Community News (V13-I44)

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Rehan Khan new Northeastern VP

rehankhanBOSTON,MA–Northeastern University provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, Stephen W. Director, has appointed Rehan Khan to become the University’s new vice president and chief information officer. Khan, who begins his new role on Nov. 14, is currently the associate provost and chief information officer at West Virginia University.

In an email to faculty and staff, Director noted that “Rehan will oversee the strategic vision and leadership for Northeastern’s information technology and services that serve as vital components in supporting administrative, academic and leadership functions.”

Khan is also charged with enhancing Information Services to meet the growing needs of the Northeastern community, which relies on its vital services for everything from classroom instruction and research to conducting critical administrative duties.

“In order to attract and retain the best faculty and students and remain competitive in academics and research, it is essential that planning and investments in technology infrastructure remain a high priority,” said Khan. “Technology plays a key role in pedagogy, research, health care and service. I look forward to developing strategies that improve and enhance our services. I am very excited to join Northeastern.”

IS provides central information technology to more than 25,000 students, faculty and staff who use Northeastern’s secure, high-speed connectivity to the Internet through the on-campus network. IS also provides a range of other services, such as wireless connectivity through NUwave, robust high-speed Internet in residence halls, the popular 24/7 InfoCommons computing facility, access to the Blackboard instructional tool, myNEU access and academic and administrative software applications.

At West Virginia University, Khan was responsible for upgrading the institution’s core network to 10G/s, as well as the IT infrastructure in the Colleges of Engineering and Arts and Sciences. He was also responsible for implementing an identity and access management system, a degree audit system, and launching a shared computational high performance computing (HPC) facility.
Prior to West Virginia University, Khan worked at the University of Georgia, Emory University’s School of Medicine, and at Dartmouth Medical School, as well as in several private-sector information services roles.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Massachusetts in 1981, and an MBA from Rivier College in New Hampshire. He was a 2006 Fellow at the Woodruff Leadership Academy at Emory University.

Harvard Muslim students dissatisfied with halal options

CAMBRIDGE,MA–Muslim students at Harvard have expressed their dissatisfaction with the halal options available on campus. The Crimson student newspaper reports that many students have completely given up eating on campus or have switched to a vegetarian diet.

Although Harvard University Dining Services has taken some steps to accommodate Muslims in dining halls, some students say the University could do more.

“The Muslim community is growing. There are many more Muslim students than there were a decade ago, or even five years ago,” says Abdelnasser Rashid ’12, a former president of the Harvard Islamic Society. “That’s something that [Harvard University Dining Services] and HIS should be talking about.”

Dr. Raza Dilawari Remembered

MEMPHIS,TN–Dr. Raza Ali Dilawari was the assistant dean for clinical affairs at the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences and the vice chairman of the department of surgery at Methodist University Hospital. He died Sept. 18, ten days before what would have been his 65th birthday, and was described as the premier surgical oncologist in the MidSouth in the obituary published in the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tenn. Dilawari, a native of Pakistan, practiced surgical oncology and taught in Memphis for 35 years. His areas of academic interest were in the fields of breast cancer, melanoma and hepatobiliary malignancies, and he was the author of more than one hundred peer-reviewed publications, the obit said. He represented University of Tennessee Cancer Institute on the NCCN Melanoma/Thyroid/Colorectal Cancers. Significantly, he was the recipient of the 2005 Living Award from the Methodist Healthcare Foundation. According to the obit: It is not difficult to find Memphians who have a story about how he helped them or a loved one.

13-44

Senate Gives “Audit the Fed” a Unanimous Victory

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By John Nichols

“The Fed can no longer operate in virtual secrecy,” declared Vermont independent Bernie Sanders Tuesday after the Senate voted 96-0 to add his “Audit the Fed” amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill.

