Former Guard Accused Of Hiding Muslim Ties

Date: 15 Aug 2007


 Former Guard Accused Of Hiding Muslim Ties

Conviction Could Bring Prison Time 

By Dan Morse 

Washington Post Staff Writer

On April 19, 2005, Darrick Jackson completed an application to work as a private security guard at an entrance gate to Andrews Air Force Base.

"Have you ever used or been known by another name?" he was asked in the second of 20 queries.

"No," Jackson answered.

He got the job. 

Federal prosecutors now allege that Jackson intentionally withheld his Muslim name, Abdul-Jalil Mohammad, to conceal a connection to a controversial imam in Southeast Washington. Jackson, 37, who is no longer in the civilian job, has been charged with making a false statement, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

In a pretrial hearing scheduled for today, prosecutors are expected to argue that they should be permitted to present evidence at trial that they say links Jackson to extremist views. The evidence includes speeches in which the imam wishes for the U.S. government's collapse, essays posted on Jackson's MuslimSpace Web page and a mosque directory listing Jackson as the head of security.

Jackson's attorneys argue that he believed the question applied to maiden names for female applicants and that the omission was at worst an innocent mistake. They say that Jackson has never advocated violence toward the United States, that his religious and political views are irrelevant to the case and that airing them before a jury would deprive him of his right to a fair trial.

"In these times in our country, the mere suggestion that a defendant may be a terrorist sympathizer is extraordinarily prejudicial," John Chamble, one of Jackson's attorneys, wrote in a court filing last month.

In addition, the defense alleges that authorities built the case to goad Jackson into giving up information on the imam, who claimed in an interview that the FBI has been watching him for four decades.

The case is scheduled for trial Sept. 4. Jackson no longer works at Andrews, having left there after the matter surfaced last year. Attorneys in the case and a spokesman for the base declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding his departure. Free on his own recognizance, he lives with his wife and 3-year-old son in a small house adjacent to the mosque.

The defense, in an effort to demonstrate what it suggests may be the government's true interest, attached to its filings 11 pages of FBI reports summarizing agents' interviews with Jackson. The reports contain four paragraphs addressing the application and close to three dozen paragraphs addressing Jackson's faith and political views and the views of the imam. At one point, agents asked Jackson if he had ever been to the Iranian Interests Section at a local Islamic Education Center, according to the field notes.

Abdul Alim Musa, 62, is the outspoken imam at the mosque, Masjid al-Islam. In public statements, Musa has called Jews cowards, denounced the United States as the most criminal government in the world and lauded suicide bombers as heroes. He has praised Hezbollah and Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and advocated the creation of an Islamic state in the United States by 2050.

In the interview, Musa joked that two of every five men at the Benning Road mosque could be undercover FBI agents. Musa said he recently taught three sessions of "How to Punk the FBI" at his mosque. Lessons included such "counter-harassment techniques" as asking an interrogating agent if his mother bought him his shirt, according to one of his Web sites.

"I know the line," Musa said, referring to the point at which free speech ends and encouraging any kind of violence begins, "and I stay away from the line."

Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, said his office takes seriously cases involving people in positions of protecting U.S. government installations. "The U.S. government employs plenty of people who follow the religion of Islam," he said in an interview. "This case is not about the defendant's religion."

An official at USProtect, the Silver Spring firm that employed Jackson, did not return calls seeking comment.

On a recent visit to the mosque, before Friday prayer services, there were no overt signs of Musa's more ardent positions. Adults and children filed past a table of books for sale, including dense political tomes and the business-management bestseller "Who Moved My Cheese?"

Jackson, who arrived carrying a box of food, declined to discuss his case. According to the FBI notes, Jackson told agents that he and Musa were introduced about 17 years ago. Jackson eventually converted to Islam and adopted a Muslim name for use by family and mosque members. (In some prosecution filings, the last part of Jackson's Muslim name is spelled "Mohammed.")

At today's hearing in federal court in Greenbelt, prosecutors are expected to argue that evidence linking Jackson to Musa is relevant because it establishes motive: Jackson concealed his Muslim name to avoid additional investigation that might have resulted in the denial of his application.

Prosecutors also want to introduce Internet postings from Jackson's MuslimSpace page. At issue are two essays, though it is unclear who wrote them. An essay titled "The Politics of Suicide and Self-Sacrifice" argues that Palestinians who conduct "self-sacrifice operations" do so in the same heroic spirit as Japanese kamikaze pilots. The other, "A Thought Provoking Process," faults the United States for its historical treatment of African Americans and Native Americans and, in a more conspiratorial vein, for allegedly spreading AIDS in Africa.

Musa uses both MuslimSpace and MySpace. On one site yesterday, visitors in an audio section could hear him lauding Hezbollah for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers last year. "It shows the rest of the Arab world that these Jews ain't nothing [but a] bunch of sissies and cowards," he said.

Prosecutors want to tell jurors that Musa once said Muslims would "burn America to the ground" if the mistreatment of Muslims continued. He was speaking at a fundraiser for Jamil Al-Amin, the imam who was formerly H. Rap Brown, a once-prominent Black Panther who in the 1960s famously said: "If America don't come around, we're gonna burn it down."

Musa said in the interview that the government's description takes his comment way out of context. He said he was telling the crowd what Amin had said decades earlier, not advocating violent action today.

Jackson's attorneys argue that the religious name holds no legal significance and that introducing evidence about his religion and Musa's statements could improperly taint the jury.

"Jurors will no doubt focus on whether Mr. Jackson is a bad person," Chamble wrote in the court filing last month, "not whether he made a materially false statement."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.


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