Two groups whom Islamic terrorists can count on for sympathy and support are radical lawyers and their counterparts in American law schools. Lynne Stewart is a hero of the National Lawyers Guild and a sought-after campus lecturer. While out on bail under indictment for colluding with a terrorist leader, she has been a sought-after speaker for law school audiences who relish her attacks on Attorney General John Ashcroft as a modern-day fascist and on her country for its imperialist and racist policies.
Stewart made national headlines in April 2002 when she was arrested for providing material support to the Islamic Group, an Egypt-based terrorist organization with close links to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network. The goals of the Islamic Group are the overthrow of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak-led government and its replacement with a fundamentalist Islamic regime. Along with the spread violence and mayhem to “infidel’ countries like the United States, and, of course, the destruction of Israel.
Stewart’s connections to the Islamic Group date back to 1995, when she represented the group’s spiritual leader, the notorious “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, during his federal grand jury trial in New York City. Rahman was convicted of helping engineer the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as well as a failed Islamic Group plan (known as “The Day of Terror”) to destroy other Manhattan landmarks including the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, United Nations building, and George Washington Bridge. Rahman was also found guilty of trying to arrange Mubarak’s assassination, an act that wasn’t surprising considering his fatwah (religous decree) against then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Although Sadat was murdered soon after Rahman’s order, the Sheikh was acquitted of any wrongdoing. But thanks in part to a bizarre defense strategy by Stewart (in which she argued that issuing a fatwah to blow up the World Trade Center was merely part of the Sheikh’s religious duties as a Muslim cleric), and his glaring culpability in IG’s devious plots, Rahman was sentenced in October 1995 to life imprisonment plus 65 years.
The verdict left Stewart in tears, not only because of her shoddy courtroom performance—she was unprepared on several occasions during the proceedings—but also due to the close personal relationship she had developed with Rahman during their time together.
Indeed, as a September 2002 piece in the New York Times Magazine showed, Stewart’s affection for the Sheikh often reached real depths: “As Stewart got to know her new client, she came to see him as a fighter for national liberation on behalf of a people oppressed by dictatorship and American imperialism. She came to admire him personally too, for his honesty, his strength of character, his teasing humor. ‘I've made up my mind,’ the sheik would say. ‘I'm going to marry you, and that will solve everything.’ ‘And what do women get if they fight in jihad?’ [Stewart] would ask. ’”
Their friendship, along with Stewart’s counsel, continued after Rahman was imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. That is where Stewart, a self-proclaimed “radical activist attorney” who supporters argue is no more than a kindly 62-year-old grandmother, crossed the line into criminality. Throughout 2000, FBI agents, working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), secretly videotaped Stewart’s legal visits with Rahman and wiretapped telephone conversations between the two. Due to federal authorities’ concerns over Rahman’s attempts to issue fatwahs and direct further the Islamic Group’s activities from prison, Stewart had to agree to a Special Administrative Measure (SAM) in order to gain access to him. The SAM meant that Stewart could only talk to Rahman about legal matters and barred her from conveying messages from the Sheikh to anyone in the outside world, including his family, friends and the media. The SAM did, however, allow an Arabic translator, Mohammed Yousry, to accompany Stewart on her visits with the Sheikh.
It was through Yousry that Rahman, according to a 19-page indictment issued by federal agents, delivered messages in Arabic to a Staten Island-based postal worker named Ahmed Abdel Sattar. While Yousry was a go-between for Rahman and Sattar, Sattar in turn facilitated communication between Rahman and Islamic Group representatives in the Middle East. Sattar, through faxes and telephone conversations, informed Islamic Group members abroad of the Sheikh’s directives and desires; they in turn carried them out.
