- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Democratic candidate for Florida’s open Senate seat harbored Islamist jihadists at the public university where she was president, Republicans charge in a new ad.

Betty Castor hired two teachers and kept two others who, according to law enforcement officials, had ties to terrorist organizations. Since her 1999 departure from the University of South Florida in Tampa after five years as president, three of the four have been indicted.

The charges against Mrs. Castor are part of a new television ad released by her opponent, Republican Mel Martinez, in response to an ad in which the Democrat said she “remove• a suspected terrorist” from the school.

“As university president, Betty Castor’s lack of strong leadership allowed a dangerous situation to get worse,” former Immigration and Naturalization Service agent Bill West says in the ad. “Stopping terrorists takes aggressive action, and Betty Castor did not deliver.”

Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Mrs. Castor, called the ad “cheap” and “ridiculous” and said Mrs. Castor’s hands were tied by university rules regarding tenure.

He added that Mr. Martinez should be investigated about his own connections to one of the terror suspects who contributed to Republican causes Mr. Martinez pushed.

“Betty Castor took the most forceful action possible working with the FBI and working with the legal counsel of the university,” he said.

According to federal investigators, the USF instructors raised money for terrorist organizations, wrote wills for suicide bombers and provided money to the families of suicide bombers.

All four teachers were involved with World Islam Studies Enterprises (WISE) and Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), groups that sponsored “round tables” featuring vitriolic jihadist rhetoric and foreign speakers suspected by the U.S. government of being terror leaders.

The most prominent of the four, Sami al-Arian, taught engineering at the university for 17 years and was head of the ICP.

The year Mrs. Castor joined USF as president, a PBS report titled “Jihad in America” fingered al-Arian as the leader of the “primary support group” for Islamist jihadists in the United States. The program included a speech by al-Arian in which he demanded, “Death to Israel.”

Facing criticism for not removing al-Arian, Mrs. Castor wrote a memo in which she said, “I am deeply concerned by implications that the University should ‘investigate’ entities or people and be the arbiter of what political, social or religious ideology is ‘good’ or ‘evil.’”

Mrs. Castor suspended al-Arian — with pay — in 1996 after affidavits were unsealed, giving federal investigators probable cause to search his home and office. Mrs. Castor reinstated al-Arian in 1998, and was fired by Mrs. Castor’s successor in 2001.

Mr. McLaughlin defended Mrs. Castor’s actions.

“A university president is not John Ashcroft. A university president is not an authorized badge-carrying, gun-toting prosecutor,” he said. “I hope in this country we never expect our educators to be law enforcement officers.”

The Martinez ad comes in response to an ad Mrs. Castor aired earlier this month addressing her actions at USF.

“Every candidate talks about terrorism, but I’ve dealt with it first-hand,” she says in the ad. “As university president, I took action to remove a suspected terrorist from our campus.”

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