Mark D. Siljander

Mark D. Siljander
Mark Deli Siljander
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 4th district
In office
1981 – 1987
Preceded by David A. Stockman
Succeeded by Fred Upton
Personal details
Born June 11, 1951 (1951-06-11) (age 60)
Chicago
Cook County
Illinois
Political party Republican
Religion Christian

Mark Deli Siljander (born June 11, 1951) is a former Republican U.S. Representative and deputy United Nations ambassador from the state of Michigan who was convicted of obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his work for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism. Siljander pleaded guilty to the charges in Federal court on July 7, 2010.

Contents

Early life and education

Siljander was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he attended the public schools, having graduated in 1969 from Oak Park and River Forest High School.[1] He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1972 and a Master of Arts from Western Michigan in 1973.[1] Siljander was awarded an honorary doctorate in humanities from Coral Ridge Baptist University, Jacksonville, Florida, and a Ph.D. in international business[2] from George Wythe College, Cedar City, Utah (accreditation pending),[3] where he was listed as a faculty member.[2] He served as a trustee on Fabius Township Board in St. Joseph County, Michigan, from 1972–1976 and also worked as a real estate broker.[1]

Political career

Siljander served in the Michigan House of Representatives from the 42nd District, 1977–1981, and was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1980. He was elected by special election to the United States House of Representatives from Michigan's 4th congressional district to the 97th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of David A. Stockman, and was subsequently reelected to the two succeeding Congresses, serving from April 21, 1981, to January 3, 1987.[1] The Fourth Congressional district at that time was in southwestern Michigan and included Three Rivers and Kalamazoo.[4]

Although the 4th (and its successor, the 6th) has traditionally been a bastion of moderate Republicanism, Siljander was an outspoken social conservative. Time reported on Siljander's election:

"I'm part of the silent majority that was heard Nov. 4 [when President Reagan was elected]," says Siljander. "My support comes from morally concerned citizens who are sick of the situation in this country." Siljander pledges to battle the Equal Rights Amendment, pornography, abortion, school busing and "big spending." He will champion the neutron bomb, the MX missile and prayer in public schools.[5]

Siljander won 74 percent of the vote against his Democratic opponent, Johnie A. Rodebush, in 1981. In 1984, Siljander sponsored a single-sentence amendment which read, "For the purposes of this Act, the term 'person' shall include unborn children from the moment of conception." Alexander Cockburn referred to the Siljander Amendment as "the most far-reaching of all the measures dreamed up by the conservative right to undercut Roe v. Wade."[6] It failed 186-219.[7]

Debbie Schlussel, who interned in Siljander's office, stated that Siljander was known then as "the most pro-Israel Congressman on Capitol Hill".[8] In 1985, Siljander proposed legislation which would deny Most Favored Nation status to countries that discriminate on cultural, ethnic or religious grounds.[9][10][11]

Siljander was defeated in the 1986 Republican primary by his successor Fred Upton. Siljander's defeat was attributed to a controversial mailing he made during the party primary asking fundamentalists to "break the back of Satan" by praying and fasting for his re-election.[12] He served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and on its Middle East and Africa subcommittees.

Siljander was appointed by President Reagan as an alternate representative to the United Nations General Assembly, serving from September 1987 to September 1988.[1] He was an unsuccessful candidate in 1992 for nomination to the 103rd Congress from Virginia. He stated then his message was, "not religious values as much as it's common-sense American traditional values." He campaigned on a budget freeze, a ten percent flat tax and a line-item veto.[13] In the Republican primary, Siljander came in second to Henry N. Butler, a law professor at George Mason University.[14] Leslie L. Byrne won the general election.[1]

Private career

In 1994 Siljander joined the board of directors of Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian right legal fund.[15] In 1997, Siljander joined the lobbying firm Advantage Associates, which then employed 12 former members of Congress. Other members of the firm include firm president Bill Sarpalius, Bill Alexander, Ron Coleman, Bill Grant, Robert P. Hanrahan, Jerry Huckaby, Jerry M. Patterson, Howard Wallace Pollock, Richard Ray, Richard T. Schulze, and Bill Zeliff.[16] Siljander ended his ties with Advantage Associates prior to 2000.[17]

