Obama's new pick for chief envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Countries ("OIC"), Harvard-educated attorney Rashad Hussain, is coming under fire late Friday evening for comments he made in 2004 claiming that the case against convicted terror supporter Professor Sami Al-Arian was part of a pattern of Bush-era terror prosecutions that Hussain claimed were "politically motivated prosecutions"
In a dramatic reversal late on Friday evening, the White House admitted that newly minted Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) US envoy, Rashad Hussain, made inappropriate comments in support of convicted terrorist supporter Sami Al-Arian. Politico notes the reversal:
President Barack Obama’s new Islamic envoy, Rashad Hussain, changed course Friday – admitting he made sharply critical statements about a U.S. terror prosecution against a Muslim professor after initially saying he had no recollection of making such comments.
“I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated,” Hussain said, referring to a 2004 conference where he discussed the case.
Hussain’s reversal came after POLITICO obtained a recording of his presentation to a Muslim students’ conference in Chicago, where he can be heard portraying the government’s cases towards professor Sami Al-Arian, as well as other Muslim terrorism suspects, as “politically motivated persecutions.” Al-Arian later pled guilty to aiding terrorists.
The comments touched off criticism from conservative commentators, who questioned whether someone who held those views should represent the United States in the Muslim world.
Initially, Hussain, 31, said through a White House spokesman that he didn’t recall making the statements. Hussain also suggested that another speaker on the panel, Al-Arian’s daughter Laila, made the comments about her father.
As noted by Politico, the White House and Rashad Hussein before today claimed that newly appointed OIC envoy Hussain did not make statements in support of convicted terror supporter Al-Arian. Indeed, the White House and compliant journalists, like ABC’s Jake Tapper, went so far as to state as fact that the quotes by Hussain in a 2004 article were “misattributed” to him:
In 2006, Al-Arian, a Florida professor, entered into a plea agreement in which he admitted conspiring to help people associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group designated terrorist by the US government in 1995. Al-Arian admitted that he hid his associations with Palestinian Islamic Jihad by lying to some people, and that had been associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad during “the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.”
Two years before that, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported that Hussain called Al-Arian’s case one from a series of “politically motivated persecutions” and that the case against Al-Arian was being “used politically to squash dissent.”
But that report was apparently erroneous. Hussein denies being the one who made the comments, and the editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Delinda Hanley, later edited the quotes out of the story because, she says, Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila Al-Arian, actually made the comments attributed to Hussain.
ABC’s Jake Tapper, seen by many as the most independent and objective reporter in the White House News Corps, strongly pushed the Obama Administration’s talking points that the attribution of the damaging, terror sympathizer supporting comments to Hussain “was apparently erroneous” as the 2004 Washington Report article reporting them had been “edited” to remove the Hussain quotes. Sadly, Tapper, and the rest of the mainstream media, tonight failed to clearly correct their prior, false reporting but instead just edit out the offending passages, as Tapper’s article linked above no longer includes the phrase “apparently erroneous.” Prior to this evening, the left wing new media, as epitomized by Media Matters, a site that is funded by Democratic partisans, actually smeared other media sources who were questioning Hussain’s prior denials by trumpeting the White House and Tapper’s false claim that the Hussain quotes were “apparently erroneous.”
The only reason it appears Hussain, the mainstream media and the White House reversed course on the “misattribution” talking point is the surfacing of the transcript. It is troubling to this observer that the White House would so overwhelmingly push a clearly false storyline that “controversial remarks defending Al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain” for several days and only cease such fraudulent activity when being presented with a transcript of the remarks as made by Hussain. A highly disturbing revelation from tonight’s Politico report is that Hussain himself made the call to the Washington Report last year to demand his quotes be removed from the 2004 article, despite the fact that Hussain admits making the statements:
Hussain also answered another question surrounding his comments – why they were removed from the website of a magazine on Middle East issues that published a brief account of the panel back in 2004, attributing the statement about “politically motivated persecutions” to Hussain.
It was Hussain himself, he said Friday, who contacted the publication to complain about the story.
