Part 12:

A Slick Powerful Brotherhood

Blessed are our leaders. Those faithful civil servants (or tyrants, depending on your locality) who buy our votes (sorta) by proudly pledging to protect us and provide hope for a better tomorrow. Then they do the bidding of their high-powered backers, do a song and dance for their political base, and loot the place. We can only hope it is well-intentioned looting, although it’s not bloody likely because blood may be thicker than water, but nothing cements the bonds of brotherhood quite like money and power.

If there’s a term to describe the international political and industrial elite of our world, it would be a “Brotherhood of Power”. Brothers may fight brothers, but the power is always kept in the family. And as we’ve seen, it’s an international family. And nowadays, it’s a slick, oily family with plenty of slick, oily help. That’s especially the case when it comes to the post-9/11 investigations. Let’s take a look back at the post-9/11 terror investigations and our oily family in action with an excellent December 2001 Boston Herald article on the Holy Land Lawyers:

SLICK DEALS; The White House connection; Saudi `agents' close Bush friends; [All Editions]

MAGGIE MULVIHILL, JONATHAN WELLS and JACK MEYERS. Boston Herald. Boston, Mass.: Dec 11, 2001. pg. 007

Copyright Boston Herald Library Dec 11, 2001

A powerful Washington, D.C., law firm with unusually close ties to the White House has earned hefty fees representing controversial Saudi billionaires as well as a Texas-based Islamic charity fingered last week as a terrorist front.

The influential law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld has represented three wealthy Saudi businessmen - Khalid bin Mahfouz, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi and Salah Idris - who have been scrutinized by U.S. authorities for possible involvement in financing Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.

In addition, Akin, Gump currently represents the largest Islamic charity in the United States, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Richmond, Texas.

Holy Land's assets were frozen by the Treasury Department last week as government investigators probe its ties to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group blamed for suicide attacks against Israelis.

Oh look, its our now-familiar every-man Khalid bin Mahfouz, who, we should add once again, has absolutely no ties to terror or terror financing.

The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) raid of December 2001 quickly attracted a good deal of criticism. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) jointly denounced the raid. The IAP, we’ll recall, was co-founded by Sami al-Arian, one of Hamas’s point-men in the US with lots of friends in high-places. Other critics charged that Federal officials moved far too slowly, pointing out that the Holy Land Foundation had been under surveillance since 1993.


Partners at Akin, Gump include one of President Bush's closest Texas friends, James C. Langdon, and George R. Salem, a Bush fund- raiser who chaired his 2000 campaign's outreach to Arab-Americans.

Another longtime partner is Barnett A. "Sandy" Kress, the former Dallas School Board president who Bush appointed in January to work for the White House as an "unpaid consultant" on education reform.

It was close Bush ally George R. Salem who prepped George W. Bush before the second debate against Al Gore in 2000 and recommended that Bush declare his opposition to the use of secret evidence against Arab Americans in terror-related cases. It was a topic, we’ll recall, that happened to be the hot button for Muslim voters, especially in Florida, due to the trial of Sami al-Arian.

In addition to being a close friend of the younger Bush President, Salem was also a key player in the 1984 Reagan campaign and 1988 George H. W. Bush campaigns (1).


In September, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for Holy Land records around the same time terrorist investigators froze the assets of a North Texas Internet firm hired by Holy Land.

Holy Land shared office space with that firm, InfoCom Corp., which was raided by police on Sept. 5, just days before the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Holy Land has denied any link to Hamas.

According to Akin, Gump, the firm represents Holy Land in a federal lawsuit filed against the charity and another suspected Hamas entity by the parents of a man allegedly murdered by Hamas operatives in the Middle East.

In 1993 the Holy Land Foundation received $200,000 from Mousa Abu Marzook (sometimes spelled “Marzouk”), a top Hamas political leader working out of Syria . According to the DOJ’s indictment against the Holy Land Foundation, Marzook runs Hamas’s charitable work and bombing campaigns along another Hamas leader, Khalid Mishal. One of Marzook’s cousins, Mohammad el-Mezain, was the Holy Land Foundation’s first director, and later its endownment director. The Holy Land Foundation’s project and grants director, Akram Mishal, is Khalid Mishal’s cousin. And one of its top fundraisers, Mufid Abdulqader, is Mishal’s half-brother. Its chairman, Ghassan Elashi, was a Marzook relative by marriage (Elashi is also the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR).

In addition to his work for the Holy Land Foundation, Ghassan Elashi was also vice president of marketing for InfoCom Corp, which was raided just six days before 9/11. Ghassan and his brothers were convicted in July of 2004, and again in April of 2005, for doing business with Mr. Marzook.

In July of 2004, the Holy Land Foundation charged the government with using fabricated evidence to tie its activities to Palestinian suicide bombers. In December of 2004 a jury in Chicago ruled against the Holy Land Foundation and the IAP and another Hamas fundrasier in a $156 million lawsuit brought by the parents of a US teen allegedly killed in the West Bank by Hamas operatives.


In a statement issued Friday, Akin, Gump said it decided last week to decline a request to represent Holy Land in its defense of terrorism-related charges made by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Akin, Gump, which maintains an affiliate office in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, is also a registered foreign agent for the kingdom. It was paid $77,328 in lobbying fees by the Saudis during the first six months of 2000, public records show.

Interesting fun fact: In the late 70’s the Saudis hired a neo-Nazi, William Grimstead, to act as a Washington lobbyist for the Kingdom.

Still, as the article points out, Akin, Gump declined to represent the Holy Land Foundation in the case brought by the government. Instead, the charity had to turn to John W. Boyd, a partner at Freedman Boyd Daniels Hallander Goldberg & Cline. One of Mr Boyd’s partners at the time was John D. Cline, the former lawyer for Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. In 2004 Mr. Cline moved to Jones, Day, where his current clientele includes Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Jones, Day also happens to be the BinLaden Group’s lawfirm in the $1 trillion lawsuit filed by the victims of the 9/11 attacks against the Saudi monarchy and others.


In addition to the royal family, the firm's Saudi clients have included bin Mahfouz, who hired Akin, Gump when he was indicted in the BCCI banking scandal in the early 1990s. In 1999, the Saudi's placed bin Mahfouz under house arrest after reportedly discovering that the bank he controlled, National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia, funneled millions to charities believed to be serving as bin Laden fronts.

The indictment against Khalid bin Mahfouz in the early 90’s over his involvement in BCCI was dropped in 1993…after he agreed to pay $225 million. In 1999 the Saudi government stepped in and bought a 50% stake in the bank, partly in order to wipe out the massive debts that Mr bin Mahfouz had racked up.


