For controversial USF professor Sami Al-Arian, John Loftus is a problem that won’t go away.
Loftus, former president for the Florida Holocaust Museum, gained notoriety earlier this year when he filed a lawsuit against Al-Arian. But Al-Arian claimed victory in June after a judge threw out the case, citing the fact that Loftus did not show how he was personally injured by the professor’s conduct.
The judge did, however, grant Loftus a 20-day period in which the suit could be amended. Loftus used that to his advantage and refiled his suit on July 1 with new information that he said will prove Al-Arian harmed him individually.
“It is normal for trial judges to ask for more detail in civil complaints, and I was happy to provide it,” Loftus said. “No decision has yet been reached on the merits of the lawsuit. It has merely turned on the legal issue of whether I suffered personal financial damages.”
Loftus said he anticipates no further questions about his ability to bring the lawsuit on behalf of the general public. He said he had planned to refile the suit anyway because new evidence has come to light regarding Al-Arian’s case.
Loftus said an Israeli informant working within the militant Palestinian Islamic Jihad from 1990-1995, before being killed, fingered Al-Arian as being the organization’s second in command. The leader, he said, is Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, a former USF adjunct professor.
“No reasonable person can doubt that Professor Al-Arian is a member of an international terrorist organization,” Loftus said.
Loftus said Al-Arian is the highest- ranking member of a terrorist organization in the United States who is not currently in prison. He said he isn’t sure why, with the secret evidence he claims to have discovered, Al-Arian has not been apprehended.
“I don’t like the word conspiracy. I think it is 90 percent stupidity and 10 percent corruption,” Loftus said. “It is not a secret the CIA and FBI don’t play well together.”
Loftus said Al-Arian is protected by the Saudi Arabian government and, thus, has friends in high places. Saudi Arabia may also be important for U.S. military operations in the coming months, with reports of possible military actions against neighboring Iraq. Loftus said the United States government has deep connections to Saudi Arabia, and, thus, protects Al-Arian.
“I think that the motives to protect the Saudis are mixed,” Loftus said. “Of the 10-percent corruption factor, I would guess that a bit of it is that we rely upon Saudi oil for 15 percent of our daily oil supply. The Saudis have also stated publically that they have so many friends in Washington because they take such good care of them after they retire. And, finally, the Saudis have the most powerful lobby and media influence within the United States.”
Loftus said much of his information is similar to that reported in an article from The Tampa Tribune that caused controversy because of its use of unnamed Israeli intelligence agents as sources and will be the topic of a protest scheduled for Thursday at the newspaper’s offices.
Loftus said he has been exposed to the information because of his years of service as a lawyer inside the intelligence community.
“My sources keep me very current on Al-Arian,” Loftus said. “I had very high security clearances from all U.S. intelligence and NATO agencies when I worked for the attorney general. We have a gentleman’s agreement that I (receive and use) any secret evidence provided that I submit an advanced copy to the CIA publicity review committee to obtain clearance prior to publication.”
Loftus said he submitted his information to the CIA in March before filing the original lawsuit.
“The CIA gave me permission to file the complaint without censorship,” Loftus said. “However, the FBI headquarters in Washington opened a formal leak investigation in order to determine how I learned such highly classified information.”
Loftus said under attorney/client privilege, he can never reveal his sources.
The information Loftus claims to have received from those sources could go far beyond his membership in Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Loftus said he has evidence to link Jihad and Al-Arian to the al-Qaida terrorist organization, which has been blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.
In addition, Loftus said evidence suggests Al-Arian may have personally played a part in the execution of the attacks.
“It is a matter of record that an organization known as the Baraka group laundered the money to the skyjackers of Sept. 11. Sami Al-Arian incorporated Baraka in the state of Florida, which was dissolved on Sept. 28, 2001,” Loftus said. “(Evidence shows) that professor Al-Arian may have played a minor but significant role in supporting al-Qaida attacks on the United States.”
Al-Arian could not be reached Sunday for comment. He has, in the past, been harsh toward Loftus, calling him, among other things, a liar, lunatic and said, “he needs to be treated mentally.”
In fact, it seems the only thing Al-Arian and Loftus can agree on is the USF administration’s handling of the case. Al-Arian was suspended from teaching by USF president Judy Genshaft on Sept. 28, 2001, two days after his now infamous appearance on The O’Reilly Factor television show. Genshaft has yet to decide whether to fire Al-Arian and has stated the decision will probably come in August.
Al-Arian said, following his suspension, that academic freedom should protect comments he has made, no matter how controversial. Loftus said he feels academic freedom should be protected.
“I agree with the (USF) faculty that, in the future, it would always be better to have peer review before suspension or the firing of a professor,” Loftus said. “I would also agree that academic freedom, particularly at USF, is something that all of us should defend to the fullest.”
But, Loftus said, he now awaits the next move in his crusade to unmask Al-Arian. He said proving Al-Arian’s guilt is a step toward uncovering terrorist ties within the United States.
“To me, Sami Al-Arian is insignificant,” Loftus said. “He is only important in that the evidence of the Saudi-Sami Al-Arian connection is overwhelming.”