Bomb explodes near the Finish Line - Boston, Massachusetts
BLIND TO TERROR: THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'S DISASTROUS MUSLIM OUTREACH EFFORTS AND THE IMPACT ON U.S. MIDDLE EAST POLICY
Why has the U.S. government called certain Islamic groups supporters of terror in federal court, and then turned around and called these same organizations "moderates" and embraced them as outreach partners? In a number of cases from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, the leaders of these organizations (some of whom are now in federal prison) were under active investigation at the same time they were meeting with senior U.S. leaders at the White House and the Capitol and helping develop U.S. policy. Now these same Islamic organizations and leaders have openly encouraged a purge of counterterrorism training that have effectively blinded law enforcement, homeland security, and intelligence agencies to active terror threats as seen in the inaction of the FBI concerning the Boston bombing suspects and other terror cases. This study poses serious questions as to the efficacy and even security concerns about U.S. government outreach to Islamic groups, which often turn out to be Islamist militants, enemies of Islamic moderation, and even supporters of terrorism.
The aftermath of the April 15, 2013 bombings in Boston, Massachusetts, has focused attention on the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to carry out an adequate investigation of the suspected bombers despite warnings from Russian authorities. This failure has partially been attributed to a full scale campaign of political correctness waged inside the bureau and throughout the U.S. government under the Obama administration against any attempt to link jihadi terrorism with anything remotely connected to Islam of any variety (the most radical versions included). This has extended into other segments of the government as well, particularly the Department of Defense.
One of the primary contributors to this widespread political correctness campaign has been the U.S. government's disastrous Muslim outreach policies extending back to the Clinton administration and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. The U.S. government's historical outreach program, regardless of whether it has been a Democrat or Republican in the White House, has been based on a schizophrenic policy: In many cases federal prosecutors have gone into federal court and identified American Islamic organizations and leaders as supporters of terrorism, and no sooner have left court before government officials openly embrace these same organizations and leaders as moderates and outreach partners. In several notable cases, the FBI's outreach partners have been under active FBI criminal investigation and were later convicted on terrorism-related charges at the time the outreach occurred.
In the case of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, mosque attended by the suspected Boston marathon bombers, when the plethora of extremist ties to the Islamic Society of Boston were reported, a mosque spokesman replied that they could not be extremists since they regularly participated in outreach programs with the FBI, Department of Justice and Homeland Security.
This exemplifies the chronic failure of the U.S. government's outreach programs.
OUTREACH FAILURE: THEN AND NOW
When President Obama hosted his annual Iftar dinner in August 2010 to commemorate the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, the list of invitees published by the White House was curiously missing the names of several attendees—all of whom were top leaders of organizations known to be purveyors of jihadi ideology and implicated by federal prosecutors in financing terrorism.
Yet it was not like they had crashed the party. In fact, one of the individuals missing on the official White House list, Mohamed Majid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), was pictured in a news service photograph sitting at the front table just a few feet from the president as he spoke. When Majid was hailed by Time Magazine in November 2005 as a "moderate Muslim cleric" who was helping the FBI fight terrorists, he quickly published an open letter to his congregation on the mosque's website assuring his congregants that he was doing no such thing, stating that his relationship with the FBI was a one-way street only to communicate Muslim community concerns—not to report on individuals suspected of terrorist activity.
It was just a few years ago the attorney general of the United States was canceling Muslim outreach events for the sole reason that Majid would be present at the meeting, because the Department of Justice had just named the ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history.
Majid's connection to terrorism, however, goes back even farther than that, since the offices of the mosque he leads, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, were raided by U.S. Customs authorities in March 2002 in a wide-sweeping terror finance investigation. In an affidavit requesting a search warrant for the raids, Customs Agent David Kane testified that Majid's mosque was being used to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars for the targeted terror finance network that shared offices with ADAMS. An appendix to the Customs Service affidavit also names eleven ADAMS Center officials as targets of their terror finance investigation. Yet Majid and the ADAMS Center are still considered legitimate outreach partners by the FBI as of the writing of this article.
This was just the most recent episode in the disastrous attempts at outreach to the Muslim community since the September 11, 2001, attacks. In addition, with the release in 2011 of President Obama's strategic plan to combat "violent extremism" to expand outreach to these same terror-tied groups, the present administration seems intent on compounding the disaster wrought by previous administrations. Prior to the September 11 attacks, there were two prime examples of how the government's Muslim outreach policy failed spectacularly: Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi and Sami al-Arian.
Al-Amoudi's case is perhaps the best example, because he was the conduit through much of the U.S. government outreach that was conducted following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Not only was he asked by the Clinton administration to help train and certify all Muslim military chaplains (his organization being the first to certify such), he was later appointed by the State Department in 1997 as a civilian goodwill ambassador to the Middle East, making six taxpayer-funded trips.
Further, with the assistance and encouragement of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, al-Amoudi arranged the first White House Iftar dinner in 1996, personally hand-picking the attendees. Thus, he was regularly invited to the White House during both the Clinton and Bush (II) Administrations. In 1992 and 1996, al-Amoudi's American Muslim Council hosted hospitality suites at both the Democratic and Republican conventions. It is fair to say that during this period, Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi was the most prominent and politically connected Muslim leader in America.
As is now known, and the U.S. government has admitted, at the time that he was being courted by Democrats and Republicans alike, he was a major fundraiser for al-Qa'ida according to the Department of the Treasury. However, it isn't as if the U.S. government was not aware of al-Amoudi's attachments. As far back as 1993, a government informant told the FBI that al-Amoudi was funneling regular payments from Usama bin Ladin to the "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted for authorizing terror attacks targeting New York landmarks.
In March 1996, al-Amoudi's association with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook was exposed in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Two years later, the State Department came under fire by the New York Post for inviting al-Amoudi to official events despite his known statements in support of terrorism and terrorist leaders. Even then the Post noted the problem with the government's policy of reaching out to the wrong Muslim leaders:
The problem is that such groups have been legitimized—both by government and the media—as civil-rights groups fighting anti-Muslim discrimination and stereotyping. Unfortunately, their definition of such discrimination consists of anyone who writes about the existence of—or tries to investigate—radical Islamic terrorist groups and their allies on these shores.
A more embarrassing episode occurred in October 2000, when al-Amoudi appeared at an anti-Israeli rally where he was cheered by the crowd for his support for terrorists. "I have been labeled by the media in New York to be a supporter of Hamas. Anybody support Hamas here?" he asked the crowd three times to the roar of attendees. "Hear that, Bill Clinton?" he continued. "We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hezbollah. Does anybody support Hezbollah here?" Again, he was met with the cheers of the crowd.
Al-Amoudi wasn't so bold the following day when asked about his comments by reporters from the New York Daily News, who had a videotape of the rally to counter his initial claim that he wasn't even there: "In a phone interview yesterday, Alamoudi at first challenged the account of his Saturday speech, which The News reviewed on videotape. 'You better check your Arabic,' he said. Told he had given the speech in English, Alamoudi replied, 'It was in English? Oh my God, I forgot!'" He then deferred any further media inquiries about his comments to his attorney, who appealed to the fact that he worked for the State Department and had just returned from a taxpayer-funded trip to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman as proof of his moderation.
Al-Amoudi's statements were not made in a closed-door meeting in the Middle East. Rather, he delivered his speech supporting two designated terrorist organizations in Lafayette Park—just steps from the White House. Yet it had no impact on his standing with the U.S. government nor did it hinder his positions with the Pentagon, the State Department, or the White House.
No sooner had President George W. Bush taken office before al-Amoudi was being courted by the new administration. In June 2001, the Jerusalem Postreported that al-Amoudi was going to be part of a White House meeting with Vice President Cheney despite the fact that al-Amoudi was known to have attended a terror confab in Beirut earlier that year, which featured representatives from virtually every major Islamist terrorist organization in the world—including al-Qa'ida. Yet just days after the September 11 attacks by al-Qa'ida, al-Amoudi was one of the Muslim leaders asked to appear with President Bush at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. That same week one of al-Amoudi's close associates, Muzzammil Siddiqi, was asked to deliver an Islamic prayer and to represent the entire Muslim-American community at the national prayer service mourning the fallen.
