BREAKING NEWS: Rashad Hussain Admits Making Controversial Comments; Says He Complained About Coverage


Rashad Hussain, the newly appointed U.S. envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, has admitted that he both made the 2004 controversial remarks about convicted terrorist leader Sami Al-Arian and that he had complained about the reporting of those comments to a magazine on Middle East issues which were later deleted by the magazine. Both issues were first reported by the GMBDW on Sunday. Mr. Hussain made the acknowledgement after first saying he had no recollection of the comments but has changed his story after the POLITICO blog obtained a recording of his presentation to a Muslim Student Association (MSA) conference in Chicago. According to the POLITICO report:

President Barack Obama’s new Islamic envoy, Rashad Hussain, changed course Friday – admitting he made sharply critical statements about a U.S. terror prosecution against a Muslim professor after initially saying he had no recollection of making such comments. “I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated,” Hussain said, referring to a 2004 conference where he discussed the case. Hussain’s reversal came after POLITICO obtained a recording of his presentation to a Muslim students’ conference in Chicago, where he can be heard portraying the government’s cases towards professor Sami Al-Arian, as well as other Muslim terrorism suspects, as “politically motivated persecutions.” Al-Arian later pled guilty to aiding terrorists…..Initially, Hussain, 31, said through a White House spokesman that he didn’t recall making the statements. Hussain also suggested that another speaker on the panel, Al-Arian’s daughter Laila, made the comments about her father. But after POLITICO provided the quotes and others from the recording to the White House Friday, Hussain said in a statement: “As a law student six years ago, I spoke on the topic of civil liberties on a panel during which I responded to comments made about the al-Arian case by Laila al-Arian who was visibly saddened by charges against her father. I made clear at the time that I was not commenting on the allegations themselves. The judicial process has now concluded, and I have full faith in its outcome.”

The POLITICO report also carries Mr. Hussain’s admission that he had complained to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) about their article on his comments because he believed they left a “misimpression.” However, although Mr. Hussain says that he contacted the WRMEA after first seeing the 2004 article, his comments were not deleted until sometime after 2007:

Hussain also answered another question surrounding his comments – why they were removed from the website of a magazine on Middle East issues that published a brief account of the panel back in 2004, attributing the statement about “politically motivated persecutions” to Hussain.It was Hussain himself, he said Friday, who contacted the publication to complain about the story. “When I saw the article that attributed comments to me without context, leaving a misimpression, I contacted the publication to raise concerns about it. Eventually, of their own accord, they modified the article,” Hussain said of the article in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs……Adding to the controversy about Hussain’s comments on “political motivated persecutions” is that they were deleted from a report on the conference that first appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a magazine on the region with articles from the Arab and Muslim perspectives. In the current version of the story on the Washington Report’s website, there is no reference to Hussain’s comments, or even that he appeared at the 2004 conference. But earlier, cached versions of the same story do include the comments – initially adding to the mystery of why they were taken out and at whose request. The discrepancy was first noted in a story last Saturday in the Web-based Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report. A Washington Report editor initially said the author of its article requested the change because Laila Al-Arian’s comments had been misattributed to Hussain. However, in an email to POLITICO, the author, Shereen Kandil, stood by her reporting and denied she ever made such a request. In addition, both Laila Al-Arian and Kandil, who now works in the Obama administration at the Environmental Protection Agency, said they were never consulted before the passages referring to Hussain were deleted. The deletion took place sometime between October 2007 and this year, according to the Internet Archive, although the version available in Nexis was never modified. The changes made some three years or more after his speech have led to speculation that Hussain was sanitizing his record to smooth his path to a White House legal post. However, the strident criticism he offered of the Justice Department’s handling of various alleged terrorism cases raises the possibility that his remarks could have posed a problem when he was applying for work at Justice in 2008. He joined the agency in the last year of the Bush administration as a trial attorney handling civil cases against the government, a Justice spokeswoman said.

