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Weekly Planet
March 27- April 3, 2002

A Viewpoint about Loftus Lawsuit against Al-Arian

by: John F. Sugg

On March 25, Sami Al-Arian received an envelope with two one-dollar bills as an anonymous contribution to the beleaguered USF professor's "charitable activities." The Coquina Key return address on the envelope was a familiar one to Al-Arian.

He had seen the same address a few days earlier -- on a March 20 lawsuit filed by John Loftus, president of St. Petersburg's Holocaust Museum. The litigation accuses Al-Arian of a host of misdeeds, including being a terrorist and laundering Saudi Arabian money for criminal activities. Key to the suit is a claim that Loftus is an "aggrieved person" because he contributed to and was defrauded by a charity (nonexistent, not that that bothered Loftus) run by Al-Arian. Normally, a lawyer would attach a copy of a check to a lawsuit if a client claims that a charity violated Florida's Deceptive or Unfair Trade and Practices Act. Loftus, with his measly two bucks, is trying to create his "injury" after he already filed the lawsuit, a novel tactic even in Florida. I've yet to find a lawyer -- having consulted about eight -- who thinks Loftus' lawsuit will go anywhere. Indeed, the real scamster is Loftus himself, not Al-Arian. And the most scammed party, aside from the public, is the U.S. government, which was stampeded into raids on respected Muslim research organizations in the Washington, D.C., area by their mention in Loftus' lawsuit.

An examination of Loftus and his lawsuit shows this to be perfectly in character. He isn't the man his propaganda proclaims. He is a huckster of wild, fabricated and unproven conspiracy theories. And his lawsuit is a bogus smear.

Loftus is, in fact, a study in the careful re-creation of a discredited "expert." In most recent press accounts, he is described as a "prosecutor" who chased Nazis for the U.S. Justice Department. He's also depicted as a "whistleblower" who revealed amazing conspiracies by the U.S. government, usually against Israel.

For example, a March 22 St. Petersburg Times story -- which lacked any pretense of skepticism or fact checking -- referred to the Loftus of a generation ago as a "young federal prosecutor." The Washington Post on March 24 called Loftus "a former Nazi hunter for the Justice Department." Echoing the claims are scores of other stories, often in the Jewish press, but also flooding the mainstream media ever since the Al-Arian suit and subsequent cover-your-ass raids by G-men. Only one problem with the adoring depiction of Loftus -- one unfortunately held by many worthy supporters of the Holocaust Museum: It ain't exactly so. In 1982, Holocaust archivist and author Charles R. Allen interviewed Allan Ryan, Loftus' boss at the agency that prosecuted ex-Nazis. Allen, in an article in The Jewish Veteran, recounted that he asked Ryan if Loftus had prosecuted Nazi war criminals. "No," Ryan replied, "he did not. He did legal research for our trial attorneys."

Frank Daugherty, an investigative reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News in the 1980s, told Allen: Loftus "lets other people call him a Justice Department prosecutor of Nazi war criminals, which he never was. He lets them praise him as a whistleblower when he never was."

His earlier debunking largely forgotten, Loftus still finds an audience by wrapping overblown conspiracies in ways that appeal to or tantalize fearful or uninformed audiences.

And that's what the Al-Arian lawsuit is all about. Few people in the United States have endured scrutiny as intense as Al-Arian has. Despite assertions to the contrary in Loftus' lawsuit, many people, including me, have combed copies of all the material taken by federal agents in 1995. A controversial person, yes; evidence of terrorism, no. Al-Arian's detractors keep rehashing the same points -- allegations thoroughly examined and totally dismissed in October 2000 by a federal judge. His foes point to the fact that he once invoked the Fifth Amendment to 99 questions. Yet these detractors aren't bright or honest enough to see the obvious explanation -- prosecutors were trying to ensnare Al-Arian in a perjury trap. If he had answered "no" to a question, the feds would have found someone to testify "yes," and then indicted Al-Arian on perjury. That's cheap and dishonest, just like Loftus.

He bases the most sensational parts of his lawsuit -- a wiretapped phone call by Al-Arian that has all the authenticity of a comic book spy tale -- on "confidential client sources." What a neat trick. Anyone could win a lawsuit if they didn't have to prove their case beyond claiming secret sources.

Loftus has no "aggrieved" party, thus no basis for a claim. He's well past the four-year statute of limitations for any of the alleged wrongdoings -- organizations headed by Al-Arian have been defunct for six years.

If Loftus is saying that Al-Arian solicited funds for charity that were then used to help families of terrorists, he should sue the Catholic Church, which certainly distributed tons of money to relatives of IRA gunmen.

Loftus' demands for things such as seizing Al-Arian's assets -- prior to a trial, even -- is lunacy and not even remotely envisioned in Florida law.

Notably, Loftus has yet to serve Al-Arian with the lawsuit. The reason is obvious. Loftus may not be much of an attorney, but he probably realizes there is no way to prosecute the suit. Yet, he has 120 days to serve Al-Arian, and during that time, he can bluster and defame as much as he wants.

And that's the real purpose behind the lawsuit -- to smear someone.