Skip to comments.Bomber's Leader Lived In Tampa
Posted on 06/06/2002 7:33:28 PM PDT by Dixie Mom
Bomber's Leader Lived In Tampa
By MICHAEL FECHTER firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Jun 6, 2002
The man claiming responsibility for Wednesday's deadly suicide attack on an Israeli bus spent four years living in Tampa and taught Middle East Studies to University of South Florida students.
Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Shallah said the attack, which killed at least 16 people, was meant to mark the 35th anniversary of the Six Day War that began Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Shallah worked as administrative director for a think tank called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise in Tampa from 1991 to 1995. WISE focused on issues concerning Islam and the West. It had a cooperative agreement with a group of USF faculty to share libraries and organize symposiums.
Shallah also taught two semesters as a USF adjunct professor, going by the name Ramadan Abdullah during his time here.
His appointment to the Jihad's leadership in October 1995 caught the faculty and university by surprise. Former co-workers expressed shock, saying they had never heard him espouse any radical or violent ideology.
In a statement, WISE denied ``any knowledge of Dr. Abdullah's association or affiliation with any political group or agency in the Middle East.''
Federal agents served a search warrant on the WISE office three weeks later. In affidavits used to obtain the warrant, agents alleged WISE and a related charity were fronts for the Islamic Jihad. No charges have ever been filed in the case.
Shallah's time in Tampa continues to haunt some of those he worked with here. Former U.S. Attorney Mac Cauley issued a statement in April verifying that WISE's founder, USF Professor Sami Al-Arian, remains the focus of an ``active and ongoing'' criminal investigation.
USF placed Al-Arian on paid leave in September, after his appearance on a national television program brought him renewed attention and death threats. USF's board of trustees later recommended firing the tenured engineering professor, saying his outside activities disrupt university routine. President Judy Genshaft has said she plans to follow that recommendation, but hasn't done so yet.
Meanwhile, Al-Arian's brother-in-law and WISE's former executive director, Mazen Al-Najjar, is in jail awaiting a final order of deportation. His attorneys have filed suit seeking his release, and an immigration service review of his case is scheduled for Friday.
Immigration officials previously jailed Al-Najjar for 3 1/2 years on secret evidence allegedly linking him to the Islamic Jihad. He was freed by a federal judge.
Reporter Michael Fechter can be reached at (813) 259-7621.
Islam is based on violence. Any talk of peace is a game Muslims play to fool the naive. All you have to do is study the life of that butcher Mohammed. Mohammed murdered the Jews in his part of Arabia that would not convert to his new religion. Mohammed was the first Nazi.
Things have not changed at all in 1400 years. Islam is a vile, murderous religion.
* * * NOTE: This document builds upon a timeline created by USF's Office of Public Affairs in the mid-1990s. Dates prior to Sept. 26, 2001 are as complete as could be quickly reconstructed.
January 22, 1986 - Sami Al-Arian is hired as an assistant professor by USF. 1991 - USF Middle Eastern Committee is formed to promote dialogue after Persian Gulf War.
1991 - Al-Arian founds the World and Islam Studies Enterprise Inc. as an Islamic think tank in Temple Terrace, Florida.
1992 - USF's Middle Eastern Committee signs an agreement with WISE to sponsor academic meetings and occasionally publish papers.
1992-94 - WISE brings Islamic speakers to campus.
November 1994 - A PBS documentary, "Jihad in America" alleges Al-Arian is the head of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group's domestic support network. The documentary was created by Steve Emerson.
1994-95 - Ramadan Abdullah Shallah teach Arabic during the spring semesters.
May 1995 - A two-part series in The Tampa Tribune questions ties among USF, WISE and the Islamic Committee for Palestine charity.
May 1995 - USF's inspector general issues a report that finds irregularities with WISE graduate students and the hiring of an Arabic instructor.
1995 - A second report says USF violated its own policy.
1995-96 - Al-Arian takes a one-year sabbatical.
October 1995 - Shallah appears in Damascus and is named head of the Islamic Jihad.
December 5, 1995 - USF Provost Thomas J. Tighe announces changes to USF's procedures for entering into agreements with outside entities. Agreements now require high-level review and approval.