A bin Mahfouz business partner, Al-Amoudi, was also represented by Akin, Gump. When it was reported in 1999 that U.S. authorities were also investigating Al-Amoudi's Capitol Trust Bank, Akin, Gump released a statement on behalf of their client denying any connections to terrorism. One year earlier, the firm had co- sponsored an investment conference in Ethiopia with Al-Amoudi.

Akin, Gump partner and Bush fund-raiser Salem led the legal team that defended Idris, a banking protege of bin Mahfouz and the owner of El-Shifa, the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant destroyed by U.S. cruise missiles in August 1998.

The plant was targeted days after terrorists - allegedly on the orders of bin Laden - bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. The U.S. Treasury Department also froze $24 million of Idris' assets, but Akin, Gump filed a lawsuit and the government later chose to release the money rather than go to court. Idris, who insists he has no connection whatsoever to bin Laden or terrorism, is now pursuing a second lawsuit with different attorneys seeking $50 million in damages from the United States.

The bombing of the El-Shifa factory in Sudan turned out to be quite the debacle from both a political and humanitarian standpoint. The attack disrupted relief efforts to famine stricken parts of the country according to Human Rights Watch. It was attributed to bad intelligence by many of those involved in the decision making process, and described as a “wag the dog” incident by a great number of President Clinton’s critics. In May of 1999 the US government was forced to unfreeze Mr. Idris’s accounts following a lawsuit by Mr. Idris and the government’s decision that it was not worth revealing “sensitive sources” to pursue the case. In 2000 Mr. Idris filed a lawsuit against the US government.

While the US government acknowledges that the evidence used to implicate the El-Shifa factory to chemical weapons was not as solid as originally thought, it still maintains that it is possible the factory was indeed producing such weapons. In addition to sticking to claims that soil samples taken near the factory indicated the presence of a nerve gas precursor with no industrial applications, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, a former al-Qaeda agent-turned informant, testified that chemical weapons were being manufactured in Khartoum by al-Qaeda (2).

Regardless of the degree of the bad intelligence involved in the bombing of the factory, an intelligence lapse that is potentially even more damaging involves US and Britain rebuffing offers by the Sudanese government for four years to share their extensive intelligence files on Osama bin Laden’s operations in Sudan. In 2000 the FBI and CIA finally sent joint team to Sudan to investigate whether Sudan was a state sponsor, eventually giving Sudan a clean bill of health. Even during that trip the team apparently did not examine the Sudanese files on bin Laden.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Idris was characterized as a protégé of Khalid bin Mahfouz. According to Mr. bin Mahfouz’s lawyer, Cherif Sedky, Mr. Idris was a former employee of BCCI, and the deputy general manager of the bin Mahouz family’s National Commerce Bank from 1996-1998 (3). Mr. Idris is also related to bin Laden through one of his wives (4).


Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan political watchdog group, said Akin, Gump's willingness to represent Saudi power- brokers probed for links to terrorism presents a unique ethical concern since partners at the firm are so close to the president.

The concern is more acute now, Lewis said, because Bush has faced stiff resistance from the kingdom in his repeated requests to freeze suspected terrorist bank accounts.

"The conduct of the Saudis is just unacceptable by international standards, especially if they are supposed to be one of our closest allies," Lewis said.

Speaking of Akin, Gump partner Kress' office in the White House, Lewis added: "That's not appropriate and frankly it's potentially troublesome because there is a real possibility of a conflict of interest. Basically you have a partner for Akin, Gump . . . inside the hen house."

Another interesting fun fact: Sandy Kress was the Bush Administration’s chief lobbyist and architect for “No Child Left Behind”, a program that Neil Bush and the good Reverend Sun Myung Moon are both big fans of.


But another longtime Washington political observer, Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of counter-intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency, said the political influence a firm like Akin, Gump has is precisely why clients like the Saudis hire them.

"These are cozy political relationships . . . If you have a problem in Washington, there are only a few firms to go to and Akin, Gump is one of them," Cannistraro said.

Cannistraro pointed out that Idris hired Akin, Gump during the Clinton presidency, when Clinton confidante Vernon Jordan was a partner at the firm. "He hired them because Vernon Jordan had influence . . . that's a normal political exercise where you are buying influence," he said.

Akin, Gump is not the only politically wired Washington business cashing in on the Saudi connection.

Akin, Gump is also far from the only law firm selling services to Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia is far from the only county with ties to 9/11 that hires powerful lobbyists in DC. One of Pakistan’s lobbyists is Charlie Wilson, the former Democractic Congressman from Texas who was a major supporter of fueling the Afghan Mujahedeen with weapons and supplies in the 80’s.

And ending our look at the Boston Herald article…

Burson-Marsteller, a major D.C. public relations firm, registered with the U.S. government as a foreign agent for the Saudi embassy within weeks of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

One of Burson-Marsteller's first public relations efforts for the Saudis was to run a large advertisement in the New York Times reading: "We Stand with You, America."

The Washington chairman for Burson-Marsteller, which also maintains an office in Saudi Arabia, is Craig Veith, who ran communications for the Republican Party in the 1996 elections.

Other GOP heavyweights who have held top positions at the PR giant include Sheila Tate, the campaign press secretary for the elder George Bush; Leslie Goodman, deputy director of communications for the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign; Craig L. Fuller, chairman of the 1992 Republican National Convention and elder Bush's vice presidential chief-of-staff.

Yep, Akin, Gump is far from the only major, politically-connected law-firm to serve the Saudis. Baker Botts (James Baker’s lawfirm), Greenberg Traurig, and Fullbright & Jawarski are amongst the legal powerhouses that have been representing the Saudis in this country since the petro-dollar boom of the 70’s and early 80’s. And Saudi Arabia wasn’t the only country protecting its image in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff was also a Pakistani lobbyist at one point. And boy could Pakistan ever use some lobbying these days.

Much of what we saw is all fodder criticism. But the harshest criticism of the investigations into Holy Land Foundation and Mr. Marzook didn’t come from people concerned about politically-connected law firms. It came from within the FBI.

Operation Vulgar Betrayal

In 2002, FBI agent Robert Wright held a press conference to publicly chastise the FBI for its “pathetic anti-terrorism efforts”. He also asked for Whistleblower protections while charging that the FBI was not allowing him to publish his book describing high-level obstruction into his four year investigation into the Holy Land Foundation, Mr. Marzook, and more. Let’s take a closer look at agent Wright’s disturbing claims with an excellent August 2004 article in the LA Weekly:

A Vulgar Betrayal

The FBI’s troubled history with terrorism

By Jim Crogan
Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 12:00 am

Four years after the FBI and the Justice Department shut down their initial wide-ranging probe into a suspected terrorist-funding network operating in the Chicago area, several prime targets of that investigation — code-named Vulgar Betrayal — have been indicted.

