CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, March 24, 2008

Prosecutors Push Limits in Terrorism Probe Case

From Federal prosecutors tracking a Saudi-backed American foundation accused of ties to terrorists are tightening the screws on their target, levying half a million dollars in contempt-of-court fines and moving to pierce the attorney-client privilege as a way of getting information from a lawyer who represented the foundation.

The case has the elements of an international thriller. The federal officials sprang into action after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, with an investigation code-named Operation Green Quest. They say the Saudi-backed Virginia charity spirited $22 million out of America and into a trust on the Isle of Man, a windswept tax haven in the Irish Sea. A Florida professor has become entangled in the investigation, as has a Georgia poultry processing plant that has vigorously defended itself against accusations of terrorist links, to the point of filing a libel lawsuit against CBS News.

Aspects of the investigation, which has been veiled in secrecy, emerged in public on Friday here before a panel of federal judges who ride the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The hearing related to a grand jury investigation into whether a network of Islamic organizations centered in Herndon, Va., funded a range of terrorist groups in the 1990s. Disclosures during the hearing included the fact that a once-prominent Muslim nonprofit, the SAAR Foundation, has been fined $500,000 for contempt of court.

Muslim leaders, including those connected with a group at the center of the probe, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, have complained that prosecutors have used tough tactics in their six-year probe and have little to show for it.

The government contends that the inquiry, part of a broader terror-financing investigation known as Operation Green Quest, has played a part in several serious convictions, including that of a prominent Islamic leader, Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was sentenced to 23 years for involvement in a Libyan plot to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godey]

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