POLITICO: Letter to the editor- Unfair to CAIR

Here is the shortened version that Politico agreed to print as a letter to the editor (see full version below):

After appearing to put the loyalty of Muslim-Americans on trial during his congressional hearing earlier this year, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) now seems to have set his sights on the Council on American-Islamic Relations. POLITICO has been following King’s latest efforts to resuscitate attention on CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in providing support to terrorists.

This issue was settled by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Justice Department in CAIR’s favor. POLITICO, however, is legitimizing Islamophobic claims against CAIR and fails to highlight that they have no legal basis (POLITICO.com, April 18).

There is no legal implication to being labeled an unindicted co-conspirator, since it does not require the Justice Department to prove anything in a court of law. Merely claiming someone is guilty without due process defies the principles of our justice system.

The decision was made not because members of the DOJ were afraid of the repercussions — but because the evidence to indict simply wasn’t there.

As Attorney General Eric Holder recently indicated, the amount of evidence required to indict and convict someone was not present against CAIR. This conclusion was reached after two reviews, conducted by two different administrations, represented by two different political parties, as POLITICO recently pointed out.

Christina Abraham
Civil rights director
Council on American-Islamic Relations (Chicago)

 

Here is the FULL version that was submitted to Politico:

Representative Peter King (R-NY) is cementing himself as the most promising new Islamophobe in what is arguably one of the most poorly thought out conspiracy theories of the year.  His latest effort has been to resuscitate attention on CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator (UCC), an issue that has already been settled by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Department of Justice in CAIR’s favor.

After putting Muslim Americans on trial for their loyalty during a McCarthy-esque congressional hearing earlier this year, King now sets his sights on CAIR.  The UCC list King referred to was issued during the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation in 2008.

The term “unindicted co-conspirator” may at first appear damning.  Any reader would be initially overcome by the term “co-conspirator.”  But, ironically, the most important part of the phrase is actually the term “unindicted”.

In fact, there is no legal implication to being labeled an unindicted co-conspirator. This nation’s Constitution requires that if the government is going to deprive someone of life, liberty or property, it can do so only if it has provided that person with due process.

Due process requires that to charge someone with a crime, the government must have probable cause (that requires having evidence). To convict someone of a crime, the government must prove its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt (that requires having more evidence). It must also give the accused an opportunity to face his accusers and challenge the credibility of the evidence put forth against him (that means it must be a fair fight).

Merely claiming that someone is guilty without due process defies the principles of our justice system. Simply put, being “unindicted” means that none of this has taken place: no official charge of a crime, no trial, no guilt.

Regardless of the clearly unconstitutional nature of branding criminal guilt upon those labeled as UCC’s, Islamophobes pushed forward with their accusations.  Until, that is, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on the matter which held that the Fifth Amendment Due Process rights of those on the list had been violated.

The Court of Appeals also criticized the lower court for going outside the scope of the UCC issue, and reiterated that the any allegations by the government were untested, had not gone through any process, and were therefore not legally binding.  In fact, the Court noted that even the government prosecutors during the case admitted they were not labeling those on the list as criminal co-conspirators.

Because of the conclusiveness of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Islamophobes were dumbfounded as to how they could continue to use this issue to fearmonger and spread lies about CAIR.  Right-wing blogs openly discussed strategies of how to continue to use the list to attack Muslim American groups, but it became clear to them that they needed a way to revive the issue in order to legitimize the illegitimate.

So the same shameless dishonesty used to propel the “Birther” myth was used in this case.  The objective: let’s politicize the issue and blame the Obama administration for not prosecuting those labeled as UCCs.  In so doing, they crafted a way to attack both the Obama administration and Muslims all in one step.  Keeping in line with their previous strategies, this plan was not very well thought out.

The reason: the decision not to prosecute CAIR came not during the Obama Administration, but from the Bush Administration, as US Attorney General Eric Holder recently pointed out.

The decision was not made because members of the DOJ were afraid of the repercussions, but because the evidence to indict simply wasn’t there.  In fact, the DOJ has openly stated that it does not maintain ties to CAIR – why then would they be at all concerned about prosecuting them?

As Holder stated recently, “The decision that was reached in this administration was the same that was reached in the Bush administration — a determination made that for a variety of reasons, looking at the facts and the law, a prosecution would not be appropriate. A review was done of that decision in this administration and the conclusion was reached that that earlier decision was an appropriate one.”  In other words, the amount of evidence described above that is required to indict and convict someone was not present against CAIR.

So not one, but two reviews that ultimately determined it would not be appropriate to prosecute CAIR.

But accepting the fact that CAIR is a legitimate grassroots organization that is not a threat to our nation is all too rational for King and other Islamophobes.  And, let’s face it, rationality and fact-based discourse has never been their strong suit.