Vulgar Betrayal, which ran from 1995 through 2000, was initiated by FBI agent Robert Wright, who turned whistleblower in 2002, complaining that the government had gone soft on the terrorism investigation in the nation’s heartland.

“They can call it anything they want, but this is Vulgar Betrayal,” says Mark Flessner, a former assistant U.S. attorney who was assigned with Wright to the pre-9/11 investigation and who remains puzzled about why authorities ended it. Beginning in 1996 and continuing for four years, Flessner was among up to 13 officials involved.

Now in private practice, Flessner says Vulgar Betrayal fell victim to “turf battles” between the FBI’s intelligence and criminal agents. “There simply was no political will in Washington back then to prosecute these men. All that changed after 9/11,” he adds. “I’m glad they finally went after these guys. It is long overdue.”

But Flessner says that the delay in bringing charges enabled the terrorist funding to continue for more than four years. And he’s still frustrated that the work he, Wright and others put in on this case was shelved. “Vulgar Betrayal was a case where the FBI’s intelligence agents would not cooperate with the criminal agents trying to put these guys in jail. They refused to let us arrest them. They only wanted to watch them conduct their business.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern Illinois, says that Flessner can say whatever he wants, but his office will have no comment: “We are not going to provide any autobiography for the genesis for these indictments.”

Flessner also says that former Justice Department official Frances Townsend helped close down the investigation. Townsend is now President Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser and head of counterterrorism for the National Security Council. She spent 13 years at the Justice Department, working in a variety of sensitive posts, and in 1998 headed up the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review, which oversees FBI requests for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act secret wiretap and surveillance warrants of suspected terrorists. Her duties also included mediating information-sharing disputes between FBI intelligence and criminal agents.

Yes that’s right, Frances Townsend, the current homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to the president, is also the former DOJ official that helped shut down the FBI’s investigation through her actions as the head of the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review. And as the head of the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review, Ms.Townsend was also the individual at the DOJ overseeing the requests for wiretaps from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts, the same FISA courts that have been part of a rather controversial warrantless surveillance policy by the Bush administration which Congress recently legalized, albeit with some restrictions (not that congressional approval matters much at this point, what with our new “unitary executive” branch and all).

Interestingly, much of the blame for the “intelligence failures” that led up to 9/11, and much of the justification for the expanded powers in the Patriot Act, has been the information sharing “Wall”. That informal bureaucratic “wall” was set up in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (and reinterpreted over the years). It also allegedly imposed unreasonable limits on what criminal and intelligence investigators could do and stifled investigations. In August of 2001, however, a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) (the government’s watchdog agency) on the application of this “wall” found that the key issue impeding information sharing was unfounded concerns about violating the FISA rules caused by FBI lawyers and the DOJ’s Office of Intelligence and Policy Review, the office Ms.Townsend headed during the late 90’s until the summer of 2001. How lovely.


Flessner says Townsend didn’t share information in Vulgar Betrayal: “She deliberately obstructed it. And I found that very disconcerting.

The investigation, he says, ran into problems right from the start. FBI intelligence agents in Chicago and D.C. balked at sharing their files on targets’ contacts and activities. “I was called to meeting after meeting in Chicago and D.C. in 1998,” Flessner explains.

Townsend ran some of the meetings. “I was very unimpressed. I thought she was totally ineffective,” he says, adding that her behavior was “inappropriate. Townsend would hug the FBI intelligence agents and tell us what great guys they were. These were her guys, she’d tell us, and she did whatever they told her to do. She gave us no support.

The investigation accumulated thousands of bank records, which Flessner intended to use at trial. A federal grand jury was impaneled in 1996, and Flessner subpoenaed witnesses to testify. But without the information from FBI intelligence agents, his grand jury didn’t have enough evidence to return indictments.

“I couldn’t even get permission to do the basic things you do, such as collecting phone numbers from their targets’ incoming and outgoing calls, and addresses from their mail.” Flessner intended to use the material to get search warrants. “Eventually, I had to turn to other cases,” he says. In 2000, a frustrated Flessner resigned from the Justice Department.

Wright’s investigation targeted individuals and a number of Middle East charities allegedly supplying money to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Saudi businessman Yassin Kadi, who is accused of acting as an al Qaeda financier but has denied the allegation.

Three men were charged last week with racketeering, laundering millions of dollars to Hamas (a designated foreign terrorist group), and conspiring with 20 other individuals to commit murder, engage in hostage taking and use false passports: Muhammed Hamid Khalil Salah, 51; Abdelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar, 46; and Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, 53. All were prime suspects of Vulgar Betrayal. Salah and Ashqar were arrested, but Marzook is still on the lam and reportedly living in Damascus.

The Saudi businessman, Yassin al-Qadi (also spelled “al-Kadi”), has an interesting post . Not only is he a key figure that we’re going to look into further, but Mr. Flessner has also charged that supervisors at the DOJ’s headquarters in Washington DC shied away from the investigation because it appeared to be leading to money from Saudi Arabia.

Oh, and Mr. Marzook is still in Damascus, and as feisty as ever.

And finishing our look at the LA Weekly article..

Last month, the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and seven of its leaders were also indicted for supplying funds to Hamas. Holy Land was another target of Vulgar Betrayal.

Wright, who has since been ordered not to talk to the press, went public with his criticism of FBI and Justice Department higher-ups in 2002 and again in 2003, claiming that their incompetence and malfeasance led to the demise of Vulgar Betrayal. The FBI responded by opening internal-affairs investigations on Wright, charging him with insubordination and endangering ongoing investigations. Wright, who has filed a counterclaim alleging that the actions against him are retaliatory, was cleared in one investigation, but a second has been taken over by the Justice Department.

The White House did not return the Weekly’s call for a response to Flessner’s accusations regarding Townsend. Neither did the Justice Department nor the FBI respond to questions about Wright’s claims. “I’m not surprised,” says John Vincent, a retired agent and Wright’s former partner. “They do whatever they want and don’t think they have to answer to anyone.

In July of 2004, Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy demanded answers from the FBI over their treatment of Robert Wright and in July of 2005 they examined the possibility that the FBI leaked false information in order to discredit Wright. In October of 2005, the bureau reinstated Wright.

Solomon Biheiri and BMI

Agent Wright wasn’t the only FBI agent to lose his job and then get it back as a result of Operation Vulgar Betrayal. Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, the FBI’s first immigrant Muslim agent, was also involved in the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, and according to Robert Wright and others, agent Abdel-Hafiz helped obstruct it. Let’s take a look at this murky twist with an excerpt from this excellent PBS Frontline article:

The Case Behind the Allegations

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Gamal Abdel-Hafiz spent two years in the Egyptian military after studying to be an Arabic/English interpreter at Al-Azhar University. He moved to New York in 1984 and obtained U.S. citizenship in 1990.