The decision to include al-Amoudi and Siddiqi at the post-September 11 events was highly criticized, especially since al-Amoudi had been videotaped in October 2000 enthusiastically expressing his support for the Hamas and Hizballah terrorist organizations at a rally held just steps from the White House. At that same rally, Siddiqi accused the United States of responsibility for the "plight of the Palestinians," parroting Usama bin Ladin, and warning that "the wrath of God will come." One former Secret Service agent told Fox News that "The intelligence Community has known for sometime the association of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, and Mr. Alamoudi and their association with terrorist organizations."
Yet Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi was not the only troubling association for the Bush administration after the September 11 attacks. When Sami al-Arian, a tenured professor at the University of South Florida, was indicted on terror support charges and his leadership role in Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was revealed, his connection with Bush and top administration officials also came under media scrutiny.
In fact, photos of al-Arian and Bush on the campaign trail in Florida during the 2000 election quickly surfaced. The Washington Post also reported that al-Arian had met with Karl Rove in the White House. One law enforcement official told Newsweek that al-Arian had been flagged by the Secret Service as a possible terrorist at that June 2001 meeting with Rove, where the Bush advisor discussed the administration's "outreach" policy, but he was allowed to enter to prevent an incident. Several weeks later while al-Arian was being questioned during the deportation hearing for his brother-in-law, he had to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 99 times to avoid answering questions about his role in supporting terrorist organizations.
The reasons for al-Arian's White House visits during the Clinton and Bush administrations revolved around his attempts to change the U.S. government's policy on the use of secret evidence in terrorism deportation proceedings, a policy that candidate Bush had promised to change during the 2000 campaign. The Justice Department had drafted new guidelines revising the use of secret evidence, and ominously, President Bush was to present these new guidelines to Muslim leaders at a meeting in the White House scheduled at 2 p.m. on September 11, 2001.
However, at the time that al-Arian was meeting with these Clinton and Bush administration officials, he and his associates had been the subject of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap order since December 1993, and his home and offices had been raided by the FBI in 1995. During that initial raid, FBI agents discovered a document in al-Arian's possession that outlined a program to "infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies or the embassies in order to collect information and build close relationships with the people in charge of these establishments" and to create a center that would "collect information from those relatives and friends who work in sensitive positions in government."
During his trial, al-Arian's attorney asked the government to disclose any wiretapped conversations he had with then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Asa Hutchinson, and GOP activist Grover Norquist. His attorney also submitted evidence that al-Arian had been at the White House every year between 1998 and 2001; he had met with Al Gore in November 1998 and Hillary Clinton in October 1999, and that he had attended a briefing at the Justice Department in July 2001 as proof that he could not be a terrorist. That fact alone may account for the jury's deadlocking on a number of counts.
Yet al-Arian's influence was not exclusive to political circles. In fact, while he was subject to FBI wiretaps and serving as a top official on PIJ's governing shura council, he was acting as a Middle East advisor to the military's Central Command, located in Tampa. Al-Arian not only lectured at Centcomm and translated materials for the military, but also his colleague Ramadan Shallah, who would later emerge as the head of PIJ in Damascus. Al-Arian and Shallah were able to gain access to Centcomm through their friendship with Arthur Lowrie, who served as the Centcomm commander's Mideast adviser.
Two weeks after speaking at a Centcomm symposium in May 1993, attended by Centcomm commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, al-Arian wired $4,776 to the family of convicted PIJ terrorists in the West Bank. When the FBI executed a search warrant at Ramadan's Florida home in November 1995, agents found materials that had been sent from Centcomm to his residence.
In both al-Amoudi and al-Arian's cases, years of warnings about their support for terrorism and public criticism of their inclusion in government programs and events went unheeded and ignored. Not only that, but these terrorist leaders were being engaged by the U.S. government at the very time they were being investigated by federal law enforcement authorities. In one incredible instance, the head of the FBI's civil right division Tom Brekke and the FBI's top spokesman John Collingwood appeared at one of al-Amoudi's conferences held inside the Hart Senate Office Building, where they shared the podium not only with al-Amoudi but also al-Arian, despite the FBI knowing of both men's direct terror ties and funding years before.
The U.S. government's success with Muslim outreach since September 11 hasn't fared any better. One of the first Muslim leaders that the government turned to was Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qa'ida cleric who was in direct contact with at least three of the September 11 hijackers. Awlaki, who had been placed on the CIA's "kill or capture" list, was killed on September 30, 2011 in a CIA-led drone strike on the al-Qa'ida cleric's convoy in Yemen, which President Obama hailed as a "milestone" in the fight against al-Qa'ida.
As the cleanup from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon continued, Awlaki was invited by the Pentagon's Office of Government Counsel to speak at a lunch in the building's executive offices as part of the government's new Muslim outreach policy. Ironically, one of the September 11 terrorists who had helped hijack American Airlines Flight 77 that was flown into the Pentagon had described Awlaki as "a great man" and his "spiritual leader." Yet concerns had been raised about Awlaki long before the September 11 attacks.
A joint congressional inquiry in the September 11 attacks found that law enforcement had been investigating Awlaki's contacts with terrorism suspects as far back as 1999. Further, just two days after September 11, Awlaki had described the terror attacks as an "accident" in an interview with a local television station. Also prior to his appearance at the Pentagon the New York Times had noted Awlaki's fiery anti-American rhetoric prior to the attacks, and in November 2001, he had defended the Taliban in an online chat about Ramadan on the Washington Post website. Thus, despite claims that Awlaki had been "vetted" before the Pentagon event, abundant evidence of Awlaki's extremist views was more than readily available before he appeared at the Pentagon event.
Equally egregious was the invitation by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to Yasir Qadhi to speak on de-radicalization at a conference in August 2008. At that time too, Qadhi's extremist views (such as his statements denouncing "the hoax of the Holocaust") were well known. Even more than that, at a Muslim outreach event in Houston in 2006, Homeland Security official Dan Sutherland was present when Qadhi openly admitted that he was on the terror watch list.
Yet no one at the NCTC bothered to question Qadhi's "de-radicalization" credentials. By the time he was invited to speak at the NCTC conference, at least one of Qadhi's Houston students, Daniel Maldonado, had been captured by Kenyan forces fighting with the Somali al-Shabaab terrorist group. A number of other students from Qadhi's AlMaghrib Institute program have gone in to careers in terrorism, including Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, who attended a two-week training session in Houston sponsored by Qadhi's group learning the "nuts and bolts of Islam" from the cleric. Abdul Mutallab also attended two other events in the UK sponsored by AlMaghrib. If Yasir Qadhi is an expert in deradicalization, one shudders to think what an expert in radicalization might produce.
The NCTC under the Obama administration continues this bipartisan policy of Muslim outreach disasters, best exemplified when they gave Shaykh Kifah Mustapha a tour of their top-secret facility as part of the FBI's Citizen Academy civilian training program in September 2010. Why was this so catastrophic? In 2007 Kifah Mustapha was named an unindicted co-conspirator by federal prosecutors in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history. During that trial FBI agent Lara Burns testified that Mustapha was part of a singing troupe that glorified Hamas and encouraged the killing of Jews as part of the fundraising efforts for Hamas.
Yet months before participating in the FBI Citizen Academy program and visiting the NCTC, Mustapha was removed as an Illinois State Police chaplain in the wake of media reports noting his long-time terrorist support activities. After Mustapha sued the state police for discrimination, a protective order was filed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald that disclosed that the Chicago FBI's Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant had warned state police officials that Mustapha would never be able to pass an FBI background check. One former FBI official told the Washington Times that Mustapha was "a known senior Hamas guy."
None of that prevented the FBI Chicago field office from hosting Mustapha in the six-week Citizen's Academy course, which included a guided tour of the NCTC and the FBI Academy at Quantico. Caught in an embarrassing situation, an FBI spokesman admitted to Fox News that he had in fact participated in the program, but defended the decision, saying that he was "a prominent figure in the community." A week later, FBI Director Robert Mueller doubled-down on Mustapha's inclusion in the program after he was questioned about it following a speech he had given, but refused to address the mountain of evidence that federal prosecutors and the FBI had compiled on the Hamas cleric, saying, "I am not going to talk about any particular individual."