Now a resident of Great Falls, Virginia, Siljander is president of Global Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., operates an import-export firm, and works as a radio commentator.[1] He has written a book, A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide, listed as "For Sale: 10/7/2008" by HarperOne.[18] Siljander has met with leaders throughout the Islamic world.[19] Siljander has also regularly briefed both Congress and the White House on areas of Islamic extremism and counter-terrorism. Siljander currently consults for top US based security contractors on areas of terrorist threats and conflict resolution and has worked closely with UN Secretary General Ban Kai Moon to resolve the continuing humanitarian disaster in Darfur.[20]

Siljander's recent book, A Deadly Misunderstanding is a 2009 Nautilus Silver Award Winner.[21]

In 2009, Siljander, whose daughter is currently deployed in the Middle East,[22] joined Gold Star, Mother Amy Branham[23][24] and retired Colonel James Hanke US Army Special Forces, former Military Attache to Israel under Ambassador Thomas Pinkerton, as a co-editor of Veterans Today,[25] a "progressive" online publication supporting veterans and military families.

Religion

In 1986, Siljander signed a statement of outlining his religious beliefs.[26] Siljander takes an interest in conflict resolution, particularly in the Islamic world, and in recent years has tried to publicize the common ground between Christianity and Islam, particularly in the portrayal of Jesus in the Qur'an. Early in his career, Siljander heard a speaker read from the Qur'an at a prayer breakfast, unaware that this was not a reading from the Bible. When the truth was announced to his surprise, Siljander wrote a letter to the speaker, stating: "How can you read the book of the devil at a prayer breakfast?"[27]

He described himself as "trained as an evangelical Christian; I was a poster boy for Jerry Falwell."[27] He is widely traveled, and claims to have visited over 120 countries.[28] In November 2006, Siljander gave a speech at Regent's Park College, Oxford, entitled "Overcoming the Muslim Western Divide: Seven Bridges to the Common Ground."[29][30] Siljander has studied Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew languages.[31]

2008 indictment

On January 16, 2008, Siljander was indicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri on five counts including money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.[32][33] As part of the same investigation, several supporters of the Islamic American Relief Agency,[34] a United Nations NGO (Non Governmental Organization)[35] were indicted for raising funds that were allegedly sent to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United States has later designated as a global terrorist. The indictment claims that 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. Hekmatyar, a long time CIA and US ally, is believed to be working in combination with the US backed government of Pakistan:[36][37]

Those under indictment in related investigations face 42 counts on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice and material support of terrorism. The Islamic American Relief Agency is a 25 year old charity that had been receiving support from the US government for many years and been openly supported by Washington insiders until the listed indictments were filed.[38][39][40][41]

Siljander himself faces only five counts, none of which are related to terrorism and are confined to money laundering, obstruction and conspiracy related to accusations of lobbying. Siljander alleges that his lobbying consisted of using USAID funds to subsidize the writing of his book[42] intended to provide strategies to undermine the influence of Islamic extremism.[43]

The indictments against IARA members other than Siljander are based on allegations of underlying crime stemming from a Ziyad Khaleel, who served as a regional manager for the charity in question as early as 96 and is said to have purchased a satellite phone for Bin Laden. Even though Khaleel was believed to be associated with the charity according to the FBI and to have been a terrorist supporter, it took over four years for the US Government decide to blacklist the IARA and cut off U.S. government funding.[44][45]

"It's not clear whether Siljander ever engaged in the lobbying push," said John Wood, U.S. attorney in Kansas City.[46] Nevertheless, IARA paid Siljander with money that was part of U.S. government funding awarded to the charity years earlier for relief work it promised to perform in Africa, the indictment says.[46] Prosecutors initially alleged that Siljander was paid $50,000 by the Islamic American Relief Agency for acting as a lobbyist, money that was assigned by the U.S. Agency for International Development for other unnamed tasks. On January 28, 2008, Siljander appeared for a brief hearing in Kansas City, Missouri and pleaded not guilty in Federal court before a U.S. Magistrate Judge.[47]

However, the source of the allegedly misused funds, the USAID, a government agency tasked with promoting American values worldwide, indicates that none of their funds were misused: "According to the most recent USAID Office of Inspector General report, which covers October 2006 to the end of March 2007, "OIG oversight activities during this period did not identify any instances where terrorist organizations received USAID funds." USAID audit procedures should be enough to prevent terrorist financing."[48][49]

