Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, was charged with conspiring to move money out of the United Sates without declaring it, as required by federal law, and with filing false tax returns to hide the fact that the money ever existed. According to federal officials, Seda accepted a large donation intended to support "our Muslim brothers in Chychnia," and then surreptitiously shifted the money to Saudi Arabia in the form of difficult to trace traveler's checks.
Officials described how they lost track of the money when it was deposited in Saudi Arabia, but they suspected that it eventually made its way into the hands of Chechen rebels. Prosecutors had argued that Seda had a "dark side," one that was "insistent on helping the cause of the mujahideen covertly, secretly, and without leaving a paper trail."
Seda came under the scrutiny of U.S. law enforcement because of his leadership within the U.S. branch of al Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHF), an international organization that has been banned by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Nations for its support of international terrorist organizations. During the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani told jurors that "al Haramain subscribed to a very violent form of Islam." He told the jury that the organization supported "violent jihad…aggressive, kill people jihad."
Knowing of the organization's role in the global terrorist support structure, Seda opened up the American branch of al Haramain in Ashland, Oregon. Despite attempts by the defense to paint Seda as a man dedicated to interfaith dialogue and peace building, the government presented witnesses who describe the "darker" side of the defendant.
Former congregants of AHF detailed how they would occasionally hear fiery prayers denouncing the United States and Muslim integration in the West. A former employee, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, explained that it was his job was to distribute moderate materials to non-Muslims, but to provide "true believers" with copies of the "Noble Quran," which contained an appendix entitled, "A Call to Jihad: Holy Fighting in Allah's Cause," extolling the righteousness of violent jihad. Gartenstein-Ross also testified how he had distributed Mohammad bin Jamil Zino's "Islamic Guidelines for Individual and Social Reform." In the book, Zino explains:
"Jihad is obligatory on every Muslim in two ways: by spending one's wealth or offering oneself for fighting in the cause of Allah."
The conviction of Pete Seda is only the most recent in a string of examples of charities financing terrorism, and it demonstrates the lengths to which terrorist organizations will go to hide their illicit activities. The case serves as a reminder of the fact that while there are many charitable institutions operating legally, others funnel money to terrorist organizations under the guise of humanitarian assistance.
Sentencing is set for November 23. Seda was remanded into the custody of federal marshals following the verdict.
Related Topics: Prosecutions
Report: America Ill-Equipped to Face Evolving Islamic Terrorism Threat
As the United States prepares to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a new report says that terrorist threats against the United States have fundamentally changed while American counter-terrorism strategies have stagnated.
The report, "Assessing the Terrorist Threat," was produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Preparedness Group, a predecessor to the 9/11 Commission. Detailing the evolving threat from Islamic terrorism, the report explains that al Qaida has shifted from a hierarchical organization with a clear command and control structure, to a more diffuse enemy whose ideology has inspired others globally.
A key shift, according to the report, is that the biggest threat no longer comes from abroad but from within our own borders in the form of homegrown terrorism. As Bruce Hoffman, one of the report's authors, explains:
"We are seeing more Americans turning on their country, going abroad and making common cause with terrorist groups…. The array of perpetrators and the nature of their plots against America are remarkable and there is no single government agency responsible for deterring radicalization and terrorist recruitment. The terrorists may have found our Achilles heel – we have no way of dealing with this growing problem."
Concluding that al Qaida no longer has the ability to launch extraordinary attacks on the scale of September 11, the report argues that the terrorist organization must rely upon smaller attacks which are "almost impossible for the national security and intelligence communities to detect and intercept." The report highlights the failed Christmas Day bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; the shooting rampage at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hassan; the thwarted attack on the New York City Subway by Najibullah Zazi; and the Times Square Bombing attempted by Faisal Shahzad.
While each of these cases demonstrates the evolving threat posed by Islamic terrorists, the authors caution against reading too much into the fact that most of the attacks have failed:
"While it is easier to dismiss the threat posed by wannabes who are often snared without difficulty by the authorities, or to discount as aberrations the homicides inflicted by lone gunmen, these incidents show the activities of trained US terrorist operatives who are part of an identifiable organizational command and control structure and are acting on orders from terrorist leaders abroad."
More than simply providing Americans as foot soldiers, the report argues that Americans have taken up leadership positions within al Qaida and its affiliate organizations:
"A key shift in the threat to the homeland since around the time President Barack Obama took office is the increasing 'Americanization' of the leadership of al-Qaeda and aligned groups, and the larger numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups."
American leadership—for example Omar Hammami of al Shabaab and Anwar al-Awlaki of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula—have allowed otherwise regional terrorist groups to expand their area of operations. The report also details the increasing threat posed by al Qaida in Iraq, al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and the Pakistani Taliban.
Recognizing the shifting threat, the report urges the United States to combat the complacency which has begun to set in:
"The American 'melting pot' has not provided a firewall against the radicalization and recruitment of American citizens and residents, though it has arguably lulled us into a sense of complacency that homegrown terrorism couldn't happen in the United States."
Of note, the report explains that the United States must designate an agency that will be responsible for identifying and countering Islamic radicalization in the United States.
By IPT News | September 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
Appellate Court Dismisses Private Torture Suit
A closely divided en banc Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a lawsuit which sought damages from a private company for its alleged role in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program.
In a 6-5 decision issued Wednesday, the court reversed a lower court ruling that would have allowed a suit against Jeppesen Dataplan to move forward. Five foreign plaintiffs filed suit against Jeppesen in May 2007 claiming that they were rendered by the CIA to the custody of countries such as Egypt and Morocco where they were tortured. According to the plaintiffs, Jeppesen was integral to the operations:
"Jeppesen played an integral role in the forced [abductions and detentions] and provided direct and substantial services to the United States for its so-called 'extraordinary rendition' program…enabling the clandestine and forcible transportation of terrorism suspects to secret overseas detention facilities."
After the complaint was filed, the United States moved to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it would lead to the disclosure of state secrets. In particular, while recognizing that the program itself was no longer a secret, the government argued that there was no way to litigate the case without disclosing:
Information that would tend to confirm or deny whether Jeppesen or any other private entity assisted the CIA with clandestine intelligence activities; Information about whether any foreign government cooperated with the CIA in clandestine intelligence activities; Information about the scope or operation of the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program; or Any other information concerning CIA clandestine intelligence operations that would tend to reveal intelligence activities, sources, or methods.
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By IPT News | September 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm
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