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PSU Conference on Smith's Remarks and Irresponsibility of Corporate Media

PSU Student organizations demand an apology from Smith for his imflammatory remarks and coporate media acted very rudely to minority members at the press conference.
PSU Community leaders, students, and members of the corporate press attended a press conference last night at PSU's Smith Center held to discuss remarks made to the Oregonian by Oregon Senator Gordon Smith.

Yesterday's Oregonian had an article in which Senator Smith claimed that terrorist related fundraising have happened at PSU.

PSU President, Daniel Bernstine, opened the meeting with a letter he received from Senator Gordon Smith allegedly containing an apology for the statements. The conference was then opened to speeches by members of the Association of African Students, MEChA, the Rearguard, and the Women's Resource Center.

Michael Habtemariam, President of the Association of African Students, told the conference such statements were shocking and offensive. In solidarity with the crowd gathered at the conference, he wondered where Senator Smith received his information. He went on to note that his group has collected and sent 35,000 books to African countries ravaged by civil war and emphasized that his association does not associate with terrorist organisations.

Alonso Melendez, of MEChA, told the crowd that what his group does is public and that people are welcome to come see what they do. MEChA, he told the crowd, is not a divisive but a unifying organisation that is working to develop better standards of living beyond boundaries. The statements made by Smith, he contends, create a dangerous atmosphere on campus especially for activists. He noted that MEChA supports the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. Some consider the EZLN to be a terrorist organisation. He then wondered if some would also consider MEChA to be a terrorist organisation.

Dimitris Desyllas, of the Rearguard, spoke next and demanded that since Smith claimed his sources were unclassified that he release them to the public. He stated that he could feel Smith's presence on campus, that he's hiding on campus and creating a climate of fear to further his own political career, but that the statements made go to show how unsuited Smith is for his job as Senator.

Susie of the Women's Resource Center spoke next. She echoed the sentiments of the crowd when she said statements such as Smith's lead to fear and violence on campus and that we need a way out of witchhunts and McCarthyism.

Student Body President Mary Cunningham spoke next. She was present at a meeting between the PSU President and the Senator. She felt that Smith's apology was genuine. She was then further harrassed by corporate media who were goading everyone that had spoken into producing sound bite type answers and asked questions like if the students felt scared of terrorist activities on campus.

A further demonstration of the callousness of corporate media presented itself as I was about to leave. I was trying to speak to a man who had spoken up about his experiences as a citizen of North African descent who had been taken into custody when he returned to the states after travelling abroad this summer. Although his nationality is not Moroccan, he was detained because of his parents' nationality (note, I've changed the countries). A reporter had asked him some questions and then asked him if it was OK to identify him as a Spanish Moroccan. He only stared ahead and said, "This is where it all starts."

Conference organisers made it clear that the campus atmosphere is still recovering from 9/11. When asked what effects it has had on campus, an organizer mentioned that students of Middle Eastern descent were about to be illegally questioned by the FBI. Another student mentioned that after Smith's remarks were made public, a man posing as a radio station interviewer asked students at a campus parking lot if they were terrorists.

What was not asked at the conference was which terrorist organisations were Smith referring to? The US Government has expanded its definition of terrorism to possibly include groups such as Earth First and Greenpeace. Could these be the groups Smith was referring to?

Oregonian article 11.Jan.2002 14:23

atimm

Sen. Smith's claims of terrorist support in state raise
questions

01/10/02

ASHBEL S. GREEN

U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith's recent claim that Oregon has been a hub of terrorist fund-raising
activities has perplexed local officials and left many questions unanswered.

Smith, R-Ore., citing unclassified information he learned in confidential security briefings,
said terrorism-related fund raising has occurred in Corvallis and at Portland State University.

He also pointed to a report about an account at U.S. Bank's Clackamas branch with possible
terrorist ties.

Smith's remarks added new details to general statements he made about Oregon terrorist
connections in December. Still, with local officials either unable or unwilling to provide
additional information, questions about possible terrorist-related activities in Oregon linger.

A spokeswoman for the Portland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to
discuss any possible terrorism investigations in Oregon.

"We can't discuss anything that would be a potential investigation or whether it is actually an
investigation or not," Beth Ann Steele said.

PSU officials said they knew nothing about Smith's claims.

"The article in this morning's Oregonian was the first that we had heard of the allegations and
to our knowledge the university has not been contacted by any authorities concerning the
allegations," said Jeanie-Marie Price, PSU's director of marketing and communications.

Some PSU students have set up an emergency meeting tonight on campus to deal with what
they call Smith's "extremely irresponsible accusations," said Marc Hinz, a student senator
and meeting organizer. Hinz said he'd like for Smith to issue a public apology.

"He needs to hear from us. He can't go saying something stupid like that," Hinz said. "We feel
that his words are politically motivated. I, personally, can't speak for everybody else, but I do
not need a McCarthy in the state of Oregon."

Oregon State University officials said they were similarly unaware of Smith's claims.

"Basically, OSU doesn't have any information about the situation," spokesman Dave Stauth
said.

Also, a U.S. Bank spokeswoman declined to discuss anything about an Oregon bank account with
possible terrorist ties.

In sum, Smith's remarks are the latest in a series of murky links between terrorist activities
and Oregon.

In early October, Finnish banking authorities put on a government Web site an FBI watch list of
370 names, which included four people with Oregon addresses.

One man, a Florida pilot named Selim Esiktas, shared a flight simulator in August with Zacarias
Moussaoui, the only person to be prosecuted in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. Esiktas
said it was just a coincidence that he met Moussaoui, and the FBI publicly cleared him.

Another one of the men on the list once lived in the same apartment complex in San Diego with
several of the terrorists who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two other Middle Eastern men with Oregon connections have been arrested and have been
deported or slated for deportation.

Khalid Al-Draibi, who also is known as Khalid Salih Suleimin, was arrested the night of the
attacks in Virginia. A Saudi citizen and one-time flight student, Al-Draibi had flight manuals
and driver's licenses from several states, including Oregon, in his car.

Al-Draibi was originally on a list of 21 FBI suspects, but prosecutors later said he wasn't
connected to the attacks. He pleaded guilty to visa fraud in November and was ordered
deported.

Khaled M. Al Otaibi, also a Saudi national, was arrested in October for failing to attend PSU
while on his student visa. He has been deported to Saudi Arabia, according to the U.S.
attorney's office. The FBI never publicly linked him to terrorism.

Other possible ties between Oregon and terrorism include a Web site, a Clackamas bank branch
and a 1994 documentary that said terrorist fund raising occurred in Corvallis in the late
1980s.

The Web site kavkaz.org is registered to Movladi Oudougov, a Chechen separatist whom
Russian government officials have linked to Osama bin Laden.

In November, the site asked all "who want to help our struggle" to donate money through an
account in the Clackamas branch of U.S. Bank.

A recent search of the site failed to turn up any mention of the bank account. Jennifer Wendt, a
U.S. Bank spokeswoman, referred all questions about the account to the FBI.

The possible Corvallis connection stems from "Jihad in America," a 1994 PBS documentary
that said Muslim extremists in America were plotting an attack on the United States.

In the documentary, a man identified as a Palestinian said he raised $9,500 for the cause in
Corvallis.

Islamic groups have accused the producer, Steven Emerson, of trying to smear Muslims.
Emerson received wider criticism in 1995 when he wrongly theorized a day after the
Oklahoma City bombing that Arabs were responsible.

But Emerson also has supporters, including former federal law enforcement officials and
Jewish organizations.