Monday, October 13, 2003

When Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, opens a hearing of his Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism this morning, the subject will be the penetration of the U.S. military’s chaplain corps and American prison systems by radical Muslims (also known as Islamists).

Unfortunately, a man as responsible as anybody for the recruitment, training and certification of Muslim military chaplains — Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi — will not be there. He is currently in jail, awaiting prosecution on charges of illegal ties to terrorist-sponsoring Libya.

Mr. al-Amoudi’s indictment late last month came amidst a flurry of arrests of service personnel connected to the detention center for Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Guantanamo, Cuba. Prominent among these was one of Mr. al-Amoudi’s chaplain selectees, U.S. Army Capt. James Yee, who is being held in a military brig on suspicion of espionage and other crimes.

These incidents put into sharp relief an issue with which Mr. Kyl and other legislators (notably, Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York Democrat and Dianne Feinstein of California Democrat and Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins of Maine and Richard Shelby of Alabama) have become increasingly concerned in recent months: Have Islamists — many of whom are backed by Saudi Arabia — successfully established beachheads in such places as the Pentagon’s chaplain corps and America’s prisons, mosques and colleges with a view to dominating moderate Muslims and creating a terrorist “Fifth Column” within the United States?

It is regrettable Mr. al-Amoudi is unavailable to be cross-examined today by Mr. Kyl and his colleagues since few people are more familiar than Mr. al-Amoudi with the reasons for these concerns. He has, after all, been among the most industrious and best-connected of a small number of Muslim activists in this country who have championed Islamist organizations — including some officially designated as terrorist operations — and their causes.

According to an Islamic Web site, islamonline, he was also the first endorsing agent for Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military. Even today, an organization Mr. al-Amoudi founded, the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, is one of only three approved by the Pentagon to certify Islamic chaplains such as Capt. Yee. The other two, the Islamic Society of North America and its Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences, share a similar outlook and Saudi ties. Mr. al-Amoudi was at one time “Regional Representative” for ISNA’s D.C. chapter.

If Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi were willing to cooperate and reveal all he knows, his testimony could shed invaluable light on the ways in which countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya have provided vast sums and direction to purportedly “mainstream” Muslim organizations in the United States for ominous purposes. For example, while Mr. al-Amoudi’s indictment focuses on his alleged prohibited travel to and expenditures in Libya, its most illuminating part may be the section detailing his admissions about activities in which he has evidently been engaged for years.

The indictment recounts that Mr. al-Amoudi was detained in Britain in August 2003 when he was discovered to be leaving that country for Syria with $340,000 in sequentially numbered $100 bills. He told British authorities he had been given the money by “someone with a Libyan accent.” He also declared “he is the president of the American Muslim Foundation and that financing the organization’s work is a constant struggle. He further stated that, in order to alleviate the problem, he approached the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations in 1997.”

Mr. al-Amoudi acknowledged having made without Washington’s official permission “at least” 10 trips to Libya — a crime under U.S. law — and that “he finally negotiated funding for his organization through the [World] Islamic Call Society.” As the indictment goes on to point out, the World Islamic Call Society is a well-known and longstanding Libyan-controlled funding vehicle for terrorism.

Mr. al-Amoudi reportedly told officers of the U.K.’s Special Branch that he “intended to deposit the [$340,000] in banks located in Saudi Arabia, from where he would feed it back in smaller amounts into accounts in the United States.” During his first interview on Aug. 16, “he was adamant that this was the only such transaction in which he had been involved.” The next day, however, Mr. al-Amoudi “conceded that he has been involved in other, similar cash transactions involving amounts in the range of $10,000 to $20,000.”

In other words, an individual responsible for certifying Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military, one of whom is now under arrest on suspicion of aiding America’s Islamist foes, has acknowledged taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a state-sponsor of terror and laundering it through accounts in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of supporting an Islamic organization he runs in the United States. The question occurs: Since Mr. al-Amoudi is now or has been associated with more than a dozen such organizations in this country, has he (or others with whom he has closely worked) used a similar modus operandi covertly to provide funding for purposes inimical to American national security?

To be sure, Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi insists he is innocent of the charges now pending against him, which he claims to be “part of a politically motivated prosecution.” And, despite myriad public statements he has made in support of officially designated terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, his lawyer, Kamal Nawash, says: [al]-Amoudi has no links whatsoever to violence or terrorism.”

The problem for Mr. al-Amoudi and his associates is that the available facts — including some he has provided himself — seem strongly to suggest otherwise. If so, his prosecution may prove exceedingly embarrassing, or worse, to those who enabled Mr. al-Amoudi and his ilk to certify U.S. chaplains and to misrepresent themselves as “mainstream” Muslims who are “with us” in the war on terror.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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