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Financing the Flames

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U.S. Judge Shields Palestinian Terrorists from Scrutiny

October 29th 2014

Palestinian Liberation Organization with Arafat

Three investigative journalists have filed legal papers to intervene and unseal documents in a U.S. District Court case involving the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Washington Free Beacon broke the story reported by its senior writer Adam Kredo.

Journalists Sharyl Attkisson, Steve Emerson, and Edwin Black, according to court filings, have filed a motion "to publicly disclose secret documents that are believed to provide new details about payments made to terrorists by the Palestinian government," Kredo's article reports. 

The article states, "Lawyers have been fighting for months to force a U.S. District Court in New York to unseal scores of documents and testimony that allegedly detail how the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has been paying salaries to convicted terrorists. The sealed documents were submitted to the court as part of a 2004 lawsuit brought by terrorism victims seeking damages from the PLO as a result of their attacks on Israel."

The case is Sokolow v. PLO. A memorandum at law states, "This is a motion by three world renowned investigative journalists to intervene in this action bearing on issues of critical public interest for the limited purpose of vindicating the
public’s presumptive legal right of access to records that have been filed under seal or heavily redacted.
The intervenors respectfully submit that, under well-established law, much of it established by this Court
there is no legal basis for maintaining a cloak of secrecy over the contents of public filings in this litigation to which the press and public are presumptively entitled access."

Kredo's story states, "The victims’ lawyers have argued for months that the documents in question play a critical role in establishing the PLO’s culpability and should be released to the public. However, Judge George B. Daniels has rejected this request on the basis that the documents may reveal personal information about purported terrorists and potentially “undermine” the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) interests, according to court documents. As the case drags on, several reporters filed a motion on Monday to intervene in the case and force the court to unseal the sealed documents."

Attorney Ronald Coleman is representing the three investigative reporters, Attkisson, Emerson, Edwin Black who jointly filed their motion "announcing their intent to pursue intervention in the case with a motion meant to compel the “unsealing [of] certain judicial documents,” according to court documents obtained by the Free Beacon. The Free Beacon states, "Attkisson is a former CBS reporter who has said she faced a backlash from the Obama administration for her stories, Emerson is an author and executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), and Black is an author and columnist known for his exposés on Palestinian terrorism against Israel. ... The reporters assert in multiple briefs that the public has a right to see the court documents detailing the Palestinian government’s alleged financial support of terrorists."

Attorney Coleman told the Free Beacon, “We’re confident that the court will take this motion very seriously because it’s based on well-established constitutional law. The legal standards mandating public access to public judicial proceedings are applied strictly in matters of public concern. And this litigation is certainly such a case.”

Kredo's story goes on to explain, "In March, lawyers from the firm Miller and Chevalier, which is representing the PLO and PA against the terrorism charges, moved to put 57 documents and 51 pages of testimony under court seal. They argued that public revelation of the evidence could compromise “law enforcement” interests and disclose “private third-party information,” according to court documents. The lawyers representing the terror victims countered that the documents in question are critical and that “limited redactions” could effectively ensure that personal information is protected."

The plaintiff’s lawyer Kent Yalowitz wrote a partially redacted March 27 letter to Judge Daniels asserting, “The Court should not permit defendants to hide the overwhelming evidence of their deep involvement in a relentless terrorism campaign,” the Free Beacon reports. The newspaper adds, "Much of the information being kept secret is said to reveal employment records for Palestinian security officials who are on the government’s official payroll as a result of terror acts they carried out, according to court testimony. Others reveal how much money the PLO and PA are paying “convicted terrorists on a month-by-month basis,” Yalowitz explained during an April court hearing about the order to seal the documents.

"Some of the other sealed documents that the defense maintains is privileged include information relating to “suicide terrorists,” details of promotions given to suspected terrorists, and certain arrest records, court documents show," The Free Beacon reports. The paper adds, "The information [could] go “to the merits of defendants’ liability in this case” and proves that the PLO and PA’s “support of terrorism.”

"The Palestinian government’s lawyers maintain that “the specific amount of each payment” to alleged terrorists “reflects private information” that should not be publicly disclosed," according to the Free Beacon. “The fact that defendants pay generous salaries to convicted terrorists is not confidential,” Yalowitz wrote in his letter, cited by the Free Beacon. It adds, "The decision to keep the information private is what prompted Monday’s action by Attkisson, Emerson, and Black calling for intervention in the case. The reporters maintain that “there is no legal basis for maintaining a cloak of secrecy over the contents of public filings in this litigation to which the press and public are presumptively entitled access,” according to court filings made this week on their behalf. They claim that given the case’s global implications, the public has a right to view the information under seal."

In his bestselling book Financing the Flames, author Black reported the details of a well-funded terrorist salary program administered by the the Palestinian Authority using money contributed by donor country taxpayers. Black's book led to and appearances at various legislatures led to inquiries by the U.S. House of Representatives, the House of Commons in London, the European Parliament in Brussels, and the Israeli Knesset.


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