Florida’s national security threat

By Joseph Farah

The leading Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Florida, the former president of the University of South Florida, chose to ignore repeated warnings that her faculty included terrorist supporters.

Betty Castor is seeking the seat vacated by Sen. Bob Graham. Her biggest claim to fame is her tenure as president of the university at the time it employed Sami al-Arian.

Al-Arian awaits trial in January on a 50-count federal terrorism indictment, stemming from Palestinian Islamic Jihad operations he allegedly managed with several others from Tampa.

For seven years leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, Castor was warned about al-Arian’s connections to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an international ally of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

Those warnings began in November 1994, when PBS aired “Jihad in America,” produced by Middle East terrorism expert Steven Emerson. Al-Arian and his links to Palestinian Islamic Jihad were clearly identified in this documentary.

In 1995, the Tampa Tribune published a series of articles detailing al-Arian’s alleged involvement with terror support activities. Later that year, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, a former USF professor, publicly emerged in Damascus, Syria, as the new leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Shallah, and al-Arian’s brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar, later deported, both worked at USF as instructors in violation of U.S. immigration law. In November of that same year, federal search warrants were executed in Tampa in the case, an event widely reported in the press.

Finally, in 1996, Castor commissioned a lawyer, William Reece Smith, to investigate the al-Arian matter and several months later suspended him with pay. In other words, al-Arian got a long, paid vacation, giving him more time to work on his Palestinian Islamic Jihad pursuits.

It might have been different if the investigation had been conducted by an entity with subpoena power.

Castor opted not to turn the matter over to the Florida Office of Inspector General, specifically charged with investigating waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct and mismanagement.

Why didn’t she? A June 1995 memo to her top staff might explain what she was thinking: “I am deeply concerned by implications that the university should ‘investigate’ entities or people and be the arbiter of what political, social or religious ideology is ‘good’ or ‘evil.'”

In other words, Betty Castor is a moral relativist who is uncomfortable with the idea of even investigating people associated with terrorism.

Of course, it’s not entirely true that Betty Castor had an absolute aversion to investigating her professorial staff. When bogus accusations were made in an Arab-American newspaper against another professor, Abdelwahab Hechiche, of being an Israeli spy, Castor ordered an investigation by her chief of police and general counsel and even contacted the local FBI.

It seems for Betty Castor, academic freedom was a one-way street – nearly unrestricted for Islamist jihadist terrorist operatives, but not for those who stood falsely accused by those same people.

By the way, Hechiche was assaulted on campus, his life threatened by the Islamists and he ultimately resigned under the pressure – all because he sought to bring together Jews and Muslims on campus in a spirit of peace, harmony and open dialogue.

How someone like Betty Castor parlays that disgraceful record of moral and leadership failures as president of the University of South Florida into a promising political career, I just don’t understand.

Yet, I repeat, she is the leading Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from the state of Florida.

She faces a primary election a week from tomorrow and polls show her with a double-digit lead over her opponent, Rep. Peter Deutsch.

Oh, by the way – Castor is running as a “centrist.” That should give you a pretty good idea of the total moral bankruptcy of her party in general. If she’s a centrist, Sami al-Arian and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are just misunderstood freedom fighters.

Betty Castor is a bonafide terrorist enabler. Sending her to the U.S. Senate would be a grave mistake for national security.