, and identifies al-Arian associates Nafi, Shallah and Al-Najjar officially as PIJ operatives...brilliant!
One possible difficulty in the deportation agreement: Since al-Arian is a stateless Palestinian convicted of a terrorism-support felony, deporting him may become particularly difficult. Toss in the reality of 'Hamas-stan,' assuming the goal is to send him to the Territories, and things become very dicey. Hopefully, ICE, DOJ, and the State Department have been working feverishly behind the scenes to make something work in all this and will be able to boot him soon. If not, and he languishes in ICE detention like Al-Najjar did, notwithstanding the terrorism conviction, it could become another PR nightmare for the federal government."
Here are all files associated with the plea agreement:
Cross-posted at Counterterrorism Blog.