Abdel-Hafiz was first hired by the FBI in 1994 to translate video and audiotapes introduced as evidence in the trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind cleric indicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He testified extensively at that trial and was encouraged by special agents in the FBI's New York office to join the bureau. In 1996, Abdel-Hafiz says he became the first immigrant Muslim ever to wear an FBI badge. After graduating from the FBI academy, he began work in the Dallas field office's international terrorism squad.

In April 1999, Abdel-Hafiz became involved in an investigation launched by the FBI's Chicago field office code-named Vulgar Betrayal. Special Agent Robert Wright and his partner John Vincent suspected a large-scale international money-laundering ring was channeling funds through Muslim charitable organizations to terrorist organizations, principally Hamas. As part of their investigation, the agents were investigating an Egyptian citizen named Soliman Biheiri, president of a New Jersey Islamic banking firm called BMI, Inc. (Bait ul-Mal, Inc.). On Feb. 25, 1999, the FBI served Biheiri with a federal grand jury subpoena to appear in Chicago.

Coincidentally, one of BMI's accountants was friendly with Agent Abdel-Hafiz. They had once lived in the same Brooklyn, NY building and the man had been listed on the agent's FBI application as a reference. The accountant told Abdel-Hafiz that he was worried that funds from BMI had made their way to Africa and helped fund the bombings of two U.S. embassies.

When BMI President Biheiri learned of the accountant's connection to Abdel-Hafiz, he asked the man to arrange a meeting so that he could discuss his case with the Muslim FBI agent. Abdel-Hafiz checked in with Agents Wright and Vincent to see if he should take the meeting.

Soliman Biheiri was described by a federal prosecutor as “the Muslim Brotherhood’s financial toehold in the U.S.


Robert Wright later wrote in a signed affidavit, "SA Abdel-Hafiz asked if I desired him to speak with the president (Soliman Biheiri). I advised him that I desired him to have the meeting, to wear a wire."

Abdel-Hafiz offered to record the meeting openly or to file an official report afterward, but said he was not willing to bring a hidden microphone to the meeting.

The assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the case, Mark Flessner, pressed Abdel-Hafiz to explain why he refused to wear the wire. "He said his decision was based on religious reasons saying, 'A Muslim doesn't record another Muslim,'" Flessner recalled. Special Agent Wright signed an affidavit on March 21, 2000 swearing that this was the exact quote. Former Special Agent John Vincent concurs.

But Gamal Abdel-Hafiz says the remark can only be understood in the proper context. "I told them that my family's and my safety would be at risk if this happened," he says. "They asked me who would put it at risk. I replied that members and supporters of these groups could easily target me and my family, both here in the United States and in Egypt, because they would consider the consensual monitoring under these circumstances a betrayal. When SA Wright asked me why would they consider it a betrayal, I responded that in their view 'a Muslim wouldn't record another Muslim'. I also added that I have received two death threats in the past from these groups."

"They took the words out of context and created a lie," he says.

Considering the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the fact that agent Abdel-Hafiz is from there and must have a great deal of family there, this would have been a difficult situation. And considering the potential implications of an investigation into a US-based money-laundering outfit for the Muslim Brotherhood, it was a difficult situation for agents Wright, Flessner and Vincent too. It’s an obvious observation, but still worth pointing out with a story like this where people are potentially risking more than their own necks but their families’ lives too.


Abdel-Hafiz's fears are supported in letters he wrote at the time. It certainly was no secret that he was a special agent with the FBI: Abdel-Hafiz had publicly represented the bureau on numerous occasions involving outreach to the Muslim community.

His fear, he says, was based on his experiences in the 1995 Sheik Rahman trial. Prosecutors had informed him of a threat to his life. Agent Hafiz says his reaction was fear that his now ex-wife was in danger as well. At the time FBI officials said they didn't have the budget to protect his wife. "I had to threaten to resign in order for them to move her," Abdel-Hafiz recalled. "That's why I didn't trust the FBI to protect me."

Mark Flessner, the former prosecutor involved in the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, says Agent Abdel-Hafiz's decision was suspicious. "It's hard to emphasize how odd it was for an FBI agent to refuse to cooperate with an investigation when he had been approached by a grand jury subject. It was surreal. I've never heard it happening in the history of the FBI."

Flessner says the FBI ultimately decided not to pursue Vulgar Betrayal, and claims Agent Abdel-Hafiz's refusal to wear a wire played a big part. "It was huge at the time. Having Soliman Biheiri approach Agent Abdel-Hafiz was one the biggest breaks we had at the time. His refusal to wear a wire had a significant negative impact on our case." Biheiri was indicted in August 2003 on immigration charges. In the same indictment, the government alleges that BMI made or conducted financial transactions with persons who were or are now "Specially Designated Global Terrorists" by President Bush's Executive Order 13224.

Between the difficulties in getting wiretapping information from Ms. Townsend and the refusal to wear a wire by Mr. Abdel-Hafiz, it is little wonder Operation Vulgar Betrayal was derailed in the end. One can only hope it was circumstantial.


Danny Defenbaugh, now retired, was Abdel-Hafiz's ultimate superior as the Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office He defends Abdel-Hafiz, saying, "A very small number of agents wear wires and they are usually undercover. Agent Abdel-Hafiz, because of his extensive outreach to the Muslim community in Texas and elsewhere on behalf of the FBI was definitely not undercover."

Defenbaugh says he did not feel the request to have Abdel-Hafiz wear a wire was justified. "I never gave him a direct order to wear a wire, so there's no insubordination or dereliction of duty," he says. "To me, it's sour grapes with Agent Wright. He made a number of very disparaging racial statements about Gamal to staff in my bureau. I told Gamal to file a racial discrimination complaint and that if he didn't, I would."

Danny Defenbaugh was also the FBI agent who supervised the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing. In 2004, Mr. Defenbough applauded a report detailing the possible destruction of documents pointing towards the possibility of White Supremacists and German neo-Nazis playing a supporting role in the Oklahoma City bombing. The FBI has unfortunately been less than forthcoming with the documents.


In fact, on July 6, 1999, Agent Abdel-Hafiz did file a religious discrimination complaint accusing Agent Wright of making derogatory comments to fellow agents. On Sept. 8, 2000, Abdel-Hafiz contacted the FBI's EEO office informing them that he had still not received any communications on the status of his complaint against Wright. In the letter, Abdel-Hafiz writes, "The rumors and the consequences of the actions taken by the Chicago agent have taken its toll on my health and my family. I feel the impact and reap the poison fruits of rumors every day. The Chicago agent attacked my integrity and my trustworthiness and I have full intention and the will to restore both."

