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One of the most critical aspects of a strategic battle against the ideology behind Jihad, Islamic supremacism, is an honest definition of the term "civil rights and civil liberties." "Civil rights" are based on the American value of equality that all men and women are created equal a value that Islamic supremacism as an ideology does not embrace. So when federal government agencies claim to be making outreach efforts to organizations that espouse and/or support Islamic supremacist viewpoints, such outreach efforts are actually contrary to America values of "civil rights," not promoting "civil rights."
As I mentioned in my July 2nd article "The Struggle against Jihad and Supremacist Ideologies," the FBI aggressively engaged in a "war of ideas" against white supremacists. The FBI sought no guidance from white supremacist non-violent organizations in that war. It used the FBI COINTELPRO to spy on and disrupt white supremacist groups, and it used contacts in the media to discredit and demoralize white supremacist groups. The FBI did so because the war on white supremacism was a battle to defend equality as an American value itself, and white supremacism was inimical to equality. The war against supremacism was a war for equality as realized through civil rights.
So the July 10, 2008 Congressional Quarterly's (CQ) article "Experts Debate Efficacy of FBI Outreach to CAIR" should raise deep concerns among advocates for civil rights as well as anti-Jihadists. Why would any federal government agency defend outreach to a group whose leaders support Islamic supremacist organizations? The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is an unindicted co-conspirator in Holy Land Foundation (HLF) terror trial involving funding and material support to the Hamas Islamic supremacist organization. CAIR's incorporator and current executive director, Nihad Awad, is a documented supporter ("I am in support of the Hamas movement") of the Hamas Islamic supremacist organization. The Islamic supremacist group Hamas has a charter which incorporates the anti-Semitic Protocols of Elders of Zion (in Hamas charter, Article 32), promoted by Adolf Hitler in his Mein Kampf. Moreover, as the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has pointed out, "CAIR has co-sponsored and taken part in multiple Islamist conferences in the United States." During last summer's HLF trial, the IPT also reported that CAIR was identified by the FBI as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee; the Muslim Brotherhood is another Islamic supremacist organization whose founder called for the creation of a global Islamic caliphate. The real debate is not on CAIR itself, which IPT has thoroughly documented, but on the whether or not to acknowledge Islamic supremacism as an ideological basis for Jihad.
Ignoring the ideological basis of Islamic supremacism in Jihad
prevents an honest debate on such issues, as well as an honest
discussion of civil rights and liberties. Outreach efforts to
pro-supremacist organizations have nothing to do with "civil rights
and liberties," but are part of a more important choice between
employing short-term tactical counterterrorism measures and defending
our national values.
The July 10, 2008 CQ article reports on a Senate Homeland Security panel where the subject of homegrown terrorism was being discussed and testimony was being provided by expert witnesses. In the course of this panel discussion, questions were raised regarding CAIR training efforts to FBI employees. The Hudson Institute's Zeyno Baran was quoted as stating "for months now, FBI agents have been trained by CAIR to be sensitive to Muslims... this is completely self-defeating." Zeyno Baran is also quoted as stating that "the agents are going to be misinformed and they will be overly sensitive and they will not ask certain questions," and later stating that CAIR "does not reflect the Muslim community as a faith community, but as a political group."
Such CAIR efforts to "train" FBI employees were reported by Insight on March 18, 2008: "CAIR trains FBI agents across the country on Islam and how to treat Muslims. CAIR's archived press releases show numerous instances of CAIR representatives training the FBI, as well as the Marine Corps, local law enforcement and government employees."
Such CAIR training for law enforcement has been reported since 2004. In 2004, CAIR's Florida branch, CAIR-FL, was reported to issue a statement that "more than 150 law enforcement agents, including FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisory personnel" attended a CAIR-led workshop.
In addition, such CAIR "training" has also been provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper has stated that "representatives of CAIR chapters nationwide have met with TSA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security and the Department of Justice."
The IPT's Steven Emerson also provided the Senate panel with a written statement which concludes on efforts at outreach towards CAIR:
"Despite the known ties of the above mentioned organizations [CAIR, MAS, ISNA] to the Muslim Brotherhood, the U.S. government insists on engaging in 'outreach' and dialogue with them. This has led to an almost comical situation in which one side of the Department of Justice labels CAIR as an unindicted coconspirator in what has been alleged to be the biggest case of terrorist financing in the history of the Republic while the other side of the Department of Justice meets with CAIR officials and attends CAIR conferences in an effort to perform outreach with the Muslim-American community. While it can be argued that outreach with the Muslim-American community is a necessary component to a successful counterterrorism strategy, there is absolutely no reason that this outreach has to go through organizations that ascribe to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. Alternatively, outreach can be performed at the grassroots level and through individuals respected in the Muslim-American community, like doctors and local businessmen, instead of through groups such as CAIR, ISNA, and MAS."