Despite the Sheikh’s incarceration, the Islamic Group still considers him its sole spiritual leader, a fact made brutally clear in 1997 when six assassins shot and stabbed 58 tourists and four Egyptians to death in Luxor, Egypt. Members of the Islamic Group later claimed responsibility for this murderous rampage, saying it was done to force authorities to release Rahman from prison in the United States. Not to be outdone, Osama bin Laden and a few of his fellow Al-Qaeda operatives appeared on Al-Jazeera television in September 2000 vowing to wage a jihad to end Rahman’s incarceration (one of the men extolled viewers to “avenge your Sheikh” and “go to the spilling of blood”). It’s no coincidence that the suicide bombing of the American navy destroyer U.S.S. Cole occurred just one month after this broadcast. That attack, which took place in Yemen and killed over 17 U.S. sailors, was explained by Sattar’s Mid-east contacts as a warning to the U.S. government to free Rahman.
The messenger role played by both Yousry and Sattar made the two irreplaceable cogs in the Islamic Group’s militant mission. But without Stewart, correspondence with the Sheikh would have been nonexistent. Stewart not only allowed Yousry to communicate privately with the Sheikh in Arabic, she encouraged and actively aided the two men’s efforts to conduct IG business behind bars. An F.B.I. affidavit prepared by agent Kimberley Whittle detailed the cunning measures Stewart resorted to during her prison visits in order to protect Rahman and assist the Islamic Group’s homicidal agenda. According to the affidavit, Stewart “made random comments out loud for the [prison] guards to hear in order to conceal the real conversation" between Rahman and Yousry. During one such exchange, Stewart—all the while pretending to take notes in her legal pad—misled nearby guards by loudly inserting the nonsensical phrase, “Yes, the um...I am talking to you about...him going out on a, uh, chocolate eh...heart attack here” into a discussion between Rahman and Yousry. A wiretap captured Stewart, Rahman and Yousry joking afterwards about Stewart’s deception, with the aging Leftist lawyer saying she could “get an award for it,” and the Sheikh adding, “as long as the government is using secret evidence we will use secret doves.”
Stewart solidified her status as Islamic Group “dove” with her most flagrant defiance of the signed Special Administrative Measure—releasing an Islamic Group press release. The indictment handed down by federal authorities states, “On or about June 14, 2000, Stewart released Sheikh Abdul Rahman’s statement to the press and quoted the Sheikh as saying he is ‘withdrawing his support for the cease-fire that currently exists.’”
The statement, in direct violation of the SAM, signaled Islamic Group members that they should resume violence against the Egyptian government and end a cease-fire that had been in effect since 1998. Yet Stewart, showing no regard for the Luxor-like carnage that would potentially ensue, released the Sheikh’s decree to the international media. This was her final and most costly mistake, the one that ultimately led to her arrest by federal agents outside of her Brooklyn apartment last April. Despite Stewart’s assignment of blame for her present predicament on John Ashcroft (always the epitome of class and grace, Stewart led a large crowd of anti-war protestors in chants of “Ashcroft sucks” last October), her transgressions were tracked by former Attorney General Janet Reno. Currently free on $500, 000 bond, Stewart faces up to 40 years in prison.
In the wake of 9/11, Stewart’s complicity in aiding a U.S.-hating Islamic terrorist group with clear links to Osama bin Laden should make her a pariah to any American with a shred of loyalty and common sense. This has not prevented the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights --both well-known anti-American organizations of the far left -- or the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from rallying to her defense. The Center for Constitutional Rights issued a press release following Stewart’s indictment, describing the case “as an attack on attorneys who defend controversial figures and an attempt to deprive these clients of the zealous representation that may be required.” Well-known lawyer and author Elaine Cassel, one of the more vocal Stewart backers, agrees wholeheartedly with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ assessment. A recent article on her blog, Civil Liberties Watch, alleged, “[Stewart] is being criminally prosecuted for doing what lawyers do—advocating and speaking for her client.”
An unsavory cast of fringe groups has also slimed its way into the “Free Lynne Stewart” sweepstakes. Refuse and Resist, a group headed by Maoist Clark Kissinger (also the leader of the anti-war group Not In Our Name), actively promotes Stewart. Kissinger is also a leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Other fringe communist groups supporting Stewart include Pravda, the World Socialist Website, the Committee to Support Revolution in Peru (an arm of Peru’s bloodthirsty “Shining Path” rebels) and International A.N.S.W.E.R (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)—the Stalinist sect at the helm of many recent anti-war protests.
