By Alex Constantine
"The first prisoner [at Guantinimo] formally charged with committing war
crimes was 34 year-old Yemeni Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's
driver.... His military-appointed attorney Navy Lieutenant Commander Charlie
Swift questioned the suitability of four members of the panel judging him,
contending they had PERSONAL CONNECTIONS WITH THE 9/11 ATTACKS and the
subsequent war on terror' and as such, would be prone to partiality...."
- News wires, August 29, 2004
"Any terrorist offence is the result of an intelligence failure..."
- Indian Intelligence Official
Two months after the horror show in Manhattan, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for the records of the Holy Land Foundation. The same day, federal agents froze the assets of InfoCom Corp., an Internet provider in Richardson, Texas. Both companies relocated to Richardson and opened on opposite sides of the street at the same time. InfoCom had been raided five days before the WTC meltdown.
When a platoon of 80 federal officers pulled the plug, 500 websites crashed.1
Agents of the FBI, Secret Service, INS, IRS and multiple branches of law enforcement pored over the company's files and copied every hard disk on the premises for four days.
The charity and the Net provider were symbiotic. Ghassan Elashi, marketing vice president of InfoCom, was chairman of the Holy Land Foundation, a faith-based terrorist front, the government charged, represented by the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. After the raid on the foundation, the Boston Herald hit on the fact that the charity was represented by "a powerful Washington, D.C. law firm" appended to the Bush White House, one that had "earned hefty fees representing controversial Saudi billionaires as well as a Texas-based Islamic charity fingered last week as a terrorist front." Akin, Gump has handled the knotty legal affairs of three wealthy Saudi businessmen (Khalid bin Mahfouz, Salah Idris and Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi) who are key suspects in the financing of Al Qaeda's war.
Partners at Akin, Gump include James C. Langdon, a close friend of G.W. Bush, and George R. Salem, chairman of the Republican party's Arab outreach program in the 2000 campaign; also Barnett A. "Sandy" Kress, a former Dallas School Board president, appointed by Bush to a post as an unpaid consultant on education policy to the White House.
This firm, the Herald reported, keeps "an office in Riyadh and is a registered foreign agent of the Saudis. It was paid $77,328 in lobbying fees by the Saudis during the first six months of 2000, public records show."1
In 1999, Saudi authorites placed bin Mahfouz under house arrest after the discovery that his bank, National Commercial, "funneled millions to charities believed to be serving as bin Laden fronts. One of his business partners, Al-Amoudi, was represented by Akin Gump." After the press reported in 1999 that the Feds were also investigating Al-Amoudi's Capitol Trust Bank, Akin Gump quickly issued a press release on behalf of their client denying any connections to terrorism. The denial crumbled, though, when it was reported that a year before, Akin Gump had co-sponsored "an investment conference in Ethiopia with Al-Amoudi."2
Attorneys are paper mercenaries in the ditches in a strategy-of-tensions war engineered for profit and the advancement of "conservative" geopolitical aims.
When the victims and survivors of 911 filed a trillion-dollar lawsuit against the Saudi ruling family, the kingdom assembled an immense legal team to deflect the accusations.
Newsweek's web site reports: "Their opening defense salvo in what promises to be a bruising legal battle was fired last week when a trio of lawyers from Baker Botts, a pricey and prestigious Houston-based legal firm, filed a motion on behalf of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi defense minister."
The defense fell back on a claim of diplomatic immunity and motioned to dismiss. But in documenting their motion, the Baker-Botts team "presented highly detailed new evidence of the Saudi government's role in funneling millions of dollars to a web of Islamic charities that are widely suspected by U.S. officials of covertly financing the operations of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups."
The Sultan's right honorable and learned legal defense attorneys were paid millions of dollars in retainers. They brought along piles of affidavits and cancelled checks, admitting in a brief that His Highness had contributed over $2 million to the International Islamic Relief Organization, a Saudi charity raided by federal agents, and disbursed a total of $52,000 in grants to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, yet another organization on the FBI's charitable-front blacklist.3
Former Secretary of State James Baker is a senior partner at the Sultan's legal firm. Robert Jordan, one of President Bush's personal attorneys, is U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Some legal firms retained by the Saudis in the 911 families' suit:
• Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering/Prince Mohammed al Faisal
• Kellog, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans/Prince Turki al Faisal
• Jones, Day/the Binladin Group
• Ropes & Grey/Khaled bin Mahfouz
• White & Case/the Al-Rajhi Banking Group
• King & Spalding/the Arab Bank and Youssef Nada
• Fulbright & Jaworski/Nimir Petroleum.4
Meanwhile, in Guantanamo, the Defense Department's prosecutorial kangaroos oversaw a tribunal that has drawn fire from human rights activists since the word "detainee" was first breathed by Donald Rumsfeld. On June 12, 2004, New York Times Magazine ran a feature on Naval Lt. Commander Charles Swift, a defense attorney appointed by the Defense Department to represent the accused at the Cuban tribunal.
Swift and his legal team submitted a provocative friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court, the Times' Jonathan Mahler reported, "in which, among other things, they compared their commander in chief, President Bush, to the villain of the American Revolution, King George III."
In April, Swift took it the next step - he filed a suit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush in a Seattle federal courtroom, arguing that the tribunal for his client - still not charged or given a trial date - violates the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.4
"An optimist by nature," Mahler noted, "Swift was inclined to believe that the post-9/11 military-tribunal process would be fair. But over the course of the spring last year, as the Defense Department continued to define the workings of the military tribunals, his hopefulness began to fade." Swift was told that hearsay was permissable in court. He could only file appeals to the four-member review panel selected by Rumsfeld.
"What is more, the Defense Department (in effect, the prosecution) was not only defining the crimes worthy of trial by military tribunal but also doing so only after hundreds of suspects were already in custody and had been repeatedly interrogated.
"It was like a Monty Python movie," Swift said. "The government had this wonderful suit of armor, a lance and a sword. And I had been given a sharp stick..."5
1) Maggie Mulvihill, "White House Connection - "Saudi Agents Close to Bush," Boston Herald, December 12, 2001. On September 7, 2004, UK's Register reported that the FBI "suspected that the Holy Land Foundation was being used to filter money through to Middle East terrorists and so shut it down." The proprietors were arrested "on 18 December 2002 on charges of dealing illegally with Mousa abu Marzook and illegally exporting computer equipment and technology to Libya and Syria."
2) See, The Guardian, Sept. 10, 2001.
3) Anon., "A Legal Counterattack," http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3067906/
5) The Guantanimobile Project, Newswatch web page, "Military Lawyer Files Suit Against Tribunal System," August 29, 2004