To show the level of disconnect within the federal government on
these groups, while this Senate hearing was being held, the July 11,
2008 New York Sun reports that federal prosecutors were submitting
court filings defending the identification of such organizations as
co-conspirators in the HLF terror trial.
George Mason University Professor Peter Mandaville was also present at this Senate panel and reportedly disputed such links between CAIR and such Islamic supremacist groups. For context, Peter Mandaville has also been advising the West Point military that America should "engage" with the Islamic supremacist international organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, and has stated that he does not view that Hamas is really a terrorist organization.
In the June 2008 issue of the West Point Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) publication "Sentinel," Peter Mandaville argues that Islamic supremacists are not a threat, but should be engaged as allies. In the West Point publication, Mr. Mandaville criticizes the idea that "the default assumption still appears to be that Islamism of any kind is more likely to be part of the problem rather than a potential component of counter-terrorism solutions."
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Peter Mandaville would be
arguing at the Senate Homeland Security panel that the outreach
program to CAIR is something that the federal government should
At the same Senate hearing, National Counterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Michael Leiter referenced efforts to engage with groups such as CAIR, as part of a "full-spectrum" outreach strategy to engage with groups that disagree with U.S. policies. The July 10, 2008 CQ report quotes Mr. Leiter as stating that the hard line is "if a group espouses violence, it's quite clear that the U.S. government should not be associated with it."
In my May 16, 2008 article on Michael Leiter's confirmation hearing, I pointed out that Mr. Leiter views that one of his primary qualifications in fighting terrorist tactics is his legal experience and his "respect for civil liberties." Under Mr. Leiter's leadership, the NCTC has worked to do anything but engage in a "war of ideas," as vaguely promised during his confirmation hearing, but has instead promoted "terror lexicon" recommendations to avoid defining the enemy, such as "never use the term 'jihadist' or 'mujahideen'."
His "full-spectrum" outreach approach is basically to appease "non-violent" Islamic supremacism, which is quickly becoming the official policy of the current administration.
We saw such an appeasement strategy beginning last summer, when in the middle of the HLF terror trial, the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to send representatives to the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), another unindicted co-conspirator in HLF terror trial, while DOJ prosecutors were actively engaged in the HLF terror trial.
ISNA conference speakers included supporters of terror groups and character witnesses for convicted terrorists attacking America. Moreover, ISNA conference speakers included individuals supporting Islamic supremacism such as:
In addition, we later learned that the FBI, U.S. Army, and the Department of Homeland Security attended the ISNA convention. The Department of Homeland Security booth at ISNA was located next to the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization's booth, a group dedicated to global Islamic supremacism.
During last summer's ISNA convention debacle, many of us made the tactical error of primarily arguing that it was inappropriate for DOJ members to offer legitimacy to an organization that was a co-conspirator in a terrorist trial. This argument was certainly correct. But the argument that then gets made by apologists for such groups is a factual debate over whether or not such groups are really linked to "terrorism" or not. This is essentially the same argument that Mr. Mandaville and Mr. Leiter made at the July 10th Senate hearing regarding CAIR. When we allow the debate to fall into the weeds of such details, the larger argument about defending our values gets lost.
The larger, more critical argument is that such efforts at outreach to supremacist organizations are not legitimate "civil rights" outreach at all. Anyone who has "respect for civil liberties," as Mr. Leiter alleges, would not seek federal government outreach to supremacist organizations. Supremacist organizations, by definition, represent the antithesis of civil rights, the antithesis of civil liberties; supremacist groups are against equality.
Would NCTC's Leiter seek an outreach effort to the American Nazi Party Aryan supremacist group? Would DHS' Sutherland seek an outreach effort to the White People's Party white supremacist group? Would such efforts be viewed as "full-spectrum" outreach efforts to promote civil rights and liberties? Of course not.
Yet Mr. Leiter argues in favor of a "full-spectrum" outreach to Islamic supremacist organizations as CAIR, and Mr. Sutherland gives speeches at ISNA conventions where known Islamic supremacists are featured speakers. Both men are proud of their records in respect for civil rights and liberties; both are educated, dedicated men who do understand that civil rights and liberties are about equality, not supremacism. They are well aware that the FBI did not go to George Wallace for training on how to handle white supremacists during the 1960s and 1970s.
So clearly, these outreach efforts to CAIR, ISNA, MAS, etc. have absolutely nothing to do with promoting equality in civil rights and civil liberties. This is an important false argument that we need to shatter. This continuing false argument that such "full-spectrum" outreach to Islamic supremacist groups is designed to promote civil rights and liberties keeps us from having the necessary debate on what is really happening and on identifying the tough decisions that our nation needs to make about defending our values.
So if such outreach to Islamic supremacist groups is not about civil rights and liberties, what is it about?