A.N.S.W.E.R is actually a front for the Workers World Party, a hard-line Communist organization that considers Kim Jong Il’s North Korea a socialist utopia. The driving force behind A.N.S.W.E.R is Lynne Stewart’s mentor and confidant, Ramsey Clark, who first encouraged her to take the Rahman case back in the mid-1990’s. Clark has morphed into a sort of jack-of-all-tyrants in the ensuing decades since he served, incredibly, as U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson. An admirer of all things totalitarian and an avowed enemy of the United States, Clark vocally supports Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein and has called Osama bin Laden the victim of a U.S. imperialist plot. He is also a tireless apologist for ex-Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and has even been retained by Serbia as U.S. counsel. Like his protégé, Stewart, Clark is a staunch defender of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman.
“How could a blind man be a terrorist, what could he do?” argued Clark in a 1997 interview. “They claimed that he was the leader of the conspiracy that set off the bomb in the World Trade Center. They have now had two trials and two convictions of the defendants in the World Trade Center cases, and Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman's name wasn't even mentioned at either trial. He had nothing to do with it, but we have this war against Islam going on.”
Over the past 25 years, Stewart has defended Weather Underground bomber Kathy Boudin, Black Panther Willie Holder, Mafia turncoat Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, cop killers, murderers, attempted murderers, so-called political prisoners and leftwing extremists of every stripe. Stewart has even gone on record as saying that she would defend Osama bin Laden. So is there any sociopath she wouldn’t represent.
“There are a lot of people I wouldn't represent,” Stewart said in an interview last year with the WW3 Report website. “I wouldn't represent [Charles] Schwarz, the cop who supposedly held [New York police torture victim Abner] Louima down. I don't represent people who are accused of hurting children in any way, either sexually or violently. I wouldn't take a Nazi case, or an Aryan case. My politics are those of inclusion, and I hope that my politics are represented in the people I actually represent.”
If Stewart’s politics are “inclusion,” why would she devote so much time and energy to defending Rahman, a man whose idea of inclusiveness consists of exterminating the Jewish race and keeping women locked behind closed doors? For that matter, why would Stewart aid and abet a bloodthirsty terrorist Islamic Group, whose ambition is to establish fundamentalist Islamic regimes throughout every corner of the globe? These are questions the American left prefers not to answer, as they might interrupt its flow bile against what they consider to be the “enemy” – the Ashcroft Justice Department.
Instead, American leftists have fallen all over themselves inviting Stewart to their events – the “anti-war” demonstration last October, the Socialist Scholars Conference in December, and campus after campus. There was the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, where Stewart gave a speech in December titled, “Representing Muslim and Arab Clients After 9-11: Can the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel Survive?” This event was sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild as part of the group’s 2002 Social Justice Dinner. Stewart was keynote speaker at the event. The National Lawyers’ Guild press release for Stewart’s appearance at William Mitchell read in part: “The witch hunt against Stewart, and the intended chilling effect on other defense attorneys, is yet another attempt by the government to dismantle the Constitution and deprive fundamental rights in furtherance of the War on Terrorism. The government is using fear to destroy the principles that define our democracy.”
Stewart’s campus tours also led her to the Pacific Northwest where she made back-to-back appearances this April at Portland State University and Seattle University, with speeches at both stops focusing on her favorite target, John Ashcroft. In fact, Stewart’s website (www.lynnestewart.org) characterized the Portland event as “Portland State University: Lynne Stewart vs. John Ashcroft.”
