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Terror Indictments

Bush, Al-Arian photo resurfaces

By MARY JACOBY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 25, 2003

WASHINGTON -- With the arrest of Sami Al-Arian on terrorism charges last week, an old family photo of the University of South Florida professor with then-candidate George W. Bush is popping up again in print.

The photo, taken on March 12, 2000, at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, shows Al-Arian holding a child and standing with family members next to George and Laura Bush.

It's the kind of photo that presidential candidates pose for hundreds of times as they campaign for office, White House spokesman Jeanie Mamo said.

"In a crowd like that, anyone can come up and take their picture with you," Mamo said.

The photo, previously published in the St. Petersburg Times and elsewhere, appeared on Saturday in the Washington Post with a story about Al-Arian's access to the White House complex in June 2001.

Al-Arian was among a group of Muslim activists who met with Bush's senior political adviser Karl Rove in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Vice President Dick Cheney also was scheduled to meet with the group but canceled after Jewish and conservative activists protested.

At the time, Al-Arian had been under federal investigation for six years for suspected ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group credited with more than 100 suicide-bombing deaths in Israel.

Among the others who met with Rove in 2001 was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who last year came under federal investigation in a Customs Service terror financing probe. In 2000, Alamoudi was videotaped at a rally outside the White House saying, "We are all supporters of Hamas."

Hamas, known formally as the Islamic Resistance Movement, is responsible for suicide bombings in Israel. During the 2000 campaign, both Bush and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton returned $1,000 contributions from Alamoudi after his pro-Hamas comments were publicized.

With the government formally accusing Al-Arian of a leadership role in the Islamic Jihad, that 2000 photo of Bush with Al-Arian has become an embarrassment to the president.

But having a photo taken with someone who later becomes involved in scandal is an occupational hazard for presidents.

During his second administration, Bill Clinton, for example, repeatedly was embarrassed by photos showing him with various Chinese-American businessmen later determined to have contributed illegally to his re-election campaign.

More famously, there was the photo of Clinton with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, with whom he had a sexual relationship that led to his impeachment by the House in 1998.

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