The NCTC, DHS, FBI, and Department of Justice have enforcement-level operational responsibilities at the core of their mission. With a primary tactical focus on a "war on terror," these organizations' emphasis is on preventing additional terrorist attacks and in gaining intelligence sources on individuals and groups that may be planning such terrorist attacks, using any means possible. At the same time, such organizations do not have a coherent strategy on understanding who and what we are fighting other than "extremists."
This is yet another disastrous symptom from the tactical-centric approach by the current administration in dealing with Jihad. The executive branch has focused exclusively on preventive measures and reactive tactics, rather than identifying the enemy and developing a comprehensive strategy, including identifying the ideology behind Jihad. Therefore, America's approach is one of growing appeasement and tolerance towards Islamic supremacist groups, if they appear "non-violent," despite the fact that Islamic supremacism provides the basis for Jihad actions. The basic concept is that such appeasement to "non-violent" Islamic supremacist groups will help avoid "incitement" of Muslims to join violent Jihadist groups.
It is the same failed "Gentlemen's Agreement" policy that the United Kingdom had with Islamic supremacists until the July 7, 2005 bombings, which the UK now seeks to reconstitute after having insufficient courage to battle the supremacist ideology itself.
But do such strategies represent America's identity and values? Do we want to become a country willing to appease and legitimize Islamic supremacist groups for potential short-term intelligence on terrorists? Will we sacrifice the concept that "all men and women are created equal" for tactical security maneuvers? Do we really believe that abandonment of our hard-won values in defending equality and rejecting supremacism will really work over time? Or will such a strategy effectively accomplish Islamic supremacists' goals in undermining who and what America is?
These are the questions that the nation and its future leadership must address. But to have this debate, we need to get out of the weeds in debating whether such "outreach" efforts are tainted due to details of whether or not a group or person was proven in a court of law to support a terrorist organization, and refocus the argument on condemning outreach to Islamic supremacist groups, simply because supremacist ideologies are against the values of equality that define who and what we are as a nation.
In September 2007, after the ISNA conference debacle, the Senate Homeland Security commission once again had a panel to discuss domestic homeland security issues. As reported by the Washington Times, this panel was to address the "war of ideas." The DHS and NCTC leaders told Senator Lieberman that they had no such initiatives in such a "war of ideas," and clearly nothing has changed since. The Washington Times reported that "FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III revealed during the hearing that the FBI has no counterideology response other than its 'outreach' to Muslim-American communities so they 'understand the FBI' and address 'the radicalization issue'."
But it is important to understand that post 9/11-era FBI Director Mueller's comments do not represent the culture and the values of the FBI organization, but rather represent the failing tactical-centric whirlpool that has drained the creative thinking of executive branch agencies responsible for American security. The 100 year history of the FBI represents a different set of values altogether. In fact, the FBI has had a war of ideas against Communism, Nazism, and white supremacism. It is only in the present reactive administration that a war of ideas against Islamic supremacism is non-existent. Clearly the FBI and the country needs better leadership.
When you join the FBI, all employees (agents to clerks) are required to swear to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States, specifically:
"I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
This oath is based on defending the values of equality and liberty that are the basis for our Constitution and our nation. It is complemented by the FBI's organizational values of "Fidelity-Bravery-Integrity" that form the FBI's motto.
I know this first hand, because I once made such an oath myself, and I remain proud of the values that the Bureau has inherent in its organization and in its many dedicated employees.
Unlike such new federal organizations as the DHS and NCTC, the FBI has a 100 year history of fighting for such values, and has a history in a war of ideas against supremacist ideologies. Americans who seek solutions in the fight against Islamic supremacism must consider the history of who has actually fought, understands, and defeated supremacist organizations. History shows this to be the FBI, in its efforts from the 1920s through today in fighting supremacist groups, especially in a war against white supremacism during the 1960s and 1970s.
Americans need to revisit these historical lessons and learn what a total war on a supremacist ideology can achieve, without sacrificing our ideals, values, and integrity. Post-9/11 reactive organizations and leaders who lack the history or understanding of what it takes to fight supremacist ideologies are doomed to continue down the failed path of reactive appeasement. We can't count on them for leadership or strategies.
It is essential that we intervene in this vital national security debate and use our representative democracy to change our nation's direction on Islamic supremacism. We must not tolerate the transparent fraud that appeasement of supremacist groups is being done in the interest of "civil rights." The American people and its historical institutions committed to the values of equality must change the debate on Islamic supremacism from legalisms to ideas, from operations to strategy, and from tactics to values.
America's battle cry against Islamic supremacism must be a resounding, defiant commitment to defending the value that "all men and women are created equal."
Then we will have begun to fight.
Jeffrey Imm is Research Director of the Counterterrorism Blog, was formerly with the FBI, and also has his own counterterrorism research web site at www.UnitedStatesAction.com. This was published July 14, 2008 on the Family Security Matters website. It is archived at
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