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Townsend’s Forgotten Legacy: Blocking Investigations Into Hamas’ U.S. Fundraising Activities
Counterterrorism Blog ^ | November 19, 2007 | Brian Hecht

Posted on 11/20/2007 10:15:46 AM PST by khnyny

Bush Homeland Security Advisor Frances Fragos Townsend resigned today, after more than 4 years in that role. As is customary, President Bush praised his long term aide, stating that Townsend “has ably guided the Homeland Security Council. She has played an integral role in the formation of the key strategies and policies my administration has used to combat terror and protect Americans.”

The Associated Press described just such an instance:

When Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called on Bush to refrain from using the phrase "Islamic fascists" on grounds it was offensive to Muslims, Townsend explained the president's use of the phrase. "What the president was trying to capture was this idea of using violence to achieve ideological ends — and that's wrong," Townsend said at a news conference. "Regardless of what label you pin on it, it is this form of radical extremism that really wants to deny people freedom and impose a totalitarian vision of society on everyone, that we object to."

And it may indeed be true that Ms. Townsend has served ably in her recent capacity. But what neither any of the various hagiographies printed in today’s newspapers, nor the White House, will convey, is one of Townsend’s most consequential and lasting legacies in the field of counterterrorism.

Before 9/11, Townsend was an official with the Justice Department, beginning her career as a prosecutor in New York in 1985, and, as she moved up through the chain of command, exerted her authority in a key way, hampering an investigation of Hamas operatives in the United States. According to the Chicago Tribune (“Hamas probe nearly fell apart,” August 22, 2004):

The investigation started in Chicago in 1996 and was closed by the FBI in 2000--a victim of turf warfare inside the bureau, political sensitivity about Saudi Arabia and bureaucratic bungling, according to former and current officials involved with the case. Had the investigation been allowed to proceed, charges could have been brought years ago, these officials said. "We're five years behind because of the FBI dragging its feet and because of conflicts within the organization," retired FBI agent John Vincent said. Mark Flessner, the federal prosecutor in charge of the case in the 1990s, said former Justice Department official Frances Fragos Townsend--who became President Bush's homeland security adviser in May--played a central role in stymieing the investigation. (emphasis added)

The investigation at issue was the case against Muhammad Salah and Abdelhaleem al-Ashqar, associates of current Hamas Deputy Political Bureau Chief Mousa Abu Marzook (indicted in absentia along with Salah and al-Ashqar). Last year, Salah was convicted of obstruction of justice and al-Ashqar of both obstruction of justice and contempt of court, but both were acquitted of the larger racketeering charge involving funneling money to Hamas.

Salah was eventually sentenced to 21 months in prison and al-Ashqar’s sentencing, after several delays, is set for this coming Wednesday.

Also from the Chicago Tribune in 2004:

Townsend, who headed the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence, Policy and Review, "played a big role in not allowing the investigation to proceed," Flessner said. Townsend has been criticized by Justice Department officials for impeding investigations by rigidly enforcing the separation of the FBI's criminal and intelligence branches, according to a New York Daily News profile of Townsend published Aug. 16. Flessner also said supervisors at the Justice Department's headquarters in Washington shied away from the investigation because it appeared to be leading to money from Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally.

One of the factors cited for the less than optimal result of this trial is the timeliness of the evidence. The case may have turned out very differently if the Northern District of Illinois had filed charges when they had wanted.

Similarly, the Chicago case was closely related to, and likely had a direct impact on, the investigation into the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), another Hamas-fundraising trial which ended in a mistrial in October. An HLF juror specifically cited the length of time between some of the alleged crimes and when the charges were brought, stating, “Some of (the evidence) is 20 years old.”

To be sure, there were other issues which led to the HLF mistrial, and the government has stated its intention to retry the case. And, obviously, many mistakes were made in the years before 9/11, and Townsend was not the only official involved in shutting down the Chicago/Hamas investigation. But today's resignation, for better or worse, is a reminder that prosecutors and policy makers alike need to remain cognizant of long-term affects of certain political decisions on counterterrorism investigations and trials.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: homelandsecurity; hsa; townsend; wot

1 posted on 11/20/2007 10:15:48 AM PST by khnyny
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To: khnyny

“When Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called on Bush to refrain from using the phrase “Islamic fascists” on grounds it was offensive to Muslims,”

“Senator” Feingold is offensive to me.