The announcement on Stewart’s site calls this squaring off, “The fight of the Century, a fight for the soul of America,” and goes on in sophomoric style: “In the corner on the left, Lynne is wrapped in the Constitution and wearing a ‘We the People’ T-shirt…Attorney General Ashcroft is in your right corner wearing a legal robe and a necklace of electric charms, guns, clubs, wire-taps, assorted badges, and a magic marker poised to scribble out the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution. The A.G. is being cheered on by a room full of smoke and mirrors, and by his manager King George Bush.”
The Portland State fiasco was sponsored by the usual medley of radical, Stewart-affiliated interest groups, including the Association of African Students, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, the Palestine Arab-American Association, Portland Lawyers Guild, and Socialist Action. If only Stewart could pick her juries from this fanatical collection of Marxists, anti-Semites and America-bashers, she would never lose a case.
Seattle University is a 112-year-old Jesuit college, which, according to its mission statement, is “inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition…we encourage and assist all students to explore their relationship with humanity, nature, and God; we provide all members of the university community the means to deepen the understanding of their faith.” Are we to believe that Catholic intellectual tradition would approve the terrorist activities and sympathies of Lynne Stewart? A befuddled member of the Seattle University community, Seth Cooper, wrote in the Seattle University Spectator, “Being a law student I am not as privy to discussions about the Jesuit teachings about social justice,” stated Cooper, “yet I cannot help but think that such teachings strongly condemn the use of directed violence or suppression of fundamental rights by a governing authority.”
In truth, Stewart’s terrorist-hugging antics represent the antithesis of Catholic teachings. Yet Seattle University, with help from the Seattle chapter of the National Lawyers Guild hosted Stewart for two speeches, as well as a special reception in her honor. An e-mail circulated to the school’s law students called Stewart “courageous” and portrayed her as a champion of human rights.
Stewart has been an immensely popular draw at small liberal arts colleges, but she has also felt the lucrative embrace of major universities like Arizona State. Her March 2003 appearance at ASU was dubbed "Emphatically Not Guilty" in a nod to her initial statement following her 2002 arrest. An ASU Law School press release described Stewart’s indictment in these terms: “Last April, FBI agents arrested Lynne Stewart at her Brooklyn home. As they took her away in handcuffs, the FBI invaded and searched her Manhattan office. Her crime? Doing her job for the past 27 years as an outspoken criminal defense lawyer. Prior to September 11th and the hastily enacted ‘Patriot Act,’ Lynne Stewart never would have been indicted.”
While American university audiences have made Lynne Stewart a poster child for civil liberties, the rest of us should not forget who she is. These are some of Stewart’s public statements, many of which are recent:
—“I don’t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous,” she told Monthly Review’s Susie Day in a November 2002 interview. “Because so often, dissidence has been used by the greater powers to undermine a people’s revolution.”
---"I don't believe in anarchist violence but in directed violence,” she told the NY Times in 1995. “That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism, sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions and accompanied by popular support."
Here is the chilling description of Stewart in a New York Times Magazine profile published in September 2002. “…this warmhearted woman took the slaughter of innocents [on 9/11] with a certain cold-bloodedness. The U.S. is constantly at war around the world and shouldn't expect its acts to go unanswered, she says. The Pentagon was ‘a better target’; the people in the towers ‘never knew what hit them. They had no idea that they could ever be a target for somebody's wrath, just by virtue of being American. They took it personally. And actually, it wasn't a personal thing.’ As for civilian deaths in general: ‘I'm pretty inured to the notion that in a war or in an armed struggle, people die. They're in the wrong place, they're in a nightclub in Israel, they're at a stock market in London, they're in the Algerian outback—whatever it is, people die.’ She mentions Hiroshima and Dresden. ‘So I have a lot of trouble figuring out why that is wrong, especially when people are sort of placed in a position of having no other way.’”
