Free Ali Al-Timimi

September 27, 2008

Clips and Snips

Filed under: Clips and Snips — sandboxarea @ 2:21 am
One book at a time

Saving the Republic: One book at a time


Blessed are the Whistleblowers for they give the meek hope and provide us the bread on our tablefrom The Journalist’s Prayer

Back in the day there was Edward, Walter, Neil, Bob, and Carl. They represented a different type of American journalist… journalists who believed that their jobs were sacred trusts and that they were accountable to the people. In many ways, they and their editors and publishers were more patriotic then the government officials about whom they were reporting.

But the world of news has changed. Just go and ask anyone in a newsroom: “what’s the purpose of your organization?” and the answer is resoundingly: “to inform the public to report the news to maximize shareholder value through the productization of the news and advertisements”. All the news that is fit to sell is vying as a replacement to the venerable motto used in previous times.

As our government abuses its authority, Congress abandons its legislative and oversight roles, and the Courts choose not to enforce the law… a new breed of journalist has emerged to uncover the wrongs committed against the People, the Rule of Law, and the Constitution. These brave men and women are standing up and speaking out. Only time will tell if Ron, James, Eric, Jane, Nancy, Barton, and a few others will also be revered.


This is the first post in the category “Clips and Snips” and I wanted to take a look at some of the writings of Ron Suskind and how he discusses Ali.


In the book The One Percent Doctrine, Ron documents that the NSA was monitoring Ahmed Abu Ali–without a warrant. Ahmed was prosecuted as a related case to the Paintballers. Here’s the snippet:

Clearly Ron is very courageous. Ron’s style of writing is to include not only facts such as the “NSA was monitoring Ahmed Abu Ali without a warrant” but also some background information so that the reader has a more personal connection to the people in his books. This unique style takes on even more prominence in Ron’s latest book The Way of the World.

In this latest book, Ron briefly discussing Ali– that’s Ali Al-Timimi and not Ahmed Abu Ali. Ron makes a few mistakes… but nonetheless you can see that he has a professionalism that is quite admirable unlike others who will drag Ali through the mud just because they can… truth be damned. Here’s the clip:

Ron addresses Ali as “Dr. Al-Timimi” which is probably the first time that I’ve seen anyone use that term. And as you can see, Ron mentions both Ali’s cancer research work as well as his Islamic knowledge. Though it’s a mistake to assert that Ali is an “Islamic Scholar”, it appears that Ron means no harm by using that title and simply wants to inform the reader that Ali is knowledgeable of Islam.

In the blog post “Schooling For Dollars”, I’ll discuss the harm in referring to Ali as an Islamic scholar. And in the post “Shaking Off the Title Sheikh” we’ll look at how the term Sheikh is also misused to Ali’s detriment.

Another mistake is in presenting Ali as an Islamic scholar first and his cancer research as a secondary area of interest. If you know anybody working for a Masters degree and then a PhD in computational biology and working full time in high performance computing you’ll realize the error of this description.

To his credit, Ron doesn’t use the words “treason” or “terrorist” as the government does to alter the perception of Ali’s case. Nor is Ron just another hack who just repeats whatever the prosecutor makes up says.

And lastly, the description that Ali “hosted” the dinner with some of the Paintballers and asked them “to consider” Jihad abroad are also errors. But to Ron’s credit, it seems that he has done some honest research into Ali’s case and doesn’t just parrot the government’s mischaracterizations version in which Ali was coach, cheerleader, and water boy to the Paintballers and gave them a “ra ra” speech during that dinner.


September 14, 2008

A Clerical Error

Filed under: Labels and Libel — sandboxarea @ 2:08 am

It's not my fault... it's the typewriter


They call Ali names– slurs really– in the guise of accurate reporting. In the first blog post of the category “Labels and Libel”, I discussed how some writers wanted to lend credence to the government’s absurd claim that Ali had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). And what’s worse, they published it from the house that Woodward and Bernstein built. 