Further, the USAID indicates that there is no mechanism for effectively monitoring "blacklisted" groups: "USAID cannot confirm or deny whether an individual passed or failed screening." This secrecy was part of the focus of comments OMB Watch submitted to USAID, which stated, "PVS will more than likely result in the creation of a secret USAID blacklist of ineligible grant applicants, based on PVS results. Organizations and individuals erroneously listed as having ties with terrorism will have no way of knowing they are deemed as such, or why. Innocent and well deserving grantees will have no formal means of appealing such decisions."[48]

It has recently been admitted by the Bush Administration in conjunction with a variety of organizations that efforts to effectively screen groups from potential involvement in support of terrorism have been plagued with errors at every level. "The decision, announced Tuesday at a meeting of U.S. officials and representatives of nonprofit groups, was made after lawmakers and several large aid organizations said that the global screening requirements were onerous and unwarranted. An official of the U.S. Agency for International Development had earlier promised to defer the program, which initially was to have taken effect Monday."[50]

Controversy

Charges of money laundering are at the root of the Siljander indictment, with "conspiracy and obstruction" built around those accusations. However, the basis of the Bush Department of Justice "money laundering" charges theoretically make any funds received from a blacklisted charity, a list devoid of "due process", whether banning is public or secret, whether funds are distributed before or after "blacklisting," guilty of a criminal act in support of "terrorism."

With such overbroad application of enforcement, according to OMBWatch,[51] any vendor or supplier could face prosecution. Equally, no person could donate funds to any charity organization where the remote chance that any relationship, no matter how tenuous or obscure, may exist or have existed with any organization or individual tied to a "blacklist."

An argument would thus follow that the issue of prosecutorial targeting tied to political concerns, rather than security issues would provide a basis for an affirmative defense, supported by the wide number of controversies tied to Gonzales appointees and the litany of accusations they face as outlined here.

The Afghan warlord tied by this indictment to the IARA, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is reported to have had a long relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency and to have been the recipient of millions in US funding:

"As the US mobilizes for covert war in Afghanistan (see 1978 and July 3, 1979), a CIA special envoy meets Afghan mujaheddin leaders at Peshawar, Pakistan, near the border to Afghanistan. All of them have been carefully selected by the Pakistani ISI and do not represent a broad spectrum of the resistance movement. One of them is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a drug dealer with little support in Afghanistan, but who is loyal to the ISI. The US will begin working with Hekmatyar and over the next 10 years over half of all US aid to the mujaheddin will go to his faction (see 1983)."[52]

Few articles in the mainstream press mention the far more substantial historical association: that between Hekmatyar and the CIA. During the 1980s he received fully 90% the CIA-supplied funds doled out via Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) to the Mujahadeen Islamic warriors (see Ahmed Rashid, Taliban [Yale University Press, 2000], p. 91). These funds amounted to some half-billion dollars per year throughout the 1980s, matched by equal sums from that other enthusiastic Mujahadeen patron, acting in close cooperation with the US: Saudi Arabia. Hekmatyar is Mr. Blowback, among the most vicious of former US clients now at odds with their one-time paymasters. So his career deserves some study. Born in Baghlan around 1950, Hekmatyar attended a military academy, then Kabul University where by some accounts he was for several years a member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a party aligned with the Soviet Union."[53][54]

Hekmatyar's history, prior to working with the CIA is further related as follows:

Abdel Rahman later slipped into Pakistan, where he forged operational links with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the head of a radical rebel Afghan army backed by the CIA. Hekmatyar's career in politics began in 1972, when as an engineering student at Kabul University, he founded the Young Muslims, which advocated turning Afghanistan into a single-party Islamic republic based on the Sharia, or Islamic law. In June 1974, Hekmatyar fled to Pakistan after a government crackdown on Islamic fundamentalists. Hekmatyar immediately began to call for the armed overthrow of Afghanistan -- an idea that won the approval of Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who supplied Hekmatyar with arms, training, and money. Hekmatyar orchestrated an insurrection in Afghanistan in 1975, but it was crushed. Many of his followers subsequently joined him in Peshawar. By 1979, six fundamentalist Muslim Afghani rebel groups were operating in Peshawar. Hekmatyar's was by far the largest and most important, thanks to the support of his newest Pakistani patron, President Mohammed Zia. At the time, the Soviet-backed, Marxist government in Afghanistan was attempting to weaken the hold of the traditional religious elite, who for centuries had ruled the countryside. The Afghani Marxists even went so far as to remove the Islamic green from the Afghani flag. Hekmatyar resisted, waging a fierce terrorist war. In December 1979, the Soviets, fearing the violence would spill across their borders, invaded Afghanistan. Afghani president Hafizullah Amin was killed in the royal palace by Soviet troops, and replaced by Babrak Karmal, an exile who had been living in Moscow.[55]

