King Politicizes “Unindicted Co-Conspirator” Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy Theory

Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and convener of the hearings on American Muslim “radicalization,” has “demanded an explanation” from Attorney General Eric Holder why he isn’t prosecuting the unindicted co-conspirators from the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial. (Could it be because they were unindicted?) From the Committee’s press release:

In a letter to Holder, King wrote: “I have been reliably informed that  the decision not to seek indictments of the Council on American Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) and its co-founder Omar Ahmad, the Islamic Society of North America (“ISNA”), and the North American Islamic Trust (“NAIT”), was usurped by high-ranking officials at Department of Justice headquarters over the vehement and stated objections of special agents and supervisors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas, who had investigated and successfully prosecuted the Holy Land Foundation case.  Their opposition to this decision raises serious doubt that the decision not to prosecute was a valid exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”

As I have discussed previously, the “unindicted co-conspirators” theory is the foundation for conspiratorial assertions from the right that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated America with the intention of installing an Islamic theocracy. It is based on a single document produced in the Holy Land trial:

This claim that the Muslim Brotherhood’s aim is a worldwide theocracy, and that all American Muslim organizations fall into lock-step with it, stems solely from a single 20-year-old document written by a single Brotherhood member in 1991. In the controversial terrorism financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which first resulted in a mistrial in 2007, and convictions in a 2008 re-trial, federal prosecutors introduced a document, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.”

Gaffney and others have seized upon this document developing theories that the goal of “radical Islamists” is a global theocracy and that the Muslim Brotherhood lurks in every corner of America. GWU’s [Nathan] Brown, who testified in the first Holy Land Foundation trial, said, “Nobody has ever produced any evidence that the document was more than something produced by the daydream of one enthusiast.” Noting that he has been studying Palestinian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, and Jordanian Brotherhood movements since 2005, Brown added, “Nothing in anything that I have heard has ever struck me as similar in tone or content to the ‘master plan.’”

Yet this single document has been used to create a mythology around a supposedly global plot. Brown, addressing the document, notes that “The prosecution in the Holy Land Case painted with a broad brush and probably should not be relied upon. There is indeed a loose coordinating international structure for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it has no real authority over the chapters.” But that hasn’t stopped Gaffney, who said recently, “It is now public knowledge that nearly every major Muslim organization in the United States is actually controlled by the MB or a derivative organization. Consequently, most of the Muslim-American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution.”

Based on the “explanatory memorandum” document identifying a number of American Muslim organizations as allies in its author’s aspirations, prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation trial publicly labeled over 200 American Muslim organizations “unindicted co-conspirators,” a highly controversial move derided at the time by legal experts as contrary to Justice Department policy and in violation of the groups’ constitutional rights. Eventually, the court ruled, on the motion of three of the groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that publicly identifying them as “unindicted co-conspirators” did violate their Fifth Amendment rights. That didn’t stop the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy—a former federal prosecutor himself—from falsely claiming at CPAC, “those people were all convicted” in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

Holder hasn’t prosecuted these groups because they were unindicted. That means there wasn’t enough evidence to indict them, much less prosecute them. A federal court ruled that publicly naming them as “unindicted co-conspirators” violated their constitutional rights. King is trying to make political hay out of a long-discredited theory that the right somehow nonetheless persists in promoting. Nothing to see here.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email