So that’s how some writers portray Ali’s home. What about Ali, the man… Ali, the person?

It’s been the practice of the Wall Street Journal– for a good many years– to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” when referencing just about everyone… Wall Street CEOs, movie stars, Joe Q. Public man on the street… even thugs and dictators.

So, does anyone reference Ali as Dr. Al-Timimi? I haven’t see it. You might think that they rather use “Mr. Al-Timimi”… I haven’t seen that either.

So which title do a lot of reporters use? Cleric.

The word “cleric” carries a lot of baggage with it. And since Islam does not have a priest caste as is found in Christianity or Hinduism; “cleric” is used by Western writers as a catch-all for the professional religious man. And if you take a moment to think about it, you’ll realize that there are never any good connotations to the words: Muslim cleric. I’m sure you’ve read stories about the Shiite cleric named Muqtada Al-Sadr. 


More importantly, the real harm in describing Ali as a cleric is that it perpetuates one of government’s myths: that Ali ran a mosque and had a bunch of followers.


Ali wasn’t in charge of Dar Al-Arqam. Though he did give lectures there, he also gave religious talks at other places as most knowledgeable Muslims do. So was Ali at the mosque everyday? No. In fact, he had moved away from the area of Dar Al-Arqam about a year or so after its founding. So during the years 2000-2005, Ali rarely worshipped there. 

Dar Al-Arqam was founded in 1999– with Ali’s participation. And while he lived near that office space turned part-time mosque, he might have prayed there for the evening prayer… that’s 1 prayer out of the 5 daily prayers that most Muslims pray. 

So if Ali wasn’t a “professional religious man”, then what did he do during his 9-to-5? Ali worked on curing cancer and other gene related diseases while working full-time at the university and earning his PhD… more like 6am-to-midnite.


I guess that it’s harder to sell newspapers when the title of an article is “Cancer Researcher Indicted” or “Knowledgeable Muslim Convicted” rather than “Muslim Cleric Convicted”.

September 7, 2008

The Mafia Retcon

Filed under: Con and Retcon — sandboxarea @ 4:16 am

The Mafia Retcon


When all else fails, blame the mob. Didn’t they whack Kennedy? Or in Ali’s case, hint to everyone that he’s the Don of a Muslim mob family. And since most people only know about the mob from TV shows like HBO’s Sopranos, this con just might work. Or if you’re old school, that would be Brando in The Godfather.


It seems that the government pulled out the Mob Don alternative history for Ali twice. The first time was at the end of the trial when the government made its final statement to the jury:

The snippet is taken from Tim Davis’ analysis of Ali’s conviction. Tim then goes on to state:

“…but the mere mention of mobster dons is prejudicial when a key component of the government’s case alleges that al-Timimi was the ringleader of the “Virginia jihad network.” In fact, there is no evidence that al-Timimi was the “Virginia jihad network” ringleader…”

Tim was in law school during Ali’s trial and studied the case. His thesis was entitled: “The Suffocation of Free Speech under the Gravity of Danger of Terrorism” and it’s an important step in understanding the many aspects of Ali’s case.


The second reference to the mob was in an FBI press release right after Ali’s sentencing. In that press release, the FBI tries to drum up support for one of its legally questionable domestic monitoring programs called Link Analysis. After referencing Sadam Hussein, the DC snipers who terrorized millions in the DC area, and the Paintballers– the government tosses the mob at the reader. Here’s the quote:


In addition to the retcon, I also want you to notice the use of the word “we’ve” in the press release. For those of you who have never issued a press release, the purpose of a press release is to call attention to something which the issuing organization wants the reader to know about. Specifically something that the organization is doing– like Link Analysis– or something that the organization thinks is important to the reader– perhaps global warming for example. In the case of FBI press releases, the target audience is not the ordinary citizen. It’s people of influence: the press, members of Congress, government employees, local officials, and the such.

