The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Trials of Rasmea Odeh, Part Three -- Immigration and Indictment

Freed from prison in an exchange with the PFLP, Odeh made no effort to hide her involvement in the Supersol bombing—until she decided to immigrate to the United States.

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This is the third of five posts on The Trials of Rasmea Odeh.

Rasmea Odeh's PFLP comrades made numerous attempts to coerce her freedom through hijackings and hostage taking. In 1970, the quadruple airplane hijackings of "Black September" were carried out in the name of "Task Force Rasmea Odeh." Her freedom was again sought in a foiled hijacking in May 1972, and her name was on the list of prisoners whose release was demanded by the guerrillas who carried out the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The PFLP was finally successful in March 1979, when the Israelis released 76 prisoners, Odeh among them, in exchange for an IDF soldier captured in Lebanon.

Odeh's release was celebrated by a full-page poem in the PFLP magazine, which praised her for having joined "the troops of the revolution" with "a prophecy of the gun." She settled in Amman, Jordan, where she obtained a law degree and worked as a university researcher, calling it "the best period in my life."

There was no reason for Odeh to deny the Jerusalem bombing while living in Amman. She was admired as among first four Palestinian women to be "an active guerrilla," and she freely discussed her PFLP "military work" with interviewers from Lebanon and the U.S., as well as on Jordanian television.

Everything changed in 1996 when Odeh's family asked her to move to the U.S., to help her brother care for their cancer-stricken father, both of whom had become U.S. citizens. Odeh fraudulently obtained a family unification visa by lying on the application. She falsely denied ever having committed a crime, claimed she had never belonged to any organizations, and denied ever having been arrested, convicted, or imprisoned.

Ultimately settling in Chicago, Odeh led a peaceful and admirable life as a community organizer, eventually becoming associate director of the Arab American Action Network. Her writing workshops for immigrant women were funded by a grant from the University of Illinois. The Chicago Cultural Alliance gave her an award as an "Outstanding Community Leader," unaware of her background as a PFLP bomber. She lied in her naturalization application and interview, denying that she had ever been convicted or imprisoned, and became a U.S. citizen in 2005.

Odeh's citizenship fraud was discovered by accident during the FBI investigation of one of her coworkers. She was indicted on one count of fraudulently procuring U.S. citizenship in late 2013. Following arraignment in Chicago, her case was set for trial in Detroit, where her naturalization interview had taken place.

Chicago's Arab and Muslim community reacted almost immediately to Odeh's arrest. Within days, the AAAN issued a statement signed by over 50 organizations, charging that the indictment was a plot by "Israel and its supporters" to suppress the Palestinian movement in the U.S.

Progressive, leftist, and mainstream organizations, including the Peace and Justice Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, also rallied to Odeh's defense. Either cynically or credulously, they spread false stories about the case. They claimed that Odeh had been arrested in Israel only for anti-occupation "activism," asserting her innocence of the bombing, and exaggerating the duration and nature of her mistreatment in custody. The AAAN and other leftist groups repeatedly insisted that Odeh's arrest was part of an Israel-inspired conspiracy to crush the Palestinian movement in the U.S.

Odeh's representation was undertaken by two veterans of Chicago's leftist bar, both stalwarts of the National Lawyers Guild. Michael Deutsch, a founder of the legendary Peoples Law Office, had represented Black Panthers, SDS Weathermen, and survivors of the Attica prisoners' rebellion. His co-counsel James Fennerty got his start representing the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee.

Together, Deutsch and Fennerty presented a vigorous defense, never straying far from the Israel conspiracy theory, and only loosely tethered to the actual facts, which will be the subject of my final post.

NEXT: A Dubious Expediency

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  1. When the person is a denier, there is no talking. Direct action groups should visit these scumbag lawyers. They hate America. They are our enemy.

  2. The internet may have been in its infancy in 1996, but not 2005. Did the government just take applications at their face value? Was the government's background check process so flimsy? Was there some implicit policy of letting bygones be bygones after the collapse of the USSR and the end of history?

    1. I think the key point here is that she didn't immigrate from Israel, where she'd committed the terrorist acts, and done the time in prison. She immigrated from Jordan, and didn't disclose her foreign adventures in her application.

