(John Ransom/Pajamas Media) – Senator Harry Reid’s office is once again embroiled in a scandal involving a staffer, this time with implications for national security and (surprise) journalism ethics. Two weeks ago, it was revealed that a Reid staffer and other congressional aides were buying or selling shares in companies regulated by Congress.
Now, Reid’s Hispanic press secretary, Diana Tejada, has been implicated in an immigration scam involving a false marriage to a Lebanese national who was under investigation by the Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to a FoxNews report. A spokesman for the Senate majority leader from Nevada, Jim (“I spin for a living”) Manley, would not comment other than to say that the “staffer at issue is no longer with our office.” Manley refused to provide a timeline as to Tejada’s dismissal or to say when the majority leader found out about the investigation.
Authorities say that Tejada, 37, fraudulently married Bassam Mahmoud Tarhini, who has been investigated for ties to Islamic extremists. “In 2008, sources with knowledge of the case told FoxNews.com, the FBI — working with the Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force — sent what’s called a collateral request to ICE, asking them to track down Tejada to interview her about Tarhini,” reported FoxNews.
In the summer of 2008, Tejada lied to federal investigators who were interested in Tarhini’s radical ties. She was not employed with Reid’s office at the time; she was employed with La Raza. Tejada contended then to agents that her marriage was legitimate. She joined Reid’s staff in October 2008, and in November “Tejada broke down and confessed that her marriage was a lie, carried out to get Tarhini U.S. residency,” after being presented with new evidence by the feds, according to FoxNews. What’s clear from reports is that for 24 months after confessing to federal agents that her marriage to a man with possible terror connections was a sham, Tejada continued to work for Senator Reid. For reasons as yet unclear, though Tejada faced a possible 25 years in jail on the variety of felony charges at play, the federal government declined to prosecute. And though she says she was paid to enter into the sham marriage, the failure to prosecute means we will probably never know who paid her to engage in a sham marriage involving a man suspected of having ties to terrorists, a marriage that would have given the man an inside track to permanent residency in the U.S. All of this gives rise to a couple of questions that ought to be directed Harry’s way. Why did Tejada remain employed on Reid’s staff for two years after the confessed crimes came to light, and were any strings pulled in relation to scuttling her prosecution?
So let’s go behind the curtain to reveal what the media has to say about it, friends.
The liberal Las Vegas Sun has downplayed the terror ties, only referring to it in passing. “Harry Reid staffer accused of faking marriage to get friend green card,” says the Sun headline. But the publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal isn’t buying it. “The Reid folks ain’t sayin’ much other than to suggest it’s a GOP trick,” writes publisher Sherman Frederick on his blog. “Only problem, it happened on Obama’s watch and involves several federal agencies.” Reid and Frederick both bear mutual grudges against each other.
CQ Politics, along with the AP, meanwhile forgets entirely to mention that Tarhini was a subject of interest to the Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force. Instead, CQ focuses on the immigration angle (pun intended), saying that illegal immigration has been a “flash point” in the race for U.S. Senate in Nevada. “[T]he Democratic leader has been working hard to turn out as much of the Hispanic vote as possible,” writes CQ’s John Stanton breathlessly, omitting only the exclamation point to hide his bias.
Reid’s office gives us the best “teachable moment” though so far: “[T]he bottom line remains that this story was a desperation measure by partisan Republicans who have stooped to slinging mud about junior staffers to score points in the waning days of [the] campaign,” said Manley
Hey, maybe now Tejada will get to go to the White House and have a beer. And the staff from CQ can go with her.
(John Ransom is a professional writer and editor based in the Rocky Mountains)