Court documents filed in March 2013 in a federal court by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the judge for summary judgment against Mustapha's lawsuit against the Illinois State Police. In them were revealed more warnings about Mustapha's terror ties from the FBI Chicago field office. Ironically, this was the same office that a few months later invited Mustapha to participate in the FBI Citizens Academy, even telling Illinois State Police officials about the imam's "demonstrable ties to an organization that funded terrorism" and providing them a video of Mustapha singing lyrics in praise of Hamas and calling for violence against Jews as children danced around him carrying guns. Attorney General Madigan added that the information provided by the FBI Chicago officials conclusively showed that Mustapha's activities "damage Illinois State Police due to its anti-Jewish and un-American content and manner."No matter how embarrassing the Kifah Mustapha incident was for the FBI and the NCTC, the Department of Homeland Security has no grounds to fault their colleagues, especially after Secretary Napolitano appointed Mohamed Elibiary to her Homeland Security Advisory Council in October 2010. Elibiary had previously served on the Department of Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism Working Group, along with Mohamed Majid, despite his speaking at a December 2004 conference honoring Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini (an event that the Dallas Morning News editorialized as a "disgrace"). Recently Elibiary has billed himself as a "deradicalization expert," despite clear evidence of his previous defense of terrorist support organizations, his praise for jihadist authors, and his threats made against a Dallas journalist who repeatedly exposed his extremist views. His open support for jihadist ideological godfather Sayyid Qutb prompted the Washington Times to comment, "If Mr. Elibiary is one of his [Qutb's] disciples, he has no business being anywhere in government, let alone as an adviser at the uppermost reaches of an agency that purports to protect the homeland." Considering Mohamed Elibiary's track record, it seems he has done more to promote violent ideology than to prevent it.
The State Department under Hillary Clinton was not immune from such outreach disasters either. In November 2010, U.S. Ambassador to Britain Louis B. Susman stirred international outrage following his visit to the notorious East London Mosque, well known as a longtime hotbed of extremism and a prolific terrorist incubator. In January 2009, the mosque hosted a conference featuring wanted al-Qa'ida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki via telephone. Just a few weeks before Susman's visit, the mosque chairman had defended Awlaki's participation in the conference, calling it an act of "fairness and justice."
The visit by the U.S. ambassador was slammed in the Wall Street Journal by Shiraz Maher of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College, who described the mosque as "among Britain's most extreme Islamic institutions." Maher concluded that "Mr. Susman's visit illustrates the blunders Western politicians often make by reaching out to the wrong Muslim 'dialogue partners.'" He added that the attendance of such a high-ranking diplomat to the mosque "emboldened robed reactionaries at the expense of their more moderate counterparts." Maher also stated that Susman's visit to the mosque was such an egregious blunder that British Prime Minister David Cameron instructed officials to conduct an "exhaustive review" of the government's "Preventing Violent Extremism" program to ensure that all community partners had been thoroughly vetted.
The U.S. government, however, failed to even acknowledge the blunder, let alone attempt to reconsider its long-standing policy of engaging extremists. In fact, the American Embassy issued a statement explaining that the visit was "a part of President Obama's call for a renewed dialogue with Muslim communities around the world."
WHO ARE WE DEALING WITH?
In President Obama's call for renewed dialogue, isn't it incumbent upon intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement officials to know exactly who they're dealing with? Yet in many cases, the U.S. government has known that the Muslim leaders and organizations they were dealing with were involved in terrorism or hostile foreign governments and groups.
A case cited earlier, for example, showed this to be true of Ramadan Shallah, an associate of Sami al-Arian, who directed the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a think-tank affiliated with the University of South Florida. In addition, he taught classes in Middle Eastern politics at the university in 1994 and 1995. He also was a regular fixture along with al-Arian at CENTCOMM headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. Shallah was even a speaker at a January 1995 conference with a former attorney general of the United States held at the University of Georgia. Yet just months after suddenly leaving the Tampa area, Shallah reappeared in October 1995 in Damascus, Syria, as the new head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which had been designated a terrorist organization by President Clinton. He is currently on the FBI's most wanted list and is the subject of a $5 million reward offered by the State Department.
More recently, the case of Ghulam Nabi Fai, president of the Kashmiri American Council in Washington, D.C., should be noted. Fai was a regular fixture on Capitol Hill, where his organization hosted conferences supporting the Kashmiri separatist cause featuring high-ranking members of Congress, including Reps. Dan Burton, Joe Pitts, Dennis Kucinich, Yvette Clarke, and Jim Moran. Fai also spread around generous amounts of campaign cash to Republican and Democrats alike.
Yet for two decades, Fai had been operating as a paid agent of influence under the direct control of Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI. Senior high-ranking members of the ISI were in attendance at Fai's Capitol Hill conferences. According to court documents, Fai and his ISI handlers would go from the Capitol to his D.C. office to discuss their plans to influence Congress illegally, the State Department, and other government agencies toward Pakistan's views on Kashmir. All of this was caught on FBI wiretaps and cited in Fai's indictment. However, it was years before federal prosecutors put an end to Fai's influence in Washington, D.C. spy operations, never informing the members of Congress who were targeted by Fai. Further, during the two decades that Fai operated in service to Pakistan's intelligence service, he was also serving in senior leadership roles with a number of top Islamic groups favored by the U.S. government, including serving on the shura council of ISNA—the most prominent Islamic organization involved with the U.S. government's outreach programs.For years, federal law enforcement officials knowingly looked the other way and stood mute as the Holy Land Foundation raised money inside the United States for the terrorist group Hamas. Their programs were even registered with the State Department's USAID program until December 1999, when the agency informed the Holy Land Foundation that it was officially being deregistered. Defending the organization, a spokeswoman appealed to their ties with the government as proof of their innocence, saying, "We're in close cooperation with A.I.D."
The U.S. government has not just been content with turning a blind eye towards their terror-tied outreach partners, but active financiers of them as well. Such was the case with the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), which according to the Treasury Department had "provided direct financial support to UBL [Usama bin Ladin]." Yet IARA had received a $300,000 USAID contract to provide support for a "child survival" program. It was also awarded a $4 million contract by the U.S. Embassy in Mali in 1998, which was only cancelled in December 1999, when Richard Clarke, chief of counterterrorism for President Bill Clinton, pressed the matter. Yet the FBI and the CIA had known of IARA's ties to al-Qa'ida going back to 1995 and made no effort to stop taxpayer funds from going to the group.
One might think that considering these cases, the U.S. government would have revisited its policies and scrutinized more carefully who they dealt with in their aid programs. Yet exactly the opposite occurred—U.S. government agencies appear to have imposed a policy of institutional blindness when it comes to the terrorist associations of their aid program partners. Such was the case in 2008, when the Bush Labor Department funded a three-year contract with the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) based in Yemen to combat child labor and child trafficking. Even as investigative reporter J.M. Berger noted, one of CSSW's former leaders in the United States was none other than al-Qa'ida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. According to tax documents filed with the IRS obtained by Berger, Awlaki had served as the group's vice president. Yet at the time that the Department of Labor issued the grant, Awlaki's work on behalf of al-Qa'ida and his ties to CSSW had been widely reported. It had also been reported that the founder of CSSW and an ongoing active supporter of the "charity" was Abdul Majid al-Zindani, one of Usama bin Ladin's mentors that had been named a U.S. specially designated terrorist by the U.S. government in 2004.
The Obama administration has continued this disastrous policy as seen the funding of the Sunni Ittehad Council, which was ostensibly formed to counter extremism in Pakistan. Yet when a leading moderate Pakistani governor critical of the country's use of Islamic blasphemy laws to punish religious minorities was gunned down by one of his own bodyguards, the Ittehad Council held rallies and demonstrations in support of the assassin. The council received $36,607 of U.S. taxpayer money.
Equally as troubling has been the number of transformations of leaders of American Islamic organizations that partner with the U.S. government into senior officials with Muslim Brotherhood fronts around the world. One recent case is Louay Safi, who up until a few years ago was one of the Pentagon's top Islamic advisers and only one of two official ecclesiastical endorsers of the Defense Department's Muslim chaplains. In August 2011, however, just weeks after meeting with officials at the White House, Safi reappeared at a press conference in Istanbul as a leader in the Syrian National Council, a group heavily dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood looking to overthrow Bashar al-Asad. Safi currently serves as the group's political director based in Qatar.
However, Safi's connections to the Muslim Brotherhood even predate his advising the Pentagon. Back in 2002, Safi's offices were raided by the U.S. Customs Service of the Treasury Department as part of a widespread terror finance investigation into the SAAR Network, a financial empire funded by Saudi money but controlled and operated by U.S. Muslim Brotherhood operatives. At the time, Safi was working for the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), which was one of the primary targets of the raid.