U.S. Attorney Bradley Schlozman, an unconfirmed Bush appointee in the Justice Department dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy, had been largely responsible for the management and development of the Siljander case, though the indictment was filed after his resignation/removal. Schlozman's history up to this point was as a Republican Party appointee working in the Civil Rights Voting division pushing for tougher voter ID laws in conjunction with Attorney Thor Hearne, top GOP pointman on this issue. Hearne directs the American Center for Voting Rights, a GOP organization. Oddly, Hearne's Missouri law firm, Lathrop and Gage, represents the IARA in the related terrorism case.[56][57][58]

In an amended news release, Schlozman was made to correct errors in the initial press release which tried to tie Siljander to terrorist organizations.[59][60][61]

Schlozman resigned from the DOJ and is currently under a cloud of suspicion regarding irregular elements of his appointment and alleged "voter suppression" activities.[57][62][63][64][65]

That the source of the funds alleged to have been sent to support terrorism was the US Government itself, is a critical aspect of the charges that are unreported in the media and were not made clear in the DOJ press conferences. The IARA is known to have had wide support in Washington as a "pro-American" Islamic group and was not "blacklisted" as "giving material support to terrorist organizations" until well after the period covered by the indictment.[40][66]

Additionally, endorsements of Siljander's recent book demonstrate that he still has support from the powerful conservative group, the Heritage Foundation, members of whose leadership are currently managing Siljander's legal defense fund along with former Secretary of State James Baker III, former Attorney General Ed Meese and UN Secretary General Ban Kai Moon. Additionally, many conservative leaders, Christian evangelists and foundations, despite the current indictment, continue to support Siljander and express incredulity at DOJ actions in this case.

A report released in a Justice Department audit performed by Justice Department Inspector General Gerald Fine, on March 18, 2008, indicated that "the FBI and other agencies had, since 2003, proven incapable of managing watch lists or coordinating activities." The charity in question, the IARA, represented by lobbyist, former Congressman Hanrahan, and the primary subject of the series of indictments was one of the groups at the heart of this confusion and ambiguity.[44]

FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) wiretaps were used to support "domestic" charges against Siljander. A number of legal experts believe that the use of FISA intercepts in domestic cases may be outside the scope of the Act. As some charges against Siljander are unrelated to any foreign activity or any relationship to terrorism in any form yet are purportedly supported by FISA wiretaps, this case may provide a challenge to other FISA related cases.[67][68] Highly classified documents, accidentally released to defendants in an unrelated case, showed that the government targeted individuals in domestic wiretaps, an act clearly outside FISA authorization and generally recognized as unconstitutional.[69]

Defense and veteran related sources claim that Siljander's newly moderated religious views, or his staunch opposition to the Iraq invasion, are seen by some as a betrayal of his staunch support of Israel and the Christian Right. However, there is no substantiation that there is any relationship between these issues and the current legal case. This brings into question the possibility Siljander may have been targeted because of his staunch and very public criticism of intelligence use to support the Iraq invasion.[70]

Siljander alleges he never engaged in lobbying for this group but referred the group to former Congressman Robert Hanrahan, long associated with the American Tobacco Institute. U.S. Attorney John Wood initially suggested this fact, now admittedly an error, was at the heart of charges against Siljander. Records indicate that a different former Congressman, Robert Hanrahan (R-IL) had represented the accused Islamic charity and had been responsible for lobbying Senator Grassley on behalf of the group. Former Congressman Hanrahan, has signed an affidavit indicating this but has not been the subject of any investigation or scrutiny, though funds paid to Hanrahand were from, both an identical source and paid under identical circumstances as funds paid to Siljander. That US Attorney John Wood's[71] statement indicating that Siljander may not have been lobbying for the group may contradict the heart of the indictment brought by Wood remains an enigmatic aspect of this case.[44][72][73][74]

As early as 1989, the IARA and Khaleel, president of the Muslim Student Association,[75] had been linked to terrorist groups but that information had never been acted on and funds from the US continued to flow to that group for 9 more years.[76]

Actions against the group, beginning with ending their State Department funding in December 1999 are unclear, especially in light of conflicting opinions and inconsistent information about this group.

