The Justice Department is co-sponsoring a convention held by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) — an unindicted co-conspirator in an ongoing federal terrorist funding case — a move that is raising concerns among the Justice’s rank and file.
Justice lawyers have objected to the affiliation with ISNA, fearing it will undermine the case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Dallas.
“There is outrage among lawyers that the Department of Justice is funding a group named as a co-conspirator in a terrorist financing case,” said a Justice lawyer who spoke to The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.
According to an e-mail from Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, acting deputy chief of the Voting Rights Division, the sponsorship will involve sending government lawyers to man a booth for the Labor Day weekend event in Illinois.
“This is an important outreach opportunity, and a chance to reach a community that is at once very much discriminated against, and very wary of the national government and its willingness to protect them,” Mrs. Lorenzo-Giguere said in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Times.
“It would be a great step forward to break through those barriers. And Chicago is lovely this time of year,” Mrs. Lorenzo-Giguere said.
ISNA is one of more than 300 unindicted co-conspirators in a case against the Holy Land Foundation, whose top officers are accused of raising money for Hamas.
Justice spokesman Erik Ablin said the agency participates in the annual convention to educate Muslims about their civil rights.
“The Civil Rights Division will have a table at the ISNA convention over Labor Day weekend to hand out literature and answer questions about the division’s work. The ISNA convention attracts more than 30,000 American Muslims every year, and the division has had tables at the convention in previous years,” Mr. Ablin said.
The Justice Department declined to say how much the sponsorship will cost.
“This is just staggering, it’s outrageous,” the lawyer said. “Lawyers from the Civil Rights Division traveling to Chicago on the federal dime. This will cost thousands of dollars.”
A second lawyer responded to Mrs. Lorenzo-Giguere’s e-mail questioning the participation and said it “seems like an odd time for one part of DOJ to lend credence and visible support to ISNA at the same time DOJ prosecutors will be called on to defend their decision to name ISNA as a conspirator.”
“Presumably the prosecutors have determined that they might need that testimony admitted; I hope we don’t undermine their position,” the second lawyer said. “Needless to say, [the Holy Land Foundation trial] is a very significant case.”
Mohamed Elsanousi, director of communications and community outreach for ISNA, says the annual convention is open to anyone who provides services or information of value to convention participants.
“For many years, we have welcomed representatives from U.S. government agencies who wish to share information about their services and have the opportunity to reach out to the Muslim American community,” Mr. Elsanousi said.
The convention features book signings, musical entertainment and seminars on family, community service and political activism.
But the first lawyer also pointed to a morning session on “the threat and reality of U.S.-sponsored torture” as contrary to the department’s mission. The Justice Department was responsible for signing off on the legality and constitutionality of interrogation techniques.
“The extensive news coverage by the U.S. and international media sources makes it all too clear that the grim abuses in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the sending of detainees to secret prisons around the world that are known to torture during interrogations, are not isolated incidents, but rather constitute policy of the U.S. government,” the schedule of events said.
“This session will describe the nature of U.S.-sponsored torture, the effects of torture on its victims, the efforts of the U.S. religious community, and what you can do to help end U.S.-sponsored torture,” the schedule said.