Then in 2005, Safi was named "unindicted co-conspirator Number 4" in the trial of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian. As the Tampa Tribune noted during the trial, conversations between al-Arian and Safi had been caught on wiretaps authorized by a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) national security warrant. In one conversation, Safi called al-Arian to ask him how the designation of PIJ as a terrorist organization by then-President Bill Clinton would impact al-Arian's work. Yet despite his known association with terrorist leaders, as late as 2008, Safi was appearing with senior FBI officials (the same FBI that had wiretapped his conversations with al-Arian) at "outreach" events.
Safi's involvement with the Pentagon became an issue following the Fort Hood attacks, when 13 members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Gates complaining that not only was Safi endorsing Muslim chaplains for the Defense Department on behalf of ISNA, but also teaching classes on the "Theology of Islam" to troops departing for Afghanistan at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss under a subcontract with the Naval Postgraduate School. After Fox News made inquiries about Safi's relationship with the Pentagon, they were informed that Safi was no longer teaching or endorsing chaplains.
Louay Safi is hardly alone in transitioning from American Islamic leader to foreign Muslim Brotherhood leader:
- Ghassan Hitto, a Dallas technology businessman, was selected as the provision premier of the Syrian resistance. According to the New York Times, Hitto was the favored candidate of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. It also reported that he had been an official for the Texas branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). After graduation from Purdue University, Hitto and his wife had both worked for ISNA in Indianapolis for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. More recently, he had been on the board of directors of the Muslim American Society, which federal prosecutors had identified as "the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America." He is also a long-time friend of Homeland Security adviser Mohamed Elibiary, who indicated that Hitto was "broadly respected" by the Muslim community "including Muslim Brotherhood members."
- Muthanna al-Hanooti, former executive director of CAIR-Michigan and public relations coordinator for the Detroit-based Life for Relief and Development, was indicted in March 2008 for his role in attempting to influence Congress of behalf of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Intelligence Service. According to the indictment, al-Hanooti paid for and accompanied three members of Congress to Iraq on a five-day trip in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, with the $34,000 in expenses covered by Iraqi intelligence. In return, al-Hanooti was granted a $2 million allotment of Iraqi oil. Prosecutors said that al-Hanooti had operated on behalf of Saddam Hussein's government during most of the 1990s and up until the Iraq War. Because LIFE and al-Hanooti was part of the Detroit U.S. Attorney's Building Respect in Diverse Groups to Enhance Sensitivity (BRIDGES), the entire U.S. Attorney's office had to recuse themselves from the case, which was handled by DOJ attorneys in Washington, D.C. In a plea deal, al-Hanooti agreed to charges of violating sanctions against doing business with Iraq and was sentenced to federal prison. He is now regional director of the Detroit chapter of the Muslim Legal Fund of America.
- Mahmoud Hussein, secretary general of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, was recruited into the organization while studying in the United States at the University of Iowa. He also served as the president of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) in the United States, a now-defunct subsidiary organization of ISNA. During Hussein's tenure with MAYA, the group sponsored a number of conferences across the country featuring terrorist leaders affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood from around the world, including Afghan jihad leader and al-Qa'ida co-founder Abdallah Azzam.
- Ishaq Farhan is the head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Islamic Action Front. However, he has also been a longtime board member of the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) based in the Washington, D.C., area. According to congressional testimony on "Terrorist Threat to the United States," Farhan was also active with MAYA as a conference speaker and as a recruiter of American Muslim youths for Hamas. One student recruited who attended a terror training session in Kansas City noted Farhan as one of the speakers. In 1996, Farhan also sent letters on behalf of the IAF to the U.S. Embassy in Amman demanding the release of Hamas senior leader Mousa Abu Marzook.
- Ahmed Yousef, currently spokesman for Hamas in Gaza and a senior political adviser to Hamas "prime minister" Ismail Haniyeh, was the longtime director of the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) based in Springfield, Virginia. Article Two of the 1988 Hamas Charter self-identifies the group as "one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine." The supposedly "independent" think-tank held conferences, published studies, and a quarterly journal with an advisory board featuring a number of prominent academics. Yet as early as 1993, UASR had been identified as "the political command of Hamas in the United States" by a captured Hamas operative. Not coincidentally, one of UASR's founders was Hamas deputy leader Mousa Abu Marzook, and another director of the organization was al-Qa'ida fundraiser Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi. Yousef defended Hamas as "a charitable organization," and many of UASR's publications and speakers unashamedly defended Islamist terrorist groups as legitimate resistance. Yousef fled the United States in 2005 to avoid prosecution on terrorism-related charges. He reemerged shortly thereafter as spokesman for Hamas. His departure left many of his defenders flatfooted. This included Georgetown University's John Esposito, who served on UASR's editorial advisory board and helped plan joint conferences with UASR, and former CIA official and Muslim Brotherhood apologist Graham Fuller.
It may then be the case that occasionally some of the U.S. government's Islamic advisors and leaders of the very organizations government agencies count as their outreach partners seem to have the habit of turning up as illegal foreign agents or leaders of terrorist organizations and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates across the Middle East. Among the leaders of the Islamic groups favored by the U.S. government are even wanted international war criminals.
In October 2012, Ashrafuzzaman Khan, former secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and president of the North American Imams Federation, was indicted by a Bangladesh war crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity and genocide for his role in the abduction, torture, and murder of intellectuals during that country's war of independence from Pakistan in December 1971. A State Department spokesman said that they are looking at the charges. A prosecutor in the case said that the killings by Khan, who at the time was a member of the al-Badr student militia wing of Jama'at-i-Islami, were part of "a master plan" by the Pakistani military "to kill a specific group of unarmed civilian Benghalis." Those murdered were pro-independence professors, journalists, and physicians.
Not only has ICNA condemned the international war crimes tribunal, but a spokesman for ICNA reaffirmed their support for Khan. He also appeared at a rally in New York City in late 2010, with leading members of the Islamic community and U.S. government outreach partners, including Obama White House regulars ISNA's Mohamed Majid, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad, and Haris Tarin of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
As has been shown, being under active FBI investigation has not prevented the U.S. government from counting terrorist leaders, recruiters, or fundraisers among their closest Islamic advisers. Such is the case with Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, Sami al-Arian, and Anwar al-Awlaki. Moreover, when the U.S. government has given taxpayer dollars to Islamic groups that support terrorism, presumably inadvertently, there has never been a systematic review of the screening system to ensure similar incidents won't occur in the future—when, in fact, they repeatedly have.
In the case of Ghulam Nabi Fai's two-decade long influence operation on Capitol Hill on behalf of Pakistani intelligence, the matter passed with barely any notice, let alone any consideration that Fai had served in leadership positions with virtually every major Islamic organization in the country. Nor has there been any reexamination on the part of government agencies of their policies when a long line of their Islamic advisers and leaders from the groups they count as outreach partners—including repeated visits to the Obama White House in the case of Louay Safi—reappear as senior leaders for Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and fronts in the Middle East. This lack of acknowledgment, reexamination, or investigation following the near-universal catastrophic failures in U.S. government outreach in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations has led to a corrosive effect on U.S. domestic and foreign policy.
That many of the Islamic groups identified as outreach partners by the U.S. government were identified by federal prosecutors in court as fronts for the international Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of international terrorism has proved incredibly embarrassing. Extraordinary measures are thus taken to ignore this situation. One response has been to ignore the problem altogether. Since March 2012, the FBI has been undergoing a Department of Justice inspector general investigation for continuing contacts with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), despite a department-wide ban on formal contacts with the organizations for its long-standing ties to terrorism. This outreach contrary to official bureau policy continued to occur as CAIR officials publicly encouraged the American Muslim community not to talk to the FBI.
At the same time that the DOJ inspector general began its investigation of the FBI's continued contacts with CAIR in violation of stated policy, the bureau began taking another approach. In March 2012, the FBI released guidelines it claimed informed its purge of hundreds of documents and more than 300 presentations from its counterterrorism training materials. This "Touchstone document" articulates the FBI's new policy that associating with a terrorist organization, if that organization has both violent and legal elements, does not mean that someone agrees with the violent ends of that organization:
This distinction includes recognition of the corresponding principle that mere association with organizations that demonstrates both legitimate (advocacy) and illicit (violent extremism) objectives should not automatically result in a determination that the associated individual is acting in furtherance of the organization's illicit objective(s).
Thus, according to this new FBI policy, if the group supports violence but performs some legitimate functions (say, for instance, al-Qa'ida, which Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA] infamously said helped pay to build schools, roads, and day care centers), associating with that group, according to the FBI, doesn't mean you support that group's violent ends. Thus, the terror support of their Muslim outreach partners is absolved with a rhetorical sleight-of-hand.