Switching the style of the address from “us the FBI” to “we the world” is a linguistic technique used to create an emotional bond between the writer and reader. In the case of this press release, it’s about getting the reader to subconsciously agree with the new and alien concept of Link Analysis by referencing the old and familiar concepts of mobs and low level mobsters ratting-out their bosses. 

To learn more about emotive speech techniques, you can read about the “Friends, Romans, Countrymen… lend me your ears” speech by Mark Antony. And though I’m not “hassling the Hoff”, you should be able to find an analysis of Baywatch’s I’m Always Here lyrics… interesting stuff.


The first post in the category retroactive continuity provides a basic introduction on the technique of rewriting history in works of fiction and how the government applies those techniques to Ali’s history. It also cites an example of prejudicing the Supreme Court against Ali.

September 6, 2008

Link Analysis at the FBI: Part 2

Filed under: I Spy — sandboxarea @ 4:38 am


The Eyes have it

The Eyes have it: 1984 to 0


What’s your name? What’s your number? I would like to get to know you. Can we have a conversation? Well there’s really no need to come by to talk because the FBI has been monitoring your communications and all of your acquaintances for years.

This is part 2 of the “Link Analysis at the FBI” posts. The first part provides a brief overview of Link Analysis technologies. It also mentions how use of Link Analysis was halted by the Inspector General of the Justice Department in one covert program because of government abuse. And finally, the first part also discussed how the FBI issued a press release in which it admits that it used Link Analysis on Ali.

So just to recap, Link Analysis is built on 2 core technologies: analyzing relationships between objects and visualizing those relationships. So it’s not really about the objects themselves but the related characteristics of objects: does Eb and Oliver use the same phone? does Thelma and Louise use the same car? The more data inputted the better.


So now back to Ali’s case. Let’s first look at what the government says it used in performing Link Analysis on Ali and the Paintballers:

… so the FBI analyst used:

  1. Photos. (And from where did these photos come? Please don’t pay attention to the man in the bushes with the camera)
  2. Phone records
  3. A raft of other clues culled from databases and gathered by agents


The only specific item mentioned are the phone records. The photos are irrelevant as they only help the user of the Link Analysis software during the visualization of the results and not during the initial analysis phase. The “raft of other clues” is only important because they originated from other “databases”. This means that the FBI maintained or had access to multiple databases of discoverable evidence which were never turned over to the defense. 

Now let’s focus on the phone records as this is the only tangible item mentioned. You would think that the FBI would have obtained both Ali’s and the Paintballers’ phone records and analyzed them. Amazingly in court, the FBI said that they didn’t have them all… just a few.

It seems that all of the phone calls and emails that show that Ali had nothing to do with Paintballers traveling to Pakistan are missing from the FBI records. And of course, all of the phone calls and emails that have Ali working with the Saudi scholars to avoid the Iraq war and avoid a “clash of civilizations” with the West are also “not with the government”. Maybe somebody forgot to buy batteries for the tape recorder on those days… was that AA or AAA? In the post titled “Red Hook Pirates”, we’ll discuss the state of the art FBI monitoring technology built into every telephone system in the USA.

So now, let’s look at how the FBI explains how it cherry picks its phone call data. We first need to understand who’s running the collection of evidence:

Ok. This agent also was a lead investigator and analyzed the phone records:

And as we can see that in the case of the Paintballer named Kwon, the FBI got a subpoena for his mobile phone. Did they also obtain his home phone call records? We’ll look at that in a future post. 

So let’s see if the FBI got a subpoena for the rest of the Paintballers. Though only about a dozen Paintballers where eventually charged, there were more than 20 Paintballers who played. Then there was a handful of non-Paintballers such as Ali. So the FBI had to analyze the phone records and emails for about 30 people and we’ll be naive and say that the FBI only performed Link Analysis on these people and only their immediate telephonic and electronic associates… that’s one degree of separation. So if a person only communicates by phone or email with 5 unique people, that’s roughly about 150 people over the course of 3-5 years. That’s a lot of data. Too much for a person to manually review but perfect for Link Analysis software.


