An effort by radical Islamists to smear terrorism expert Steven Emerson backfired last week when the allegations proved to be fabricated. An article entitled, "Paul Kendall: Did an 'Expert' on Terrorism Conspire With a Foreign Government to Violate the Constitutional Rights of American Muslims?," was posted on PR Newswire on March 4. It was based on copies of emails the author claimed to have reviewed. "These electronic communications prove that Steve Emerson, along with some anti-Muslim advocacy groups, worked directly with the public affairs office of the Israeli consulate in Boston to formulate the creation of a smear campaign intended to stop the construction of a new Islamic cultural center," the article claimed.
PR Newswire sought to corroborate the article's claims. But the emails say no such thing - out of dozens posted with the article, Steve Emerson is referenced in only two. In neither case is he shown in any communication with the Israeli consulate, communication which simply did not happen. The author of the article apparently did not respond to requests from PR Newswire for corroboration.
PR Newswire therefore issued a "Kill" order on the story at 12:33 p.m. on Friday, March 7, withdrawing the original press release. This was confirmed in an email and telephone call to Steve's attorney Richard Horowitz. WordPress.com also removed a blog containing the same report: "This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service."
Steve Emerson expresses gratitude for the way both entities handled the situation. "I run an independent organization that takes no money from any government, or from anybody outside the United States," he told me. "This report was an attempt at a viral smear, using the Internet to spread lies about my work. I appreciate the responsible steps PR Newswire and WordPress took to ensure they were not used any further."
The emails in the original article appear to be part of the discovery process from a lawsuit brought in 2005 by the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB). A year earlier, Boston media outlets reported on the ISB's mosque project. Most of the coverage focused on a land deal between a city re-development arm and the ISB which was well below market value. Several ISB officials also had demonstrable involvement in radical Islamist activity.
Those officials include former ISB board member and former American Muslim Council President Abdurrahman Alamoudi. Alamoudi is serving 23 years in prison after a 2004 guilty plea for illegal transactions with Libya and for participating in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince. ISB officials had contended that they had broken ties with Alamoudi years earlier, but discovery records from the Society showed it paid Alamoudi a speaking fee in November 2000, just two months after Alamoudi stood in LaFayette Park in Washington, D.C. and publicly proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hizballah.
In addition, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guide Yusuf al-Qaradawi was identified as an ISB trustee. Qaradawi issued a fatwa stating that Muslims killed fighting American forces in Iraq are martyrs. "Those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will."
An ISB director named Walid Fitaihi had written that Jews had "perpetrated the worst of evils and brought the worst corruption to the earth" and engaged in "oppression, murder and rape of the worshipers of Allah."
The ISB dropped its lawsuit against Emerson, the Boston Herald, the Fox affiliate in Boston, the David Project and others in May 2007. For Steve Emerson and the others sued by the ISB, there were no settlement payments, no retractions and no restrictions on future reporting or claims about the Society. ISB's dropping of a lawsuit win represented a victory for freedom of speech and the press. But it demonstrated the lawfare that jihadists are trying to use to stifle freedom of speech. Smearing is the next tactic they use.
The Islamic Society of Boston used its connections with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to get a parcel of land at a fraction of its real cost. In its lawsuit, the Society claimed that reporting on the deal and the presence of Islamist extremists within the ISB dried up its funding. But financial documents produced under discovery show massive amounts of money coming in from the Persian Gulf and bank accounts flush with millions of dollars.
Other discovery records show significant financial support from Saudi Arabian funders, attempts to fraudulently change the board of the mosque at the last moment to shield the real board from discovery, destruction of emails (right before they were to deliver them, at which point the ISB dropped the case) and some unusual financial transactions. The entire episode, including an attempt to stifle free speech, the support from extremists, and a clear conflict of interest in the awarding of land at a fraction of its value to ISB, call for a larger federal and Congressional investigation, especially since the Boston Mayor, Boston City Council and the FBI in Boston appear to have tolerated the deceit practiced by the ISB.
The ISB has received political support from the Muslim American Society (a de facto arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and which has expressed support for suicide operations) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development Hamas money laundering case).
The killed story appears to be an attempt to use information gathered in the discovery process to smear Steve Emerson publicly, after the legal attempt failed. But in the end they found nothing. That it boomeranged proves Islamist groups and their supporters continue to rely on fabrications and deception about Steve Emerson and other critics. This time they were caught red-handed.