April 29, 2003


Software Engineer Is Charged in Plot to Fight U.S. Forces (Blaine Harden, April 29, 2003, Washington Post)
An Intel Corp. software engineer, whose five-week federal detention in Oregon triggered protests from outraged colleagues, was charged today with conspiring to travel to Afghanistan to fight with al Qaeda and the Taliban against American soldiers.

Maher Hawash, who worked for Intel for more than a decade, joined six other suspects based in Portland, Ore., in a plot to wage war against the United States, according to a federal arrest warrant affidavit released in Portland today. The other six -- five men and a woman -- were charged in the same conspiracy last October.

Hawash traveled in October 2001 with five members of the Portland group to China, where they tried but failed to enter Afghanistan to fight against U.S. forces, according to the affidavit. Hotel records in China show that Hawash stayed in the same hotels on the same dates as the five others, according to the affidavit.

"No independent evidence exists to corroborate any business purpose of the travel," the document said.

Federal investigators were tipped to Hawash's alleged connection to the "Portland Six" after their arrest by a neighbor who identified him, and his wife, Lisa, as "close friends" of two of the other suspected conspirators, Ahmed Bilal and Habis Al Saoub, according to the affidavit.

Hawash, 38, was born on the West Bank and became an American citizen in 1990. Known as "Mike" to his colleagues and family, he lives in suburban Portland and is married with three young children.

The FBI arrested him in an Intel parking lot on March 20. Until today, he had been detained without charge under the federal material witness statute, which the government has used since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hold some terror suspects indefinitely. Civil liberties groups have sharply criticized that practice.

The detention of Hawash, who has worked for Intel since 1992, angered many of his colleagues at Intel. They organized a media campaign, set up a Web site and demonstrated outside a federal courthouse in Portland during a closed hearing on Hawash's detention.

The announcement of the charges today seemed to do little to change their views. "These charges only show that Mike was acquainted with some members of the Portland Six, which is what you would expect in a small Muslim community like we have in Portland," said Steven McGeady, a former Intel executive and founder of a group called "Free Mike Hawash." McGeady said the allegation that Hawash traveled in China with five of the suspects showed only that friends sometimes bump into each other abroad.

It's been instructive to watch libertarians denounce John Ashcroft over the Hawash case, seemingly for no other reason than that they assume a fellow technocrat must be a good guy. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2003 8:01 PM
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