The immigration case against former University of South Florida student Youssef Megahed was front page news in today's New York Times. Megahed was detained by federal immigration officials days after his April acquittal on federal explosives charges.
Megahed and fellow student Ahmed Mohammed were arrested by police in South Carolina following a traffic stop in August 2007. In their trunk was a low-grade explosive mixture, and Megahed was seen putting away a laptop computer that recently had viewed jihadi Internet videos.
He faces an immigration hearing related to the arrest in August which could lead to his deportation. The Times describes Megahed's plight as "a test case of the president's pledge to break with some of the Bush administration's most unpopular policies."
The article quotes IPT consultant and retired INS Supervisory Special Agent Bill West saying the notion dates back to gangland Chicago and Al Capone – "get the bad guys any way you can, on any violation you can."
That doesn't stop the Times from casting this as a targeted government action against a Muslim. As West pointed out here in April, however, the continuum doesn't start with Capone and leap to post-9/11 terror cases.
"Removal charges can be based on criminal activity, activity contrary to national security and public safety, and some of those legal sections do not require conviction.
This approach began in earnest by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in Miami in 1996 against a Cuban spy named Jorge Luis Rodriguez. Rodriguez was never charged criminally but was ultimately deported for having engaged in espionage related activities in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act."
Beyond immigration, this concept of pursuing civil court prosecution against a suspect acquitted in criminal proceedings has another high profile example. O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder by a Los Angeles jury, yet found culpable for the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend in a civil trial that relied on much the same evidence used in the criminal murder case. The double jeopardy argument, rightfully, went nowhere in Simpson's case.
Megahed won his freedom with his April acquittal. But the jury's verdict did not forfeit the nation's right to assess whether someone like Megahed should be welcome in the United States. He clearly associated with someone who wanted to teach jihadists how to kill Americans and live to fight another day. And, while he professes ignorance to Mohamed's jihadi leanings, the evidence shows the two immediately tried to get their stories straight while sitting in the back of a police cruiser following their arrests.
"Did you tell them about the gasoline?" Megahed asks.
"No," Mohamed answers. "I didn't know. I told them it's not yours and that you have nothing to do with it and I was the one who made these fireworks … Correct? I mean, [unintelligible] and the will of Almighty God, [unintelligible] and God willing, there is nothing on you."
Finally, the article cites a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticizing the case against Megahed for "sending the wrong message to American Muslims and the Muslim world." Ramzy Kilic, who runs CAIR's Tampa chapter, said "If Obama really wants to make a new way forward with mutual respect, he has to start here at home."
No mention is made of CAIR's consistent defense of accused terrorists and terror financiers, or its roots in a Hamas-support network that finally prompted the FBI to cut off communication with CAIR last year. If readers are to hear CAIR's opinion of a case, they are entitled to know more about the organization's perspective.