And it’s also important to say that we’re only focusing on phone call records in Link Analysis and not the actual phone call content which will be discussed in a future blog post.


Ok. So what about the Paintballer named Khan? Did the FBI get a subpoena for his phone call records?



Ok. So even though this agent was a lead investigator for the Washington DC counterterrorism team and a lead in all of these Paintball investigations… he punts the details of Khan to another city. How convenient. The NFL Washington Redskins can use a player who can punt from DC to Baltimore.


Well the government must’ve gotten a subpoena for Ali’s phone records. Didn’t it? You’ll be shocked but we’ll get to that later.


Now let’s go back to the lead agent. So this agent gets forgetful. So he most assuredly would create a detailed chart to remind himself, to overcome his memory problems… especially while in court. Oops, only summaries:


You might say that this agent only deals with high level stuff… he’s too important for the minute-by-minute details of phone calls. Err, aah… oops:



Ok. So this agent’s charts are summaries with some details. You probably would say that the details include everything that’s important. Well, aah… it seems that he didn’t include everything that’s important:



And now one loose thread left. Did the government get all of Ali’s phone records? It’s admitted to using Link Analysis on Ali. It’s admitted to inputing his phone records. What do you think?


So why didn’t the government use Ali’s complete phone records from the telephone bills which were at his home? The records were there during the search. He had phone bills from the 1990s. Furthermore, why didn’t the FBI use a subpoena to obtain them from the telephone companies as is standard procedure in these types of cases?


So just think of it: the FBI got the Magistrate to authorize a search of the home and car but didn’t ask for a warrant for the phone records. Forgetful? Maybe, but most likely the government had the NSA an alternative source for the phone calls… something that wouldn’t show up in discovery or in court. So Link Analysis of the phone calls and emails for Ali, the material witnesses, and the Paintballers would absolutely prove Ali’s innocence.


In the future post titled “867-5309”, I’ll discuss the specifics of which phone records the government is hiding are missing from the government’s control. And in “Red Hook Pirates”, we’ll look at the state of the art FBI monitoring technology built into every telephone system in the USA.

September 4, 2008

Link Analysis at the FBI: Part 1

Filed under: I Spy — sandboxarea @ 11:14 pm


Links, Hyperlinks, and Phantom Links

Links, Hyperlinks, and Phantom Links


If a picture is worth a thousand words, can a hyperlinked visualization reveal a fraud upon the court? Link Analysis is a group of techniques and technologies used to understand and visualize the relationships between objects.

In the criminal investigation and intelligence worlds, those objects are the people, phone numbers, bank accounts, and places into which you want to obtain better insight. Link analysis software allows you to visualize different aspects of related objects to see their interconnectedness.

For example, to understand who’s calling whom you tell the link analysis software to include only phone call records and filter out irrelevant aspects such as gender, marital status, or eye color for a group of people. The output is a interactive visualization of incoming and outgoing calls where outgoing calls might be in a different color than incoming calls. You can color-code international calls to make them better stand out. Furthermore, to illustrate the duration of a call or perhaps the frequency of calls, the lines might be thicker. This is called the “strength” of a link. 

Likewise if you wanted to visualize a graph of a person’s friends, and their friends’ friends, and the friends of all of their friends… then Link Analysis will allow you to do this type of research quite easily. 

So to sum up the technology, Link Analysis has 2 major components: analyzing relationships between objects and visualizing those relationships. Link Analysis software can be integrated with other technologies such as dictionaries and thesauri to pre-process and post-post the data. This is necessary so that an address with the word “street” will be matched and visually linked to an address with the word “St” or “Rue”. And finally, Link Analysis is usually paired with a ranking system component that can give you a “degree of closeness” from an object. This enables the user of the software to answer the question “how many degrees to Kevin Bacon” or “how dangerous is this person on a scale from 1 to 10”.