The Senate amendment is not as muscular as the bipartisan legislation backed by the House, which was sponsored by Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, an aggressive progressive, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, an equally aggressive conservative with libertarian leanings. The Grayson-Paul bill authorizes audits by the Government Accountability Office of every item on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, including all credit facilities and all securities purchase programs; there would be exemption only for unreleased transcripts, minutes of closed-door meetings and the most recent decisions of the central bank. The Senate measure is narrower in its focus, but it would require the GAO to scrutinize some several trillion dollars in emergency lending that the Fed provided to big banks after the September 2008 economic meltdown.

The actual amount of public money that has been set aside for private banks is not known. That’s one reason why this audit is so important. But there can be no doubt that the figure is astronomical. The Center for Media and Democracy’s Wall Street Bailout Tally shows that since 2008, the U.S. government has flooded Wall Street banks and financial institutions with $4.7 trillion dollars in taxpayer money, mostly in the form of loans from the Fed reserve. The Fed has never told us which firms got these loans and what type of collateral American taxpayers got in return. This will now be revealed. We will also get an accounting of the Fed’s “stealth” bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

Sanders tried to pass a broader amendment, but when he faced roadblocks — and the prospect that audit language might be excluded entirely from the final bill — he agreed to propose an amendment outlining the one-time audit of post-meltdown Fed activity.  That did not sit well with all senators. Even as Republicans such as New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg tried to prevent any demand for transparency, Louisiana Republican David Vitter proposed tougher language along the lines what Grayson and Paul pushed through the House. While most Democrats and a number of Republicans opposed the tougher language, Sanders joined the most serious reformers in the Democratic caucus — Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Washington’s Maria Cantwell, North Dakota’s Byron Dorgan, Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln, Virginia’s Jim Webb and Oregon’s Ron Wyden — in voting “yes.”

The Vitter amendment failed on a 62-37 vote and Feingold was especially disappointed.  “Unfortunately,” the Wisconsin progressive declared, “the defeat of the Vitter amendment means American taxpayers will still not have a complete picture of how one of the most powerful government agencies makes policy and spends their tax dollars.”

Still, Feingold acknowledged that, “Senator Sanders’ amendment will mean more transparency for the Federal Reserve, so the public will have a better idea of how it is spending taxpayer dollars.”

That transparency is consequential, noted Sanders. “Let’s be clear,” he explained, “when trillions of dollars of taxpayer money are being lent out to the largest financial institutions in this country, the American people have a right to know who received that money and what they did with it.  We also need to know what possible conflicts of interest exist involving the heads of large financial institutions who sat in the room helping to make those decisions.”

The “Audit the Fed” language that is included in the final legislation remains to be seen, as the differences between the House and Senate proposals will have to be reconciled by a conference committee. That will provide an opening for Grayson, Paul, Sanders and their allies to push for the broadest possible transparency. But, make no mistake, there will be pushback.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has repeatedly refused to respond to demands from Sanders and others for information about the banks that have been bailed out by the taxpayers — and that continue to pad their accounts with public dollars. President Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their aides are critics of the “Audit the Fed” push, as well.

So why, with so much official opposition, did the “Audit the Fed” movement win a 96-0 vote in the Senate? Campaigners on the left and right made the issue a high priority. A good deal of credit must go to Sanders and Paul — long-time critics of the Fed who opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailouts and then steered anger at those bailouts toward the “Audit the Fed” movement — which was boosted on the left by websites such as Jane Hamsher’s Firedoglake and on the right by the Paul-linked Campaign for Liberty, as well as by outspoken economists such a Dean Baker and watchdog operations such as CMD’s BanksterUSA project.

Ultimately, however, much of the credit must go to Grayson, who embraced Paul’s proposal — which had languished in the House — and led the campaign to get Democrats to sign on to the bill. As Hamsher says, “Tremendous credit goes to Alan Grayson. It was Grayson who decided to take up Ron Paul’s bill and bring Democratic support for it.

Sanders, who took some hits for compromising, also deserves credit at this point for making sure, even when he was forced to trim back on his amendment, that critical elements of the initial proposal by Paul — especially the defined role for the GAO — were retained. That will make it harder for the Obama White House and their allies in the congressional leadership to gut the audit language in the conference committee.