November 1995 - Federal immigration officials search the WISE office and Al-Arian's home and office.
January 1996 - USF retains outside counsel William Reece Smith Jr. to look into USF's agreements with WISE.
March 1996 - The Oracle student newspaper receives a letter from a group claiming connections to the Islamic Jihad and neo-Nazis. The group threatens to bomb a USF building and kill a white female professor on April 29.
April 29, 1996 - USF closes most of campus due to the bomb threat. Final exams are moved one week later to accommodate the closing.
1996 - Federal agents say in unsealed court documents that they have probable cause to believe the think tank and the charity are fronts for international terrorists.
May 2, 1996 - Provost Thomas Tighe places Al-Arian on leave with pay, effective August 7, 1996, pending completion of the federal investigation.
August 7, 1996 - Al-Arian's paid leave takes effect.
February 24, 1998 - At the request of USF President Betty Castor, USF Associate General Counsel Hank Lavendera writes to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking for status of federal investigation.
March 6, 1998 - U.S. Attorney Charles R. Wilson responds to Lavendara's February 24 letter saying that the Department of Justice will not comment on its investigations.
April 6, 1998 - Engineering Dean Michael Kovac notifies Computer Science and Engineering Chairman Abraham Kandel that Al-Arian can resume his regular faculty duties in fall 1998.
August 1998 - Al-Arian resumes his regular faculty duties.
Sept. 26, 2001 - Sami Al-Arian appears on FOX News' O'Reilly Factor. Host Bill O'Reilly questions him about alleged ties to terrorism.
Sept. 27, 2001 - USF receives hundreds of angry phone calls and e-mails about Al-Arian, including calls and e-mails with threatening language about Al-Arian. In the afternoon, the Computer Science and Engineering Department receives a death threat to Al-Arian. The department closes for several hours. Provost David Stamps, Engineering Dean Louis Martin-Vega, USF President Judy Genshaft and University Police Chief Paul Uravich discuss safety issues related to Al-Arian's presence on campus. They determine Al-Arian should be placed on paid leave for his safety and the safety of the rest of the USF community. Stamps and Martin-Vega meet with Al-Arian off campus and tell him that the university is placing him on leave until it determines that it's safe for him to return to campus.
Oct. 5, 2001 - Al-Arian is present in the USF's Marshall Center in violation of the terms of the leave of absence.
Oct. 8, 2001 - USF Provost David Stamps sends Al-Arian a letter notifying him that his presence on USF's campus on Oct. 5 violated his leave of absence. The letter constitutes a final warning to Al-Arian not to appear on campus.
November 1, 2001 - At the request of a USF trustee, R.B. Friedlander, interim general counsel, asks Tom Gonzalez, an attorney with Thompson, Sizemore & Gonzalez, to determine whether Dr. Al-Arian's actions constitute conduct which would justify discipline up to and including termination.
November 1, 2001 - December 18, 2001 - Gonzalez reviews the situation, including documents submitted by USF regarding disruption to the orderly and efficient operation of the university. He determines Al-Arian's conduct could be grounds for termination. Gonzalez is in contact with USF President Judy Genshaft during the process.
December 18, 2001 - Genshaft relates Gonzalez's determination to Dick Beard, chairman of the USF Board of Trustees. Beard calls an emergency meeting of the board of trustees to be held Dec. 19 at 9 a.m.
I couldn't find if he was actually fired, but my guess is he's toast, at least at this university.
I agree. Lean real hard on your congresscritters. What else can we do? We are suffering from a slow-motion invasion.
TAMPA - The University of South Florida's president shows signs she will let a banished professor return to work, and the school will almost certainly be censured if she doesn't, according to a report for the nation's leading voice on academic freedom.
President Judy Genshaft's recent language and actions show she is poised to ``back away from the brink'' of firing Sami Al-Arian and tarnishing her school, wrote the lawyer heading the American Association of University Professors' investigation of USF.
William Van Alstyne, in an assessment Genshaft rejects, wrote that the president's growing doubt in her own lawyer's advice - and criticism from faculty, national organizations and influential media - have given her pause.
Having ``spent quite some time with her, I also believe she does not want to preside over the university when (again) it is placed on the AAUP censure list,'' wrote Van Alstyne, a Duke University law professor.
