Donald Trump and Manufacturing the Muslim Menace

Protests against the travel ban occurred in many international airports across the country. Here, a crowd gathers at SFO on January 29, 2017 (photo: Kenneth Lu via Flickr).

Trump’s first week in office was punctuated by an executive order to ban travelers from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and refugee admissions for 120 days. Under the order, Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely.1 This has all been done under the guise of “national security,” spearheaded by men with a history of anti-Muslim ideology.

Despite the Right’s claim of patriotic allegiance to the constitution, the ACLU found many clear violations associated with Trump’s orders, calling him a “one-man constitutional crisis.”2The ink was barely dry on Trump’s order before even national security experts spoke against the ban.

Former CIA counterterrorism case officer Patrick Skinner, who served in Afghanistan as an intelligence advisor for General Petraeus3, called Trump’s actions immoral, stupid, and counterproductive, noting: “We’ve got military, intelligence, and diplomatic personnel on the ground right now in Syria, Libya, and Iraq who are working side by side with the people, embedded in combat, and training and advising. At no time in the US’s history have we depended more on local—and I mean local—partnerships for counterterrorism. We need people in Al Bab, Syria; we depend on people in a certain part of eastern Mosul, Iraq; in Cert, Libya. At the exact moment we need them most, we’re telling these people, ‘Get screwed.’”4

Kirk Johnson, who worked for the US Agency for International Development in Fallujah, said the ban will “have immediate national security implications, in that we are not going to be able to recruit people to help us right now, and people are not going to step forward to help us in any future wars if this is our stance.”5

Trump fueled his campaign with Islamophobic rhetoric. During his campaign in 2015, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of the entry of Muslims” and said “it is obvious the hatred is beyond comprehension” (Ironically, he was referring to Muslims.)6 He consistently criticized President Obama and Secretary Clinton for refusing to refer to “radical Islamic terrorism.” (They instead referred to them as “acts of terror and hate.”)7

Click to read our 2011 report, Manufacturing the Muslim Menace.

These shifts in semantics and cultural sensitivity arose after the Obama administration investigated and overhauled counterterrorism training in 2013, much of which was nestled in xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric and led by for-profit security firms. These firms—hired to train military and enforcement personnel on counterterrorism tactics—used generalized, inaccurate, and dangerous stereotypes designed to provoke suspicion, xenophobia, and religious hatred. These trainings and their leaders—many of whom were aligned with neoconservative Christian organizations—were studied extensively by the PRA over nine months and published in our 2011 report, Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, Public Servants, the Threat to Rights and Security. It is important now to re-visit some of those findings:

  • Government agencies responsible for domestic security had/have inadequate mechanisms to ensure quality and consistency in terrorism preparedness training provided by private vendors.
  • Public servants are regularly presented with misleading, inflammatory, and dangerous information about the nature of terror threats.
  • In place of sound skills training and intelligence briefings, a vocal and influential sub-group of the private counterterrorism training industry has marketed conspiracy theories about secret jihadi campaigns to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law, and effectively impugns all of Islam—a world religion with 1.3 billion adherents—as inherently violent and even terroristic.

The report notes that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expressed the importance of semantics in defining the terrorist threat, and—after meeting with influential Muslim American scholars equally concerned with acts of terror—found three tenants to be useful in describing such acts:

  • Do not demonize all Muslims or Islam.
  • Some terrorists believe their actions are based in theology and are therefore valid—as such, we should remove that validation by using accurate and descriptive language; i.e., avoiding the use of “jihadist,” as “jihad” has varied, textured, and non-violent meaning for Muslims worldwide.
  • Private and public servants should be conscious of history, culture, and context.

Rather than adhering to these and other principles, “counterterrorism experts” implied that Muslims who “practice their religion properly” are required to impose jihadist violence against Americans, the PRA report found. These alleged experts have made numerous dubious and dangerous claims, including:

  • Jihadists pose as civil rights advocates and patiently recruit until almost all mosques, educational centers, and socioeconomic institutions fall into their hands.
  • Jihadists who put off militant action are simply waiting until their holy moment comes.
  • Muslims are stealthily infiltrating the United States from within, intending to make it a Muslim nation.
  • Muslims are aligned with Satan.

