Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Highlights of Blind to Terror: the U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy

by Barry Rubin


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.

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.WHITE HOUSE POLICY PROMOTES ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS ABILITY TO OVERSEE LAW ENFORCEMENT GUIDELINES ON ISLAMIC EXTREMISM

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. 156] 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 & Compliance Officer for the DHS Office of Civil Rights & 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.” 160] The Homeland Security counterterrorism training guidelines specifically cites MPAC as the sole non-government source for “best practices in CVE training and community policing.”


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.

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Barry Rubin

Source: 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/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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