Friday, December 9, 2022

Al Qaeda-Linked Lawyer Could Become Next Los Angeles City Attorney

ResearchInvestigationsAl Qaeda-Linked Lawyer Could Become Next Los Angeles City Attorney

The front runner in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s race is a former Republican operative who is deeply enmeshed in Islamist political circles. Now a far left progressive, attorney Faisal Gill has been the subject of FBI surveillance and government scrutiny thanks to his ties to individuals involved with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. 

Gill claims to be a changed man. His once conservative views on taxes, immigration, and marriage equality have evolved into a radically progressive platform that has cost him endorsements from mainstream Democrats in California. 

Although he may have transformed himself politically, Gill maintains connections to the same Islamist networks that could have cost him a job with the Department of Homeland Security nearly two decades ago. Friends, clients, and especially donors who have bankrolled the 50-year-old’s campaign are known or alleged to be involved with foreign terrorists and extremist groups.  

In July, Gill was the overall winner by four points in California’s “jungle primary” system, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. He will face off against Hydee Feldstein Soto, a lifelong Democrat and attorney specializing in financial law. 

The self-described “civil rights attorney” has significantly outraised his opponent, hauling in $2.2 million dollars, including a noteworthy number of large donations originating from outside of California. Much of this money is tainted by Islamist special interests. 

This includes two donations in August from Khaled Saffuri, an old associate of Gill’s who worked at the American Muslim Council (AMC) in the 1990s and co-founded the Islamic Free Market Institute (IFMI). Both organizations employed Gill, as well, and were closed down amid allegations of foreign terrorist links. 

AMC, a Muslim civic action group, was founded by Abdulrahman Alamoudi, one of Al Qaeda’s top fundraisers in the United States. Similarly, IFMI was established with startup money from Alamoudi and other prominent Muslim Brotherhood entities. 

After cultivating close relationships with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in a terror finance case involving a plot to assassinate the Saudi crown prince on behalf of Libya. 

Gill’s ties to the Al Qaeda financier would come back to haunt him in 2004, after joining the Department of Homeland Security’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division. According to Salon, he was “briefly removed from his job in March [2004] when the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered he had failed to disclose his association with Alamoudi” during a routine background check. 

Although the DHS Inspector General eventually found “no evidence to suggest” that Gill “falsified or intentionally omitted relevant information” on his application for a security clearance, he admitted that he failed to disclose his AMC affiliation when filling out this paperwork. He later told investigators that he only met Alamoudi three or four times and did not work closely with him at his nonprofit.

In a June interview with Law.com, Gill related that one of his “proudest accomplishments” came during his time with AMC. “So in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I joined a coalition of activists and advocates who worked to end this practice that led to immigrants being deprived of their right to examine and confront witnesses and evidence against them,” he said. 

One of these “activists” was Sami Al-Arian, whose interest in repealing confidential evidence and sources became clear when he was convicted of providing material support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a designated terrorist group. Ultimately, Gill’s attempts to stifle counter-terrorism prosecutions were unsuccessful, and classified evidence continues to represent a vital tool in the War on Terror. 

If DHS officials thought they cleared their man of any wrongdoing, it seems the National Security Agency and FBI were not persuaded. “Whistleblower” Eric Snowden provided documents to the Intercept indicating that, soon after Gill left DHS, the FBI began secretly monitoring his email communications via a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant. 

Around the same time, Gill began raking in campaign contributions from troubling sources in his 2007 bid for the Virginia House of Delegates. This includes $5,000 from four corporate entities belonging to the Safa Group, a web of businesses and nonprofits whose offices were raided or investigated in 2002 in a sweeping terror finance probe. 

Gill opened his private practice, Gill & Gallinger, in 2005, just months before federal agents began hacking his emails. His partner at the new law firm was Asim Ghafoor, an old friend from IFMI whose emails the FBI also covertly monitored during the same period. 

Ghafoor was the spokesman for three separate “charities” that had their assets frozen and were closed down for allegedly funding Al Qaeda and other terrorist movements. As an attorney, he represented Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law and an Islamic charity that authorities claim had “direct links” to the terrorist mastermind. 