To put this in context, police already do a simpler version of this when they look at a criminal’s “known associates” and “modus operandi” which is also known as the “MO” in police shows on TV. Some law enforcement personnel refer to Link Analysis as “Community of Interest” software.

And now for the subversive stuff that undermines a chunk of the Constitution: rather than typing a limited set of data on a limited set of people into a Link Analysis system… if you instead attached a Link Analysis system to a database of everyone in a city. And for each person you entered their names and aliases, phone records, their family information, their friends’ information, their company information, their habits, emails, etc. you would be Big Brother in the making. 

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Inspector General of the Department of Justice shut down one use of Link Analysis in use at the FBI.

So what’s the relevance of this technology to Ali’s case? It seems that the FBI extensively used Link Analysis on Ali. In fact it was so pleased with itself, it issued a press release about Link Analysis and mentioned Ali by name.

In “The Mafia Retcon“, we’ll look at how the government does another rewrite of Ali’s history as a means to promote the use Link Analysis software. And in “Link Analysis at the FBI: Part 2“, we’ll examine how the use of Link Analysis software actually exonerates Ali and can show that the government misled the court.

September 1, 2008

I Spy

Filed under: I Spy — sandboxarea @ 1:38 am


I spy therefore I am

I spy therefore I am



It’s an old philosophers’ debate: “If I spy on you… and you don’t know about it… did I real spy?”. Well that’s the updated version about the fallen tree in the forest. It’s OK if I rewrite history, it happens all the time.

“What you don’t know can’t hurt” is the government’s position in Ali’s case… at least one of the many representations the government’s made. I’ll do my best to explain them in future posts.

In this post, I wanted to explain the essence of the spying issue. Unlike what’s suggested in the press, the issue of spying on Ali is not about a mere technicality. It’s not about forgetting that hyphen in his name. The real issue is about the government hiding information that would exonerate Ali, covering that up, and then lying to the court, defense, and jury. It seams that when the defense refers to the government lying to the court it uses the term “committing a fraud upon the court”:



The other important point to remember is that the Appeals Court remanded the case to investigate undisclosed intercepts irrespective of the group within the government that conducted the monitoring. 


So now that we know what’s at stake, let’s list the publicly know monitoring programs used against American persons (which include citizens, residents, and perhaps travelers within the US) :

  1. FBI by permission of a FISA warrant 
  2. FBI or state police by permission of a Title III criminal warrant 
  3. FBI link analysis data collection program 
  4. FBI telephone call records program
  5. FBI or Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) through Patriot Act provisions
  6. FBI or Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) through National Security Letters
  7. Various municipal intelligence programs such as the New York City program
  8. NSA by permission of a FISA warrant
  9. NSA communications monitoring program(s)
  10. NSA link analysis data collection program
  11. NSA telephone call records program
  12. Various Defense Department intelligence programs 


In future posts, we’ll look at these programs, the technologies that they employ, and how they relate to Ali’s case.

August 31, 2008

Jess Ghannam

Filed under: Jess Ghannam — sandboxarea @ 9:18 pm

Former President of the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco

“For a growing number of legal scholars and Islamic community leaders concerned about American courts discriminating against Muslims, Dr. Al-Timimi’s case is a harbinger of how Muslim believers are becoming the target of a new emerging kind of civil rights discrimination”.

Kenneth Anderson

Filed under: Kenneth Anderson — sandboxarea @ 9:18 pm

Professor at Washington College of Law, American University, Washington DC, and a Research Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

“Essentially, I think the US government overreached in its theories against Dr. Al-Timimi to the point of criminalizing speech as such, and I think there are serious First Amendment problems with that.

“I think there were grounds on which he could and should have been convicted for actual direction and participation, rather than speech alone, but the government’s theories went well beyond that point. It is not the conviction as such that disturbs me, but the overreaching government theories that create serious First Amendment issues.

