ALAMOUDI DENOUNCED AS TERRORIST BY ARLEN SPECTER
May I have your attention, please? I would like to introduce to you the honorable senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, who is the Democratic—I mean, the Republican senator. He’s one of our distinguished senators from the Keystone State. [APPLAUSE]
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This sounds like the floor of the United States Senate. [UNCLEAR, OVERLAPPING VOICES] I have just come from the floor of the United States Senate. Any my only comment was speaking here is like speaking on the floor of the United States Senate. Everybody else is talking. And if you watch the proceedings in the Senate, you may occasionally find a senator standing up, saying the Senate is not in order. Well, this meeting is not in order. If I may have your attention. So the presiding officer bangs the gavel and says, there’ll be order in the Senate. And occasionally, there is. But we haven’t quite got it this evening. Well, I have come to speak to you because I know your organization was founded in 1990 with the express view of increasing the effective participation of American Muslims in the U.S. Political and public policy arenas. And to promote a broader understanding of the American Muslim community and to insure the protection of the legal rights of Muslims. And those are all objectives that I thoroughly agree with. As I have been talking to your leadership today, they have asked me to take a stand in opposition to secret evidence. And I do not believe in secret evidence. [APPLAUSE]
And then I was told that there is an understanding that there is a balancing of the national security interests of the United States. As to what evidence is presented and although we didn’t talk about the specifics with respect to confidential informants and matters which may turn on national security considerations, when legislation was considered, I believe it was 1996, Senator Paul Simon and I often met which opened the evidence [UNCLEAR] not all the way. These were in deportation cases. And deportation cases are considered to be civil cases. The Constitution of the United States as you doubtless know provides that in a criminal proceeding, every accused has the right to confront the witnesses. Now a deportation proceeding, in my opinion, is a pretty tough proceeding, but the courts—I was about to say in their wisdom, but sometimes the courts aren’t too wise. I’ve been a lawyer for a long time. Have classified deportation proceedings as civil. But Senator Simon and I were unhappy with the provisions in the law and we introduced an amendment which passed which gave the attorney for the persons subject to deportations national rights to get information which was in the file. Not all the way, frankly, but it was the best that could be done at that time.
Now let me tell you that as I agree with the principles which have been outlined, I’m very concerned about the conflict which we have in the world today about competing ideologies and competing philosophies. And in Israel, the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in my opinion, is something that we all have to work to get rid of the violence, move the peace process ahead, and try to find a way for Palestinians and Israelis to live together on that small piece of ground in the Middle East. And so far it has been very difficult. I was in Israel and Egypt in mid-April. I had a chance to meet with chairman Arafat. He likes the late at night meetings. We met at 10:30. The meeting lasted almost till midnight. And as we were talking, there were hostilities with the Israelis responding to the mortar attacks. And it looked to me at that time as if the situation was very, very bleak. When I came back, I spoke with—we sometimes use the expression, you can see light at the end of the tunnel. Well I couldn’t even see a tunnel when I was there. And George Tenet, who’s the director of the CIA, has had a good relationship with the Palestinian security people, the Israeli security people. When the professionals talk, they have a way of dealing with security issues to find out if there are any terrorist plans to stop them. And I’ve known George Tenet for a long time. He was a Senate staffer of the mid-eighties and then a staff director of the Intelligence Committee. Well, I chaired the Intelligence Committee in 1995 to 1996. He was the deputy director of the CIA.
So I think that what George Tenet wrote was a step in the right direction. I came back, I urged President Bush to appoint a special envoy to the region, to pay top drawer attention. And he said he was disinclined to do that. But today’s newspaper has Secretary of State Colin Powell on his way to the Mideast. And I’m glad to see that happen. I had a chance to talk with the president very briefly yesterday. He spoke at a 21st Century Workforce meeting of the Department of Labor. And he’s in very good spirits. I was seated on the stage on one end and he came in and he shook everybody’s hand and he walked over to me and exchanged greetings. And I said to him, Mr. President, why is it that you get to come in last? And he responded, quick as a wink, that’s because I barely came in first. [LAUGHTER] Which I thought was a good answer for President Bush. Some people think sometimes that he’s not—not quite on the ball with these things. I think he’s quite a man. Let me tell you [UNCLEAR] because I think that when we talk about issues we have to be frank with each other, that I am concerned about some of the reports which I have seen. From the New York Post, December 15th, 1998, Abdul Rahman Alamoudi declared an interest in destroying America. And further talked about boycotting America to destroy Israel. And in a rally on October 28th of last year, there was support for Hamas and Hezbollah. And I believe that people are people. Whether you’re Christians or Muslims or Jews or Palestinians or Pennsylvanians or Washingtonians. People are people. And all people, I think, aspire to live in peace. And have an opportunity to develop their full potential. Have an opportunity to get a good education, to get a good job, to the extent of their ability. Whatever their race may be or their religion may be or their color may be.
So I think it is very important that when you invite me—it’s kind of tough, frankly, to come over on a Thursday night, the Senate’s still in session. But I have worked hard. When I go to Israel, I’m always involved with the Palestinian leaders and I’ve gotten to know chairman Arafat pretty well. I’ve seen him many, many times. He once gave my wife a jewel box. It was within the Senate [UNCLEAR] I want you to know that. [LAUGHTER] But he gave Joan a gift—a jewel box and he gave me an order. He said, fill it with jewels. [LAUGHTER] Well, we took the gift box, but we didn’t fill it with jewels. You have an idea as to what senators earn, first of all. We couldn’t quite do that. And I’ve been very interested in seeing contacts with Iran. I’ve gotten to know the ambassador to the United Nations well. And I found that he came in from Canada last year and was treated very unfairly by immigration and naturalization. And I took the matter up with immigration and naturalization because that’s not right. Congressman Bob Ray [PH] and I each got [UNCLEAR] of our colleagues to sign a letter sent to the Iranian parliament suggesting that they come to the United States, we go to Iran. [APPLAUSE]
And I would like to talk to the Iranians. Last summer, the speaker of the Iranian parliament was in New York City. And they had a reception and I went to talk to him. And he was pretty unhappy about the sanctions which the United States has imposed. We had a little disagreement, but we were talking. And people can’t always agree on everything. But I think it is important not to try to destroy the United States, not to destroy Israel, and not to destroy Muslims or not to deport Muslims without a fair hearing. And to move away from so-called secret evidence. There may have to be some exceptions and some procedures to protect sources of evidence. But those are American principles. So that when I saw your charter and saw that your interest was to increase the participation of American Muslims in the U.S. political and public policy arenas, I thought that was very good. And to promote broader understanding of the American Muslim community, I thought that was very good. And to insure the protection of legal rights of Muslims, I thought that was very good. I would add to that to promote a broader understanding of everyone, whether they’re African-American, [APPLAUSE] And to protect the legal rights of Muslims and everyone else. In conclusion, the two most evocative words of any speech, I grew up in a small town in Kansas. We were the only Jewish family in Kansas. And my father had come from Russia. And his family was the only Jewish family in a small village known as Bashkera [PH] And he and his eight brothers and sisters, parents, lived in a one-room dirt floor hut. And he literally walked across Europe with barely a ruble in his pocket to come to the United States and make a life for himself, have a family, get his children educated, opportunity. And when I was studying my own professional career, being a member of a minority, a pretty tough community. And things were a lot different in the 1930s than they are today for Jews in America. I decided to become a lawyer so I would know the Constitution and Constitutional rights. And when I see anyone treated unfairly, I’m unhappy about it. I think that it’s a job for all fair-minded people to see that justice is done for everyone. Thank you all. [APPLAUSE]
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