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|Feds Investigating Student Org's. (mabrook!!!)|
|12/22/01 at 07:54:48|
mabrook everyone!!, we were just waiting to hear this!!:)
Friday December 21 1:54 PM ET
Feds Investigating Student Org's.
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Muslim student organizations on college campuses around the country have openly raised money for groups whose assets have been frozen by the U.S. government because of alleged ties to terrorists.
While no direct connection between the campus groups and terrorism has been identified by authorities, some security experts are calling for closer scrutiny of the organizations.
The FBI (news - web sites) refused to comment on the student organizations. But such organizations are already being looked at as federal investigators follow the money trail in an attempt to disrupt terrorism, said George Vinson, California's homeland security adviser and a 23-year FBI veteran. In light of Sept. 11, he said, ``shame on law enforcement if we didn't do this.''
He would not give details on what is being done to scrutinize campus organizations.
Anti-terrorism consultant Larry Johnson, who once directed the State Department counterterrorism office, said he is advising his clients in the federal government to begin monitoring the campus groups' telephone calls, bank accounts and fund raising.
One group that has raised money for groups targeted by the U.S. government is the Muslim Student Association, which has more than 100 campus chapters around the country and conducts fund-raising by way of rallies, meetings and Web sites.
The MSA urges donations to such groups as the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Benevolence International and Global Relief foundations.
All three groups have had their assets frozen by the Bush administration because of their alleged connections to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al-Qaida terrorism network or the militant Hamas organization.
All three have denied they are terrorist front organizations, insisting they raise money for food, schools and other social services.
The MSA's Ohio State University chapter produces a Web newsletter called MSA News, which has included news releases from the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, which is on the State Department list of terrorist organizations that Americans are forbidden to support or finance, and the Islamic Salvation Front, a fundamentalist party banned in Algeria.
Altaf Husain, national president of the MSA, said his organization has no plans to stop raising money for various groups unless federal authorities crack down. He called suspicions about terrorist links post-attack ``hype,'' and said it is up to the government to trace the money.
``We are as American as anyone else. Why should we be the ones looking for all these so-called `sleeper cells' or whatever?'' said Husain, whose organization has denounced the Sept. 11 attacks.
Husain said federal investigations after Sept. 11 stem from the belief ``that any group raising money for Muslims is funneling money to terrorists.''
The president of another group, the Islamic Association for Palestine, often gives speeches sponsored by university student groups. Israel has said the Texas-based group is a front for Palestinian militants, and federal authorities have subpoenaed the group's records for an investigation into Hamas connections to U.S. organizations.
The president, Rafeeq Jaber, said his aim is ``to let people know the truth'' about Israel and the occupied territories.
An anti-terrorism law signed in October makes it illegal to provide material support or resources to terrorist organizations. It also allows the deportation of aliens who knowingly solicit funds or membership or provide material support to a terrorist organization.
But that's ``a very difficult case to make,'' said L. Paul Bremer III, chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism. ``It's easy for a person to say, `I didn't know it was going to that organization.'''
At the University of California at Los Angeles, the latest issue of the MSA's magazine, Al-Talib, features three full-page color advertisements soliciting donations for the Holy Land, Global Relief and Benevolence International foundations.
If the money raised on campus ``goes to families of those who have died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I don't see anything wrong with that,'' said the magazine's publisher, Mohammad Mertaban, 20, a junior from suburban Chino Hills. ``I don't understand how people can label Palestinians terrorists.''
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