The POLITICO report also reveals that Mr. Hussain talk at the MSA panel discussion was part of a more wide-ranging attack on U.S. prosecution of terrorists:

During the panel discussion on civil rights at a Muslim Students Association conference in Chicago, Hussain asserted that Al-Arian’s prosecution involved significant abuses. “The case that Laila just reminded us of is truly a sad commentary on our legal system. It is a travesty of justice, not just from the perspective of the allegations that are made against Dr. Al-Arian. Without passing any comment on those specific allegations or the statements [that]have been made against him, the process that has been used has been atrocious,” Hussain said, according to the recording. In his presentation, Hussain, then a student at Yale Law School, was careful to insist that he was not offering a view on Al-Arian’s innocence or guilt on charges that he served as a top leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the U.S. But Hussain said the treatment of Al-Arian fit a “common pattern….of politically-motivated prosecutions where you have huge Justice Department press conferences announcing that a certain person is a grave threat to American security.” In the recording, Hussain’s indictment of the government’s legal practices toward Muslims goes further than Al-Arian’s case, leveling a detailed critique of more than a half-dozen prominent anti-terrorism cases and several key provisions of the Patriot Act. Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as “horrible” and called “dangerous” an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases. Most lawmakers, including many Democrats critical of the Patriot Act, have said the provision has proven valuable, because it removed a wall that made it difficult for those pursuing investigations of international terror or spying operations to share information with criminal investigators. Hussain did express support for other aspects of the law, including a provision permitting so-called roving wiretaps.

According to POLITICO, the White House declined to say Friday whether the statements or the controversy affected Obama’s confidence in Hussain.

Mr. Hussain’s comments and the deletions from the later online versions of the WRMEA report were first reported by the GMBDW on Sunday as part of a post which revealed Mr. Hussain’s history of participation in events associated with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. This history includes speaking at a May 2009 event sponsored by a number of U.S. Brotherhood organizations and which also featured individuals tied to the U.S. Brotherhood. In almost all the media coverage of this story, Mr. Hussain’s association with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood has been ignored with the attention focused solely on his comments about Al-Arian.

In August 2008, the Obama campaign Muslim outreach adviser Mazen Asbahi resigned after the Wall Street Journal disclosed his U.S. Muslim Brotherhood ties based on information developed by the GMDR. Another post has discussed the background of Dalia Mogahed, one of two U.S. Muslims appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Ms. Mogahed’s background also suggests ties to the global Muslim Brotherhood.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. GlobalMB

    These comments by the WRMEA editor made before Mr. Hussain’s admission should be noted:

    Hanley conceded later on Tuesday that she may have made a mistake, but denied that there was a cover-up. “My memory was that Shereen had been contacted about this and she had told me to change it,” said Hanley. “So I must have made a mistake if she denies it. Perhaps someone contacted our Web master directly.” After looking further into the matter, Hanley said several hours later that the WRMEA Web master thought the archived story had been altered on Feb. 5, 2009, although it was also possible that the change had been made “when our Web site began an ongoing redesign.”Hussain was named as a White House deputy associate counsel on January 28, 2009. Asked whether either Hussain, or anyone else, had approached the WRMEA to ask for the story to be altered – and if so, when this had occurred – Hanley said she could not remember the circumstances.“We cannot find an e-mail paper trail and we have spent a long time checking on this. I probably asked for the change but I honestly can’t recall who asked me to make it.” She maintained that the WRMEA reporter had mistakenly attributed the comments to Hussain. “When an intern (or even a pro) writes a story and they are taking notes covering various speakers, especially during a Q/A session, it is easy to make a mistake,” she said. “I would guess it’s a writer’s simple error and not a big cover-up.” “I’d be very curious to find out if I had said this or another non-Muslim speaker or commentator, would this be such an issue?” Hanley said. Seems like this article is evidence that Muslim Americans are facing serious discrimination in our post 9/11 country.”

  2. GlobalMB

    One counter-terrorism analyst has suggested that Mr. Hussain never used the term “politically motivated persecution” and therefore might have been confused somehow about what he had said. However, the audiotape of the conference reveals that Mr. Hussain stated:

    …which I’ll discuss a little bit later when I get to the section of my talk on politically-motivated persecutions” (time 0:52)