Like clockwork, the destruction of TWA Flight 800 and the explosion at the Olympics have led members of Congress and the Clinton administration to call for a host of new antiterrorist measures. The administration meanwhile touts the "successes" it has already achieved in the battle against terrorism. But the administration's deeds do not match its words. True, President Clinton has supported tough antiterrorism legislation. But his administration has failed to crack down on terrorist front groups in the U.S., turned a blind eye to Syrian terrorism and befriended domestic Islamic organizations that champion and finance the terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
From Professor to Terrorist
A political correctness enforced by American Muslim groups has limited the public's knowledge about the spread of radical Islam in the U.S. But as the World Trade Center bombing proved, the danger is clear. "Several [terrorist] groups have established footholds within ethnic or resident alien communities here in the U.S.," Adm. William O. Studeman, then acting CIA director, told Congress last year. "These communities offer terrorists financial support and a source for new recruits." Hamas, for example, operates an extensive network of front groups, from San Diego to Houston to New York City, operating under religious, charitable and human-rights monikers.
Radical Muslim groups dismiss such allegations as Zionist propaganda. A case study in Tampa, Fla., proves otherwise. In October 1995 Ramadan Abdullah Shallah took over as head of the Islamic Jihad, based in Damascus, Syria. From 1991 through early 1995, Mr. Shallah was a professor at Tampa's University of South Florida and director of the World Islamic Studies Enterprise, ostensibly an academic research center.
After the ex-professor assumed his Islamic Jihad post, the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service raided his former campus office, as well as the offices and home of his USF colleague Sami Al-Arian, the founder of WISE and an affiliated "religious charity" called the Islamic Committee for Palestine. Federal investigators uncovered overwhelming evidence that both organizations were arms of Islamic Jihad. Under the cover of legitimacy its university affiliation provided, WISE actually brought terrorists into the U.S. and raised funds for Islamic Jihad. Mr. Al-Arian, now under federal investigation, organized a series of conferences for "Islamic leaders and thinkers" in Chicago and St. Louis between 1988 and 1992, which featured a number of the world's top, terrorist leaders. The evidence found in his home and office constitute one of the largest collections of raw terrorist material ever seized in the U.S.
According to federal sources, documents and testimony connected with the Florida investigation, the Islamic Jihad front groups in Tampa had extensive financial and political ties with many Islamic extremist groups world-wide.They collaborated with Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman and others involved in the World Trade Center bombing. They also laundered millions of dollars, worked with Hamas leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere, and helped oversee terrorist cells in the Middle East. The spiritual head of Islamic Jihad, Abdul Aziz Odeh, who visited Tampa and stayed with Mr. Al-Arian several times, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing.
And what has the Clinton administration done to combat radical Islamic groups operating in the U.S.? Very little. In January 1995 Mr. Clinton issued an executive order to freeze the assets of 12 terrorist groups. Investigators found terrorist front groups operating in more than a dozen states, with assets worth tens of millions of dollars. But the Treasury Department has seized only $800,000, from those with the most blatant links to terrorist activity: WISE; Musa Marzuk, the Hamas leader arrested last year by alert field agents at New York's JFK Airport; and Mohammad Salah, a Palestinian-American convicted by an Israeli court of receiving U.S. funds to attack Israelis.These funds were seized, according to one official, because "their existence had notoriously come to the government's attention and thus it was forced to seize the money. We didn't go out and look for it, that's for sure.It was shoved in our faces." Yet in congressional testimony on July 25, Philip Wilcox, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, boasted of the administration's "aggressive investigation" of terrorist groups in the U.S.
The administration has also adopted a policy of denial toward Syria, which sponsors, finances, protects and harbors more than a dozen terrorist groups around the world, ranging from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the Japanese Red Army. Earlier this year, Islamic Jihad and Hamas representatives in Damascus took responsibility for a series of suicide bombings in Israel that killed 59 civilians, including three Americans.Yet last month Mr. Wilcox testified without equivocation that "there is no evidence that Syrian officials have been directly involved in planning or executing terrorist attacks since 1986." And he praised Syria for "restrain[ing]" and "moderat[ing]" some of the terrorist groups it backs.
At the same time, the Clinton administration has established close ties with groups like the American Muslim Council, which has supported Hamas and other radical groups. Hillary Clinton has worked particularly closely with the head of the AMC, Abdulrahman Al-Amoudi, who has openly collected funds for the legal defense of Mr Marzuk, the Hamas chieftain arrested at JFK Airport, and for Mr. Abdul-Rahman, who organized the World Trade Center bombing. Raising money for a criminal defense fund is perfectly legal, of course. But would Mrs. Clinton meet with the head of the defense committee for Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh? Earlier this year Mrs. Clinton met at the White House with Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations. CAIR, based in Washington, was founded in 1994 by Nihad Awad, the former public relations director of the Texas-based Islamic Association of Palestine, which Oliver Revell, the FBI's former head of counterterrorism and now a security consultant, calls a Hamas front. Both CAIR and IAP have disseminated Hamas communiqu‚s and championed the policies of other radical Islamic groups. A recent CAIR report listed as a "hate crimes against Muslims" the conviction of Mr. Abdul-Rahman and the arrest of Mr. Marzuk. CAIR's Board of Advisors includes a number of radicals known for their virulent anti-Semitism and support of the World Trade Center defendants.
One of them, Siraj Wahaj, appeared as a defense witness in their trial. In a recorded speech at a mosque, Mr. Wahaj declared that "one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history, in my estimation, has been the war in the Persian Gulf. It was a plan, and believe me, it is a part of a larger plan, to destroy the greatest challenge to the Western world, and that's Islam. I see the demise of the Soviet Union as a sign for the American people that what happened in the Soviet Union will definitely happen in America unless America changes its course from the new world order and accepts the Islamic agenda."
A Terrorist Rolodex
Last December National Security Adviser Anthony Lake received a delegation of Islamic officials to discuss Bosnia and other issues. The group included representatives of an interlocking network of Islamic companies, trusts and self-described charitable research groups that share the same phone numbers and addresses. The SAAR Foundation, a central element of this network, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the International Institute of Islamic Thought. In turn, according to federal documents and bank records, the IIIT created and has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Islamic Jihad apparatus in Tampa. Other law-enforcement records show that some of the officials who met with Mr. Lake are close colleagues of Mr. Marzuk, who listed their phone numbers in his terrorist Rolodex, seized by federal authorities upon his entry in the U.S.
An effective counterterrorism policy must begin with the understanding that terrorism is the product of an extremist ideological culture, and it can only be fought using a complete moral, political and military arsenal. It's time for the Clinton administration to stop giving aid and comfort to those who have declared themselves America's enemies.
[Copyright 1996 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.]
Mr. Emerson is the author of a forthcoming book on militant Islamic extremist networks.