In 2007, Gill and Ghafoor travelled to Sudan, a state sponsor of terrorism at the time, to offer their legal services defending the country from lawsuits originating from the victims of Al Qaeda terrorist attacks. Sudan reportedly retained Ghafoor, and Gill contracted on at least one case. 

Ghafoor and two family members have supported Gill’s L.A. City Attorney race with several maximum $1,500 contributions. However, he isn’t the only donor on a government watchlist to fund Gill’s campaign.  

Nihad Awad, who also gave a top contribution to Gill, was similarly hacked by the FBI in a years-long probe. Awad is the founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a powerful Islamist nonprofit that Gill has advised and defended in various court cases. In return, the city attorney candidate has received personal contributions from five members of CAIR’s national board of directors

Awad’s surveillance happened to coincide with CAIR’s involvement in a landmark terror finance case, this one involving millions of dollars funneled through Islamic charities to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group. CAIR would emerge as an unindicted co-conspirator in that trial, with one of its senior officials sentenced to 65 years in prison. 

After learning about the government surveillance of his emails, Gill was defiant, echoing Awad and Ghafoor’s concerns that they were targeted because of their faith. 

“Look, I’ve never made an appearance or been a lawyer for anyone who’s been [associated with terrorism],” he told the Intercept

Yet, Gill continues to earn his pedigree as an activist-lawyer serving Islamist interests. He is “working in tandem” with the Libyan American Alliance (LAA) as the lead attorney in two lawsuits targeting Libyan General Khalifa Haftar. The surviving family members of victims who were killed or tortured under Haftar in Libya’s bloody civil war are seeking compensation from the general, who is a dual U.S. citizen. 

Haftar represents Libya’s secular Tobruk faction and has waged a merciless campaign against Islamists who seek to dominate the country. For LAA, which favors the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist factions in the war, punishing Haftar discredits the secular opposition and advantages jihadists. 

LAA founder Esam Omeish is among 75 individuals that the government in Tobruk labeled as terrorists in 2017 for his status as an international Muslim Brotherhood operative. Likewise, LAA Director Mongi Dhaoudi is a member of Tunisia’s official Muslim Brotherhood party. Both men are donors to Gill’s campaign, with Omeish and his son handing over $5,500 to the attorney. 

Starting in 2018, Gill defended Fareed Khan, a Manchester, Connecticut, auto mechanic accused of lying to federal agents about his fundraising activities on behalf of the Islamic Circle of North America, a shady Islamic nonprofit with link to South Asian jihadists. Khan, who was suspected of involvement in a terror finance scheme, was convicted in 2019 of making false statements in regards to medical supplies he surreptitiously mailed to Pakistan. 

Most recently, Gill rushed to the defense of his former partner and friend Asim Ghafoor, who was imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates after the Gulf country convicted him in absentia of money laundering and tax evasion.  UAE officials claim that they initiated an investigation at the request of the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, and investigators found that Ghafoor funneled nearly $5 million through various bank accounts “with the intent to conceal or disguise the nature and origin of the funds obtained from illegal sources.”

News of Ghafoor’s arrest prompted American Islamists to lobby for his release. Thanks in part to Gill’s representation, his ex-partner’s three-year prison sentence was suspended, although the courts confiscated $4.9 million from Ghafoor and forced him to pay $1.36 million in fines. 

The LA City Attorney is responsible for advising the city government, defending the city from lawsuits, and prosecuting misdemeanor offenses. Gill’s critics point to his progressive policy recommendations — including implementing a 100-day moratorium on certain criminal offenses and abolishing cash bail — and argue that he is unfit for a job as the city’s top prosecutor. 

Perhaps out of ignorance, or possibly because they fear being marked as anti-Muslim bigots, Gill’s opponents have refused to discuss his recurring presence on the periphery of multiple intersecting terror finance cases.  While he may have remained above the law in terms of his relationship with Islamist villains, Gill could soon find himself beholden to those same radical interests who financially backed his bid to become Los Angeles’s top prosecutor. 

Benjamin Baird is the director of Islamism in Politics, a project of the Middle East Forum. 

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