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Relentless Terrorism Prosecutor Faces Accusations of His Own

The Washington Post

By: Jerry Markon
September 14, 2008

Sami Al-Arian one of the nation's most prominent terrorism defendants, was about to be released into his daughter's custody to await a new trial on contempt charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg protested, saying that "in this particular culture," a woman could not prevent her father from fleeing.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema lashed out at the prosecutor, calling his remark about the Muslim family insulting. Earlier, she had chastised Kromberg for changing a boilerplate immunity order beyond the language spelled out by Congress and questioned whether Arian's constitutional rights had been violated.

"I'm not in any respect attributing evil motives or anything clandestine to you, but I think it's real scary and not wise for a prosecutor to provide an order to the Court that does not track the explicit language of the statutes, especially this particular statute," Brinkema said at the hearing in the Alexandria courtroom.

Kromberg, 51, is in many ways the quintessential post-Sept. 11 prosecutor, a relentless interrogator and sophisticated lawyer who has won convictions in high-profile terrorism cases. But he has been dogged by a pattern of controversial comments and actions that some Muslims say reflects bias against their faith. Those allegations have swirled on the Internet, in the halls of the Alexandria federal courthouse and in sworn affidavits by defense attorneys, who say Kromberg joked about a suspect being tortured, improperly confronted another suspect in public and decried "the Islamization of the American justice system."

Defenders of the fast-talking New York native say he has a tough-but-fair style that keeps Americans safe and reflects the Bush administration's aggressive approach to fighting terrorism. They expressed frustration that Arian's supporters, who have mounted an international campaign for his release, have made a career prosecutor the issue almost as much as the convicted terrorism supporter whose testimony he is pursuing.

"Gordon is very effective and professional," said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal terrorism prosecutor. "As long as nothing goes boom, they want to say you're an Islamophobe. The moment something does go boom, if the next 9/11 happens, God help anyone who says they weren't as aggressive as Gordon."

Defense lawyers and legal ethicists argue that Kromberg's comments and actions, if true, crossed the line. "He's a loose cannon," said Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University Law School who reviewed court documents in the Arian case. "If I were the Justice Department, I wouldn't want him on the front lines of these highly visible, highly contentious prosecutions."

Through a spokesman, Kromberg declined to comment.

The tensions surrounding Kromberg burst into public view during the Aug. 8 hearing for Arian, who is charged with refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating whether Islamic charities in Northern Virginia were financing terrorists. The prosecutor arose in the crowded courtroom, accused his critics of "venomous, hateful, anti-Semitic attacks" and cited a rally in the District last month at which a former U.S. senator from Alaska told Arian supporters to "find out where [Kromberg] lives."

"Find out where his kids go to school. Find out where his office is. Picket him . . . call him a racist," said Mike Gravel, who ran for the Democratic nomination for president this year, according to an audiotape.

An NYU Law School graduate who worked as a military defense attorney for the Army in the 1980s, Kromberg was using cutting-edge legal tactics before Sept. 11, 2001. After joining the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria in 1993, the wiry, quick-witted prosecutor became an expert in forfeiture -- seizing money and property gained from crime.

He highlighted his approach during a 1999 speech at the Cato Institute in Washington, saying the government should seek the assets of drug dealers even if they are not charged. "Does that mean you should just walk away and let the activity continue? . . . Not if you want to punish the defendant in some way short of prosecuting him," he said, according to a videotape.

During the 1990s, Kromberg helped the government seize fees defense attorneys had received from drug dealers, an uncommon tactic that led to denunciations from defense lawyers nationwide. William Moffitt, who lost one of those cases, called Kromberg "a very good prosecutor and a very smart man."

But Moffitt, who also has represented Arian, said Kromberg "clearly has a bias. Some of his statements indicate that he's stepped over the line with regard to Muslims."

In 2003, Kromberg was asked by a defense lawyer whether Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a Falls Church man held in a Saudi prison amid allegations he was being tortured, would be brought to the United States to face charges.

Kromberg responded: "He's no good for us here. He has no fingernails left," according to an affidavit filed in court by the lawyer, Salim Ali. Abu Ali was later convicted of plotting with al-Qaeda to kill President Bush. Salim Ali, who moved to Kuwait several years ago, could not be located but told a reporter in 2004 that he stood by the affidavit.

Paul J. McNulty, who was U.S. attorney at the time, said he never saw any sign of bias and praised Kromberg for "selflessly devoting himself to preventing terrorism through enforcement of the law. He is aggressive, but in an appropriate way." The current U.S. attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, called Kromberg a "dedicated, talented and scrupulously fair prosecutor," and added that decisions on whether to prosecute cases are "based strictly on the facts and the law and in the pursuit of justice, period."