This is why Mohamed Majid, who just a few years before was treated as a pariah by the Attorney General of the United States after federal prosecutors named his organization as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history, can just a few short years later not only be rehabilitated, but can regularly be found—much as al-Qa'ida fundraiser Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi who preceded him—a frequent visitor to the White House. Just prior to President Obama's March 2013 visit to the Middle East, ISNA openly trumpeted that Majid had advised the president prior to his trip.
Another extremist leader rehabilitated by the Obama administration has been Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), who recently appeared as a member of the official U.S. delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conference on human rights held in Vienna in October 2012. Going back to the Clinton Administration, however, al-Marayati had his appointment to a congressional terrorism commission withdrawn after his comments in support of Hamas and Hizballah—designated terrorist organizations he had likened to American patriots like Patrick Henry—and his labeling Islamist suicide attacks as "legitimate resistance" had been revealed. In an op-ed published by the Los Angeles Times, he and his wife attacked the Jewish groups criticizing his appointment as "extremists."
His appointment eventually withdrawn, he doubled down on his support for the terrorist groups, telling the New York Times, "When Hamas and Hizballah commit acts of terrorism, we condemn those acts as events contrary to the principles of Islam; when those groups build hospitals and develop social service agencies for the disenfranchised, that's something that we do not condemn." This view foreshadows the new FBI "Touchstone" standard.
He was also caught up in controversy immediately following the September 11 attacks, when he went on a Los Angeles radio program in the immediate hours after the attacks and said "we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list." This prompted a number of Jewish organizations—many of whom had openly defended al-Marayati when his appointment to the congressional terrorism commission was withdrawn—to stop dialogue with al-Marayati and MPAC.
Yet when the State Department came under fire for including al-Marayati in the official U.S. delegation to the OSCE conference despite his extremist positions and statements (including a recent posting on the MPAC website promoting anti-Jewish blood libels), a spokesman appealed to his longtime participation in U.S. government-sponsored outreach as proof of his moderation. They stated that he was "valued and highly credible." Al-Marayati and MPAC are also official outreach partners to the FBI.
In 2012, Hani Nour Eldin, a known member of the Egyptian al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (a U.S.-designated terrorist group), was invited to Washington, D.C. Eldin was escorted into the White House to meet with Obama's national security staff. The purpose of his meeting was to demand the release of his group's leader, the "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman, currently in federal prison for his leading role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned follow-up Day of Terror attacks.
To emphasize this policy, senior Obama administration officials made clear that allowing Eldin—a member of a designated terrorist organization—into the United States was no mistake. A few months later, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the decision during a congressional hearing. She added that other members of terrorist groups would be admitted into the United States in the future.
Even more egregious than the invitation of Hani Nour Eldin is the May 2012 visit of Sudanese war criminal Nafie Ali Nafie—an architect of not one, but two genocides (the first in the 1990s in the Nuba Mountains, the second more recently in Darfur)—as part of a Sudanese delegation at the invitation of the U.S. State Department. Nafie is the principal adviser to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir—who is currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court—and was the longtime intelligence chief for the Islamist regime in Khartoum. In addition, he reportedly was closely associated with Usama bin Ladin during his stay in Sudan during the early 1990s. Nafie readily admits to torturing civilians in a series of "ghost houses" during his tenure as intelligence chief. He defended such practices in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2008 (in the midst of the Darfur genocide), saying, "We were there to protect ourselves. Definitely we were not there to play cards with them." Over a hundred Holocaust scholars and genocide experts sent a letter to President Obama calling for the administration to cancel its meeting with the Sudanese delegation.
As these examples demonstrate, the U.S. government's ignoring the terrorist support of its Muslim outreach partners has had a slippery-slope effect in its foreign policy by inviting members of terrorist groups and war criminals to Washington, D.C. for "dialogue." Yet in light of Nafie Ali Nafie's 2012 visit, there is a more direct connection to be made. The umbrella organization tasked with leading the outreach efforts to the Obama administration for the government's Muslim outreach partners, American Muslims for Constructive Engagement (which includes ISNA, MPAC, IIIT, and CAIR as member organizations), is headed by a former high-ranking Sudanese genocide henchman. Abubakar al-Shingieti served as Sudan President al-Bashir's spokesman and later director of public affairs until 1998. His term as one of al-Bashir's top advisers fully coincided with the genocide of Christians and animists in southern Sudan. He came to the United States and served as editor of ISNA's monthly magazine, Islamic Horizons, and now serves as director of IIIT in addition to his duties with American Muslims for Constructive Engagement organizing outreach to the U.S. government on behalf of the same organizations identified by federal prosecutors as fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Thus, the policy pronounced by the FBI in their "Touchstone" document, well established in practice during FBI Director Robert Mueller's tenure, can now justify U.S. government outreach and "dialogue" with members of terrorist organizations and mass murderers. The corrosive effect on national security and law enforcement when it comes to terrorism goes even further. An important point to raise at this point is that at the very same time that the FBI was receiving red flag warnings from Russian authorities about future Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Obama administration was engaged in a government-wide "Islamophobia" witchhunt that left virtually no area of national security, intelligence, or law enforcement untouched.
From the outset, the Obama administration has followed a course to blind government agencies to the international and domestic jihadi threat and tie the hands of law enforcement investigators to identify such activity. One of the first steps in 2009 was for the Obama administration to remove any reference to "radical Islam" from the National Security Strategy, a move that was hailed by CAIR and other Muslim groups. In fact, many of the U.S. government's outreach partners had a direct hand in demanding the language purge from national security protocol and agency lexicons in recent years, going as far back as MPAC's vehement criticism of the 9/11 Commission Report for the use of the words "Islamist,"," "jihad," and other such terms to describe the motivations, influence, and ideology of al-Qa'ida and the September 11 terrorists. Undoubtedly, the Obama administration's move was part of the recent justification by the Associated Press to purge the same language from their stylebook.
More recently, Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) challenged the removal of these terms from the FBI's "Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon," including "jihad," "Islam," and even "Hamas," "Hizballah," and "al-Qa'ida," in a floor speech in the House of Representatives. The very next day, FBI representatives contacted Gohmert's staff, claiming that the lexicon he cited didn't even exist. Those same representatives quickly retreated when it was confirmed that hard copies had been distributed to all counterterrorism agents in the field, electronic copies resided on the FBI's intranet, and after the current author reported the matter and posted an electronic copy of the FBI's lexicon online.
Another step came in January 2010, when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hosted a two-day meeting with members of Islamic groups organized by the department's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Attendees not from the Washington, D.C., area were flown in and accommodated at taxpayer expense. What distinguished this meeting from others is that several of the attendees represented organizations that had been named unindicted co-conspirators and fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
According to documents about the meeting obtained by government watchdog Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, one attendee proposed by DHS staff included Hamas operative Kifah Mustapha. This was just weeks before Mustapha was removed from his position as chaplain for the Illinois State Police under the advice of the FBI Chicago field office. While he was not included in the final participants list for the meeting with Secretary Napolitano, Mustapha benefited from this new outreach approach of the Obama administration when he participated in the FBI Citizens Academy program in August of that year (just weeks after the same FBI office had warned the Illinois State Police of his terrorist ties).
One of those who did attend the meeting with Napolitano was Imad Hamad. In 2003, Hamad had an FBI Exceptional Public Service award stripped from him just days before receiving it from Director Mueller himself at a ceremony at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This occurred following a New York Post editorial noting the nearly two-decade-long effort of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to deport Hamad for his suspected membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization responsible for countless bombings targeting civilians. Hamad had been recommended for the award by the FBI Detroit field office.
Homeland Security was not alone in this new Obama administration approach to Muslim outreach, with the White House getting into the act. In September 2010, the home of Hatem Abudayyeh was raided by the FBI as part of a multi-state federal terrorism support investigation. A grand jury subpoena served at the time of the raids said the U.S. Attorney's office was looking for "all records of any payment provided directly or indirectly to Hatem Abudayyeh, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ("PFLP") or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ("FARC")."." Yet just five months earlier, Abudayyeh had been the guest at a briefing held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building by the White House Office of Public Engagement for more than 80 of their outreach partners, despite the fact that the grand jury investigation had been ongoing for more than a year, according to Abudayyeh's attorney. In 2003, then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama had spoken at a farewell dinner sponsored by Abudayyeh's Arab-American Action Network for former Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesman Rashid Khalidi. In addition, a foundation that Obama had sat on the board of had provided $40,000 in funds to Abudayyeh's group.