“If you look at how the government presented its case throughout the course of the trial, it did not limit itself by any means to saying, Dr. Al-Timimi was directing his followers to do this or that; the government prosecutors really argued – also argued – that one could not preach, in the abstract, that one should take up arms against the United States. It is what the prosecutors ‘also argued’ that troubles me in this case. If they wanted to establish a strong precedent that you can’t preach violence against the US, they did so – but that is the wrong precedent, historically and legally, under the First Amendment.

“Perhaps there are ways in which these lines can be sorted out on appeal.

“I may as well add that the safety of the First Amendment lies in the hands of conservatives, not liberals. It’s not because conservatives attack the First Amendment and liberals defend it – on the contrary, progressives have long been disenchanted with the First Amendment, because it gets in the way of liberal authoritarianism to impose its standards – on schools, on workplaces, on universities, on churches, and so on – without having to argue and debate them. That disenchantment grows as liberals look with longing to other societies in the world without First Amendment protections and see how much easier it is for liberal elites to control public opinion. So it becomes a special obligation of conservatives and libertarians to be First Amendment purists, proudly and without dilution, protecting even hateful and wicked speech in the way liberals used to, before they discovered their authoritarian streak.”.

David Cole

Filed under: David Cole — sandboxarea @ 9:17 pm

Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center

After the April 2005 sentencing, Professor Cole said that the judement against Dr. Al-Timimi was “overly harsh” and that the US Governement’s case “raised questions about the violation of First Amendment free speech rights”.

Tim Davis

Filed under: Tim Davis — sandboxarea @ 9:16 pm

The Suffocation of Free Speech under the Gravity of Danger of Terrorism

American University, Washington College Of Law

On July 14, 2005, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi was sentenced to life in prison plus 70 years for acts of pure speech.

With the full might of the FBI and the Department of Justice, the same organizations that “dropped the ball on 9/11”, the government descended upon Dr. Al-Timimi like a “pack of wolves on an elk carcass.” The lead prosecutor, Mr. Kromberg, used every opportunity to portray Dr. Al-Timimi as a religious zealot with links to terrorism who ordered his mindless devotees to take up jihad against Unites States soldiers, regardless of the actual truth. Sadly, in the process, the United States First Amendment has taken another beating.

The United States government did not meet its burden of proof and there was a reasonable doubt as to what Dr. Al-Timimi advocated. Furthermore, if Dr. Al-Timimi looses his appeal, the fundamental constitutional right of free speech will take a serious blow.

There is no evidence that Dr. Al-Timimi was the “Virginia Jihad network” ringleader. Mr. Kromberg elicited testimony from the “Virginia Jihad” defendants that Dr. Al-Timimi was well respected and answered many of their questions concerning Islam.

In contrast, Dr. Al-Timimi did not associate with the “Virginia Jihad” defendants, he was not friends with any of them. In fact, other than the September 16th meeting, Dr. Al-Timimi had minimal contact with the “Virginia Jihad” defendants. However, there is abundant testimony that Dr. Al-Timimi answered numerous Islamic permissibility questions, not only from the “Virginia Jihad” defendants but also from any Mosque attendee.

In fact, there is little or no evidence that Al-Timimi directed anyone to do anything. Rather the evidence points to a scholar who at all times was eager to give advice to anyone who would listen. Instead of being a ringleader, Dr. Al-Timimi was a low ranking Muslim scholar who was a messenger between other Muftis and the Muslims at the Mosque.

Dr. Al-Timimi did not cross over the line of speech and commit any overt physical acts of aiding and abetting. Likewise, Dr. Al-Timimi did not aid and abet the “Virginia Jihad” defendants through instructional speech. Accordingly, Dr. Al-Timimi should not be sentenced to life in prison plus 70 years for averring his religious convictions.

(Please note that this is an edited extract. The original source contains the following notice: This working paper is hosted by The Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress) and may not be commercially reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder. Copyright c 2006 by the author.)

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