Trail Of Terror: Many book houses and newsrooms across America have a
shadow editor: Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire who's
threatened to sue them for good press.
He's getting it in spades. But it wasn't always that way.
After 9/11, dozens of books and newspaper articles cited U.S. government
officials and other sources who alleged that bin Mahfouz was under
investigation as a "suspected terrorist financier." Namely, the
allegation that he helped fund Osama bin Laden's operations through
Saudi banks and charities.
The negative press hurt his family business in the West, and Mahfouz
marshaled a team of lawyers to threaten the publishers to retract the
allegations and print apologies. Those who didn't lie down were sued in
courts in the U.K., which has more lenient libel laws than the U.S.
In all, the sheik has sued or threatened to sue some 36 U.S. and U.K.
publishers and authors.
One by one, they've all backed down (see partial list, right) to his
well-oiled legal intimidation machine. (One notable exception is
journalist Rachel Ehrenfeld and the publisher of her book "Funding
Evil." They are fighting bin Mahfouz's legal terrorism in a New York
court after losing in London.)
Attack lawyers cost money, and bin Mahfouz has lots of money and
lawyers. And he has lots of truth-tellers running scared.
The latest to give in is the well-respected publishing powerhouse
Cambridge University Press.
It has agreed to recall all unsold copies of "Alms for Jihad" and pulp
them. The title is no longer available even on Amazon. In addition, it
has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove copies from
"Cambridge University Press accepts that the entire bin Mahfouz family
categorically and unreservedly condemns terrorism in all its
manifestations, and that at no time has any member of the family
contributed to any terrorist organization," the publishing giant
groveled in its two-page apology.
"Nor has the family ever had reason to believe that funds it has given
over the years to a wide variety of charities, including the Muwafaq
Foundation, have been used other than for the charitable purposes intended."
The language is identical to other publishers' mea culpas, and amounts
to a blanket absolution and immunity from future criticism, regardless
of the facts, written by bin Mahfouz and for bin Mahfouz.
Problem is, bin Mahfouz's own lawyers admit on the sheik's Web site that
he was "the principal donor" to the Muwafaq Foundation (also known as
Blessed Relief), which the Treasury Department in October 2001 named as
"an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen."
Treasury at the same time listed a foundation trustee, Yassin Qadi, as a
specially designated global terrorist.
U.S. court documents allege that "(Qadi) and other well-connected Saudi
citizens transferred millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden through
charities and trusts like the Muwafaq Foundation."
The 58-year-old sheik's son, Abdulrahman bin Mahfouz, was a director of
the foundation. To be fair, neither has been blacklisted by Treasury as
a terrorist. But the implication is clear.
Bin Mahfouz's lawyers say that "to the best of their knowledge" he is
not on any government list and is not being investigated.
The sheik and his son were frequent visitors to Houston before 9/11. If
they're not on any U.S. terror lists, they can travel freely to the U.S.
Oddly, they've made themselves strangers in recent years.
Perhaps they've been too busy in Saudi Arabia and Britain carrying out
their jihad against free speech.