“When I saw the article that attributed comments to me without context, leaving a misimpression, I contacted the publication to raise concerns about it. Eventually, of their own accord, they modified the article,” Hussain said of the article in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.
Obviously, as Hussain himself was calling the Washington Report last year regarding his quotes in a 2004 article, Hussain, and the White House, were well aware that Hussain made the controversial comments at the Muslim Students Association conference in 2004, and not Al-Arian’s daughter as the White House has been claiming since this story broke early this week until tonight’s reversal.
Many conservatives and moderates are pointing out that the Obama Administration cannot not have key officials, like new OIC envoy Hussain, espousing such radical views of U.S. terror prosecutions. This is especially so in a case like Al-Arain’s, which, despite Hussain’s claims that the case against Al-Arain was one of many “political motivated persecutions” by Bush-era anti-terror prosecutors, resulted in a conviction of Al-Arain via guilty plea for material support of terrorism, specifically support of the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad. The Obama Administration apparently has no plans to jettison Hussain:
The White House declined to say Friday whether the statements or the controversy affected Obama’s confidence in Hussain.
The White House is now in a very difficult position as Rashad Hussain has been a key player since Inauguration Day in developing the Obama Administration’s policy on relations with the Islamic World as deputy associate counsel to President Obama, including the a substantial role in the drafting of the Obama Cairo speech and posting lengthy blog posts on the White House site regarding Islamic matters. Furthermore, Hussain has significant backing on the left, not least of which is George Soros’s support. Jettisoning Hussain now could lead to even more political opposition to Obama’s Islamic strategy and could erode the confidence in Obama of moderate Democrat politicians who are continuing to support the Obama Administration’s Islamic policy at present.
Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in tonight’s reporting on Hussain involves a deeper, personal link that Hussain revealed in the newly unearthed transcript of the 2004 comments made at an Muslim Students Association conference at Yale Law School. As noted above, one of the “politically motivated persecutions” railed against by Hussain in 2004 was the case of Professor Sami Al-Arian. Thereafter, Professor Al-Arian plead guilty to a charge of supporting terrorist activity, admitting that he conspired to help Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group, and was closely associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad during “the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.”
During that period of time, the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad was engaged in the murder of civilians in Israel and elsewhere, and Al-Arian’s admitted support of such group is unacceptable and abhorrent, and cannot be tolerated by Americans. Hussain himself appears to be a close family friend of the Al-Arian’s, as the 2004 transcript confirms that Hussain was close with Professor Al-Arian’s son, Abdullah Al-Arian:
In his speech, Hussain revealed another link that may have left him sympathetic for Al-Arian. Hussain indicated he was acquainted with Al-Arian’s son Abdullah, while both were college students in North Carolina.
Hussain told the audience that he was on hand when Abdullah Al-Arian was abruptly removed by the Secret Service from a White House meeting in June 2001, prompting a walkout by Muslim leaders. President George W. Bush later apologized for the incident, which a spokesman called “wrong and inappropriate.”
The extent of the relationship between Hussain and the Al-Arian family is sure to come under close scrutiny in the days to come as Hussain attempts to ride out this embarrassing, forced admission and keep his job as Obama’s top Islamic advisor in the years to come. Convicted terrorism supporter Professor Al-Arian’s family appears to have fantastic connections with the left wing media and Democrat Party, as son Abdullah Al-Arian interned for Democrat House Member David Bonior in 2001 while daughter Laila Al-Arian works for Al-Jezerra in DC and is warmly embraced by left wing new media.
The fervor over the flip-flop by the Obama Administration on whether Hussain made the 2004 comments, as well as over the extent of Hussain’s relationship with the Al-Arian family (as such family includes one convicted terror supporter, Sami Al-Arian), could continue into next week. The political heat on this matter may end up costing Hussain his new job as the chief Islamic envoy as many conservatives and moderates could object to the concept of a convicted Islamic terrorism supporter’s family friend being the United States’ chief Islamic envoy and call upon Obama to fire Hussain or at least ask him to resign.
UPDATE: Powerline links over, thanks for the link guys, welcome to Powerline readers. By way of substantive update, go here for Politico’s audio tape of Hussain’s 2004 comments in support of Al-Arian