There will, as well, be additional fights:

“While passage of Senator Sanders’ amendment will provide some long overdue accountability and transparency for the Federal Reserve, the overall bill still needs a lot of work,” said Feingold. In particular, Feingold and other real reformers have focused on the need for the bill to restore the firewall between Main Street banks and Wall Street securities firms and insurance companies, which contributed to financial institutions growing “too big to fail.”

While the bipartisan support for auditing the Fed represents a step in the right direction, Feingold is right when he says it is only one step on a long road toward addressing the way in which bad decisions by Congress “led to deregulation and the increased concentration of economic power and economic decision-making.”

John Nichols is Washington DC correspondent for The Nation magazine.

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Reshmaan Hussam, Soros Fellowship Recipient

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

6A12 This is the fourth installment of our series of profiles of Muslim recipients of Paul and Daisy Fellowships.

Reshmaan Hussam  is the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants to this country.  She was born in Virginia and graduated from MIT as a Burchard Scholar (a member of the Institute’s interdisciplinary honors program) in 2009 with a major in economics. She has undertaken empirical and interview-based research on such subjects as teenage pregnancy, dowries and independence of women in financial decisions, and the effects of patriarchy on the implementation of micro-credit.  She has also taken leadership roles in MIT’s interfaith dialogue group and the MIT Muslim Students Association.  She served as a youth columnist for America’s Muslim Family Magazine and an editor of a Cambridge-wide journal on Islam and society, Ascent Magazine. Beginning in the Fall of 2010, she will pursue a PhD in developmental economics.

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Community News (V12-I12)

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Seven Muslims Awarded Soros New American Fellowships for 2010

Soros fellowship There are seven Muslims among thirty awarded of the Soros New American Fellowships for 2010. The awards are granted to high achieveing immigrants or children of immigrants in the United States. The fellowships are funded by income from a $75 million charitable trust created by philanthropists Paul and Daisy Soros, of New York City and New Canaan, Conn. Since its founding, more than $33 million has been spent to support graduate education of immigrants and the children of immigrants.

The Muslim Observer will be publishing the profiles of Muslims each week beginning this issue.

ABDULRASHEED ALABI is the son of supportive Nigerian parents who were seeking advanced degrees in the United States.  He is now pursuing MD and neuroscience PhD degrees at Stanford Medical School.  AbdulRasheed grew up in Nigeria but then returned to the United States to complete an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University where he was, and remains at Stanford, an active member of the Muslim community amongst other activities.  Balancing complex personal and financial responsibilities, he soon made his mark as a young researcher, a student leader, and a civic volunteer.

For three summers, he conducted biomedical research with Dr. Emery Brown at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital culminating in a co-authored article in the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology.  As an Undergraduate Scholar at the National Institutes of Health, he worked with Dr. Kenton Swartz on electrical signaling proteins in the nervous system, research that netted him a first-author article in Nature.  At Stanford he has been leader of the Student National Medical Association and the annual SUMMA (Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance) conference—where over 500 young people are encouraged to consider science and medicine. AbdulRasheed plans on a career as a physician-scientist-public advocate intent on innovative basic science for diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative applications. He also has a defined interest in international scientific exchange for biomedical development and enhanced educational opportunities in Africa.

Jewish students tour Islamic center

HAMPTON,VA–Far from the conflicts a world away efforts are being made in Virginia to bridge the misunderstandings between Muslims and Jews. On a recent Sunday, students from Beth El Temple in Williamsburg visited the Mosque and Islamic Center of Hampton Roads for an educational tour. The two dozen students, their parents and teachers, and their Rabii were given an introductory talk about Islam and the Muslim faith.

