Farris, the Forgotten: Why We Must Demand Answers

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

25 January 2005: Farris HASSAN’S fifteen minutes of fame appear to be over, but troubling questions remain, and no one in the major media seems interested in asking them. To quote a family spokesperson shortly after Farris HASSAN returned from his indirect trip to Iraq, “Farris currently does not wish to address the media.” Perhaps he was expecting to be asked some difficult questions rather than the softball questions he ultimately answered.

The 16 year-old from Florida who made headlines last month for his trip to Iraq has been praised by the very media he misled for surviving his “experiment in immersion journalism,” a reference made to a non-existent school project. By his own admission, Farris HASSAN lied; he lied to his family. He lied to his friends, and he lied to the American public by providing inaccurate statements to the media that continue to remain unchallenged to this day.

For two hours during his truancy, Farris HASSAN met with a leader of a terrorist organization in Beirut, Lebanon – a meeting arranged by family friends, who apparently have the ability to pick up the telephone and call the leaders of Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group that is responsible for at least 200 attacks since 1982 which killed more than 800 people, including Americans. This troubling fact is of very specific importance today as Hezbollah holds close ties with Iran (a spoke in President Bush’s axis of evil and current thorn in the side of world peace and stability) and currently have a significant terrorist presence in Iraq. Hezbollah is resolved to kill our troops and drive us out of the country. Any questions about that meeting, however few, were eclipsed by the more visible elements of his convoluted journey. Regardless, the media’s interest in the activities of Farris HASSAN, even in this time of war, has given way to other human interest stories.

Even if the major media has lost interest in this story, we have some questions for Farris and his father, Dr. Redha HASSAN.

Before we pose these questions, let’s put to rest some of the allegations of inaccuracy we have received regarding our presentation of even the most basic facts of this story. Various media reports suggested that his trip was sparked in part of an immersion journalism class he had taken through his school. We stated that the school he attends, Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has no immersion journalism class. In our initial report, we received a number of e-mails stating that we were wrong.

To reconfirm what we had already established, yesterday I contacted the spokesperson for Pine Crest School and requested clarification about their “immersion journalism” course. Unsurprisingly, the reports by this agency stating that the Pine Crest School does not offer a journalism class are correct. Referencing the press conference given by school president Dr. Lourdes Cowgill, it was affirmed that the Pine Crest School does NOT offer a journalism class. They do, however, offer an English class, of which a small section of that class covers the subject of “immersion journalism.” That section of the class, however, was taught in September of 2005 and all assignments were due at that time, thus finishing that specific section of the English class.

In a press conference held by Pine Crest School President Dr. Lourdes Cowgill during the first week of January, she clearly stated: “There is no journalism class, and there is no journalism club at Pine Crest,” adding that immersion journalism was only a small portion of an English class Farris took in the fall. The school spokesperson stressed that “the school was in no way involved in the trip made by Farris HASSAN to Iraq.” Any reports suggesting that Farris HASSAN made “a solo trip to Iraq for a journalism project” are absolutely incorrect.

Farris HASSAN originally told reporters at the Associated Press, Baghdad offices, that he was working on a journalism project in immersion journalism. That statement, made by HASSAN, has been proven to be factually incorrect. Farris lied.

Next, in an essay accredited to Farris HASSAN, he stated the following about his journey:

“I plan on doing humanitarian work with the Red Cross. I will give my mind, body, and spirit to helping Iraqis rebuild their lives. Hopefully I will get the chance to build houses, distribute food supplies, and bring a smile or two to some poor children.” How he planned on accomplishing such lofty goals despite the brevity of his stay are unclear, especially since he was busy meeting with one of the leaders of a terrorist organization – a meeting arranged by family friends. That begs the obvious question: who are his family friends who have such connections to a terrorist organization? Also, exactly what was the purpose of this meeting, and what was discussed for two hours?

Speaking of family, Farris was quite cagey and indeed, very misleading when answering media questions about his father’s knowledge about his trip. It turns out that his father, Dr. Redha Hassan not only knew of his son’s intended travels, but assisted him along his journey. This would not be so troubling were it not for the fact that Dr. Redha HASSAN, along with two of the younger HASSAN’S uncles and a pro-Khomeini, pro-Iranian activist were arrested by the FBI in Florida in 1985 for forging 2000 Iraqi passports and military I.D. cards and seeking to forge 2,000 more. The case against the elder HASSAN – or as he was known in certain circles - Redha K. ALSAWAF, was ultimately dropped, but his compatriots pled guilty.

All things considered, is it possible that Farris HASSAN was driven not by his desire to experience the plight of the Iraqi people himself, but perhaps to join Hezbollah to fight against the “American occupation?”

Is it possible that Farris HASSAN was, in fact, traveling at the behest of his father, to advance some other agenda?

Has Farris HASSAN been interviewed and debriefed by anyone in our intelligence agencies?

What is the connection between HASSAN’S family in America and their family friends who arranged the meeting with the Hezbollah leader?

Dr. Redha HASSAN, his son and other family members live in the United States. The elder HASSAN as well as his son has obviously been in contact with their friends who apparently enjoy a high degree of access to the leadership of a designated terrorist organization. Shouldn’t the media address that situation, instead of focusing on whether Farris will be allowed to drive his $50,000 car or have access to his credit cards taken away?

Let’s demand answers. The safety of our country just might depend on it.