2 posted on 11/20/2007 10:24:43 AM PST by Slapshot68
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To: khnyny
In addition to the CIA's and the FBI's Nada Nadim Prouty, the 'tip of the iceberg' includes:

• Abdurahman Alamoudi, who worked for the State Department and Pentagon,
where he created the military’s Muslim chaplain corps —
even though he was caught on tape supporting terrorists at anti-Israeli rallies.
He’s now behind bars for terror, exposed as one of al-Qaida’s top fundraisers in the U.S.

• David Hossain Safavian, who got a high-level White House job despite records
showing he lobbied on behalf of Alamoudi.
Safavian is serving an 18-month prison term for lying to federal investigators.

• Faisal Gill, who omitted the fact he worked for Alamoudi
in his application for a high-level Homeland Security Department job,
where he obtained top secret clearance before being suspended.

• Ahmad Al-Halabi, whom the Air Force assigned to Gitmo as a translator
even though he previously had been under investigation
for making anti-American statements. Halabi later pleaded guilty to
mishandling classified information and lying to investigators.

• Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, another Gitmo translator who was
hired as a contractor even though his girlfriend was investigated
for stealing a classified Army laptop. Mehalba later was convicted of
stealing secret documents from Gitmo.

• Sadeq Naji Ahmed, whom the Transportation Security Administration
hired as an airport screener after the Air Force kicked him out for making
statements supporting Osama bin Laden and praising the 9/11 attacks.
Ahmed worked almost a year before TSA found he previously had his security clearance revoked.

• Warith-Deen Umar, hired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons
to minister to Muslim inmates, even though he praised the
9/11 hijackers as Allah’s “martyrs.” Despite reports Umar gave extremist sermons,
the government gave him outstanding evaluations.
Prison officials fired Umar only after the press exposed his al-Qaida sympathies.
Only last year they started taking serious steps to tighten the vetting of Muslim employees.

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious.
But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly.
But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.
He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.
A murderer is less to be feared."

-- Marcus Tullius Cicero

3 posted on 11/20/2007 10:27:08 AM PST by Diogenesis (Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum)
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To: Diogenesis
Apparently Townsend was a Democratic appointee who was particularly close to Janet Reno. Here’s a nice little background article on Townsend:

[In an example cited by a bipartisan congressional commission, Townsend refused to endorse a secret intelligence wiretap on Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee because the FBI’s interest in the case was “way too criminal.” (She told the panel she did not recall making that remark but did not deny conveying such a point.) Townsend in recent years has said she fought “tooth and nail” against information-sharing restrictions. But three former senior advisers to Reno said they knew of no such examples. “She was one of the leading defenders of the famous Wall,” one of them said. “She was an assiduous defender of the rules.”]

4 posted on 11/20/2007 10:32:13 AM PST by khnyny (Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed. Winston Churchill)
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To: khnyny

Another New Tone traitor.

5 posted on 11/20/2007 10:39:01 AM PST by Jeff Chandler ("Liberals want to save the world for the children they aren't having." -Mark Steyn)
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To: khnyny
Won't Get Fooled Again
6 posted on 11/20/2007 10:41:28 AM PST by Oratam (")
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To: Oratam

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

7 posted on 11/20/2007 10:45:43 AM PST by khnyny (Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed. Winston Churchill)
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To: khnyny
Townshend on your left, Hughes on your right. Two sides of the same Dhimmi coin. Good riddance to both.

(and that was taken in AMERICA, not in some Arab land)

8 posted on 11/20/2007 11:59:53 AM PST by montag813
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To: khnyny

Wow. I feel really safe with this pack of clowns at the FBI.

9 posted on 11/20/2007 12:02:44 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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