The reactions by the grown ups and the children were positive. Rebecca Feltman, 10, was struck by the egalitarian nature of Islam. “I didn’t know Islam was such a popular religion,” she said. “I like that it’s open to different races. I didn’t know that they [Judaism, Christianity, Islam] were so alike.” Esther Shivers, attending with her daughter Erin, 8, was also impressed by the similarities between the religions. “They’re burdened with that terrorism. They have a lot of damage control to do,” she said. “All religions have extremists. We have more in common. It’s wonderful that they open their facility and educate the children.”

12-12

Emails Show bin Laden Was Bush Talking Point, not Target

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Millions of Messages Sent, but Only Handful Mention Al Qaeda Leader

By Margie Burns

“Missing” White House emails retrieved from Bush administration records indicate that top Bush Justice Department officials had little interest in the pursuit of Osama bin Laden or Mullah Mohammed Omar, head of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), prolonged correspondence has pursued “missing” emails between the Bush White House and Bush’s attorney general, deputy attorney general, associate attorney general, Office of Public Affairs, Office of Legal Counsel and Office of the Inspector General, in the Justice Department.

After a lengthy search, President Obama’s Office of Information Policy, which handles FOIA requests, found emails pertaining to Osama bin Laden or to Mullah Omar only in Attorney General and Office of Public Affairs records from the Bush administration. Alberto Gonzales, previously Bush’s White House counsel and then Attorney General, did not use email.

White House emails from the Bush years, often reported as missing, numbered in the millions. Thousands of emails were sent between the Bush White House and top Justice Department officials, through both government email accounts and private accounts including the Republican National Committee.

FOIA inquiries have produced two emails, totaling four pages, between the White House and Justice under the former administration relating to Mullah Mohammed Omar.

The FOIA requests produced 26 emails, totaling 119 pages, relating to Osama bin Laden.

The first internal reference to Mullah Omar, according to email records, occurred Dec. 7, 2001. White House staffer Edward Ingle forwarded a series of talking points titled “Meet Mullah Omar” from Deputy National Security Adviser James R. Wilkinson to a distribution list of several dozen government personnel in Cabinet offices and the Pentagon including Paul Wolfowitz. Omar has continued to evade capture and is believed to be living in neighboring Pakistan. There is no reference in the emails to Omar dating from the period when he was evading US forces. The next, and only other, mention of Omar’s name was an incidental reference in a Sept. 23, 2004, New York Times article on Afghanistan forwarded the same day by White House staffers.

The 26 emails that mention Osama bin Laden in correspondence between the Bush White House and Justice Department break down as follows:

There were seven email references to Osama bin Laden in 2001. Five occurred in press releases from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer forwarded by Ingle — one Executive Order, two transcripts of press briefings and two sets of talking points — dating from Sept. 24 to Dec. 17, 2001. Kenneth B. Mehlman, then in the Executive Office Building and later chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent around a copy of Bush’s address to the Joint Session of Congress Sept. 21, 2001, in which Bush briefly mentioned “a person named Osama bin Laden.” The other mention of bin Laden in 2001 comes in an Oct. 15 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about John Ashcroft and terrorism, forwarded by David Israelite.

One email reference to bin Laden occurred in 2002, also forwarded by David Israelite. Under the heading “Do you remember?,” Israelite distributed to colleagues, including Barbara Comstock, a description of a purported 1987 video clip saying that Oliver North warned Congress about Osama bin Laden in the Iran-Contra hearings but was shut off by then-Sen. Al Gore. This claim had already been debunked by North himself (see www.snopes.com). Comstock went on to chair Scooter Libby’s defense fund in 2007 and in 2008 ran for Congress from Virginia.

There were three email references to bin Laden in 2003 — a press briefing, a forwarded newspaper article, and a December statement from Director of Public Affairs Mark Corallo criticizing a Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse study.

Fifteen emails mentioned bin Laden in 2004. Some were in response to criticism of the White House after disclosure of the famous Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” All email references are forwarded press briefings and other press releases, forwarded newspaper articles, or talking points related to bin Laden.

