News Hits would not call it a riveting summer read. But the recent 155-page report issued by the 9/11 commission sure piqued our interest. Of particular note is the chapter devoted to Global Relief Foundation (GRF) — a Chicago-based Islamic charity that was shut down soon after the Sept. 11 attacks — which was co-founded by Rabih Haddad, an Ann Arbor imam, who first made international headlines when arrested for a minor visa violation in 2001; he was deported last year to Lebanon after spending 19 months in jail.
Just before the 9/11 commission disbanded last week it issued two new reports, in addition to the 570-page tome it released earlier this summer. One report details immigration violations by the 9/11 hijackers. The other explains how the terrorists were financed and includes information about GRF.
Maybe the most shocking allegation in the latter report is that GRF was “involved in a plot to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).”
“It blew me away when I saw that,” says Maryland attorney Roger Simmons, who represents GRF, which sued the government in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for using secret evidence to shut down the charity and designate it a global terrorist. The lawsuit, which is still pending, argues that the charity should be allowed to confront the evidence used against it.
Simmons did not know about the WMD accusation until he read the report. He says secret evidence such as this should be divulged to the organization.
The report doesn’t state the source of the WMD allegation, which one FBI supervisor called “baseless” at the time. However, the government decided to raid GRF’s offices in Bosnia and other countries in December 2001 based on the WMD accusation, according to the report.
The report also does not state whether weapons of mass destruction were found or how the matter was resolved. However, neither previous government reports nor press coverage of the raids mention WMDs.
“It sounds like a rumor that didn’t pan out,” says Simmons.
The report also refers to a Jan. 6, 2000, memorandum that states, “Although the majority of GRF funding goes toward legitimate relief operations, a significant percentage is diverted to fund extremist causes.”
Simmons, who denies GRF gave money to anything but charity work, says he has never seen the memo, which the report characterizes as a summary written by two Chicago FBI agents who investigated GRF.
Simmons says the government should give GRF the memo since it provided it to the 9/11 commission to be used in a public report.
“It shouldn’t be classified anymore and should never have been classified,” he says.
The report also says that some GRF donor checks contained “pro-jihad statements in the memo lines.”
Simmons says this is the first he learned the government used donor checks against the charity.
“No one ever told us these checks had anything on them,” he says.
Overall, Simmons is pleased with the 9/11 report.
“I think there are some interesting concessions ... like there was nothing criminal about what GRF did and no money was ever traced between them and any terrorists,” he says.
The report states that no criminal charges were ever brought against GRF despite the government’s “unprecedented access” to its records here and abroad.
“The government’s criminal investigation of GRF included the review of the voluminous documents and computer records seized from the GRF office and interviews with GRF personnel. Despite this effort, the government has to date filed no criminal charges against GRF or its leadership, and any such charges appear increasingly unlikely,” the report says.
So, what did the 9/11 commission conclude about GRF? For one, that the government’s concerns about the group were not entirely “baseless.” The commission also concluded, with due concern, that the government can indeed shut down “an organization without any formal determination of wrongdoing.”Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]