      You'll recall that Trump tried to stop immigration from a number of Islamic countries, because they were not reliably cooperating in background checks. Her case is an example of that: Jordan would have known of her record, but didn't volunteer the information when we made the back ground check inquiry.

      1. But her crime and conviction were in Israel and public knowledge. Were US background checks so inept that they weren't aware of her background, or did they choose to ignore it?

        1. The immigration background check system relies on the country you're immigrating from, they do not, so far as I know, send a query to every country in the world, just the ones you claim to have lived in.

          Yes, you'd think they'd search international databases, and that she'd have shown up in them. Apparently not, for one or the other, maybe both.

          1. Did google not exist at the time?

            Yes, this woman lied and should have been prosecuted and denaturalized, which in fact she was. But a simple google search would have turned this up.

            1. With respect, no. A google search would have returned the existence of a woman of the same name but from a different country. The investigation necessary to connect the reports and confirm the identity is beyond a mere google search.

              Or are you claiming that we should simply all John Smiths equally responsible for the bad actions of any one of them?

              To be clear, I agree that our immigration system should do the level of background checks necessary to uncover frauds like this. I am disagreeing only with the claim that google makes it magically easy.

              1. I am with Á àß äẞç ãþÇđ âÞ¢Đæ ǎB€Ðëf ảhf (how do you pronounce that?). This was a FAMOUS terrorist/bomber/Palestinian revolutionary/whatever you want to call her. Her name was invoked by the Munich Olympics terrorists, literally the most famous terrorist attack of the entire decade and one of the most famous in history. Before we even get to databases or anything else, hadn't someone at the INS HEARD of her?

                1. It doesn't matter whether they'd heard of her. What matters is whether they had any reason to believe that this was the same Rasmea Odeh. Email addresses are unique. (They have to be for them to work.) Names, not so much.

      2. You'll recall that Trump tried to stop immigration from a number of Islamic countries, because they were not reliably cooperating in background checks.

        Well, if you're honest, you'll recall that Trump actually tried to stop all Muslim immigration, because he's a bigot. And/or was pandering to bigots.

  3. Oops! -- I know what's in part four!

  4. "Led a peaceful and admirable life". (not mentioned: her victims lack of any chance of living any sort of life at all)

    Maybe she can get together with Karla Homolka over drinks and they can share notes.

    1. Honestly, I wonder, if you examined that "peaceful and admirable life" in detail, if it was actually either. Maybe she went straight. Maybe she just got better at not being caught.

  5. Not sure what new facts or insights are being revealed with these posts.

    Are we going to actually learn anything new about Rasmea Odeh?

    Or is this just a hit piece on progressive, leftist, and mainstream organizations, or her lawyers who, ". . . never (stray) far from the Israel conspiracy theory, and (are) only loosely tethered to the actual facts. . . ?"

    1. I'm in the 100%-on-board-with-a-'hit piece' camp considering that everything posted so far appears to be factual, and the targets of what you call a 'hit piece' appear to have rallied support for a murderer who lied her way into the US, then blatantly disclaimed facts that proved she was exactly who the government was saying she was.

    2. Interesting that you read this as a hit piece. It seems to me to clearly be a puff piece.

      As far as her lawyers only being loosely tethered to the facts, that was probably deliberate. The facts are very clear, very objective. Even if you were to buy her story 100%, she still blatantly and materially lied on her visa application. Sticking to the facts here is not going to be in the best interests of the client.

    3. It's almost certainly intended to be an attempt to redeem Odeh - notice how her sins are minimized or quietly ignored, while her accusations against Israel are taken for given without inspection. Add in the blame-shifting to her lawyers and other associates, and it really stands out how friendly this series of 'articles' is to her.

  6. I'm surprised the organization she worked for didn't dump her the minute it came out she murdered innocent people. Keeping someone like that on staff really undermines any lobbying you do.

    1. You would think so, right?
      (What does the fact that they didn't tell you about these organizations?)

    2. She's hardly the first murderous terrorist to benefit from that strange tolerance. The left actually seems to be attracted to supposedly reformed killers, they have a certain cachet people who've lead relatively blameless lives seem to lack; Look at the subsequent careers of the Weathermen. They fared pretty well for ruthless killers.

    3. But she didn’t murder innocent people. She killed Jews. That’s “anti-occupation activism.” Nothing to so with murder.

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