The Department of Justice represents the US government in enforcing the law in the public interest. According to the official definition of responsibilities printed under a photograph of then Attorney General Ashcroft, “Through its thousands of lawyers, investigators, and agents, the Department plays the key role in protection against criminals and subversion … It represents the government in legal matters generally, rendering legal advice and opinions, upon request, to the President and to the heads of the executive departments. The Attorney General supervises and directs these activities, as well as those of the U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals in the various judicial districts around the country.”

Either top Justice Department personnel under the previous administration were not a set of bloodhounds, or documents have been suppressed. The email archives contain no indication that inside circles in the Bush White House and DOJ were paying attention to capturing Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar. Mentions of bin Laden and Omar come strictly in the context of public relations.

There are no records of emails to or from Alberto Gonzales, presumably because he did not have an email account.

Email records searched under FOIA include those of previous Attorney General Ashcroft; Michael Chertoff, previously assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division and later secretary of Homeland Security; former Deputy Attorney General James Comey; former Deputy Attorney Paul McNulty; Philip J. Perry, acting associate attorney general and son-in-law of Vice President Dick Cheney; former Associate Attorney General Jay B. Stephens; and David Ayres, Ashcroft’s chief of staff.

After leaving Justice, Ayres co-founded The Ashcroft Group. His corporate biography describes Ayres thus:

“After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr. Ayres managed the Department’s crisis operations and restructuring of the FBI to focus on preventing terrorist attacks. As the Attorney General’s principal counter-terrorism advisor, Mr. Ayres oversaw numerous counter-terrorism operations, program reorganizations and policy reforms to prevent additional terrorist attacks.”

Many persons in the Department of Justice and the executive offices of the White House had responsibilities in the “war on terror,” at least according to public pronouncements. Given all the public emphasis on “information sharing” and cooperation among law enforcement and security entities, and the speechifying against a purported “wall” between domestic and foreign information gathering, one would think there would have been extensive correspondence about bin Laden and Omar among others.

Again, either there was such extensive correspondence, and it is being suppressed; or there was no such interest in bin Laden at the highest levels of government, meaning that indeed the previous administration viewed bin Laden chiefly as a public relations tool.

What did they know about bin Laden that they did not share with the public? Were they confident, for undisclosed reasons, that he posed no threat? Why are there no expressions of concern about his whereabouts?

With this plate handed to him, it is a wonder that Obama’s hair has not turned white already.

Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. Email margie.burns@verizon.net. See her blog at www.margieburns.com.

11-51

Abundant Faith, Shrinking Space

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Mosques Turn to Synagogues, Ballrooms to Accommodate Growing Membership

By William Wan, Washington Post

They stream in through the doors every Friday — a sea of Muslims pouring into a synagogue in Reston.

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Muslims facing a lack of worship space lease a Jewish synagogue in Reston, Virginia, prompting an unexpected cultural exchange.

The men roll out long prayer rugs on the synagogue floor. An imam stands up front and praises Allah. And as the faithful begin whispering their prayers in flowing Arabic, their landlord, a rabbi, walks by to check whether they need anything.

This unlikely arrangement between a burgeoning Muslim congregation and a suburban synagogue is what happens when you combine the region’s rapidly growing Muslim population with a serious shortage of worship space.

As area mosques prepare for the start of Ramadan this weekend, many are simply bursting at the seams. Every available inch — even in lobbies and hallways — is being used. Parking is impossible. Traffic afterward is worse than postgame gridlock at FedEx Field.

Nobody knows how many Muslims are in America — estimates range from 2.35 million to 7 million — but researchers say the population is growing rapidly, driven by conversions, immigration and the tendency for Muslims to have larger families. One study by Trinity College in Connecticut shows the percentage nationwide having doubled since 1990. In the Washington area, the increase might be even sharper, local Muslim leaders say.

A building boom has brought new mosques to suburbs such as Manassas and Ellicott City, but many have been full from the moment they opened. So, desperate for room, Muslim communities have started renting hotel ballrooms, office space and, yes, even synagogues to handle the overflow.

