Joshua Foust has an appalling rant posted at Registan in which he smears me again merely for disagreeing with him, and outrageously accuses me of aiding the prosecution of an innocent Uzbek Muslim man with my blog posts (!!!).
That beats all. When are Sen. John Kerry and the other adults associated with American Security Project going to rein in this freak?!
Foust and other Registan writers have never liked my take on the case of Jamshid Muhtorov -- I simply don't see any reason to second-guess the FBI's prosecution of this case and won't be stampeded into political correctness with this case. There's a tendency in general from the crowd at Registan to minimize terrorist groups that is fashionable in "progressive" and even establishment think-tank circles, but I think it's reasonable to question it in Uzbekistan. You can retain a robust and vigorous critique of the Karimov regime and craven US policy toward him -- I sure do -- and yet concede that some extremist Islamic groups in Uzbekistan do pose a severe challenge to human rights themselves, and it is ok to question them.
First, Foust makes much ado about the prosecution's statement that Muhtorov knew what the IJU was and what it meant to support them. Then he features anonymous and unaccountable forums' commenters who claim the Denver Post has engaged in poor journalism because they had a headline saying "Prosecutors Say that Uzbek Refugee Knew" and then quoting the prosecutor later that Muhtorov "admitted he knew the Islamic Jihad Union was a combat organization that fights NATO forces in Afghanistan, including US forces."
But where's the problem? We're supposed to *not believe* prosecutors when they say *Muhtorov admitted* that he knew what the IJU was?
Sure, it's always good to question prosecutors -- that's what adversarial legal defense is all about and that's available in this country and available for Muhtorov, unlike in his native Uzbekistan. But I don't see that *his lawyer* has a counter-claim that he didn't know. And I find it highly unbelievable that Muhtorov would either not know what the IJU was at all, or not know that supporting it, he was supporting extremists who fought NATO. There's no evidence for the counter-claim whatsoever, but Foust jacks up the seeming lack of evidence of Muhtorov's voluntary admission as in fact that counter-claim. Sneaky!
Another commenter, "Pilgrim1620" is very much splitting hairs when he claims there's a difference between Muhtorov knowing "he'd fight US NATO forces" and that "he was joining an organization that he knew also did fight in Afghanistan" in addition to Uzbekistan. Oh, please. What did he think the IJU did in Afghanistan, go on picnics?
Curiously, Foust claims these angry anonymous readers' comments forced the Denver Post to put in the word "alleges" and gives a link. But when you go to the link, the word "alleges" never appears anywhere! The headline remains "Uzbekistan Refugee Knew of Islamic Group's Threat, Prosecutor Says at Denver Hearing" and the word "alleges" has not been asserted in this paragraph:
A prosecutor told a federal judge this morning that Uzbek refugee Jamshid Muhtorov admitted he knew the Islamic Jihad Union was a combat organization that fights NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The Post proceeds to say, "The prosecutor described Muhtorov as a former human rights activist who might have been disappointed in his life as a refugee in the U.S."
Joshua never accounts for the fact that he has claimed a word "alleged" was introduced when it wasn't (!) and instead writes this:
After writing several paragraphs detailing the prosecution’s claim that Muhtorov knew he was going to go help an organization fight U.S. forces, the DP finally gets around to noting that the prosecution won’t let Muhtorov’s defense know or discuss how the prosecution knows such a thing, because it is based on a witness whose identity is classified for national security reasons.
I'm fine with secret evidence and secret witnesses that aren't made privy to Joshua Foust, former defense contractor and researcher at the American Security Project, nor to the general public. His lawyer is welcome to challenge it; anyone is welcome to challenge it. But...they haven't that I can see. We don't see Muhtorov objecting or his lawyer objecting that he "knew what he knew when he knew it" about the IJU. This is all a very odd line of reasoning.
(I think also, as one smart commenter at the Denver Post notes, those that claim the anti-terror legislation is always misused and applied overbroadly to violate human rights should be challenged to come up with the cases -- in fact, the FBI's cases seem to be nearly always good ones.)
But -- not content with just making glib pronouncements about what the liberal democratic Obama Administration's FBI should or should not view as necessary to keep secret in prosecution of terrorism -- Foust goes on to make an OUTRAGEOUS statement.
First, he quotes the prosecutor, Greg Holloway:
A prosecutor also asserts that Muhtorov may have misrepresented himself a human-rights activist and that he may have received refugee status on fake grounds.
