What Does “Unindicted Co-Conspirator” Even Mean?
During the “radical Islam” hearing on Thursday, one sentence that was repeated over and over throughout the testimony by Rep. Peter King and his witnesses was that the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was “an unindicted co-conspiritor” in financing terrorism via a group called the Holy Land Foundation. The phrase “unindicted co-conspirator” sounds pretty ominous, but what does that really mean?
Via the Washington Post Fact Checker:
These claims lack context. CAIR is an aggressive Muslim civil liberties organization, modeled on the Anti Defamation League, that has made it a target for criticism. It was indeed named as an “unindicted co-conspirator or joint venturer” in the Holy Land Foundation case–an Islamic charity that in 2008 was convicted of funding Islamic militant groups. But CAIR was not alone in that designation; nearly 250 other organizations and individuals were also named.
The federal government said the organizations were included on the list in order to produce evidence at the trial, but the district court and a federal appeals court later ruled that it had been a mistake to make the list public.
As the appeals court summed up last year, “The court held that the Government did not argue or establish any legitimate government interest that warranted publicly identifying [one of the organizations] and 245 other individuals and entities as unindicted co-conspirators or joint venturers, and that the Government had less injurious means than those employed, such as anonymously designating the unindicted co-conspirators as ‘other persons,’ asking the court to file the document under seal, or disclosing the information to the defendants pursuant to a protective order.”
However, federal Judge Jorge A. Solis denied CAIR’s request that its name be publicly striken from the list. He said that the government “has produced ample evidence” to establish the association of CAIR and other organizations with entities such as the Holy Land Foundation, the Islamic Association for Palestine and with the Hamas militant group. Solis acknowledged CAIR’s claim that evidence produced by the government “largely predates” the official designation of these groups as terror organizations but he said the “evidence is nonetheless sufficient to show the association of these entities with HLF, IAP, and Hamas.”
The appeals court, in a ruling involving another Muslim organization on the list, criticized Solis for this statement, saying it “went beyond what was relevant to any hypothetical evidentiary issue and may have obfuscated the underlying Fifth Amendment issue.”
In other words, CAIR had some sort of relationship with the Holy Land Foundation that occurred before the Holy Land Foundation was accused of financing terrorist groups, as did many, many other entities. All of these entities names were made public despite the fact that it was not needed in order to bring a case against the Holy Land Foundation, due to the personal decision of the judge ruling on the case that somehow these groups needed to be exposed for having a relationship even though it had no bearing on the case.
[A]s Baca pointedly noted, CAIR itself has never been charged with criminal activity. “We don’t play around with criminals in my world,” he told Cravaack. “If CAIR is an organization that’s a, quote, ‘criminal organization,’ prosecute them. Hold them accountable and bring them to trial.”
The repeated references to CAIR being an “unindicted co-conspirator” is one of those true facts that ultimately gives a false impression.
King and his supporters used “unidicted co-conspirator” to create an impression of a group that needs to be feared as terrorists despite there being no evidence to support that accusation.
Sounds a bit like the “radical Islam” hearing itself.