“We say our prayers, and a few hours later they meet for Sabbath and they say their prayers,” said Rizwan Jaka, a leader at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling, which added services at two synagogues last year. “People may think it’s strange or odd, but we are simply grateful for the space.”

The extra room will prove crucial this weekend with the beginning of Ramadan — a month of fasting that often draws hundreds to mosques in addition to regular members. Anticipating the throngs, many mosques have hired off-duty police and rallied volunteers to handle the traffic.

“Just like you have Easter Christians, Hanukkah Jews, we have what we call Ramadan Muslims. They just come out of the woodwork on the holy days,” said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church.

Last year at the height of Ramadan, Abdul-Malik had to turn many away to avoid violating occupancy rules, which limit his mosque to 2,000 worshipers. When asked how many he expects this year, the imam chooses his words carefully: “I’d rather not say because of the fire marshal.”

“The prophet Isaiah said our houses would be houses of prayer for all people,” said Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk. “Now, I don’t know if Isaiah could have imagined us hosting Ramadan in the synagogue, but the basic idea is there.”

It turned out to be relatively easy. Their new Muslims friends didn’t need much: wide-open space, carpet to cushion the floor and a place for their shoes. The synagogue’s social hall suited them perfectly.

The arrangement has led to the unexpected benefit of cultural exchange. There have been pulpit swaps, with the imam and rabbi preaching to each other’s congregation and interfaith visits as well.

David Fram, 72, who sings in the synagogue’s choir, was recently invited to the Sterling mosque for daily prayers. It was an amazing, if somewhat awkward, experience. “I didn’t know quite what to do; there was a lot of bending and kneeling in their prayers,” he said.

Standing quietly in the back of the prayer hall, Fram decided to simply bow his head in reverence. He ate lunch (“some kind of spicy meat and rice”) afterward. And a few weeks later, he found himself at Barnes & Noble buying a Koran, out of curiosity.

“It’s not like the U.N. here. We’re not looking to draft some final settlement agreement between Israel and Palestine,” Nosanchuk said. “But we’re learning from each other, and we’re trying to give them the space they need and make them feel at home.”

ADAMS and other congregations are unlikely to solve their space problems anytime soon because of the long lag time usually required for new mosques. Because the Koran prohibits borrowing money at interest, congregations don’t use bank loans for construction. Instead, they fundraise over many years and then pay in cash.

The process can be excruciating.

It took Muslims in Prince William County 10 years before they accumulated enough money for a new home. While they waited, they crammed into a one-story house off Route 234. Each week, they somehow fit 50 cars into a space meant for 20. When services got too full, people knelt outside and prayed on the grass.

Women working minimum-wage jobs donated their family’s jewelry to the new-mosque fund. When construction finally began in 2004, families often drove out to the site just to watch and dream about a future of plentiful parking and prayer space.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

Almost as soon as the new mosque, Dar Al-Noor, opened three years ago during Ramadan, the building was packed with 1,200 people. So this year throughout Ramadan, members will continue praying and fundraising for further expansion, said the community’s president, Mohammad Mehboob.

“We are a community with many people but not so much money,” Mehboob said. “But Allah has always provided for us. It’s amazing we have this mosque now, and, inshallah, we will continue to build and grow.”

11-36

Many Guantanamo Cases Referred to US Prosecutors

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Devlin Barrett 

Washington – Dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainee cases have been referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal trials in the nation’s capital, Virginia and New York City, officials told The Associated Press on Monday as a second strategy for trying the detainees emerged within the Obama administration.

The Justice Department’s strategy of holding trials in East Coast cities could be a sharp departure from a Pentagon plan to hold all Guantanamo-related civilian and military trials in the Midwest.

The politically volatile decisions about where and how to try Guantanamo Bay detainees ultimately will rest with President Barack Obama as he tries to meet his self-imposed January deadline for closing the island prison.

