Alarms and Investigations
Wednesday, March 20, was a very busy day.
Customs agents raided fourteen targets in Virginia, including the offices of
International Institute of Islamic Thought,
which had ties to Al-Arian's World Islamic Studies Enterprise (WISE) and
Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), back in 1995, before WISE and ICP
The raids were conducted by a task force insituted to pursue financial ties
to terrorist organizations.
This was news, but it was news in which the non-local press found Al-Arian
to have a rather small part:
At the Mar. 20 Faculty Senate meeting, USF/UFF President Roy Weatherford
reminded the Senate of the limited scope of UFF's involvement:
``If he [Al-Arian] has engaged in misdeeds in his private life, that's his
problem ... if the university proceeds against him without due process and
just cause, its a terrible precedent.''
Later that day, he would explain to FOX 13 that, ``What we oppose is the
Administration trying to fire Al-Arian without just cause and without due
He went on to point out the difference between having suspicions on the one
hand, and proving specific charges on the other.
The fall-out after the raids began immediately.
On Mar. 21, Agence France Presse reported that
*US Muslim community outraged by raids..., and that the raids had
been conducted under the authority of the Patriot Act.
On Mar. 23, Agence France Presse reported that
*the Muslim World League denounced the raids.
League secretary-general Abdullah al-Turki strongly denied that the League,
based in Mecca and one of the targets of the raids, has any links with
On Mar. 22, the New York Times ran an AP story saying that
Muslim Groups Criticize Raids,
quoting Jason Erb of the Council on American-Islamic Relations saying,
``The Muslim community is deeply concerned about what appears to be a
fishing expedition by federal authorities using McCarthy-like tactics in a
search for evidence of wrongdoing that does not exist.''
In the Mar. 22 Oracle, Al-Arian said
``This is an orchestrated campaign that has been waged against us for many
The Mar. 22 Washington Times said that
Officials say raids were fair while Muslim activists said that they
In the Mar. 22 St. Petersburg Times, the raids were denounced by Muslim
a war on Muslim institutions.
On Mar. 28, the London Financial Times reporter Nancy Dunne said that
US Muslims see their American dreams die, and quoted one Muslim
saying, ``As a community we feel hurt. Our kids are afraid to sleep at
This article was denounced as ``a piece of terrorist propaganda'' by
Christopher Caldwell in his April 8 article
*Propaganda by the Column Inch; The Financial Times ``seems to many'' like
an apologist for terror.
Its a bird! Its a plane! Its ...
On March 20, same day of the first raids, John Loftus, President of the
Florida Holocaust Museum,
filed a law suit against Al-Arian, while complaining about foot-dragging
in the department of Justice.
Loftus filed the suit under Florida consumer protection law, which provides
for a donor to sue a charity for financial irregularities: Loftus donated
a few dollars to Al-Arian in March and then filed suit for financial
misconduct allegedly occuring many years ago.
(Mr. Loftus has
posted many legal documents on this suit.)
The April 2 story on the Loftus Suit in The Washington Times is entitled,
Clinton White House axed terror-fund probe,
although Hillary does not appear to be involved.
On Mar. 20, the Associated Press reported that
*Tampa lawsuit accuses professor, Saudis of supporting terror.
Also on Mar. 20, Foxnews posted an AP story not posted in Lexis saying that
Lawsuit Accuses Saudis of Terror Support.
The Mar. 21 Oracle said in
Museum president sues Al-Arian
that Loftus claimed that Al-Arian and the Saudis were conspiring against
The Mar. 21 St. Petersburg Times said that
Suit labels Al-Arian terrorist fundraiser: A former federal lawyer accuses
the USF professor of using charities to finance Mideast terrorists
the Times ran a
profile of Loftus on Mar. 22.
On Mar. 28, the Times ran a story on how
Flaws in Al-Arian suit raise doubts, saying that, ``Errors of fact and
spelling, plus a reliance on confidential sources, may weaken the lawsuit
against the professor.''