Even assuming USF would win union and legal challenges, Genshaft does not want to be seen as a person who is ``careless, as a university president, on matters either of academic freedom or ... other people's freedom of political speech,'' he wrote.
Genshaft said Wednesday the characterization is wrong. She stands by her announced intention Dec. 19 to fire Al-Arian, and she said her deliberate pace in making a final decision does not mean she is wavering.
``If I had to do it all over again, I would do the same thing,'' Genshaft said. ``I don't want to bring any bad marks against USF, but I'm not going to let any one single organization guide the judgment of what's best for the university.''
USF suspended Al-Arian in September after a national television interview caused a furor regarding his history of inflammatory words and suspected links to terrorism. Genshaft made that move for safety, she said, because of threats against the school.
But in December, on the urging of USF trustees, she said Al-Arian should be fired for school disruption and breach of contract.
That drew the ire of the AAUP, which sent an investigative team to Tampa in March with a clear point of view that USF was poised to make a big mistake.
As the national standard bearer for academic freedom, the AAUP has weight within higher education. The association says its censure list does not amount to a blacklist, but universities know the designation can turn away faculty and hurt the school's standing.
Genshaft Plays Down Influence
Genshaft paid respect to the professors group but said it is not the ``swaying decision- maker'' in a case being watched nationwide.
``I've been at institutions that have been censured. I've been at institutions that haven't been censured,'' she said. ``There's basically very little difference.''
Censure is not imminent. The AAUP membership could not vote on such a move until June 2003, and any number of developments before then could make the matter moot.
But in a status report to the AAUP national office, Van Alstyne asserted for the first time that censure will happen - not ``may'' happen - if USF fires Al-Arian for its stated reasons.
``All I can tell you is if the matter proceeded in keeping with the original course, I do regard that outcome as virtually inevitable,'' Van Alstyne confirmed in an interview.
Standing By His Report
The AAUP censured USF for a few years in the 1960s for its treatment of a professor who held controversial views of the Cold War.
Van Alstyne stressed that he wants a positive outcome for USF and that he shared his report with Genshaft in good faith toward that goal.
``The more an institution cares about what kind of faculty it's able to attract, and its standing with national academic associations, the more these things tend to be taken seriously,'' he said.
Although Van Alstyne acknowledged Wednesday that Genshaft's decision on Al-Arian is ``highly uncertain,'' he stood by the observations in his report, based on interviews and readings. It asserted:
* Genshaft's description of Al-Arian as being on ``paid leave'' rather than ``suspension'' is significant, not just technically accurate. The distinction shows Al-Arian was not removed for disciplinary reasons, leaving Genshaft more room to bring him back, the report said.
That's not true, Genshaft said. ``What [Van Alstyne] has speculated is not what I was thinking at all.''
* Genshaft's ``surprising delay'' in deciding Al-Arian's fate shows national criticism has caused her to think twice. So has her eroding support in a lawyer's opinion that USF's case could withstand union and court challenges.
``I believe she is no longer nearly as convinced,'' wrote Van Alstyne, considered a national expert in constitutional law.
``I thought that was a very bold and unfortunate statement,'' Genshaft responded. She said she has complete faith in Tom Gonzalez, the Tampa attorney who advised her and the trustees.
Gonzalez, a labor lawyer for 27 years, said Van Alstyne failed to substantiate his views. He added: ``The AAUP is not a government entity. It's not an accrediting entity. It's a union. I think that should be taken into account in assessing the validity of the opinion.''
* Genshaft's best course is to let Al-Arian return to his computer science position by fall, Van Alstyne wrote. He included eight points Genshaft could use in explaining such a move to trustees, such as that the concerns over public safety have passed.
Genshaft said she will make a decision by August. The story keeps moving, she said, with developments such as law enforcement's confirmed investigation of Al-Arian.
Al-Arian, meanwhile, draws his $67,500 salary and waits for resolution. His attorney, Bob McKee, said he hopes the AAUP report will help show USF it should reconsider.
``From a legal perspective, it has no bearing,'' McKee said. ``From a political perspective, it carries a lot of weight.''
Reporter Ben Feller can be reached at (813) 259-8285.
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