Holloway writes that some online articles say Muhtorov was an "opportunist who was dismissed from the Ezgulik Human Rights Society because he supported violent extremism."
That sounds like what I wrote here, and I definitely stand by it. It's exactly the story published by Vasila Inoyatova, the chair of Ezgulik, about her dismissal of Muhtorov at the time, and I have no reason to distrust her account, having interviewed her as a reliable source over the years a number of times. (It's also an account that can be found in a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks). Not only did Muhtorov not account for funds, he wanted to go further to work with another group, an association of farmers who wanted to overthrow the Karimov regime which Ezgulik, an organization that had obtained registration from the government with great difficulty, didn't want to do. He was dismissed, and went to the other group advocating violent overthrow -- and then fled the country.
As for the other claims I reported on made by others -- that he was an informant for Uzbek intelligence, or received refugee status on fake grounds -- those are claims that are speculative, and we don't know if they are true and I myself didn't make them. Again, I reported on them; that's what bloggers do and that's more than fine. Certainly Uzbek intelligence hasn't come to rescue their agent if they are true! Muhtorov's grounds for receiving refugee status may have been vague, and amounted to his past associations, his distribution of a HRW report and his detention and beating for this, and his mention in the State Department's report. Not a sturdy peg to hang a case on, but lesser pegs have been granted status and one would err on the side of inclusiveness when it comes to Uzbekistan.
But here's what's important about all this. I didn't say he misrepresented himself; the prosecutor does. Gosh, five seconds ago, Foust was so busy parsing what it all means when prosecutors versus suspects say things, wasn't he?
I merely said he was dismissed and was no longer characterized as a member of a human rights group and a member of the peaceful movement that doesn't call for overthrowing the regime. And that is the case. He went to a more extreme group. So if he continued to call himself a "human rights activist" that would be inaccurate in the sense that he was no longer accepted as a member of a human rights group. But I didn't comment on his refugee application or how he characterized himself -- Foust has made that up entirely.
Foust completely glides over the fact that he Muhtorov fired from a group for not making financial reports and moving to embrace a more extreme group. That's important! He implies that just because HRW and the State Department wrote about him as a victim of human rights abuse, that he retains his status as a human rights activist -- which the State Department doesn't claim. Foust mendaciously then asks "Where are they getting this from?" as if the prosecution in a terrorist case is building his case on my blog (!!!) and links to hate pages about me:
Oh yeah — it was a paranoid personality disorder victim and renowned Internet troll, who is famous for conspiracy theories and paranoia, and was banned recently from the Registan.net threads for her gleeful slinging of false accusations of secret interests and regime sympathies. This renowned liar, lunatic, and fabulist has been on a tear about Muhtorov, and literally everything else anyone at this blog has ever discussed in the last few months — because I noted that Muhtorov had a history of activism, and because Sarah Kendzior (this troll’s favorite target) once mentioned knowing of him.
Wow! Perhaps this "Advice to Google Witch-Hunters" page will satisfy some people curious about hate pages portraying me as a conspiracy nutter and "troll" -- but these are all just methods of trying to silence criticism.
"Liar, lunatic and fabulist?" My word. Because I...criticize Registan's outrageous posts on this subject legitimately?! I guess Foust is out of arguments!
Foust then proceeds to claim that my accurate reporting on Muhtorov's firing from a human rights group and characterization of him by a refugee agency as an opportunist is somehow helping to build the prosecutor's case. Huh? But the facts are the facts, and the prosecutor has merely referenced them -- and they are in the public record, not from my reporting. There's nothing racist or anti-immigrant about reporting that a man who didn't want to turn in a financial report was dismissed from a human rights group and that his desire to merge with an extremist group was rejected by that human rights group. Indeed, the fragile future of the human rights movement in Uzbekistan very much depends on all of us being able to make those very distinctions.There's nothing racist or anti-immigrant about reporting that a Kyrgyz refugee official found this refugee not fleeing the Andijan events as opportunist; and I was careful to characterize her as possibly having an agenda herself, given that she was an Osh official, and now the minister of labor.
The prosecution isn't relying on "crazy Internet people" but their own interception of Muhtorov's cell phone communications and material on his hard drive. Their case doesn't hinge on Muhtorov being a member of good standing in a human rights group or not. Even if he was the Human Rights Watch monitor of the year and Amnesty's prisoner of the month, if he decided to provide material aid to a terrorist group, that would get him arrested -- having a legitimate human rights beef with an abusive government like the Karimov regime doesn't exempt you from prosecution as a terrorist.
