Both pieces were written shortly after the arrests were made in 2003.
By Brett Marston: : 3/5/03


In a bail hearing for Ayman Jarwan, a defendant in the case, prosecutors made the following moves, according to an article in the Syracuse Post-Standard:

[Asst. U.S. Attorney] West urged the court to consider reports that terrorists were planning to detonate a “dirty bomb” designed to spread radioactive material.

Jarwan has academic degrees in nuclear and radiological engineering, West said, adding: “This man knows how to use and has access to this material.”

Agents found excerpts of a published interview with Sheikh Safar al-Hawali in Jarwan’s apartment, West said. Al-Hawali, a radical Saudi Arabian cleric, advocated war with the West in the interview, the prosecutor said.

“Although these are not (Jarwan’s) own words, the fact that he has it and kept it suggests he might subscribe to those views,” West said.

That claim bothered [Judge] Peebles. “Have we come to the point in this country where we are willing to detain a person based on what they may read?” Peebles asked.

“I reject that because he holds advanced degrees or reads radical material, he’s a danger,” Peebles ruled.

Prosecutors have said they know of no link between Help the Needy and terrorists. [. . .]

McGraw [Jarwan’s lawyer] said it was irresponsible of West to present Jarwan’s education as evidence he posed a threat.

“It just raises the level of prejudice,” he said. “It will be difficult to get a fair trial when there are those implicit suggestions that he’s a terrorist because he has a degree.”

So possession of radical literature and advanced degrees makes you a threat, even though there’s no evidence of a terrorist link whatsoever? “Have we come this far?” indeed.


I am not interested in navel-gazing, but I should say that I am beginning to understand why tenure is important. As another SUNY-Oswego employee terminable at will, how much should I censor myself? What happens if I think that the administration has done something wrong here — or if I think that the federal or state government has applied inappropriate pressure? Knowing the vulnerability of my own employment position, I can’t help but be less willing to speak my mind.

I also have learned a rather simple lesson about the media: record your interviews. This article from Oswego’s Palladium Times is about 70% right in its attributions to me. But the 30% wrong is a bit of a doozer. For those of you who know me personally, does this sound like me?

The charges against the four are connected to the “Help the Needy” fund, which Al Wahaidy and three others solicited money with the claim that all proceeds would go to the needy children of Iraq.

Marston said he believes that it was dangerous for Al Wahaidy to associate with such an organization.

“The charges have already gotten him suspended from his job (as Imam of the Auburn Correctional Facility). The allegations are very severe. You have to be careful who you associate with,” Marston said.

I can’t remember intending to say anything like the highlighted parts. It was, as an empirical matter, dangerous for Al Wahaidy to associate with “Help the Needy.” No doubt about it: he now faces a fine, a prison term, unemployment and unemployability. What I certainly meant is that charges alone have consequences in the real world. I actually deplore the fact that for many people, associates need to be chosen more carefully nowadays. The above quote makes it sound as if I am resigned to that fact.