U.S. Attorney confirms Al-Arian probe

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday acknowledged that the federal government is conducting an ongoing investigation into the actions of controversial USF professor Sami Al-Arian.The information came in the form of a news release from Mac Cauley, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

Cauley said in the release that although the government is typically prohibited from disclosing the information on the status of investigations, “there are exceptions to this policy, such as when the community needs to be reassured that the appropriate law enforcement agency is investigating the matter.”

The FBI has investigated Al-Arian before but never produced enough evidence to warrant charging the tenured professor with a crime.

Al-Arian said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement of the “ongoing and active investigation.”

“My understanding is that the FBI will always have an investigation and will very rarely close one,” Al-Arian said.He said the only case he could recall being closed by the FBI was that of Richard Jewel, who was initially suspected of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.

When asked if he thought he was being watched by federal investigators: “I really don’t know,” he said.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham was recently given a classified briefing by the FBI, but Graham said on Wednesday that the FBI “didn’t have an overwhelming amount of information.”

He also said he supports USF President Judy Genshaft’s decision to seek the termination of Al-Arian, as long as her decision is based on his actions and not on his words.

Genshaft said in a statement Thursday that was she contacted by Cauley personally, and she will take the information “very, very seriously, and (she) will fully consider it” as she proceeds in the case.

The American Association of University Professors will send a three-member panel in mid-March to investigate whether Genshaft violated academic freedom. Though she has not officially set a timetable for when she will render her final decision concerning Al-Arian, a representative from the AAUP said last week she expects Genshaft to wait until after the panel visits.