As for Sarah Kendzior's claim that activists always spread nasty rumours about each other working for the secret police, so what? We all get that. Tolib Yakubov made the claim that Muhtorov was working for the SNB; the Kyrgyz refugee official who saw him going to Osh police offices all the time also made a judgement that he was somehow cooperating with authorities (so you couldn't pick two more opposite sources -- an Uzbek dissident exile and an Osh official!). It's ok to report that without being accused of sending an innocent man to jail; it's part of the public record. Sometimes when people make these accusations, they are accurate; sometimes they are not. Foust and Kendzior behave as if the SNB never manipulates dissidents and is never evident in a case, ever. That's ridiculous.
Foust then slyly segues from this study of emigre counter-accusations to implying that someone is saying Muhtorov wasn't really persecuted, and didn't face a "well-founded fear of persecution". That's ridiculous. Nobody has claimed that, anyway (except Tolib who implied he shouldn't get refugee status -- and what another emigre thinks about you isn't grounds for rejection of such status). Nobody has said he wasn't persecuted, and indeed I document the ways in which he was -- as reported also by the State Department. I don't say he doesn't deserve refugee status or oppose Muslim immigration from Uzbekistan -- that's hysterical smearing that Foust is impugning to me because he doesn't know how to account for the obvious here: that a man who left human rights groups because they demanded financial accountability, and went to a more extreme opposition group, and then fled the country, later to adopt extremist Islamist beliefs and hook up with the IJU, is the proper target of the FBI.
I don't see that the Denver Post has repeated any "Internet rumours" -- the accounts of his dismissal from Ezgulik and his trajectory to more extremist groups are on the public record including even at Registan and rightly provoking questioning -- Foust simply pretends that trajectory doesn't exist.
As for the "wedding" -- it is repeatedly mentioned in the chat transcripts over a period of time, and that naturally prompts the question of whether it was indeed a code word. How many times can you go to a wedding and bring a gift?
We all have to worry about false charges of terrorism, especially involving Uzbekistan, where our government has made an unsavory bargain. But there is no reason, again, to second-guess what the FBI says it has found on cell phones and computers: evidence of intent to go help the IJU. Foust has to explain away cell phones, money, and the GPS equipment -- it has been theorized that these were just to sell on the black market and not to carry out plots. How do we know that?
Now Foust winds up for the punch, directly and falsely accusing me of sending an innocent Uzbek human rights activist to jail (!):
A false charge of terrorism can permanently ruin a person’s life — and when terrorism cases are built on hearsay, internet comments, crazed lunatics posting 6,000 word anger-rants about some writers she dislikes, and secret evidence… well that gives me a lot of pause.
But...long before I wrote any blog posts, the FBI was following Muhtorov, bugging his phone calls and finding disturbing groups for probably cause for an arrest. A judge agreed and gave them a warrant and they confiscated his computers. I've posted lengthy compilations of all the material on Muhtorov on the Internet with my translations and commentary, and that is all legitimate activity. What, we can't ever criticize terrorism suspects? Worse, Faust has linked this smear of me supposedly sending an innocent man to jail to supposedly "crazed" 6,000 "anger-rants" which are in fact measured and calm -- and extensive rebuttals of his own actual anger-rants.
Secret evidence isn't Soviet evidence, it's just secret for reasons that the FBI -- under Obama -- claims are for national security reasons. There is nothing to prevent Jamshid Muhtorov from getting a fair trial and for his lawyer and any human rights organizations from mounting the most robust defense they can conceive. Meanwhile, I will insist on my right to report and comment on his career, and utterly reject any notion that criticism of extremism somehow helps unfair prosecution.
Finally, I realized in looking over this past comment that Foust mischaracterizes as "gleeful slinging of false accusations" (the lady doth protest too much), that I had failed to publish my lengthy rebuttal to his slams preceding my banning from Registan back in December 2011. So here it is, weighing in at only 5,000 words (lol) and I note in particular the defense against his charges of behaving like "neo-cons" that claim "objective" aid to nefarious causes. The onus is indeed on Foust to explain how he can continue not only these outrageous attacks on the human rights movement, but vicious smears of me merely for legitimately criticizing his antics and also subjecting to criticism a terrorism suspect.