Obama administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations, said Attorney General Eric Holder met privately last week with the chief federal prosecutor in each of the East Coast areas to discuss the preparations for possible indictments and trials in those districts.

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the Guantanamo Bay detainee task force “has referred a significant number of cases for possible prosecution, and those cases have now been sent to U.S. Attorney offices who are reviewing them with prosecutors from the Office of Military Commissions.” His statement didn’t identify the districts involved.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said no final decisions have been made on where in the U.S. to transfer Guantanamo detainees.

One official said prosecutors and military lawyers are now reviewing the individual cases. The work is aimed at indicting individuals in civilian courts, but final decisions have not been made on the cases and some of the inmates whose cases were referred could still end up before military commissions instead.

Officials said the districts which have been referred Guantanamo cases are: Washington, D.C.; the Eastern District of Virginia, which has a courthouse in Alexandria, Va.; the Southern District of New York, which is based in lower Manhattan in New York City; and the Eastern District of New York, which is based in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Each district has experience prosecuting high-profile terrorism cases, and each courthouse has high-security facilities for holding particularly dangerous inmates.
Yet the plan to hold terror trials in those cities may run afoul of a separate initiative being considered to build a courtroom-within-a-prison complex in the U.S. heartland.

Several senior U.S. officials said the administration is eyeing a soon-to-be-shuttered state maximum security prison in Michigan and the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., as possible locations for a heavily guarded site to hold the suspected 229 al-Qaida, Taliban, and foreign fighters now jailed at Guantanamo.

The president has said some detainees will be tried in civilian courts, some in military commissions, and some will be held without trial because they are simply too dangerous but the evidence against them cannot be aired in any courtroom.

The proposed Midwest facility would operate as a hybrid prison system jointly operated by the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

Both the Justice and Pentagon plans face legal and logistical problems.

If a significant number of civilian trials were to be held in the Midwest, the government might have to send in prosecutors and judges experienced in terrorism cases, and lawyers for the detainees could object to the jury pool.

Such a plan would also require an expensive upgrade of the facilities in Kansas or Michigan, and it’s unclear if there is enough time for such work under the president’s deadline.

But trying them on the East Coast could generate more of the kind of public opposition that led Congress earlier this year to yank funding for bringing such detainees to U.S. soil until the administration produces an acceptable plan for shuttering the Guantanamo facility.

The Obama administration has already transferred one detainee to U.S. courts – Ahmed Ghailani was sent to New York in June to face charges he helped blow up U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.

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Still: Secret Bush-Era Prisons

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By John C. Trang, New America Media (NAM)

NAM Editor’s Note: Muslims make up 70 percent of inmates in two prisons the George W. Bush regime clandestinely established in the Midwest between 2006 and 2008.

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Despite President Barack Obama’s declaration that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam, government practices suggest otherwise.

In June, the ACLU filed complaints against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for illegally establishing secret prisons called Communications Management Units, or CMUs. The ACLU also alleged unconstitutional restrictions on Muslim inmates’ right to religious freedom. As a law student investigating the CMUs, the existence of these secret prisons trouble me.

The first CMU was clandestinely established in late 2006 at the federal prison facility in Terre Haute, Ind. In 2008, another CMU was established in Marion, Ill. According to the government, CMUs were created to “house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public.”

Sounds mundane, right? But the fact is CMUs are a palpable and disconcerting product of xenophobia and the war on terrorism. Concocted during the Bush administration, CMUs are alarmingly reminiscent of McCarthy-era practices and the Japanese American internment camps.

Although the number of inmates placed at the CMUs has not exceeded 40, around 70 percent are Muslim. The likelihood of finding another prison in the United States with similar proportions of Muslim inmates is zero. There is only one other facility under U.S. jurisdiction with similar demographics: Guantanamo Bay.

