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Rashad Hussain Admits Cover-up of Past Comments on Terrorist Prosecutions

Morgen on February 19, 2010 at 11:58 pm

My suspicion earlier this week that White House attorney and Islam Envoy Rashad Hussain was involved in covering up controversial comments he made in 2004 turns out to have been well-founded. Josh Gerstein from Politico reports:

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.

First of all, major kudos to Gerstein for following through on this story. I do not think there are very many people in the major media who would have continued to pursue a story such as this that originated in conservative media (CNS and Fox). And while Gerstein goes to great lengths in his latest post to present a balanced perspective on Hussain’s views as expressed in 2004, it is his job to do so and he does it commendably as far as I am concerned. The one complaint I would make is that the timing of this release (10:00 pm EST) strikes me as a Friday night news dump, but its quite possible that Gerstein had little if anything to do with this.

The main point to emphasize here is that the real story is the cover-up, not Hussain’s actual comments from 2004. Although I find it troubling that an Administration attorney viewed the prosecution of Islamic terrorists and their backers as “politically motived persecutions”, he was a private citizen at the time and still in law school no less. Frankly, I find it much more troubling that at least 9 political appointees working in the Justice Department directly represented terrorist defendants.

But what is now no longer in doubt is that not only did Hussain in fact make these statements, but he also actively sought to cover them up soon after joining the White House last year. From Gerstein:

“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.

“Of their own accord”…five years after publication of the article and only after being contacted by an attorney from the White House Counsel’s Office. Right.

Even worse, Hussain tacitly condoned, if not outright facilitated, the attempt to falsely attribute these quotes to someone else. By denying recollection of making the statements when this was first reported, and by remaining silent while the White House went along with the false story that another speaker at the event had actually made these comments instead of Hussain. In fact in doing so, they actually impugned the integrity of another current White House employee (Shereen Kandil), who as it turns out had written the article back in 2004 where these quotes were published. By claiming that she had mistakenly attributed these quotes to Hussain.

Suggesting that someone else is lying in order to cover up your own lie is reprehensible behavior, and all the more so because Hussain ultimately owned up to this only after Politico obtained the audio recording and it was clear that he was lying.

This would be considered unacceptable professional behavior in any organization, but for an attorney working in the White House to have engaged in this type of deception, this should probably be grounds for his termination.

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Category: Crime & the Law |

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