On Mar. 21, John Loftus and Al-Arian's attorney Robert McKee appeared on
*The O'Reilly Factor, and Loftus said, ``What I did was I told the CIA
and the Justice Department back on March 11, I'm going to give you a
deadline or I'm going to expose the entire case. Now the night before I
filed the case, the Justice Department asked me to give him a few more
hours, because they were going to go ahead with the raids.'' So Loftus
said he very kindly waited until the following morning.
The Mar. 27 - Apr. 2
ran a 2-column edition of their Discomfort Zone:
Fawn Germer does not know what is true, and is very wary of all sides.
John Sugg delves into Loftus's history and calls the suit a smear.
In the Apr. 3 - Apr. 9
John Sugg ran another expose of Loftus's past, contacting some of
Loftus's old acquaintances in the Justice Department to get
In the same issue, Loftus wrote a Letter to the Editor saying that (a)
Sugg was relying on news stories known to be false and (b) that Sugg
screamed at him over the phone.
Loftus concluded by accusing Sugg of acting ``with malice and reckless
disregard for the truth,'' and the Planet got in the last word with,
``The Planet and Mr. Sugg respectfully disagree with Mr. Loftus.''
In the Apr. 17 - 23 Weekly Planet, Loftus sent in
By now, people were coming to this campus --- and to other campuses --- to
speak about this issue (and related issues).
On Mar. 26, the St. Petersburg Times ran a story on a
Transcript quotes Al-Arian's comments at rallies: It translates a 13-minute
videotape of Al-Arian and other speakers at pro-Palestinian events from 1988
This tape was seized by the FBI, and curiously the Times gives no hint on
how it got the transcript.
On Mar. 28,
the Times editorialized that, ``It would be premature for Genshaft to
make a final determination on Al-Arian before the FBI does.''
On Mar. 28, an attorney for Mazen al-Najjar (Al-Arian's detained
Professor David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center, spoke
on ``Free Speech, Academic Freedom and Civil Liberties in post September
His talk was sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, and was announced
in the Mar. 28 Oracle article
First amendment expert to analyze Al-Arian's case.
At the talk, Cole spoke about the detention and pressure on immigrants,
focussing on Al-Arian and Al-Majjar.
In the talk, Cole said:
His talk was reported in the Mar. 29 Oracle article
Cole condemns university action against Al-Arian.
Of the case of Al-Arian's family ``... is a microcosm for what has changed
since Sept. 11.''
``Universities play an essential role in the free and open dialogue that
is necessary in a free and open society.''
The irony is that USF is sacrificing the academic freedom that the
Meanwhile, on April 4, the (Chapel Hill) Herald-Sun reported in
*Professor: Rights of Arab Americans, Muslims in peril that
Al-Arian spoke at the University of North Carolina on April 3, where he
spoke on the harassment of Muslims in America.
In the April 4 (UNC-Chapel Hill) Chronicle article on
Al-Arian discusses security, liberty, Al-Arian is quoted as asking,
``Is the majority willing to sacrifice the rights of the minority for
John Loftus, President of the Florida Holocaust Museum, who filed a lawsuit
against Al-Arian (see below), gave a talk at the Marshall Center
Ballroom on April 8, as announced in the April 8 Oracle story
Terrorism: then and now: Holocaust expert who sued Sami Al-Arian will
discuss past atrocities and present turmoil.
In the April 8 story, a spokesperson for Hillel, which had invited Loftus
before the suit was filed, said that she hoped that ``the focus is
Vain hope, for as the Oracle reported on April 9 in the story
Loftus lambasts Al-Arian,
Loftus spent enough time on Al-Arian to fill 43 column inches (including
a 30-minute video tape), in which Loftus said that Al-Arian is ``one of
the worst villains on the face of the Earth.''
Loftus claimed that Al-Arian ran an immense money-laundering operation
and that if Al-Arian had been incarcerated, ``we might have saved the
Exactly how an alleged operation shut down in 1995 was connected to Sept.
