Secret Evidence: Looking At The Bottom Line - Editorial
The Jewish Press - December 3, 1999
The release of an Egyptian man who had been held
for three-and-a-half years in a federal detention
center in New York on secret evidence the FBI claimed
linked him to terrorists in the United States and Egypt
raises some disturbing questions of a double standard.
Nasser K. Ahmed was released, effectively, because
Attorney General Janet Reno refused to go along with a
determination by the Immigration and Naturalization
Service and the FBI that he continue in federal detention as a security risk.
Ahmed served as a legal assistant to Sheik Omar
Abdel Rahman during his trial for conspiracy to blow up
the United Nations and other New York landmarks.
When Ahmed overstayed his visa after the conclusion of
the trial which resulted in Rahman's conviction, the
United States Immigration and Naturalization Service
moved to deport him to Egypt, citing classified evidence
it said showed that he was a security risk. Ahmed responded by seeking asylum in the United States, claiming that if he were sent back to Egypt because of his
support for Rahman, who was a vocal opponent of the
Mubarak government, he would be subject to persecution. During the course of his case before the INS, the
agency kept him incarcerated as a security threat.
In truth, we are never comfortable with government acting on the basis of "secret" evidence which
nobody has an opportunity to controvert. Indeed, we
still don't know the substance of the charges against
'Jonathan Pollard. But we recognize that there may be
times when disclosure of evidence could, in fact, harm
national security and given the conspiratorial nature of
the Rahman-led terrorist network, ongoing investigation
could be undermined.
But what concerns us most is that the "experts"
in this case the FBI and the INS, counselled thai
Ahmed posed a threat, yet Attorney General Reno dismissed those concerns. And when the FBI, the CIA and
other intelligence agencies said the 17 FALN convicted
terrorists should not be released because they still
posed a threat to U.S. security, President Clinton overrode those objections and ordered their release. Yet
when the same intelligence experts told President
Clinton that Jonathan Pollard would pose a threat to
national security if he were released, the President
reversed his purported decision to commute his
Of course no two - or three - cases are exactly
alike, so it is not always useful to paint with a broad
brush. But sometimes the stark reality of differing bottom lines is as significant as how they were precisely