Notwithstanding these embarrassments, the Obama administration continued to push forward with its outreach to extremists. In March 2011, Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough spoke at Mohamed Majid's mosque, the ADAMS Center. McDonough lavished praise on the imam, who just a few years before had been regarded as a pariah by the attorney general of the United States after Majid's organization, ISNA, had been named unindicted coconspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial. In his comments, McDonough failed to note the extensive terrorist ties of many of the leaders of the ADAMS Center.
The ADAMS Center would again be the site of a visit by a high-ranking official in the Obama administration in February 2012, when Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy publicly apologized to the U.S. Muslim community for the burning of several Korans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan, flanked by Majid and Haris Tarin of MPAC. The Korans were burned after a counterintelligence unit discovered that prisoners were using the books to transmit messages. A military inquiry found that the U.S. soldiers involved did not have "any malicious intent to disrespect" the Koran "or to defame the faith of Islam."
To emphasize the Obama administration's new Muslim outreach policy, the White House issued a directive in August 2011 ordering law enforcement to engage "community partners" to help combat "violent extremism." This White House policy, signed by President Obama, effectively granted highly questionable official status to extremist groups, like ISNA and MPAC, who even now claim previously unknown oversight to law enforcement training and investigations. One example of the effect of this new policy are the Shari'a-compliant guidelines that federal law enforcement officials must now comply with when conducting raids related to Islamic leaders or institutions.
This was exhibited in May 2011, when the FBI raided a South Florida mosque and arrested its imam and his son for financially supporting the Taliban. The rules required law enforcement officials to remove their shoes before entering the mosque and prohibiting police canines from the property. The common sense of these new rules undoubtedly would have been put to the test had the subjects tried to flee to be pursued by shoeless federal agents. There is also no indication that such sensitivity rules have been established by the FBI for any other religion but Islam, raising serious constitutional questions.
Much of this new outreach policy was developed at a June 2011 workshop at Georgetown University, sponsored by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding. There, leaders from ISNA, CAIR, MPAC, and other Islamic organizations met with senior Obama administration officials. Those officials invited to the "Workshop on Police-Community Engagement and Counter-Terrorism" included:DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Development Principal Deputy for the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis Director of DOJ's COPS Office Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement State Department Special Representative to Muslim Communities Senior Policy Adviser and Review and Compliance Officer for the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Members of the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Committee Senior leaders from the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center
That the White House fully intended to rehabilitate these Islamic groups from the opprobrium from their past association and support of terrorist groups being raised in federal court was confirmed when George Selim, the White House Director for Community Engagement, a newly created position, admitted to a reporter at a State Department diversity function that the Obama administration had "hundreds" of meetings with Islamist extremist groups, including CAIR. A State Department official then berated the reporter for asking the question, claiming the reporter had committed a wiretapping felony for recording Selim's response to the reporter's questions.
No sooner had the White House's new outreach policy been announced, when it became clear that one of the policy outcomes of this relationship was the administration's enforcement of a blacklist of subject matter experts deemed "enemies" by their Muslim partners. A conference on violent extremism scheduled to be hosted by the CIA's Threat Management Unit in August 2011 was abruptly cancelled by the CIA and Homeland Security after CAIR publicly complained about one of the speakers—former Joint Chiefs of Staff intelligence analyst Stephen Coughlin.
As explained previously, the FBI has instituted a publicly stated ban on contacts by bureau officials with CAIR since 2009 due to their past terrorism support. The banning of a highly-regarded and credentialed expert by any U.S. government agency for no other reason but the protest of a group identified by federal prosecutors in federal court as a front for a terrorist organization, as well as canceling the entire conference rather than replacing the speaker, is simply unprecedented. This blacklisting was reified by guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security in October 2011 and intended to apply across all agencies that bans "training that equates religious expression, protests, or other constitutionally protected activity with criminal activity." The Homeland Security counterterrorism training guidelines specifically cites MPAC as the sole non-government source for "best practices in CVE training and community policing."
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman (who received a sentence of life in prison) for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned follow-up "Day of Terror" attacks, exposes the lunacy of the Department of Homeland Security's new training policies:
I marched into the courtroom every day for nine months and proved that there was an undeniable nexus between Islamic doctrine and terrorism committed by Muslims. The Blind Sheikh, the jury was allowed to learn, was not a fringe lunatic; he was a globally renowned scholar of sharia whose influence over a spate of international jihadist organizations was based on his doctorate from al-Azhar University, the world's most influential center of Islamic thought. And when I demonstrated the straight-line, undeniable logic of the evidence—that scripture informed the Blind Sheikh's directives; that those directives informed his terrorist subordinates; and that those subordinates then committed atrocities—the government gave me the Justice Department's highest award. Today, I'd be ostracized. No longer is the government content to be willfully blind. Today, it is defiantly, coercively, extortionately blind.
Imagine the implications of this policy applied to any other law enforcement problem or terror threat, such as organized crime, gangs, white supremacists, or militias. Any activity short of violence or other crimes would be constitutionally protected activity according to this doctrine and out of bounds for counterterrorism trainers, and presumably counterterrorism analysts and law enforcement agents. Moreover, the FBI's "Touchstone" document says that membership in a violent organization, if that organization is engaged in legitimate advocacy activity, would mean law enforcement can't assume that members endorse the violence or criminality of that group.
Consider the case of the Italian American Anti-Defamation League founded in the early 1970s by La Cosa Nostra mob boss Joe Columbo. The League protested the use of the words "mafia" or "Cosa Nostra" in the movie The Godfather. They charged that the FBI, the Organized Crime Task Force, and the Attorney General were engaged in a vendetta against Italian-Americans in their prosecution of mafia activities, and even picketed in front of FBI headquarters. Yet taking the current FBI policy outlined in the "Touchstone" document at face value, just being a member of La Cosa Nostra or openly associating and promoting the goals and objectives of the Italian American Anti-Defamation League doesn't necessarily mean you agree with the criminal and violent ends of the mob.
Such policies, as now advocated by the FBI and Homeland Security applied exclusively to Islamist terrorism, would have made the wave of organized crime prosecutions that broke the back of the mafia impossible. As former Assistant U.S. Attorney McCarthy has said, it also would have made the investigation and prosecution of the "Blind Sheikh" impossible. As described below, this is exactly how this policy that is being applied is stymieing investigators trying to prevent future terror attacks. The intended result of these guidelines and policies adopted by the Obama administration is effectively to blacklist any subject matter expert willing to raise the issue of the terrorist ties of their Muslim outreach partners, and blacklisting is precisely what they have accomplished.
One victim of the administration's blacklisting has been Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. When Jasser testified in March 2011 before the House Homeland Security Committee on radicalization in the American Muslim community, he was branded a traitor and an "Uncle Tom" by many of the government's Muslim outreach partners, and even by political allies of the White House, such as the Center for American Progress and The Nation magazine. Prior to his congressional appearance, he had been nominated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a post on the State Department's U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, which is tasked with "appraising U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics." However, after 15 months of vetting and receiving a top-secret security clearance, Jasser was informed that his name had been "removed from consideration" without any explanation. Senator Jon Kyl commented on the affair by saying that "the Obama administration has chosen to sideline Dr. Jasser."
A more formal blacklist of subject matter experts was published on September 11, 2012—the same day that mobs besieged the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The blacklist was prepared and published by MPAC, one of Homeland Security and the FBI's official outreach partners. In fact, the current author was one of those included on MPAC's blacklist.
With these policies established by the White House, Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and the FBI, the next step of the efforts by the Obama administration and their Muslim outreach partners occurred on October 19, 2011. Fifty-seven Muslim groups sent a letter to John Brennan, then the president's counterterrorism adviser, and copied to Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough. The cardinal demand of these Muslim groups was a government-wide purge of all counterterrorism training materials, removal of books from libraries in the various agencies, the mandatory reeducation of FBI agents, punishment for any government employee who taught anything the groups had deemed "biased," and the permanent blacklisting of any trainer they considered "bigoted and biased." These demands were restated in an editorial by MPAC's Salam al-Marayati in the Los Angeles Times.