Kromberg's highest-profile case since joining the office's new terrorism unit after Sept. 11 was what prosecutors called the "Virginia jihad network," 11 Muslim men convicted on such charges as preparing for holy war by, among other things, playing paintball. Justice officials hailed it as a classic post-Sept. 11 case of prevention, but civil libertarians and some Muslims said it targeted Muslim men.

But the Arian case escalated the tension. Arian pleaded guilty to one count of supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Tampa in 2006 after a federal jury acquitted him or deadlocked on other counts. The judge who sentenced Arian to 57 months in prison called Arian a "master manipulator" who had been a "leader" of the terrorist group.

Kromberg sought Arian's testimony in the Islamic charities probe and refused to delay his appearance until after the Muslim holiday of Ramadan because, he said, that would aid the "Islamization" of the courts, according to an affidavit filed by one of Arian's attorneys, Jack Fernandez.

"They can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury. All they can't do is eat before sunset," Kromberg said in the 2006 conversation, according to the affidavit.

"I have no clue what's in Gordon Kromberg's heart," Fernandez said. "It struck me as intemperate. More emotion than you'd want in a prosecutor."

Arian's attorneys seized on that reported comment, accusing Kromberg of bias and filing a motion to dismiss the contempt indictment for "selective prosecution." Arian's attorney at the Aug. 8 hearing, Jonathan Turley, declined to comment. Arian was released this month into his daughter's custody. His trial has been delayed indefinitely.

The lawyers also filed a sworn affidavit from Arian saying Kromberg approached him at a meeting of the American Muslim Council in Alexandria in 2002, when he was an investigative target but had not been charged. The affidavit says Kromberg refused to shake Arian's hand, telling him "you have blood on your hands." After Kromberg apologized, he spoke to Arian for an hour, discussing the federal probe and asking about his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Arian wrote.

Kromberg declined to comment. Ethics rules restrict a prosecutor from speaking to the target of an investigation without his attorneys present, and lawyers said that rarely happens.

Gillers, the legal ethics professor, said Kromberg's reported comments and actions show a "groupthink" view of Muslims that constitutes bias. "You can't make generalizations about people in our courts simply because they are a member of a particular racial, religious or ethnic group," he said. "It's not allowed."

The current dispute in the Arian case centers on the immunity order drafted by Kromberg and signed by a judge. Prosecutors sometimes seek such orders when a witness refuses to testify. Closely tracking a federal law, they are considered boilerplate, almost always saying the witness can be prosecuted for his testimony if he lies, lawyers said.

Kromberg acknowledged in court that he changed that wording, expanding the categories for which Arian could be prosecuted, based on his testimony, to obstruction of justice and crimes he might later commit. Defense attorneys and the judge said that could violate Arian's Fifth Amendment rights against incriminating himself, and the defense is asking Brinkema to dismiss the indictment.

Kromberg argued that his order gives defendants more protection and warning because courts have allowed prosecutions for obstruction and future crimes, despite the federal statute. He acknowledged that his action was unique because "most of my colleagues haven't thought about it and haven't researched it."

Justice Department officials said they hadn't known about the wording change. But they are strongly backing Kromberg, telling Brinkema in a court filing last week that Kromberg's order "only provides accurate information" to a witness and "does not infringe any of his rights in any way."

Link: Click here

Documents & Releases

Statement of Chairs of American Muslim Task-Force on Civil Rights and Elections  (AMT) and  Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Howard Zinn Statement on Professor Al-Arian

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SPOTLIGHT

March 2000

December 2005alarian.jpg

January 2009

To be patriotic is to be able to question government policy in times of crisis.
To be patriotic is to stand up for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in times of uncertainty and insecurity.
To be patriotic is to  speak up against the powerful in defense of the weak and the voiceless.
To be patriotic is to be willing to pay the price to preserve our freedoms, dignity, and rights.
To be patriotic is to
challenge the abuses of the PATRIOT Act.
From a speech by Dr. Al-Arian
9/1/2002

Biography---

UFF Summary: Al-Arian and USF

Poetry

Announcement of Book: The Al-Arian Reader

A new compilation of all relevant articles to be released soon by the National Liberty Fund