11 was unclear.
On April 4, the (University of Florida) Iguana reported that
Fired USF professor to speak on Civil Rights in America after September
11, and on April 11, the (University of Florida) Alligator reported
that Al-Arian said that
Media incited anti-Islam backlash, adding that on Sept. 26, the day
he appeared on O'Reilly's Spin Factor, when he got home there was a death
waiting for him on his voice mail.
USF Alumnus Michael Godey said of the suspension, ``But, hey, it's Tampa.''
On April 12, the Associated Press covered a
*protest in front of Tampa City Hall, featuring statements by Al-Arian
on the Israeli-Palesting conflict.
Al-Arian appeared less prominently in the
April 13 story in the St. Petersburg Times and even less in the
*April 13 story in the Tampa Tribune
As the semester approached an end, it was time to look backwards at the
affair, and perhaps speculate on what is to come.
The semester was winding down, and everyone is rushing around trying to get
things done by The Day Grades Are Due, May 3, so unsurprisingly, less is
Nevertheless, on April 24,
listed this site as 7th out of ``about 3,650'' on ``al-arian.''
The April 2 Oracle reported that
Al-Arian's departure left students academically unstable, with students
saying that his class was disrupted when instructors were switched in
mid-semester, and two graduate students had their programs disrupted.
Yet on April 3, the Oracle reported that
Interest in USF high despite Al-Arian case: niether undergraduate
enrollment nor job searches for administrators seem to have been impacted
by the controversy.
And on April 4, the Oracle reported that
The fluctuation in financial support to the university isn't totally
caused by the Sami Al-Arian controversy, officials say: donations
are down, but that is partly because of the economy and anthrax fears about
USF Foundations BP Vicki Mitchell said that, ``the magnitude of impact was
created by reporters who don't understand fund raising.''
She didn't mention that it was the Board of Trustees that brought up the
whole subject of impact on donations.
On April 8, the Oracle ran a story,
Threats subsiding over time: Police say death threats have decreased since
the original airing of Sami Al-Arian's O'Reilly Factor, recapitulating
the original threat, and follow-up apology, phoned to the Computer Science
On April 9, the Oracle ran a story on how
University officials around the state say Sami Al-Arian's case calls for a
In this story there were comparisons with the case of the late FSU
psychology professor Glayde Whitney, who had claimed that African
Americans were intellectually inferior and even wrote the forward
for a book by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Whitney, a
tenured professor, was not subjected to any formal discipline.
On April 19, the Socialist Worker interviewed Al-Arian, in which he said
``This is like fighting ghosts''.
He also said ``This is an orchestrated political campaign by people who
would like to settle political scores, and they found an opening after
On April 23, the Oracle talked to Alvin Wolfe of the USF Group for
Phi Beta Kappa on how
Censure could cost USF, and while a ``Phi Beta Kappa official says the
university shouldn't even apply for its honor if censured by the AAUP, but
USF administrators say talks of censure are premature.''
On April 25, the Tampa Tribune talked to William Van Alstyne of the AAUP
about his impression that he
Sees USF Shift On Al-Arian (notice error in headline).
The article said that Genshaft, ``... 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.''
On April 26, the St. Petersburg Times also ran a story on the AAUP
Team report, in which Team Chair William Van Alstyne claimed that
Genshaft wavering on Al-Arian's fate.
Like the Tribune article, the Times quoted USF spokesman Michael Riech's
comment on the AAUP: ``We will not let some union dictate what we will
On April 26, at 9 pm, Tampa's big PBS station WEDU's program
Tampa Bay Week
had as one of its topics Will Al-Arian Teach Again at USF?
From the four panelists:
Former State Representative of Tampa Mary Figg observed that, ``one of the
problems is that Al-Arian is not a sympathetic figure, at least on public
Tampa Tribune Editorial Writer Joe Brown compared Al-Arian's case to that
of Pete Rose, and said that if Al-Arian violated the contract, Genshaft
should say how.
