Terrorist financing and the missing link

Last week, former Michigan congressman Mark Siljander was sentenced for helping an Islamic charity suspected of having ties to al Qaeda. It's not that it didn't get significant coverage, but considering this was a former member of Congress, the coverage wasn't terribly thorough. The underlying story is interesting on two religious fronts. Most media coverage focused on only one. That's the story about how back in the 1990s, a Missouri Muslim charity lost two federal grants in Mali. The U.S. Treasury had said the Islamic American Relief Agency had begun working with one Osama bin Laden and an al Qaeda precursor. Later it would be accused of directly funding bin Laden. The charity had tried to avoid U.S. financial reporting laws and paid Siljander to lobby Congress to take the charity off the list of terror financiers. Siljander never registered as a foreign-paid lobbyist and lied to investigators about what he was doing, saying he used the money to write a book about Christian-Islamic relations. All while the charity funneled $1 million to Iraq.

Siljander wasn't the only individual sentenced last week. The head of the charity and a few other officials were as well.

OK, so the Associated Press reported all this in a pretty straightforward fashion. For instance:

The original indictment alleged the charity sent about $130,000 to help Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United States has designated as a global terrorist. The money, sent to bank accounts in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2003 and 2004, was masked as donations to an orphanage located in buildings that Hekmatyar owned.

Authorities described Hekmatyar as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who has participated in and supported terrorist acts by al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Prosecutors said Siljander, who now lives in Great Falls, Va., lied to the FBI about being hired to lobby for the charity. He told investigators that the money he received was a donation to help him write a book about Islam and Christianity.

The Wall Street Journal had a similar approach. So did the Kansas City Star, which had some very interesting details. Bloomberg, however, gives us a hint of what's missing:

The men agreed they would hide IARA’s $75,000 payment to Siljander, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly, by sending it through nonprofit entities.

Which non-profit entities? And why isn't that detail reported out in the mainstream media reports?

I found more in World magazine, a Christian publication:

The Sudan-based Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) hired Siljander in 2004 to lobby for the nonprofit organization’s removal from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s list of sponsors of international terrorism. Siljander did not register as a lobbyist, as required by law, and lied to the FBI about the $75,000 in lobbying payments he received from the IARA. He said the money was a payment to help him finish a book on bridging the divide between Islam and Christianity. The book, A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman’s Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide, was published in 2008 and details some of his visits with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Siljander has been active in the insider movement, which seeks to find common ground between Islam and Christianity and eschews efforts to “convert.” He founded a “bridge-building” group called Trac5, which in 2010 merged with Common Path Alliance, a group, according to its website, “focused on the centrality of the life and work of Jesus (Isa) as evidenced in both the Bible and the Qur’an.”

The former congressman had been actively teaching with Trac5 at least as recently as November 2011. Trac5 has board members who are involved in the Fellowship, a secretive organization in Washington that Siljander has been closely connected to for years, the same group that hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Back in 1997, Siljander traveled with the head of the Fellowship, Doug Coe, to Khartoum, Sudan, to meet with Bashir.

Siljander funneled at least $25,000 of his lobbying payments through the Fellowship. The Fellowship’s board member who oversaw the transactions, Eric Fellman, told me after Siljander pled guilty that the FBI had interviewed individuals at the Fellowship and found no hint wrongdoing because Siljander had told the Fellowship that the payments were for his book.

Well that seems significant and interesting, no? I get that this was an unbelievably complex case that took years to unravel and had many players, including some far-flung terrorist organizations. But why is this information only in World magazine? Literally, according to this Google search.

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