Experts in Terror
This past summer Levitt testified at the Dallas trial of the Holy Land Foundation, formerly the nation's largest Muslim charity, shut down by the Bush Administration in 2001. Seven former foundation officials were later charged with funneling money to Palestinian charity committees controlled by Hamas. Levitt, who in 2006 wrote a book on Hamas that contains almost no original field research with Hamas operatives and relies heavily on documents gathered by Israeli intelligence sources, was brought in once again to make the connection between Hamas's charitable and military operations.
"I am not at all surprised, nor do I care that in their closing arguments they described me as an Israeli lackey," Levitt told me recently. "It comes with the territory."
That the case ended in a mistrial has not dampened Levitt's views. In a policy monograph published on WINEP's website in November, he writes, "The failure of the Dallas jury to reach a decision on HLF the first time around is no exoneration--it is simply an initial setback in an ongoing case."
The government, which intends to retry the Holy Land Foundation case later this year, seems to agree with Levitt. At a lunchtime briefing on the case held in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill in December, three dozen attendees, mostly Congressional staffers and law-enforcement and intelligence personnel, sat like schoolchildren at oversized tables, eating sandwiches and cookies and listening to a panel co-sponsored by the Investigative Project.
"Don't be mistaken about what happens when Sharia law establishes a foothold in this country," said one of the panelists, Jeffrey Breinholt, a former Justice Department official who oversaw the Holy Land Foundation case. "It will be something as subtle as a single American prosecutor deciding that it's not worth her time to get to the bottom of an honor killing that's occurred in the Muslim community. Because in order to redress this homicide she's going to have to fight through the code of silence that exists in that community. They don't want any part of American law."
After the briefing members of the Holy Land Foundation prosecution team filed up to the podium to greet Michael Fechter, who covered the Al-Arian case as a reporter for the Tampa Tribune before being hired by Emerson. The prosecutors wanted Fechter's advice on how they might do better next time. Fechter obligingly launched into a quick critique.
"You know Kristina [one of the jurors]--she's still haunted by the videos," Fechter told prosecutor Barry Jonas, referring to a series of videos that depicted Palestinian children chanting anti-Israeli slogans and calling for jihad.
"OK, that's good to know," Jonas said.
The two men chatted about possible jury room malfeasance during the trial, the subject of a story Fechter had just published. Jonas passed along a tip about another juror in the case and urged Fechter to investigate. "We could look into it ourselves, but you can probably do it faster," Jonas said. "Bureaucracy, you know."