Selected Poems
by Sami Al-Arian

We Shall Rise

To Maya Angelou
Like the dream of the slave
You rise
And with the scream of the brave
I shall rise
In honoring the memory of your ancestors
You rise
With my stateless brothers and sisters
I shall rise
Like dust in the sunlight
You rise
And as ashes in a fiery night
I shall rise
You offend
Because of your existence
And I
For my resistance
You upset them
Recalling their past
And I
By holding steadfast
They may trod you in dirt
May cause me all the hurt
Inflict upon you excruciating pain
While they shut me up and detain
By they won't see you broken
Neither would my faith be forsaken
As you've never bowed your head
And never lowered your eyes
I'll continue to raise my fist
And hide my mother's cries
They may shoot you with their words
Cut me up with their swords
They may insult you with their eyes
Denigrate me with their lies
Trying to kill you with their hate
Bury me alive to seal my fate
But they'd certainly
Be shamed and fail
As the free chant and sing
On their march to prevail
So keep your head held high
As I follow you and try
And keep your beautiful smile
As I walk my first mile
They'll pressure and blame
Throw us in prison to control and tame
They'll exile and defame
Lynch us all or shoot and maim
Burn crosses with no shame
Target our children in a dirty game
By why is that a surprise?
Despite their evil and terror
Their falsehood and lies
You shall rise
And I shall rise
You're the black ocean
Leaping and wide
I'm the Mediterranean
With a stormy tide
Staying together
Side by side
It's no surprise
We shall rise
Surely shall rise
We together shall rise
No Longer Afraid
For us to feel "secure"
What price is being paid?
If living in freedom
Why are we afraid?
Fear is everywhere
All around
Perhaps irrational
But without any bound
You can see it on our faces
Sense it in our eyes
You can hear it in our whispers
Feel it in our cries
More>>No Longer Afraid
The Bird and The Vulture
The bird was chirping
In a house on a tree
But the vulture was angry
Because it was free
When the bird is singing
The vulture ain't safe
More>>The Bird and The Vulture
The Smile of Freedom
He looked like
A body-builder
Tall, tough, and full
All muscles and no fat
His mind was simple
Suited to follow orders
No questions asked
Acting mean and mechanical
Like any bureaucrat
More>>The Smile ...
In the Name of Freedom
In the name of freedom
We shall rule the world
To spread democracy
And set you free
In the name of freedom
We’ll descend on you
To make you civilized
Modern and orderly
More>>In the Name ...
The Accused: Franz Kafka Meets George Orwell in 21st Century America
Act I: The Mother of all Evidence
Act II- Weapons of Mass Deception
Act III: Silencing of the Lambs
Act IV: Attacks of the Wolves
Act V: Occupied Territory
Act VI: Police State
Act VII: Official Obituary
Act VIII: A Close Encounter of the Scariest Kind
Act IX: The Inquisition
Act X- Conspiracy Theory
Act XI- Secret Trials
Act XII- Silent Pain and Teary Eyes
Act XIII- True Patriot Acts
Do Not Sign
Rights are not for sale
History is not kind
On those who sell their people out,
Betray their cause,
Surrender their land
To tow the line
Do not sign
More>>Do Not Sign
Rachel Corrie: Daughter of Palestine
The most gentle
Amongst all honorable
Women
Had a spirit
As dazzling as
The garden of
Eden
More>>Daughter of Palestine
Ole Jerusalem
O Ole Jerusalem
I feel your pain
I hear your cries
The light thunder
In the darkness
And the heavy rain
I see the steady bleeding
Of your wound
With its mark and stain
More>>Ole Jerusalem
Patrick Henry
A revolutionary
At heart
A patriot
From the start
Loved by his country
To the core
Defended freedom
Even more
Hated arrogance
In shape and tone
Fought tyranny
With every bone
He was the conscience
Of his people
Striking fear in the enemy
And made it feeble
More>> Patrick Henry
Injustice
An overwhelming feeling
Of bitterness
Emptiness
Hopelessness
Helplessness
Sadness
Madness
Of hatred and rage
Trapped in a cage
Disappointment and anger
Continuing to linger
Wounding of dignity
Violating your virginity
More>> Injustice
Political Riddles
He sees the world as black and white
His solution to every quandary is fight with might
The economy will not stimulate
Because he can’t articulate
While jobs are gone
He says, “bring ‘em on.”
Who is he?
He likes to be called the General
The head of an agency that’s federal
If you spit on the sidewalk
He’ll send the Incredible Hulk
He hates to cite truth or fact
Because he’s busy promoting his unpatriotic act
He frequents TV cameras with a smash
The first part of his last name sounds like trash
Who is he?
He is the ideal dutiful poodle they say
From an empire where the sun did not set one day
He adores his cowboy friend and considers him a fan
And insists: I’m nobody’s yes-man
When the cowboy says no, I say no
Who is he?
More>>Political Riddles