According to Abdel-Hafiz, his EEO case against Agent Wright has been waiting to have a judge in Washington, D.C. assigned to hear it since February 2002, and that even though he is no longer in the FBI, he expects to see his case tried.

While Agent Vincent, who is no longer with the FBI, never went beyond questioning Agent Abdel-Hafiz's loyalty to the bureau, he says, "It looks suspicious. We're all in danger. If Agent Abdel-Hafiz relished his position as liaison between the Muslim community and the FBI as it seemed and was scared of retribution, he shouldn't be in the FBI. When you're dealing with a Muslim, his first allegiance is to his religion. His second allegiance is to his religion. Later down the line comes his family and his job. I think Gamal was being true to his religion."

FRONTLINE was unable to interview Agent Robert Wright who according to his lawyer David Schippers, has been forbidden by the FBI to talk to the media about this case.

While Agent Vincent didn’t question Abdel-Hafiz’s loyalty to the bureau, the FBI chiefs were apparently so lax and/or intent on blocking investigations into “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui before 9/11, that some field agents speculated that key officials at FBI headquarters “had to be spies or moles … working for Osama bin Laden.” That’s according to FBI Whistleblower, and 2003 Person of the Year, (and possible future Congresswoman) Coleen Rowley.

Skipping down on the Frontline Article…

The Allegations Resurface

After the controversial 1999 Chicago case, Special Agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz continued to climb the ladder at the FBI, and in October 2000, he was sent to the FBI's Saudi Arabia office on temporary duty. The day he arrived, the U.S.S. Cole was bombed in nearby Yemen, and he quickly became involved in that investigation. On February 2001, Director Louis Freeh appointed Abdel-Hafiz to be the Assistant Legal Attachè in Riyadh with a GS 14 ranking, the second highest level an agent can attain. He was still at the post on Sept. 11, 2002, when he received the urgent call to go to Bahrain to interview the Lackawanna suspect.

The FBI’s Riyadh office was another source of frustration after the 9/11 attacks. Frustrations regarding documents involving Saudi intelligence being shredded due to mishaps and neglect, although those weren’t the only ones.

And finishing our look at the Frontline article…

Later that year, however, the Chicago controversy re-emerged and with it other troubles. Special Agents Robert Wright and John Vincent went public about Abdel-Hafiz's behavior during the Vulgar Betrayal case and then allegations surfaced involving a second dispute in which Abdel-Hafiz was accused of having refused to secretly record a fellow Muslim a year earlier. Thirty-four-year FBI veteran Barry Carmody, who worked on counterintelligence in Tampa, Fla. alleged that in 1998, Agent Abdel-Hafiz had refused to record a telephone conversation with Sami Al-Arian, a suspect in an investigation of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

Abdel-Hafiz said he first heard about Agent Carmody's complaint in a media report. He says he never refused to record Al-Arian and had, in fact, tried to contact him on behalf of the bureau. Later, when he encountered the suspect by chance at a conference, he wasn't prepared to be wired. He didn't have the equipment or the approval from his superiors, so he wrote up a 302 official report form instead.

Sami Al-Arian was indicted by the Justice Department in February 2003 for providing material support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

When reached by FRONTLINE, Barry Carmody was reluctant to discuss the case -- the trial is scheduled for 2004 in Tampa. "I won't do or say anything to jeopardize that trial," he says. Carmody says he knew Agent Wright from an earlier case, and had told him that "there's a man aboard who shouldn't be there," referring to Abdel-Hafiz. When asked if he filed written complaints against Abdel-Hafiz, Carmody says he had "advised" the FBI of his concerns.

Recall that al-Arian was acquitted on a number of charges due to lack of evidence, and while Mr. Abdel-Hafiz’s alleged refusal to record a phone conversation may have contributed to that lack of evidence, the accidental shredding of search warrant documents may have played a role too.

So what can we conclude from all this? That’s hard to say. Agent Abdel-Hafiz certainly appears to have had the support of his superiors, and was unusually reinstated in 2004 after being dismissed. What is quite unambiguous is that this episode is but one of many examples that we’ve looked at involving significant frustration on the part of FBI agents with the actions of their superiors regarding the Saudi/Muslim Brotherhood financial network.

BMI, Mr. Biheiri, Mr. al-Qadi, and the most generous Khalid bin Mahfouz

Now what about BMI President Soliman Biheiri and the Saudi Businessman Yassin al-Qadi, two of the figures also under investigation in the Operation Vulgar Betrayal in the 90’s? And how does Mr. Biheiri’s BMI fit into the web of people and organizations we’ve looked at so far? That’s what we’re going to look at next with this excellent 2003 article from the National Review:

September 4, 2003, 10:10 a.m.
Operation Support-System Shutdown
Who paid for the 1998 East African embassy bombings?

By Matthew Epstein & Ben Schmidt

In a federal indictment issued recently out of the Eastern District of Virginia, a grand jury charged Soliman Biheiri with three counts of immigration violations. Although these are seemingly innocuous charges, Biheiri is a central figure in a complex terrorism investigation spanning several years and several terrorist attacks.

According to the affidavit supporting his arrest, a company founded by Biheiri, BMI, was a financial conduit for several known Hamas and al Qaeda moneymen. Upon arrest, Biheiri had contact information for two individuals described by the Treasury Department as "financial advisers to al-Qaeda." In addition, Biheiri's estranged wife told federal investigators that she witnessed her husband destroying documents after the 9/11 attacks.

Investigators are now exploring links between Biheiri, the Saudi-sponsored International Islamic Relief Organization, and Mercy International, a charity implicated in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.

The two “financial advisors to al-Qaeda” that Biheiri had contact information for happen to be Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat, two top Muslim Brotherhood members and founders of Bank al-Taqwa.


Fifty-one-years old and Egyptian by birth, Biheiri received a Master's degree in economics from the University of Freibourg in Switzerland before leaving for the United States in January 1985. Two months after he arrived in the U.S., he founded BMI, a New Jersey-based investment bank specializing in Islamically permissible investments.

In the 1980s and 90s, Biheiri and BMI offered a series of financial services to Muslims in America. With advertisements in popular Islamic magazines such as The Message, The Minaret, and Al Jummah, BMI solicited funds for real-estate investments and offered leasing services for wealthy Muslim business owners. By 1992, BMI boasted over $1 million in medical equipment and automobile leases under management, and advertised housing developments in Maryland and Indiana with projected revenues in excess of $25 million.

