A legal watchdog group says the State Department is stonewalling its efforts to obtain records relating to State Department official Mark Ward’s participation in a December 2012 conference organized by the controversial Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
Judicial Watch filed suit against the State Department April 26 in an effort to compel the release of materials related to the potential recruitment of U.S. diplomats through two Muslim-American groups purported to have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups.
The suit, which was announced Thursday, alleges that State has failed to comply with its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for detailed documents related to Ward’s speech, in which he discussed "foreign service opportunities for Muslim youth."
Both MAS and ICNA have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamist movement that controls the Egyptian government and whose military wing, the terror group Hamas, runs the Gaza Strip. The conference at which Ward spoke featured speeches by at least two Muslim activists who have advocated in favor of terrorism and were involved in a 2009 lawsuit regarding fundraising for Hamas.
Judicial Watch initially filed its FOIA request on Jan. 31. It sought to compel the release of "any and all records regarding the participation of Mr. Mark S. Ward, Deputy Special Coordinator in the Office of Middle East Transition, in the 11th Annual Convention of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Council of North America in Chicago, IL in December 2012," according to the lawsuit.
Judicial Watch also requested "any and all records of communication between any official or employee of the Department of State and any official, employee, or representative of the Muslim American Society and/or the Islamic Council of North America."
The State Department failed to respond to the FOIA by March 7, as the law dictates. It has continued to ignore Judicial Watch’s ongoing requests.
Ward "conducted a seminar focused on career opportunities for Muslim youth" during his appearance at the conference, according to Judicial Watch’s Weekly Update, which published a description on the event on Friday.
"Besides being a citizenship duty, there are benefits that Muslims can add to the American Muslim community and the global Muslim world by joining the U.S. Foreign Services," according to the event’s description.
"This session will shed light on the different career opportunities for Muslim youth in the US. Foreign Services Department. It will also clear any concerns that many people have feared about pursuing in this career."
Judicial Watch maintains that Ward’s participation in the event is part of the Obama administration’s wider effort to court the Muslim community while ignoring certain groups’ ties to Islamic extremism.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the Boston Marathon bombings provide a disturbing context for the State Department’s recruitment efforts.
"The Boston Marathon bombing shows why it is dangerous for a high-ranking State Department official to join with terrorist front groups to recruit for government employment," Fitton said in a statement. "It is a scandal; which explains why we’ve had to sue in federal court to get past the cover-up of what exactly took place at the recruitment conference."
Ward participated in the 2012 conference with several controversial figures who have ties to radical Muslim groups and Hamas.
One speaker, Kifah Mustapha, has reportedly advocated for violent jihad. He also was cited in a lawsuit as a paid fundraiser for the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a Muslim charity that was shut down by the federal government for funneling money to Hamas.
HLF was ultimately convicted on more than 100 counts of supporting terrorism and funneling millions to Hamas.
"Also at the podium with Ward was MAS co-founder and Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi," who was cited as an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case, Judicial Watch stated in a press release. Badawi in 2009 was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case against the HLF and who praised the jihad of Gaza terrorists during a speech titled "Understanding Jihad and Martyrdom."
"With Ward and Badawi were Ayman Hammous and Oussama Jammal," Judicial Watch added. "Hammous is the Executive Director of the New York chapter of MAS and Jammal is the president of the Mosque Foundation, an extremist Islamist mosque in Bridgeview, Illinois, that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the HLF and other Islamic charities accused of financing terrorism."
A State Department spokesman did not respond to a Washington Free Beacon request for comment about the lawsuit.