FBI agent testifies a 3rd day (August 22, 2007)

Both frowns and smiles were present in the courtroom on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 as prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned FBI agent Robert Miranda. While listening to Miranda testify for a third day, the jurors were mostly attentive as the fifth week of the Holy Land Foundation trial wrapped up.

Miranda began by reading aloud a document that notified the HLF that a company would be performing a counter surveillance sweep in the headquarter office in Richardson. The next document that prosecutors displayed was the company’s results, which showed that the HLF had been under surveillance for an unknown amount of time. Prosecutor Nathan Garrett then brought up a few transcripts that showed HLF employees using code names for the terms “Hamas” and “prison.” For Hamas, they used “Samah” — meaning forgiveness in Arabic and is Hamas spelt backwards. For prison, they used “Bait Amto” — meaning aunt’s house in Arabic. In a 2002 sworn statement, defendant Shukri Abu-Baker said, Samah was a whimsical and ironic play on words — not an adopting secret term. But Miranda said Abu-Baker’s statement was not consistent with the documents he reviewed. To Miranda, the sweep and the code names were examples of the HLF’s utilization of an undated and unsigned security manual that the FBI took from the HLF’s files in Infocom, a computer company owned by defendant Ghassan Elashi and his brothers.

Garrett then went over Executive Order 1294, which “prohibited transactions with terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process.” Signed by President Bill Clinton and dated January 1995, the document listed several “terrorist organizations” — including Hamas — that Americans were prohibited to financially support.

Next, Miranda read aloud a document that banned fundraising for charities linked to terrorism. Many present in the courtroom were not surprised that the document was prepared by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an American Jewish and Zionist organization. Garrett then played a 1996 tapped phone conversation between Elashi, Abu-Baker and their companion Thomas Mohammad discussing the ADL document. The media is going out of it’s way to establish a link between the HLF and Hamas, Abu-Baker said. Then Mohammad said, If there’s a link, they should be able to prove it. This is America. We have constitutional laws here. Then Abu-Baker ironically replies, I hope so. Elashi then read part of the ADL document, which stated: The detainment of Musa Abu-Marzook will provoke a wake of outrage against the U.S. Elashi paused then said, This is a fabrication of facts. Garrett concluded his direct examination by asking Miranda to read a segment from a transcript of a 1996 wiretapped phone call where defendant Mohammad El-Mezain said, Hamas is an honor to the Palestinian people.

Abu-Baker’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander, began cross-examination of Miranda by making it clear that the defendant’s use of “aunt’s house” for jail was not a code word. Rather, it was a common term that many Palestinians used to refer to jail. Nancy said the term was much like “big house” or “slammer,” which are expressions used in the U.S. to describe a prison. She then asked Miranda if he searched to see if “aunt’s house” is a common idiom used in the Middle East. Miranda’s reply: I’m not a language expert. I don’t research idioms.

During the direct examination of Miranda, Garrett played a tiny portion of a tapped call between Abu-Baker and his brother Hamas leader Jamal Isa. To add context to the conversation, Hollander played the entire phone call — nearly 40-minutes long. The brothers talked about family, including their brother, Kamal, who lived in the Philippines. Isa, his wife and his children then talked to Isa’s mother.

Hollander proved that Abu-Baker and other HLF employees did not follow the security manual by reading aloud a rule from the security document that stated, Exposed individuals should not contact non-exposed individuals. Hollander then made clear that Isa is another family name — not a Hamas name like Miranda previously testified. She concluded by making a couple more points: In this country, it is not a crime to listen to a speech supporting Hamas. It is not a crime to own a copy of the Hamas charter. And expressing political views is not a crime.

El-Mezain’s attorney, Josh Dratel, was next to cross-examine Miranda. Dratel said El-Mezain purchased the plane tickets for Hamas leader Jamil Hamami five years before the U.S. government designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. The American government, on the other hand, sent an invitation to Hamami three years after Hamas was designated. He also made clear that many of individuals on HLF’s speaker list spoke from overseas and did not come to the U.S.

Elashi’s lawyer, John Cline, then cross-examined Miranda. He made clear that a handful of the speakers on HLF’s list are Hamas leaders, but they are not on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) list. He then added that the zakat committees that the HLF sent money to and Abu-Baker’s brother, Jamal Isa, were not on the SDT list either.

Marlo Cadeddu, defendant Mufid Abdulqader’s attorney, cross-examined Miranda by making one point clear. During direct examination of Miranda, he testified that Abdulqader began “sweating profusely” when he was asked about his half-brother Hamas leader Khalid Mishal during a 2002 FBI interview. Cadeddu asked Miranda if there was any mention of Abdulqader “sweating profusely” in the FBI 302 form, a report that accurately documented the interview. No, Miranda responded.

Greg Westfall, Abdulrahman Odeh’s lawyer, concluded the day by beginning his cross-examination of Miranda.

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