[In December 1999, Thomas Pickering, undersecretary of state for political affairs, demanded the cancellation of the contracts because they were "contrary to the national defense and foreign policy interests of the United States," the State Department has said.

While the projects were canceled, roughly $1 million had been disbursed to the group, State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said Friday.

He said he could not discuss the exact reasons for Pickering's actions because Pickering's letter canceling the contracts was classified.[76]

The respected Islamic charity organization Mercy Relief[77] states:

"The Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA-USA) is an independent American non-profit humanitarian organization established in 1985 and has been dedicated to providing humanitarian relief to the impoverished globally. IARA-USA, a member of Interaction, a Washington based coalition of over 170 charities, has a long history of working with the United Nations, such as United Nations Relief and Working Agency, UNRWA, to establish feeding centers to combat the wide spread of famine, especially in Africa. IARA-USA does not have any affiliates and is independently run.

Having said that, for a start, PERDAUS has already established contact with the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) to co-operate on a project for orphans from around the world. We shall be working closely together with the IARA in attending to the welfare of those parentless children. Consequently, as stated earlier, it is virtually certain that we would be rubbing our shoulders with other humanitarian relief organisations."[76]

Khaleel, at the heart of the controversy, is alleged to have been an FBI informant and possible CIA operative. Procurement for Bin Laden of telcom devices easily intercepted by U.S. security services may have facilitated interception of Bin Ladens communications and may have supplied the US with valuable intelligence. At the same time Khaleel is alleged to have been helping the IARA support terrorism and Khaleel was under questioning by the FBI, the U.S. Department of State, thru the USAID, continued funneling millions of dollars thru this organization.[78]

The possibility that the IARA or elements of that organization may have been working in close association with US intelligence agencies throughout this period without the knowledge of Missouri based Justice Department officials or local FBI agents there and that key intelligence capabilities may have been cripled through the lack of interagency cooperation is suggested but essential facts supporting this hypothesis remain classified.[78]

"Commingling" of USAID funds in IARA accounts is a critical issue in the series of indictments. Though the USAID claims none of its funds were used to support terrorism, a statement that would render all claims in any of the indictments as void, the timeline of FBI contacts with Khaleel and "revelations" of his terrorist involvement, when superimposed on records of continued funding by the US of his activities shows an unavoidable set of conflicting facts either demonstrating ineptitude by US government agencies or inadvertent exposure of a covert intelligence gathering program. As US funding ended in 1999, it wasn't until 2004 that the US shut down operations yet several indictments are based on dispersal of funds of only USAID origin while funds from other sources may have been resident in the IARA accounts.[76]

Further supporting this line of inquiry is the 1996 release by the CIA of a classified report stating that the IARA supplied weapons to Bosnian fighters and was affiliated with Sudan's government and elements in Saudi Arabia. Evidence that the U.S. government continued to fund this group despite this additional set of revelations could be seen as additional support to the hypothesis that the Siljander/IARA indictments exposed a covert intelligence operation of the United States.[79] Siljander is said to have had ties to the CIA and was once targeted for assassination by the PLO.[80]

Guilty plea

On July 7, 2010, Siljander pled guilty to obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.[81]

Bibliography

  • Siljander, Mark D. (October 2008). A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide. New York: HarperOne. ISBN 9780061438288. [21]
  • Belz, Emily. "Bad Connections". WORLD magazine. 14 August 2010. pp. 44–6.

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  68. ^ Think Progress » Gitmo Lawyers File Constitutional Challenge Of Recently-Passed FISA Bill
  69. ^ http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/04/28/080428fa_fact_keefe
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  71. ^ United States Attorney's Office - Western District of Missouri[not in citation given]
  72. ^ Ex-Congressman Charged in Terror Case by Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press, Posted: 2008-01-16 23:27:28
  73. ^ Center For NonProfit Success
  74. ^ Advantage Associates - A Team of Former Members of Congress
  75. ^ http://www.msanational.org/
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  81. ^ http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2010/07/pity_disbelief_expressed_for_m.html Chris Killian, "Pity, disbelief expressed for Mark Siljander: Former Southwest Michigan congressman pleads guilty to federal charges", Kalamazoo Gazette, July 8, 2010. Accessed August 31, 2011.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
David Stockman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 4th congressional district

1981–1987
Succeeded by
Fred Upton

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