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Islamic charities sue CBS over terrorism report

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Libel    

Islamic charities sue CBS over terrorism report

  • The two charities claim a “60 Minutes” report defamed them, and seek $80 million in damages.

June 9, 2003 — Two Islamic charities on June 5 filed an $80 million libel lawsuit against CBS, claiming a “60 Minutes” report on terrorism falsely linked them to al-Qaida.

The suit, filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, stems from a May 4 report on “60 Minutes.” The segment, “Terrorist Hunter,” reportedly featured an interview with an anonymous, disguised woman who said the occupants of a Herndon, Va., office building were at “the heart of a terrorist funding ring.”

The woman, named “Sarah” on the program, did not name any specific individuals as potential terrorists.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are two Herndon-based charities, Heritage Education Trust and SAFA Trust. Both are under federal investigation, along with a number of other Islamic organizations, for allegedly having ties to radical Muslim activists, according to The Washington Post.

The probe has thus far yielded no arrests. The Heritage Education Trust and SAFA Trust deny any association with terrorist groups.

In addition to CBS, the lawsuit names correspondent Bob Simon and the SITE Institute, a counterterrorism organization, as defendants. According to The Associated Press, the plaintiffs claim the disguised woman in the “60 Minutes” report was the director of SITE.

In February, a federal district court in Illinois dismissed a similar defamation suit brought against six news organizations and eight reporters by the Global Relief Foundation, another U.S.-based Islamic charity.

Global Relief had argued that reports published between Sept. 24 and Nov. 7, 2001 suggested that the group was guilty of diverting money to Osama bin Laden and Hamas.

U.S. District Judge David Coar said the media defendants — which included The New York Times, The Associate Press, ABC, The (New York) Daily News, Hearst Communications and The Boston Globe — reported accurately on the investigation and did not defame Global Relief.

(Heritage Education Trust, et al. v. CBS) WT

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