The same day that letter was sent to the White House, a meeting was held at George Washington University between these same groups and top DOJ officials, including DOJ Civil Rights Division head Tom Perez. According to a report on the meeting by Neil Munro of The Daily Caller, several Muslim group leaders called for creating criminal and civil penalties for anyone advocating positions they deemed offensive. Among those were Mohamed Majid, who according to the report said that "teaching people that all Muslims are a threat to the country... is against the law and the Constitution." While such a view might be ill-informed and bigoted, contrary to Majid there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about it, and it should be protected by the very same policies outlined earlier by Homeland Security CVE Training Guidelines and the FBI "Touchstone" policy as well as the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections.
One problem with the letter is that their alleged examples of biased training relied exclusively on the internet posts by one blogger at WIRED, Spencer Ackerman, who had previously been fired by The New Republic. His dismissal from the magazine came after repeated attacks on his own publication and for threatening his editor to "make a niche in your skull" with a baseball bat for not allowing him to edit the publication's baseball blog, which was claimed to be a joke. Several years later, he was in the public eye again for highly charged partisan statements he had made on a top-secret email distribution list of far-Left journalists, where among other things he had urged:
What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.
Later in that same email he had advocated randomly picking a conservative media figure "and call them racists."
Critics of his posts attacking the FBI training materials claim that this is exactly what Ackerman had done, complaining that the slides from presentations obtained by Ackerman were published out of context with the rest of the presentations and without comment by the trainers. Those trainers within government agencies accused by Ackerman were gagged from responding, leaving his out-of-context representations unchallenged. Meanwhile, Ackerman's wife was a veteran press flack for the ACLU's Washington, D.C., legislative office that was obtaining the FBI presentations through FOIA requests and helping to gaslight the story.
The letter from these Muslim groups—once again, several of which had been named by the federal government as supporters of terrorism and fronts for foreign extremist organizations—was met with an immediate response by Brennan, who assured the White House allies that a task force had already been convened to implement their demands. The government agencies also met with their Muslim outreach partners to demonstrate their progress in meeting their widespread demands for an "Islamophobia" purge. This included meetings by ISNA held with FBI Director Mueller, where they were told that hundreds of pages from FBI training materials and hundreds of presentations had been removed. However, the FBI has refused to provide other details of these meetings with the administration's outreach partners to government watchdog groups who filed FOIA requests. This has prompted federal lawsuits against the FBI for withholding such information.
That is not the only matter related to the Obama administration's "Islamophobia" purge that government agencies are trying to keep secret. When congressional oversight committees tried to investigate the purged FBI training materials, concerned that national security interests were being sacrificed to political correctness and unduly influenced by terror-tied Islamic organizations, the FBI refused to disclose the training materials that had been purged and promptly moved to classify all such materials. One member of Congress, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)—a member of the House Intelligence Committee—was allowed to view the purged materials only after she had signed an FBI confidentiality agreement. The materials were brought into a secure room and three to four FBI minders watched over her shoulder and monitored what she took note of as she reviewed the purged materials. Yet these same materials, which the FBI threw up considerable obstacles for members of Congress to view had already been provided to the ACLU under a FOIA request.
The FBI's concealment of the details of the "Islamophobia" purge didn't stop there. The FBI additionally classified the names of the five-member committee—including three outside experts—that had purged the materials. Those trainers who had their materials purged by these nameless, faceless judges were never given a chance to justify or defend their work. In one case, a slide had been purged because it featured a picture of an al-Qa'ida leader who was wearing traditional dress, and the reviewer claimed that having a picture in that dress was discriminatory.
The April 2013 Boston bombing occurred in this atmosphere of government-sponsored purges, book bans, speech codes, blacklists, and star chambers. It is hardly surprising that the FBI chose not to follow through on any investigation on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, when the Obama administration was deliberately erasing any ability to connect dots that would have flagged his contacts with extremist individuals overseas, his promotion of terrorist groups on his YouTube page, and association with the Boston mosque that had previously spawned other terrorists. In light of the stated policies of the FBI and Homeland Security, it is entirely fair to say that the system, which failed to account for all of these warning signs, did not fail, but in fact worked perfectly. Yet these policies continue to get Americans killed.
This was true in the Fort Hood massacre by Army Major Nidal Hasan in November 2009. As was reported in the weeks following the terror attack, the current author and two other experts had given an afternoon-long briefing to the entire Army anti-terrorism leadership and hundreds of other Army force protection personnel from around the world a full 18 months prior to the attack. These presentations discussed the very warning signs and indicators, as well as the types of internal and external threats to U.S. military forces, which would have given advanced warning to U.S. Army authorities of Major Hasan's intentions.
Hasan himself had even repeatedly given a PowerPoint presentation to fellow Army officers that laid out his doctrinal justification for killing his fellow soldiers. Because the Army refused to implement any guidelines for identifying signs of Islamist radicalization— as they had done for other supremacist ideologies— all of the warning signs were intentionally disregarded. This was also the case with the FBI investigation into Major Hasan's email contacts with al-Qa'ida cleric (and former Defense Department Islamic adviser) Anwar al-Awlaki initiated by the bureau's San Diego field office. Still, after kicking the case up to FBI headquarters, it was determined that the correspondence with the terror imam—who would be killed just two years later in a CIA drone strike—was "fairly benign" and "consistent with research" he was conducting "as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center."
Immediately after the attacks the FBI was quick to defend their inaction in Major Hasan's case. Yet even House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra acknowledged, "I think the very fact that you've got a major in the U.S. Army contacting [Awlaki], or attempting to contact him, would raise some red flags." It is now known that contrary to the FBI's assertions, the email correspondence between Hasan and Awlaki was far from "fairly benign." In their first email—nearly a year before the attack—Hasan had inquired about the justification of the fatal attack by another Muslim soldier, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar, who launched an attack on his fellow soldiers in a camp in Kuwait just days before the invasion of Iraq. The attack killed two U.S. military personnel. He even asked had Akbar been killed during the attack would he be considered a shahid (martyr). In one of the final emails—five months before the attack—Hasan defended at length suicide bombings and the permissibility of collateral "damage" while killing "enemy" soldiers.
Yet in all of the post-attack reports issued by Defense Department, not a single one ever mentioned Hasan's radical Islamist ideology. Members of Congress were equally perturbed when a Department of Homeland Security report on the Fort Hood attack could not even bring itself to label the massacre as terrorism, describing it instead as "workplace violence." This official "blindness" to Major Hasan's motivations are unquestionably the consequences wrought by the Obama administration's outreach policies. Not just content with not pursuing terror investigations, as in the case of Major Hasan and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Obama administration has taken a more proactive approach to shutting down terror investigations—especially when those investigations involved their Muslim outreach partners.
As the current author reported in April 2011, a top Department of Justice official informed this author that senior DOJ officials had quashed the indictment of CAIR cofounder Omar Ahmad in March 2010, along with other Islamic leaders, in the planned second round of prosecutions related to the Holy Land Foundation case. After two press conferences by Attorney General Eric Holder, who first tried to blame the Bush administration (which decided to delay the prosecutions until after the initial Holy Land Foundation prosecutions), the DOJ admitted that they had in fact permanently ended the prosecution of all those involved in fundraising for Hamas. They also admitted, after some evasion, that the decision to quash the prosecution of the CAIR leader was made by political appointees.
Recall that White House Director of Community Engagement George Selim had told a reporter from The Daily Caller that the administration has had "hundreds" of meetings with CAIR despite an official ban on formal contacts with CAIR by the FBI and DOJ based on the trial evidence in the Holy Land Foundation showing the group had actively supported terrorism. The DOJ inspector general is also conducting an investigation into the FBI's disregarding of that same policy. Thus, prosecuting the co-founder and chairman of one of the most active participants in the U.S. government's Muslim outreach would have undoubtedly been problematic for the administration to say the least.
That is not the only case in which the Obama administration has intervened to kill the terror-related prosecution of other senior Islamic leaders in the United States. The current author was informed by the same senior Department of Justice official that the planned prosecution of a dozen different leaders on racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion, and naturalization fraud was dropped by the orders of high-ranking officials. These prosecutions were the result of an extensive federal terror-finance investigation.
Among those set to be prosecuted were leaders of ISNA and the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), one of the oldest and most respected Islamic organizations in the country and a longtime partner for the State Department's International Visitor Program:
- Taha al-Alwani is perhaps the most senior Islamic cleric in the United States, previously serving as the chairman of ISNA's Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and also the authorized trainer for many of the U.S. military's Muslim chaplains. Al-Alwani had been named "unindicted co-conspirator number 5" in the Sami al-Arian terrorism trial.