With such a high proportion of Muslim inmates, civil rights groups expressed concern about constitutional violations of equal protection. BOP officials deny CMU placement is based on religious identity. According to one government document, criteria for CMU placement includes continued misuse/abuse of approved communication privileges; history of judicial threats; and being convicted of, or associated with, involvement in terrorism. This odd mix of criteria that warrants CMU placement is applicable to hundreds of the incarcerated. Therefore, how and why specific inmates are chosen for CMU placement remains unclear.

Unlike other prisons in the United States, information about CMUs remains scarce. Few publicly available government documents mention “Communications Management Unit.” The secrecy is increased by restrictions on inmates’ communications. All communications to and from inmates are examined. If a message is not approved, it is never transmitted. In fact, in some respects CMU inmates – all of who are categorized as low to medium risk–have more restrictive conditions than inmates categorized with higher security risk levels.

While the government describes CMUs in innocuous terms, many groups have alternate theories as to the actual purpose and nature of CMUs. Some believe CMUs were created solely to house terrorists since some, though not all, inmates have terrorism related convictions. However, even the terrorism related convictions are suspect.

Take for example ACLU’s client and CMU inmate Sabri Benkahla. Benkahla, born in Virginia and a graduate of George Mason University, was studying Islamic law and jurisprudence in Saudi Arabia when he was abducted at Saudi secret police, flown back to America and charged with supplying services to the Taliban and using a firearm in connection with a crime of violence. He was found not guilty. Not satisfied with the acquittal, the U.S. government forced Benkahla to testify before a federal grand jury where he was accused and eventually convicted of perjury. Nonetheless, the presiding judge asserted Benkahla was “not a terrorist” and noted the chances of Benkahla committing another crime were “infinitesimal.”

While some view CMUs as facilities for terrorists, a majority of news articles assert the common thread uniting inmates is their strong community support and their politically unpopular views. That is, CMUs are political prisons.

I am not convinced CMUs are traditional political prisons – the sort used to silent inmates. There is growing evidence CMUs were created to extract information from inmates for the war on terrorism. Since privacy rights are reduced for the incarcerated, increasing attention to prisoners as a source of information was a logical step for proponents of sustaining a war on terrorism. And by stretching what constitutes a terrorism related charge, the government could consolidate prisoners believed to possess desired knowledge and ignore even basic civil liberties afforded other incarcerated people by invoking “war on terrorism.” To be sure, similar to the tenuous links to terrorism, the extent of any inmate’s knowledge about terrorism is questionable at best.

Ultimately, due to the secretive nature of CMUs, the real explanation continues to be a mystery. What is not a mystery is that the war on terrorism continues to be wrongfully conflated with Islam. This likely explains the disproportionate level of Muslim inmates. Although there are non-Muslim inmates at CMUs, at least one Muslim inmate claims that security guards have called non-Muslim inmates “racial balancers.” Whether or not non-Muslim inmates are mere decoys is unclear. But such a claim should heighten our concern that the government is targeting inmates based on a racial perception of who is a terrorist.

Any selective targeting of Muslims inside and outside the prison system in the name of war and national security would be dangerously similar to the selective targeting of Japanese Americans during World War II. After decades of struggle, the government officially apologized to the Japanese American community and admitted that xenophobia and wartime hysteria contributed to discriminatory policies that should never be repeated.

Granted there are differences between Japanese American internees and CMU inmates. CMU inmates have been convicted of at least one federal crime, albeit often minor crimes such as incorrectly filing taxes. However, the prison system should not strip inmates of all their constitutional rights, or segregate them in highly restrictive prisons based on religious identity.

Almost eight years after the September 11 attacks, the Obama administration has set a new tenor on the war on terrorism. But the continuing operation of CMUs that began under Bush is reminiscent of anti-Japanese policies and McCarthy era witch hunts. National security is a real concern but it can never justify the practices reportedly involved at CMUs. To do so would be a betrayal of the nation’s commitment to core civil liberties and freedoms.

John C. Trang is currently a law student at UCLA School of Law in the Epstein Public Interest Law and Policy Program with a Critical Race Studies Specialization.

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