HCC Professor & McBride for Governor Campaign Treasurer Liana Fox said
that while we are more security conscious since Sept. 11, campus safety
has always been a serious issue.
USF/UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford said that, ``every day that
goes by without actual notification of dismissal is a sign that [Genshaft]
is less sure than before ...''
He also recalled getting death threats during the civil rights era, and
warned that using reception of threats as a ground for dismissal will
only encourage troublemakers to make threats in order to get unpopular
A Third USF/UFF Freedom Forum on the Johns Committee
The UFF sponsored a third Freedom Forum, on The Johns Committee in
Florida and at USF on Thursday, April 25, at 4 pm, in the Grace Allen
Room in the USF main library.
As this was important oral history, it was taped: copies will eventually
be available at the
USF University Media Center.
It began with a video produced at the University of Florida,
Behind Closed Doors,
on the origins of the Johns Committee (the crippling bus boycott in
Tallahassee in 1956, the Legislative Committee under Charlie Johns,
its humiliating failure to corner the NAACP, its pursuit of alleged
communists, and then onto its more successful mission of hunting
With USF/UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford moderating, the meeting
then moved to a panel discussion, and on the panel was:
Charlie Arnade, Distinguished Professor of Governmental and International
Affairs, who appeared before the Johns Committee three times, and
has been at USF since 1961.
Jim Schnur, of the USF-Bayboro (St. Petersburg) Poynter Library,
who did his master's thesis on the Johns Committee (as well as
a shorter piece,
Cold warriors in the hot sunshine: USF and the Johns Committee
(in .pdf), in the Sunland Tribune.
Flora Zbar, Professor of English, who arrived at USF in 1965 and
had some stories to tell of the aftermath.
There was an open-mike session for Questions & Answers & Reminescences,
with tales of policemen taking license plate numbers of cars parked outside
Unitarian meetings, tales of hostility from an old Tampa (loyal to and
jealous for the University of Tampa) towards the new university, tales of
the tendency of university administrations to take controversial actions
during vacations, tales of how USF was censured by the AAUP (and the
aftermath, when conversations at academic conferences featured questions
about What Is Going On In USF?), and, inevitably, comparisons with current
A Resolution from Friends in CUNY
On April 25, the Executive Council and Delegate Assembly of the
Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York,
American Federation of Teachers Local 2334, passed a
Resolution in Support of the United Faculty of Florida Chapter
at the University of South Florida in Tampa, stating that
``... WHEREAS, this threat to academic freedom and the First
Amendment has all the hallmarks of a politically motivated
attack on the personal views of a member of the university
community uttered extramurally ... THEREFORE, be it resolved,
that we join in solidarity with them in their struggle (and
donate $100 in support of their efforts) ...''.
USF/UFF is grateful to our brothers & sisters up north for their
Commencement was on May 4, 5.
There are in fact several commencement ceremonies, for it would take a
football field to hold the entire class of 2002.
And then there is a lull of several weeks between the end of the Spring
semester and the beginning of Summer Session A.
Usually, this lull is marked by little observable activity other than
construction here and there.
But news does not stop, just for Summer.
On May 5, the St. Petersburg Times ran a guest column by Kathleen Ochshorn,
Professor of English at the University of Tampa, on a
*Cautionary tale of past USF censure,
about how after the AAUP censured USF, the USF Administration was
spooked by external pressure into firing an untenured faculty member,
a Robert Stevenson, who had had the temerity to help organize a protest
against St. Leo College Commencement Speaker Melvin Laird.
In the ensuing court case, USF lost and paid damages of $ 7,500.
Promoting Responsibility In Middle-East Reporting, a local organization,
has been pushing a
Petition to President Genshaft
calling on her to ``... remain steadfast in [her] decision to dismiss Sami
The Petition states that Al-Arian should be dismissed because of ``his
inflammatory speech and verifiable links to terrorists'' and complains
that he has ``single handedly caused the shameful label `Jihad University'
to be bestowed'' on USF.