One of those housing developments, nicked-named “Hamas hills” included amongst its investors Mousa Abu Marzook, Yassin al-Qadi, and a nephew of Osama bin Laden.


In 1985, Biheiri met a man named Suliman al-Ali in New Jersey. The two became personal friends, attending Islamic conferences together and entertaining at each other's homes. In 1989, al-Ali left the United States for Saudi Arabia to become a full time fundraiser for the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). As described in the Biheiri affidavit, IIRO has extensive contacts with Islamist terrorist organization, including al Qaeda and Hamas.

According to tax filings, Al-Ali raised over $500,000 in his first year with IIRO. Impressed with his fundraising abilities, the Saudis sent al-Ali back to the U.S. to open IIRO's official office in the Washington, D.C. area.

Al-Ali landed in Washington, D.C. in 1991 with his checkbook and a mission. By this time, the Saudi-relief infrastructure that supported the jihad in Afghanistan had shifted focus to Eastern Europe. Muslims in Bosnia were being massacred by the Serbs and al-Ali had $10 million to put towards Bosnian aid. Over the next several years, al-Ali channeled at least $4 million of this money to BMI investments run by Biheiri.

Recall that it was the Phillipines branch of the IIRO that was headed by Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and terrorist ringmaster extraordinaire Mohammed Jamal Khalifa.


On August 18, 1998, eleven days after al Qaeda decimated the U.S. embassies in East Africa, Biheiri received a disturbing phone call. Hassan Bahfzallah, the secretary of the Investment Committee for IIRO in Saudi Arabia, contacted Biheiri to inquire about IIRO investments with BMI and the activities of Suliman al-Ali. A couple of days later, Biheiri became "very alarmed" when he received a personal letter from Abdullah al-Obaid, the secretary general of the Muslim World League and a man Biheiri described as the "Pope of the Muslim[s]."

Biheiri was instructed to "cancel the validity of Dr. Suliman Al-Ali's signature in regards to all [IIRO] accounts with your firm." Biheiri, BMI and al-Ali were later sued by IIRO's affiliate Sana-Bell, who claimed that their funds had been misappropriated by the pair. At the trial, Biheiri acknowledged that al-Ali withdrew over $1 million from BMI accounts that had disappeared.

Recall too, that the IIRO’s investment company, Sana-Bell, was part of the “Golden Chain” list of early al-Qaeda financiers.

And now ponder for a moment the absurdity of the situation: the “Pope of the Muslims” was calling a Muslim money man to cancel the account of a possible terrorist financier that was using a major Muslim charity. Why that’s almost as absurd as, say, the Pope calling on the Vatican Bank to investigate possible money-laundering for the mob and a fascist Masonic lodge that was secretly running Italy. And we know that could never happen.


Soon afterwards, an FBI agent investigating Hamas money laundering identified Biheiri's BMI as an entity involved in funneling money to Hamas operatives in the United States. As a result, Biheiri was subpoenaed by the FBI.

The FBI discovered that the true principals behind BMI were actually Musa abu Marzook and Yasin Qadi. Marzook was a powerful Hamas leader who resided in the United States until he was arrested and finally deported in 1997. Qadi has been described as a terrorist financier by the U.S. Treasury Department. As head of the Muwafaq relief organization, he is alleged to have funneled millions of dollars to al Qaeda in Eastern Europe, Africa and South East Asia. By executive order, both Marzook and Qadi are now designated terrorists.

In the course of the investigation, a BMI officer approached the FBI with a shocking confession. The officer told federal agents that he believed funds he transferred overseas on behalf of BMI might have been used to finance the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.

As we saw earlier, that BMI officer that approached the FBI with the information regarding BMI’s possible involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings was also a friendly acquaintance of FBI agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz. It was that incident that led to BMI President Soliman Biheiri offering to talk with Abdel-Hafiz, and the eventual hidden-wire kerfuffle with Agent Wright and others working on Operation Vulgar Betrayal.

Yassin al-Qadi, the Saudi businessman that was apparently a principle in BMI along with Mr. Marzook, is an interesting fellow. His Muwafaq relief organization, also known as “Blessed Relief”, was originally set up by the bin Mahfouz family. The charity was also a recipient of UN donations. Mr. al-Qadi is also an executive with the Saudi company M.M. Badkook, a food catering company that supplied 15,000 meals a day to US and Kuwaiti forces during the Gulf war.

One of the many interesting alleged activities of the Muwafaq include a mysterious loan of $820,000 made to the Chicago area Quranic Literacy Institute in 1991. The FBI claims it was laundered through a real-estate deal to funnel money to US-based Hamas activists. Mr. al-Qadi claims the loan was intended to “open a peaceful dialogue between civilizations”.

In 1995 Muwafaq’s office in Islamabad was raided by the police on suspicions of links to 1993 WTC bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef. Although no charges were ever filed, Muwafaq ended its operations there. That same year, it was reported that Muwafaq was being used to fund Muslim fighters in Bosnia.

In 1996 it was reported in the magazine al-Watan al-Arabi that Osama bin Laden told the magazine that the Muwafaq Society in Zagreb, Croatia was one of the humanitarian bodies he supported. Mr. al-Qadi disputes the interview ever took place and denies links to bin Laden. He did recount meeting bin Laden at religious gatherings in the 80’s, but characterized the encounters as unremarkable.

Another interesting connection to the bin Ladens includes Mr al-Qadi’s investment in the La Jolla, California-based diamond mining company Global Diamond Resources. Yassin al-Qadi was introduced as the company chairman by a ranking executive of the Saudi bin Laden Group. The bin Laden family is also an investor in the company.


Several financial transfers involving Biheiri's friend and business partner al-Ali have increased concerns about the BMI confession regarding the embassy bombings.

In the two years before the embassy attacks, al-Ali disclosed that he sent almost $200,000 to Mercy International in Canada, a branch of the Michigan-based Mercy International. The legal name of the Canadian office is actually Mercy International Relief Agency.

Additionally, al-Ali and IIRO funneled millions of dollars to a Chicago-based chemical company run by a director of Mercy International. The company was raided by the FBI in 1997 amidst allegations of terrorism support and suspicious chemical compounds. The Mercy director is currently serving a 51-month sentence for fraud. IIRO's offices in Virginia were also raided as part of the investigation.

Recall once again that Syrian-Muslim Brotherhood member and al-Taqwa shareholder Kaldoun Dia Eddine, also became the chief coordinate for Mercy International (5).


