As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Terrorist Sympathizers

This seems like it'd be a story you'd hear about a lot, at least more than Britney Spears shaving her head:

Terrorism charges brought Friday against the administrator of a loan investment program claimed that he secretly tried to send $152,000 to the Middle East to buy equipment such as night vision goggles for a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, 53, of Ardsley, N.Y., pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to an indictment accusing him of terrorism financing, material support of terrorism and other charges. The charges carried a potential penalty of 95 years in prison.

This is a major development for a variety of reasons. First of all, he's sending money to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, which is yet more evidence that Al Qaeda has set up shop again in that country, which was the putative reason for invading there anyway, to deny them the safe haven they now have.

The other reason this is a major development is this:

CBS News has confirmed that Alishtari is a donor to the Republican Party, as he claims on his curriculum vitae. Alishtari gave $15,500 to the National Republican Campaign Committee between 2002 and 2004, according to Federal Election Commission records. That amount includes $13,000 in 2003, a year when he claims to have been named NRCC New York State Businessman of the Year.

Alishtari also claims to be a lifetime member of the National Republican Senate Committee's Inner Circle, which the NRCC describes as "an impressive cross-section of American society – community leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, retirees, and sports and entertainment celebrities – all of whom hold a deep interest in our nation's prosperity and security."

So we're talking about a Republican donor, who has been indicted for giving material financial support to terrorists.

Josh Marshall also finds that, while he was giving money to the GOP, he was bidding for several government contracts - "including ones with the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security." Now, campaign donors bid on those kinds of contracts all the time - that's why they donate, in many respects - but they don't often fund terrorist training camps at the same time.

Alishtari does not appear to be a major player in the Republican Party - he was giving money to get honorary titles like "White House Business Advisory Committee", which are made-up titles that are fronts for fundraising schemes (give us $5K and we'll call you "Businessman of the Year," that kind of thing). But he's a self-identified Republican that had no problem giving the party money - in addition to terrorists. TPM Muckraker notes that this doesn't even make him unique:

Yasith Chhun, the head of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a group designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization, was indicted in May of 2005 for charges of plotting to overthrow the Cambodian government. He was also, The Los Angeles Times reported, a member of the NRCC's Business Advisory Council:

Before his federal indictment this week [Chuun] had raised $6,550 for the National Republican Congressional Committee and was invited to sit on the group's Business Advisory Council, which has tens of thousands of members nationwide, said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the committee....

Chhun attended the annual meeting of the National Republican Congressional Committee's business advisory council in Washington, D.C., last year. [NRCC Spokesman Carl] Forti said the committee did not know Chhun's group had been designated a terrorist organization, saying it was impossible to do background checks on all its members.

"At this point, the gentleman hasn't been convicted of anything," Forti said. If he is a terrorist, "it's something we need to look at. Clearly, we wouldn't want any leader of a terrorist organization being members of our business advisory council."

Clearly we wouldn't, but it's just so hard to keep them out, they're such good tippers!

This is one of those slow-moving scandals that appears to shake up conventional wisdom but actually fits quite nicely. Our best friend in the Arab world is funding Sunni insurgents who kill the vast majority of US troops in Iraq. We gave the Taliban millions for their work helping the war on drugs (!) right before 9-11. Republican Administrations have had business dealings with all sorts of unsavory foreign governments and groups, from Iran-Contra to the present day. Having one of their campaign donors be an ACTUAL terrorist fundraiser is positively ordinary.

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