Describing the Islamic fanatics who have declared war on America, Stewart told Susie Day, “They are basically forces of national liberation.…” About the “blind sheik,” her client, who helped to mastermind the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, she says, “Now, certainly somebody like Sheikh Omar, who was a world figure, someone who was listened to by the entire Muslim population for being a very learned scholar, deserved to have a platform, deserved not to be entombed in the middle of America and not able to speak.” The interview appears on the the WW3 Report website. “They said the Sheikh was responsible for, I dunno, everything except flat feet. They made it sound like a worldwide conspiracy… He's a blind, elderly, sick man. He may be a spiritual head, he may be intellectually involved in [Islamic Group’s] struggle [in Egypt]. But he's certainly not a combatant in any sense whatsoever.
Stewart has absolutely no remorse for what she did, and plays the martyr’s role to perfection: “…don't ask me what I was doing! Ask what the government was doing listening in!” she told WW3 Report. “…They suckered me…I really see it all as part of the right-wing parade orchestrated by Bush and Ashcroft, which really masks their economic goals, to exploit the Third World and divert Americans' attention from the fact that our economy seems to be tanking right now. If I am the poster-child now for the anti-Ashcroft forces, I'm happy to be that.”
These kinds of sentiments only encouraged leftist law students at the City University of New York to attempt to present her with the school’s Public Interest Lawyer of the Year award at graduation ceremonies last month. A group of students gave administrators a petition containing 73 names—more than half of the graduating class—in an effort to reward Stewart for her betrayal of her country and its citizens. This turned out to be an award too far, however. After the award was leaked to the press, CUNY law school dean Kristin Booth Glen informed students via e-mail that Stewart would not be honored because that “could lead to consequences that could be damaging.”
This brought out the martyrs brigade again. Kathryn Hudson, the CUNY law student who spearheaded the effort to fete Stewart, fumed, “If you can’t have free speech at a law school, where can you have it?” Said graduate student, Kavita Pawria, “There is an irrational fear being used to suppress civil liberties.”
Stewart herself got into the act, saying, “The students seem to carry on a long tradition of reminding institutions of their responsibilities. They are willing to take the risk, but Dean Glen apparently is not.”
Stewart ended up feeling quite feted, however, as CUNY’s Criminal Law Society honored her at a private ceremony prior to graduation. Considering CUNY law students’ abysmal 50 percent passage rate on the bar exam, engineering this small victory was quite resourceful.
The same can’t be said for Stanford Law School, which, last November, invited Stewart to serve a two-day stint as a “Public Interest Mentor” for students. The offer was extended—reportedly without full consent from faculty and administrators—by Eduardo Capulong, the Director of Public Interest and Public Policy Programs at Stanford Law School. Capulong is a member of the International Socialist Organization and a regular contributor to Socialist Worker Online, so his reasons for wanting to host an anti-capitalist like Stewart were predictable.
But the plan was short-circuited when opponents of Stewart brought her statements about “armed struggle” to the attention of Stanford Law School dean Kathleen Sullivan. Sullivan abruptly rescinded the terrorist lawyer’s invitation just two days before the mentoring program was scheduled to begin. Stewart, who had just arrived in Palo Alto after a cross-country flight from New York, received a fax at her hotel from Sullivan saying, “It has recently come to my attention that in public statements you have expressly supported the use of violence to achieve social change. In light of these statements, I unfortunately cannot allow the Law School to confer upon you the title of David W. Mills Public Interest Visiting Mentor.”
For once, sanity prevailed, to an extent. Stewart still hung around the Stanford campus for a few days and spoke at a student-run conference. As for her official snub by Stanford’s administration, Stewart told the San Francisco Daily Journal, "I'm pugnacious. This is a further chilling of the atmosphere for civil rights in this country. It does seem to be outrageous. Republicans certainly manifest a belief in violence toward Iraq, and I don't see them being barred from anywhere."
In a comment in the Wall Street Journal Online columnist James Taranto observed, “Stanford's action [of inviting Stewart to mentor] is the equivalent of an American university in 1943 inviting someone who's a Nazi sympathizer and alleged Nazi collaborator to be a ‘mentor’ for its students. One wonders how long it will be before some university invites Osama bin Laden himself to be a guest speaker.”
If Lynne Stewart and her campus supporters have their way, it won’t be very long at all.