At the 2001 embassy-bombing trial, federal prosecutors identified several companies and charities that served as fronts to aid the attackers, including Mercy International Relief Agency. Prosecutors cited telephone records showing that Osama bin Laden's satellite phone was in contact with the mobile phone of Mercy director Ahmad Sheik Adam; and Bin Laden lieutenant and key orchestrator Wadih el Hage testified that he kept his files at the Mercy International office in Kenya. In his Rolodex were found the business cards of two Mercy officers in Kenya and one in the United States. Also, Mercy International receipts dated July 24, 1998, make mention of "getting the weapons from Somalia."

One of the other interesting figures whose name and address appeared in Wadih el Hage’s Rolodex was Saleh Abdult Aziz al-Rajhi, one of the brothers from the al-Rajhi banking dynasty which bankrolled the SAAR network of charities and institutions we looked at earlier (6).


In the United States, Mercy International originally went by the name Human Concern International (HCI), an organization created in the 1980s to support the Afghan jihad against the Soviets. Their Pakistan offices were headed by Ahmed Khadr, a close associate of bin Laden and an al Qaeda moneyman. In 1989, HCI changed its name to Mercy International-USA and moved to Michigan.

In response to news reports implicating "Mercy International" in the embassy attacks, Umar al-Qadi, president of Mercy in Michigan and founder of Mercy International Relief Agency in Canada, has publicly insisted that his organization had no relation to the organization in Kenya or the bombings themselves. Qadi explained that his group was named "Mercy International-USA" while the group in Kenya was "Mercy International Relief Agency." However, in July of 1995, Umar al-Qadi himself registered a "Mercy for International Relief Agency" in Ontario, Canada, which he described as a sister organization.

Mercy International, we’ll recall, was one of the organizations heavily involved in Bosnia during its brutal civil war, helping supply everything from rabbit farms for the civilians to arms for the Bosnian Mujahedeen (7).


Many questions remain unanswered about the activities of BMI, IIRO, and Mercy International. Biheiri's friend al-Ali fled the United States following the FBI raid of his Virginia offices. According to an official at the Saudi embassy, he was arrested in Saudi Arabia in October of 2000, but has remained free on bail for the last three years. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Biheiri's detention hearing is scheduled for today (Thursday) in the Eastern District of Virginia. As a central figure in a complex financial network, Soliman Biheiri could potentially shed more light on the hazy underworld of terrorism financing.

— Matthew Epstein is an attorney and senior terrorism analyst at the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism think tank established in 1995. Ben Schmidt is a terrorism analyst for the Investigative Project.

So what ever resulted from the investigation of Soliman Biheiri and BMI? Lot’s, and it gets bizarre. In October of 2003, Mr. Biheiri was convicted to of lying under oath on his immigration application to the US. In January of 2004 he was sentenced to one year in jail for that conviction, although the Judge also determined that the government prosecutors’ case was not strong enough to convict him for terrorist financing. The prosecutors claimed it was because the statute of limitations ran out before their investigation began..

In May of 2004, Mr. Biheiri was indicted on a second set of charges involving lying to investigators over his relationship with Mr. Marzook. In October of 2004 he was convicted on those charges, and here’s where things get a bit bizarre. Let’s take a look at an excellent October 12, 2004 report from the Associated Press:

Muslim Banker Convicted of Lying About Business with Hamas Leader

Oct 12th - 7:15pm

By MATTHEW BARAKAT Associated Press Writer

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - A Muslim banker who engaged in business deals in the 1990s with a top official from the militant Hamas group was convicted Tuesday of lying to federal agents about those transactions.

Soliman Biheiri, 53, who ran a now-defunct New Jersey-based Islamic bank called BMI Inc., lied to federal investigators about his business relationship with Mousa Abu Marzook, a former northern Virginia resident who now leads the political wing of Hamas, a jury found after less than four hours of deliberation.

Biheiri, who was convicted of immigration fraud last year and sentenced to one year in prison as part of a broad investigation into alleged terror financing operations in northern Virginia, now faces up to five years in prison. A sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 29 in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors said Biheiri deliberately deceived agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a 4½-hour interview in June 2003 when he arrived at Dulles International Airport on a flight from Cairo.

The ICE agents testified that Biheiri told them he had no business or personal relationship with Marzook. But financial records and court testimony showed that Marzook helped lure $1 million in investments to Biheiri's company, and prosecutors said Biheiri and Marzook engaged in financial transactions involving tens of thousands of dollars as late as 1996 - one year after the U.S. government formally designated Marzook a terrorist.

During closing statements Tuesday, prosecutor David Laufman said Biheiri willingly shared details of his business deals with other individuals during his interview with agents, "but he suddenly drew a blank when it came to Mousa Abu Marzook, a designated terrorist. ... The defendant knew it was illegal to have dealings (with Marzook), and that is a big reason why he denied having any business relationship."

Biheiri, who took the stand in his own defense, testified that he had no reason to lie about his connections to Marzook because the federal government was already well aware of them.

Defense attorney David Schertler said the agents' handwritten notes contained no reference to Biheiri denying a relationship with Marzook, so he questioned the veracity of their formal report, which stated that Biheiri did deny a relationship.

Schertler said the interview should have been tape recorded, "especially if somebody's liberty will be put at stake based on what they say."

U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty called the verdict "an important victory for the government. The defendant lied to federal agents, who were investigating terrorist financing overseas, about his financial dealings with a well-known terrorist leader."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Ok, so let’s get this straight. In 1999, controversy erupts within the FBI’s Operation Vulgar Betrayal when Agent Abdul-Hafiz refuses to wear a hidden microphone while interviewing with Soliman Biheiri. In 2002, allegations about this unwillingness to secretly record the interview become public when FBI agent Robert Wright and others begin speaking to the press with complaints about investigative incompetence by the FBI. The following year, in June of 2003, agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conduct a 4 ½ hour interview with Mr. Biheiri, taking only handwritten notes, and apparently neglect to write down that Mr. Biheiri actually denied a relationship with Mr. Marzook.

In January 2005, Mr. Biheiri was sentenced for this second conviction. He was facing up to 5 years for the conviction. So how much jail time did he get? Let’s find out with this excellent January 2005 article in the Washington Post:

Man Gets 13 Months In Terror Probe Case
2nd Attempt at Long Sentence Rejected

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page A05

A federal judge in Alexandria yesterday rejected the government's second attempt to obtain a long prison sentence for a local financier tied to a terrorist leader, sentencing the man instead to 13 months and one day in prison.

Soliman S. Biheiri, 52, is one of two people convicted as a result of a three-year federal investigation into local financing of terrorism. Prosecutors indicted him twice on charges tangentially related to terrorism. Both times, they asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to impose sentences of at least five to 10 years. Each time, Ellis refused.