(Of course, it was NOT Al-Arian who bestowed that label, but anyway ...)
PRIMER President Norman Gross announced that on May 7,
he will present BOT Chairman Richard Beard, or at least his office, with a
box of 14,800 signatures.
The May 7 Tampa Tribune reported that
Petition Urges Al-Arian Firing, while in the May 7 St. Petersburg
Thousands support firing Al-Arian, Beard said, ``We are grateful for
the support and overwhelmed by the effort. It shows a strong level of
commitment by those who signed,'' while Al-Arian's attorney Robert McKee
reminded reporters that the issue is a question of law, not popularity.
Meanwhile, Al-Arian's brother-in-law, detained on a 180-day deportation
order issued Nov. 24, has lawyers arguing that the 180 days are up and
he should be deported or released.
This story was reported in
*the May 14 Associated Press,
the May 15 St. Petersburg Times, and
the May 16 Oracle.
On June 3, National Public Radio ran a story
*Palestinian man fights for release from jail in the US while the INS works
to deport him, on al-Arian's efforts to aid his brother-in-law
Mazen Al-Najjar, who is in solitary confinement, detained on orders from
the INS, based on secret evidence.
After a quiet May, a noisier June.
Former USF adjunct Ramadan Shallah, now ``Secretary-General'' of Islamic Jihad,
stepped forward to claim ... credit ... for his share of the chaos in Israel.
Shallah had worked for one of Al-Arian's organizations, WISE, before leaving
and later surfacing (much to the surprise of USF and all involved intelligence
agencies) in Islamic Jihad in 1995: in fact, it is this job change that
was the original focus of the investigations by USF (which found no evidence
of any wrongdoing by Al-Arian) and the FBI (which is still investigating
whatever it is still investigating).
On June 7, Fox News
*interviewed John Loftus, who is suing Al-Arian.
Loftus claimed that Al-Arian was a co-founder of Islamic Jihad, and is the
current head of its American branch.
Al-Arian is not his only target, for he makes a number of other serious
charges, including the claim that prior to Sept. 11, ``at the highest levels
in Washington, they were not allowing people to connect the dots''
[emphasis added], and he launches perhaps the five zillionth conspiracy
theory involving the planned Afghan pipeline.
On June 8, Committee A on Academic Freedom for the American Association of
University Professors released
an interim statement
on the history of the AAUP's involvement in the controversy, and the status
of its current (incomplete) investigation.
Committee A reported that the, ``investigating committee believes that
Professor Al-Arian's statements fell well within the ambit of academic
Other currently pending charges against Professor Al-Arian have been
characterized by the investigating committee as too insubstantial to warrant
serious consideration as adequate cause for dismissal.''
Perhaps to make the point more clear, there is a link on the News Release
page dated March 7 labelled,
``University of South Florida - Media Background: What is Censure?''
This prompted a buzz of press bees:
a contributing editor to
reported in a column on
Patriotism in academia
that at the
May 31 - June 2 Conference
National Association of Scholars,
that there was a ... spirited exchange ... between Boston Attorney Harvey
Silverglate, co-director of the libertarian
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on one side, versus author
Ronald Radosh and
Middle East Forum
director Daniel Pipes on the other
(Ms Young did not mention which side University of Chicago Professor Cass
Sunstein was on).
The positions of Radosh and Pipes were a bit tangled, albeit essentially
sort of in favor of doing something about Al-Arian, while the more focussed
Silverglate defended free expression.
Interestingly, Radosh brought up the problem of Joe McCarthy labelling
dissidents as ``traitors,'' and worried about similarities with current
The announced theme of this conference was ``Higher Education and Democracy in
Peace and War.''
On June 11, Loftus's suit against Al-Arian was dismissed; he was given twenty
days to resubmit.