- Hisham al-Talib is currently the vice president of finance for IIIT and the first full-time leadership training director for the Muslim Student Association. Known as a senior international Muslim Brotherhood leader, al-Talib was the White House guest of Joshua DuBois, special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on March 30, 2012 (as reported by syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin).
- Jamal Barzinji has held leadership positions in virtually every major Islamic organization in the United States, including national president of the Muslim Students' Association (MSA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), ISNA, and IIIT. In October 2012, CAIR gave Barzinji their lifetime achievement award at their national fundraising banquet.
- Yacub Mirza is a board member of IIIT and businessman that has developed software systems for the Department of Defense, such as the Army's Future Combat System and sensitive military aircraft software, initially for Ptech (which was raided by federal authorities in September 2001) and presently for Lynuxworks, which currently works under several Pentagon contracts.
All of these individuals were targeted and repeatedly named in the 2003 U.S. Customs Service search warrant application by Customs Agent David Kane (in Mirza's case 114 times) targeting the SAAR Foundation/SAFA Group terror finance network. Another declassified FBI report identifies Barzinji and Mirza as "members and leaders of the IKHWAN [Muslim Brotherhood]."Yet some of these same individuals, who were scheduled to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice prior to the intervention of DOJ political appointees, were treated to a special guided tour of the White House in February 2013, as part of ISNA's Founders Committee where they were greeted by ISNA president Mohamed Majid and five senior White House officials. This included Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Paul Monteiro, who praised ISNA as his "primary means of outreach to the American Muslim community."
The Obama administration has, thus, taken extraordinary measures to protect individuals and organizations identified by the U.S. government as members and fronts of the Muslim Brotherhood from prosecution. As the government's outreach partners, they are directly contributing to the law enforcement and national security policies that are responsible for blinding government agencies to active terror threats. White House officials openly acknowledge that the ISNA, led by Mohamed Majid, is their "primary means of outreach to the American Muslim community," despite being identified by federal prosecutors as the Muslim Brotherhood in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
What has been the effect of these relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood on the Obama administration's foreign policy? As mentioned earlier, Mohamed Majid was recently in the White House briefing the president for his recent trip to Jordan and Israel. In May 2011, he was sitting in the front row at the State Department when President Obama delivered a major speech on the Middle East. He also advises the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The influence of the head of the of the largest U.S. Muslim Brotherhood front—identified as a front by federal prosecutors—undoubtedly contributed to one of the biggest foreign policy embarrassments of the Obama administration. In February 2011, in the early days of the so-called "Arab Spring," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the House Intelligence Committee. When asked by Rep. Sue Myrick about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States, Director Clapper read from a set of prepared talking points in which he informed Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a "largely secular" organization.
The White House, and even Clapper himself, were quick to distance themselves from the gaffe. From the beginning of the "Arab Spring," however, there were indications that the "largely secular," "moderate Muslim Brotherhood" approach (rather than the authoritarian theocratic institution that they are, with several Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as designated terrorist organizations, like Hamas) was the accepted view of the administration, particularly the intelligence community and national security agencies. Just three days before Clapper made his "largely secular" statement, President Obama had gone on national TV during the halftime of the Super Bowl and declared that the Muslim Brotherhood, who was actively trying to overthrow Egyptian strongman Husni Mubarak at the time, lacked a majority support in Egypt. White House officials were also reassuring U.S. Jewish groups, concerned about the potential threat of Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt bordering Israel, reiterating that they didn't have a majority support of the Egyptian people. This view was bolstered by the establishment media, such as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who cited a poll that only one percent of the Egyptian public would vote for a Muslim Brotherhood candidate for president (the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi eventually won with 51.7 percent of the vote).
Did the fact that their top outreach partners on Islamic and Middle East issues are known fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood—identified as such by federal prosecutors in federal court—contribute to the Obama administration's naïve and ultimately false view of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East? Was there any reflection by anyone in the administration when these same outreach partners, very close to the White House, began openly meeting with their Middle East counterparts following the toppling of longtime U.S. allies and even hosting them in Washington, D.C. (such as the dinner MPAC hosted for Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi, who had been banned from the United States for nearly 20 years)?
Ultimately, the present policy implications of the U.S. government's outreach to Muslim organizations fronting for the Muslim Brotherhood has meant the blinding of our homeland security apparatus to repeated acts of terrorism at home, costing Americans their lives, and insulating the diplomatic establishment from international realities at the expense of our peace and security abroad.
Perhaps the most baffling element to the U.S. government's Muslim outreach since the 1990s is the steadfast refusal by its supporters to acknowledge the mountain of evidence that testifies to its catastrophic failure. What pathology can explain how prosecutors can identify Muslim leaders and organizations as supporters of terrorism in federal court, and at the same time high-ranking government officials embrace these same leaders and groups as moderates and heatedly defend their inclusion as outreach partners? The answer might only lie in the realm of theology and not psychology.
After al-Qa'ida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was teaching on Islam in the Executive Dining Room of the Pentagon just weeks after three of his disciples had flown a plane into the same building; when the government had to admit that the State Department's Muslim goodwill ambassador to the Middle East and frequent White House visitor, Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, had been one of the top al-Qa'ida fundraisers at the same time he was certifying the Pentagon's Muslim chaplains; and even when attorneys for Sami al-Arian went into federal court demanding discovery documents showing their client's outreach meetings at the White House, the Department of Justice, FBI headquarters, and the House of Representatives Speakers' Office; there was not even a moment of pause before the government picked up right where it left off. This continues in the cases of ISNA, MPAC, CAIR, Mohamed Majid, Salam al-Marayati, Louay Safi, Mohamed Elibiary, Yasir Qadhi, Nihad Awad, and many others.
Take, for example, the case of Kifah Mustapha. At the same time that the FBI Chicago field office was telling the Illinois State Police of Mustapha's extensive history of supporting Hamas, even providing a videotape of him singing exhortations to violence and racial hatred, that same FBI office was processing and approving the imam's security clearance to participate in the FBI's Citizen Academy program, complete with tours of the FBI Academy at Quantico and the top-secret National Counterterrorism Center. When asked about the bureau's contradictory messages on Mustapha by the media, the only response FBI Director Mueller could muster was, "I'm not going to talk about any particular individual." No longer do these Muslim leaders have to shout down their critics; they now have cabinet-level officials, White House aides, and some members of Congress to do it for them.
The net result of the U.S. government's Muslim outreach has not just been the empowerment of extremists at the expense of marginalizing authentic moderates. Now the Obama administration has institutionalized these relationships where the very extremists they have empowered and embraced are now dictating inherently dangerous public policy. Demands by their outreach partners now include purges, blacklists, book bans, star chambers, speech codes, mandatory reeducation and official retaliation against federal employees, with the White House standing up a task force authorized to enforce these measures across the federal government.
Without the slightest bit of irony these are all invoked in the name of the First Amendment. To prevent further embarrassment, terror-related investigations are being scuttled by the Department of Justice to protect the senior leadership of their official outreach partners, ignoring entirely what has already been said about them in court filings by DOJ attorneys and even rulings by federal judges. This "compulsory blindness" applied to our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement agencies are precisely why investigations into identified terror threats are being stopped in their tracks (Boston, Fort Hood, et al.) at the expense of American lives.
Equally as troubling are the doors that the White House has thrown open to members of terrorist organizations and international war criminals. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has cheered, if not actively encouraged, the "largely secular" Muslim Brotherhood takeover in many countries throughout the Middle East. Leaders of groups identified by the federal government as fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood are given top seating for presidential speeches and are welcomed into the Oval Office to offer their advice prior to presidential trips to the Middle East.
The legacy of the U.S. government's Muslim outreach programs since the 1990s is a monument of failure by any measure. With more American lives and body parts strewn across American streets once again in Boston, these outreach partners threatening the health and legitimacy of our constitutional republic with their demands. It is clearly past time for Congress to ask whether this long since failed experiment should come to an immediate end.
Patrick Poole is a counterterrorism consultant and an investigative reporter on terrorism and national security issues. This article appeared June 4, 2013 in the MERIA Journal Volume 17, Number 2 (Summer 2013). The Journal is a publication of the GLORIA Center for Global Research in International Affairs. The article is archived at http://www.gloria-center.org/2013/06/the-u-s-governments-disastrous-muslim-outreach-efforts-and-the-impact-on-u-s-middle-east-policy-blind-to-terror1/