Judge T.S. Ellis III has recently ruled on several other important cases related to the War on Terror. The first relates to a notorious contractor in Iraq, Custer Battles L.L.C.. Custer Battles came under scrutiny when a former employee blew the whistle on Custer Battles for using fake shell companies set up in the Cayman Islands to over-charge and for making false claims to the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for tens of millions of dollars. Judge Ellis has twice invited the Justice Department to join in the lawsuit but received no response. In August of 2006, Judge Ellis overturned a $10 million jury verdict against the company. He stated that, while the prosecutors did prove that CPA was defrauded and US taxpayers ultimately paid for that fraud, the CPA was still not technically an arm of the US government entity, but instead an amorphous international entity with no clear legal status and therefore it could not be proven that the US government had indeed been defrauded. The company’s owners were reportedly “ecstatic”. They were probably less ecstatic in September of 2006, when one of the owners’ wives was arrested in Germany on money-laundering charges.

A second case Judge Ellis recently ruled on involves the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen that was extraordinarily renditioned out of Macedonia (which Macedonia denies) by the CIA in December of 2001 because he shared the same name as an al-Qaeda member. El-Masri was then taken to Afghanistan, where he was reportedly beaten and tortured for the next five months. The German intelligence agency, BND, has acknowledged that it knew about the abduction of its citizen 16 months before the German government was informed. In December of 2005, el-Masri filed a lawsuit against the CIA but it was thrown out by Judge Ellis in May of 2006. Ellis ruled that the case posed a “grave risk” of damage to national security by exposing government secrets. In February of 2006, another lawsuit brought against the Bush administration by a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, was dismissed using the “State Secrets privilege”. Mr. Arar was kidnapped out of New York City in 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was beaten and tortured. These are just two examples of a larger, most disturbing, set of policies quietly implemented.


In Biheiri's second conviction, he was found guilty of lying to a federal agent during an interview at Dulles International Airport, when he was asked about his ties to Islamic Resistance Movement leader Mousa Abu Marzook. Biheiri denied having financial links to the terrorist leader, though documents showed he had been investing money on Marzook's behalf since the 1980s.

Prosecutors argued that Biheiri's lie obstructed their probe of Islamic groups in Northern Virginia being investigated for links to terror. They wanted a five-year term rather than a sentence of eight to 14 months for lying.

Mr. Biheiri’s may have lied about his ties to Mr. Marzook, but from what we’ve seen thus far, that probably wasn’t the biggest obstacle facing the probe.


On the witness stand, though, Internal Revenue Service agent Mary Balberchak acknowledged that she and Customs agent David Kane already had information about Biheiri's links to Marzook when they interviewed Biheiri -- but that they had forgotten it. Because the government knew about the financial tie between Biheiri and Marzook, "it is not able to carry its burden that there was an actual obstruction of justice," Ellis said.

Ok…so the ICE agent’s interviewing Mr. Biheiri already had information about Biheiri’s links to Mr. Marzook, but had forgotten it. And this was the same 4 ½ interview the ICE agents chose, for some unexplained reason, to take handwriten notes for instead of recordings. How interesting.


At the start of his trial in October, Biheiri pleaded guilty to one count of passport fraud. That count -- like the count of lying to a federal agent, on which a jury convicted him -- calls for jail time of eight to 14 months, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

But the passport charge carried a possible maximum sentence of 10 years. And after Wednesday's landmark Supreme Court ruling declaring that sentencing guidelines no longer were mandatory, Assistant U.S. Attorney David H. Laufman invited Ellis to ignore the guidelines, saying, "The shackles are off this court."

In June of 2006, President Bush nominated Assistant US Attorney David H. Laufman to the position of Inspector General for the Department of Defense (DOD). As of late September 2006, Mr. Laufman’s nomination was still not confirmed in the Senate due to concerns of Mr. Laufman’s belief in the importance of the independence of the Inspector General’s office in pursuing investigations, which is a particularly important subject nowadays given the large number of possible spending violations. In fact, on September 10, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that the Pentagon didn’t know what happened to $2.3 trillion of expenditures. The DOD has been without an Inspector General ever since the resignation of Joseph E. Schmitz in September of 2005. As we saw earlier, Schmitz went on to become the Chief Financial Officer of Blackwater USA.


But Ellis declined, saying that the Supreme Court suggested that the sentencing guidelines still should be considered in devising sentences and that he thought they were appropriate in Biheiri's case.

Biheiri founded the investment firm BMI Inc. in 1986 and sought in its financing to adhere to Islamic principles, which forbid certain investments and make charging interest unlawful. He said yesterday that he saw an opportunity to help Muslims in the United States obtain money to buy houses and cars, and that Marzook first approached him in the late 1980s.

Prosecutors showed that Marzook brought in more than $1 million in investment capital for BMI. Investigators believed that Biheiri, an Egyptian native, was sent to the United States to launch a financial organization that could support terror groups.

In 1995, the government formally designated Marzook as a terrorist, meaning that all financial dealings with him were prohibited. But defense attorney David Schertler said prosecutors could not show that any money went from Biheiri back to Marzook after 1995. The statute of limitations had expired on dealings before that, so more serious terror-related charges were not an option for prosecutors.

Biheiri was first indicted and convicted in 2003 on immigration fraud charges. Although sentencing guidelines called for a term of no more than six months, prosecutors argued for a 10-year sentence because of Biheiri's financial links to Marzook and the bin Laden family.

Ellis said the government had not shown that the immigration fraud was linked to terrorism. "I never supported terrorism," Biheiri said yesterday. "If you want to see a real victim of terrorism, it is me."

Ellis vehemently rejected Biheiri's claim to be a victim. He said if Biheiri had been convicted of a terror-related charge, instead of lying to an agent, "he could confidently count on the maximum."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

So that’s the case of Mr. Biheiri and BMI, which is part of the larger case of the Northern Virginia SAAR network of Muslim Brotherhood/Saudi charities. So what ever happened with the rest of that investigation? Were any others in charge of those charities convicted? Were there any more bureaucratic shenanigans and politically perilous discoveries that emerged? Yes and Yes and it’s what we’re going to look at next. It involves quite possibly one of the most important and egregious discoveries to emerge from the SAAR investigations so keep reading!!!!!!!!!!!!


(1) House of Bush/House of Saud; by Craig Unger; Scribner [HC]; Copyright 2004 by Craig Unger; ISBN 0-7432-5337-X; p210

(2) ibid p185-186

(3) ibid p187

(4) Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p360

(5) ibid p151

(6) Terrorist Hunter by “Anonymous” [Rita Katz]; CCC [imprint of Harper Collins]; Copyright 2003 by Harper Collins [HC]; ISBN 0-06-052819-2; p294

(7) Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam; by Richard Labeviere; Copyright 2000 [SC]; Algora Publishing; ISBN 1-892941-06-6; p151