Born in the West Bank city of Nablus in 1964 and reared in Kuwait, Maher Mofeid “Mike” Hawash was a Palestinian member of the Portland Seven, an Oregon-based cell of Islamic terrorists who conspired to levy war against the United States and to provide material support for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Hawash’s fellow Portland Seven members included Jeffrey Leon Battle, Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub, Patrice Lumumba Ford, Ahmed Abrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, and October Martinique Lewis.
Hawash emigrated to the United States in 1984 and earned degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Texas. He subsequently worked for Compaq Computer Corporation in 1989, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1990.
In 1992 Hawash took a job with the semiconductor chip manufacturer, Intel Corporation, where he worked on video technologies. Three years later, he married a young woman named Lisa Ryan and fathered two children with her; the family settled in Hillsboro, Oregon.
In 1998 Hawash co-authored a book on video graphic formats with the prestigious scientific press Addison-Wesley. By 2000, he was a highly successful professional earning nearly $360,000 per year.
But around that same time, reports Islam scholar Daniel Pipes, Hawash’s neighbors noticed that he “became noticeably more devout. He grew a beard, wore Arab clothing, prayed five times a day, and regularly attended mosque. He also became noticeably less friendly.” Early in 2001, Hawash made a pilgrimage to Mecca. His neighbors, meanwhile, observed “Middle Eastern males” entering and leaving his home frequently.
Moreover, Hawash became a regular attendee at the fundamentalist Masjed as-Saber, the Islamic Center of Portland. This institution was a major donor to the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), a Muslim charity that the U.S. government would eventually shut down because of fundraising activities the organization had conducted on behalf of terrorist groups; Hawash himself contributed $10,000 to GRF.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Hawash signed over to his wife the title to his home, and also gave her power-of-attorney. Next, Hawash and his five male accomplices from the Portland Seven—calling themselves by the Arabic name Katibat Al-Mawt (“The Squad of Death”)—traveled to China and then Pakistan in October 2001, in hopes of gaining entry from there into Afghanistan, where they planned to join the al Qaeda and Taliban forces that were engaged militarily against American soldiers. Upon finding that they were unable to breach Afghanistan’s sealed-off borders, however, Hawash and four of his five comrades—all except Habis Abdulla Al-Saoub—returned to the U.S. between November 19, 2001 and February 2002.
In October 2002, all six of Hawash’s Portland Seven accomplices were indicted and four were arrested. Five months later, on March 20, 2003, federal authorities arrested Hawash in the Intel Corporation parking lot.
On August 6, 2003, Hawash became the first member of the Portland Seven to plead guilty to conspiring to provide services to the Taliban. He also agreed, in a deal approved by then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, to testify against his fellow suspects. In exchange for this plea and agreement, prosecutors dropped the other charges against Hawash—i.e., conspiring to levy war against the United States, and conspiring to provide material support for terrorism.
On February 9, 2004, Hawash was sentenced to seven years in prison; he was eventually released in 2009. As of November 2011, he was the sole employee of Zaytona.com, LLC, a Portland-based software development company which he founded. He was also on the staff of a larger company called Renewable Funding, LCC.
Further Reading: “The Terrorist Next Door” (by Daniel Pipes, 8-12-Oregon Businessman Charged in ‘Portland Six’ Terrorist Case” (Los Angeles Times, 4-29-2003).