Sami al-Arian was the tenured professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa who held himself out as a pro-Palestinian activist. In the name of civil liberties, he was a celebrated opponent of Clinton-era anti-terrorist legislation. Among the nefarious leftist organizations supporting al-Arian’s “civil liberties” crusade against the anti-terrorist legislation, David Horowitz notes, were the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, the American Muslim Council and CAIR.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad was a designated terrorist organization under the law that al-Arian opposed. Al-Arian spent more than a decade lying about his involvement with the PIJ.
In September 2001 Bill O’Reilly interviewed al-Arian. (The transcript is here.) O’Reilly reviewed al-Arian’s troubling public record, including his “little speaking engagement in Cleveland” in 1998, at which al-Arian proclaimed that “Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem.”
After the enactment of the PATRIOT Act, al-Arian was indicted as an active leader of the PIJ. The government’s 120-page indictment of al-Arian in February 2003 was astounding. It revealed that Al-Arian was the North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and that al-Arian had been under surveillance for seven years before he was indicted. It quoted his communications with his colleagues discussing terrorist operations. Among the victims of these operations in Israel were several American citizens identified in the indictment.
Following trial the jury acquitted al-Arian on several counts and hung on the remainder. In 2006 al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to support PIJ and was was sentenced to 57 months in prison. The unamused judge who presided over the trial and sentenced al-Arian called him a master manipulator who had looked his neighbors in the eyes and said he had nothing to do with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad: “This trial exposed that as a lie.”
For those who supported al-Arian in one way or another and now aspire to high office, he presents a test. David Frum addressed President Bush’s failure of the al-Arian test as late as mid-2001. The failure was troubling, but Bush made an impressive recovery in the aftermath of 9/11.
Obama White House lawyer and appointed representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Rashad Hussain flunked the al-Arian test when he condemned the prosecution of al-Arian in 2004 and then lied about it following his OIC appointment this year. He should not be serving as a respected official in the Obama administration.
Tom Campbell is a candidate for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. Campbell has a tangled history of mutual support for al-Arian. This history has been dredged up by Philip Klein at the American Spectator (here) and Jennifer Rubin at Contentions (here and here).
In January 2002 Campbell wrote this letter of support for al-Arian. The letter to University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft provided a testimonial to al-Arian in the wake of the controversy created by al-Arian’s appearance on the O’Reilly show in September 2001. The letter is evidence of utter cluelessness.
Klein has posted a statement by Campbell on his involvement with al-Arian. Here is the portion of Campbell’s statement that addresses al-Arian’s prosecution:
After [al-Arian] was fired [by the University of South Florida], and after my  letter, Sami Al Arian was indicted for allegedly having invited terrorists to visit the US. He was not convicted on any count: on some, he was acquitted outright, on others, there was a hung jury. Rather than retry him, the government arranged for him to leave the U.S., and he agreed to leave.
The evidence introduced at the trial, however, included very upsetting language from wiretaps that was quite shocking. I would not have written to the University about him, or had any other association with him, if I had known that evidence at the time. I simply did not know; I was in private life, and had access to no special ability to find out about him. From all I had seen and heard about him, I knew his call for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state was controversial, but nothing more.
Campbell’s account of the charges against al-Arian is farcically inadequate. Among other things, he omits from this recitation the revelations of al-Arian’s leadership of the PIJ that are all over the face of the indictment. I believe that al-Arian is currently under indictment for criminal contempt in the Eastern District of Virginia. Campbell leaves that out too.
Campbell also implies that the case against al-Arian remained unresolved. He omits from his recitation the fact that al-Arian was convicted of one count of conspiracy to provide material support for a terrorist organization. Al-Arian was convicted of the offense when he pleaded guilty to it. Why does Campbell leave out al-Arian’s conviction?
Campbell concludes his current statement: “From all I had seen and heard about [al-Arian], I knew his call for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state was controversial, but nothing more.” Campbell must have missed the O’Reilly interview of al-Arian that necessitated Campbell’s letter to Judy Genshaft.
Campbell’s position is that he was duped by al-Arian, and that he was duped as late as January 2002. If I were in Campbell’s position, I would express outrage about having been fooled by al-Arian. I would have a bit more to say about it than that “I simply did not know; I was in private life, and had access to no special ability to find out about him.”
Given his manifest gifts, Tom Campbell makes a contribution to our public life by his service in the House of Representatives. As a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Barbara Boxer for the United States Senate, however, Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.