Unfortunately, government standards for homeland security professionals’ certification appear undefined and by presenting themselves as law enforcement and intelligence specialists, these organizations and spokespeople lend their credentials to religious bigotry.

PRA’s report went on to outline some of the dangers of these training methods, all of which are prevalent in the wake of Trump’s actions:

  • Biased intelligence analysis.
  • Unlawful searches, surveillance, and actions.
  • Violence and hate crimes.
  • Threats to free speech.

The 2013 overhaul under the Obama administration sought to avoid these dangers by referring to acts of terror accordingly and maintaining respect for a religion in which the vast majority of its followers are peaceful. In a matter of weeks, the current administration reversed such overhauls and regressed back to stereotypical anti-Muslim dialogue. In addition to enforcing a moratorium on entrants from Muslim-majority countries, Trump will now focus counter-extremism solely on Islam,8 even though more people have died in the U.S. from politically-motivated violence perpetrated by right-wing militants than by Muslim militants since 9/11.9

Our 2015 report, “Terror Network or Lone Wolf,” provides comprehensive information on how the government, media, and Right Wing approach the issue of terrorism, and how these issues are framed through semantics, enforcement of laws, and politics. Sociologist Naomi Braine finds that “the differential treatment of right-wing and Muslim cases draws attention to the political contexts surrounding terrorism-related law enforcement … mainstream conservative politicians and [media] protest depictions of right-wing militants as anything more than troubled but patriotic Americans, while Muslim men … are constantly monitored as intrinsic security risks. In the process, Muslims lose Constitutional protections for belief, speech, and association—forced to inhabit an ambiguous territory as ‘un-American.’”10

Sadly, an example of this differential treatment played out before the American public after the Quebec mosque shooting on January 29, in which a right-wing militant named Alexandre Bissonnette murdered six people. As of February 8, Trump—who took time to condemn an attack at the Louvre by 29-year-old Abdullah Hamamy—remained completely devoid of a direct response.11

It’s alarming that the leader of our country has aligned himself so undeniably with the generalized concept of the Muslim menace that he has already caused irreparable damage to national security—jeopardizing tens of thousands of lives and causing a crisis that “will do long-term damage,” as government leaders noted12—all in the name of national security.

Endnotes

[1] Laurel Raymond, “Trump, Who Campaigned on a Muslim Ban, Says to Stop Calling it a Muslim Ban,” Think Progress, January 30, 2017, https://thinkprogress.org/trump-who-campaigned-on-a-muslim-ban-says-to-stop-calling-it-a-muslim-ban-630961d0fbcf#.vwgpyd6e3.

[2] Anthony Romero, “Donald Trump: A One-Man Constitutional Crisis,” ACLU, https://www.aclu.org/feature/donald-trump-one-man-constitutional-crisis.

[3] The Soufan Group, “Patrick Skinner,” http://soufangroup.com/about/team/patrick-m-skinner/28/.

[4] Bryan Schatz, “Immoral, Stupid, and Counterproductive: National Security Experts Slam Trump’s Muslim Ban,” Mother Jones, January 28, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/trump-muslim-refugee-ban-disaster-national-security

[5] Bryan Schatz, “Immoral, Stupid, and Counterproductive: National Security Experts Slam Trump’s Muslim Ban,” Mother Jones, January 28, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/trump-muslim-refugee-ban-disaster-national-security

[6] Laurel Raymond, “Trump, Who Campaigned on a Muslim Ban, Says to Stop Calling it a Muslim Ban,” Think Progress, January 30, 2017, https://thinkprogress.org/trump-who-campaigned-on-a-muslim-ban-says-to-stop-calling-it-a-muslim-ban-630961d0fbcf#.vwgpyd6e3.

[7] Jeremy Diamond and Nicole Gaouette, “Does it Matter if Obama Uses the Term ‘Islamic Terrorism’?” CNN, June 13, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/politics/islamic-terrorism-trump-obama-clinton/.

[8] Julia Ainsley, Dustin Volz and Kristina Cooke, “Trump to Focus Counter-Extremism Program Solely on Islam,” Reuters, February 2, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-extremists-program-exclusiv-idUSKBN15G5VO

[9] Naomi Braine, “Terror Network or Lone Wolf?” Political Research Associates, June 19, 2015, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/19/terror-network-or-lone-wolf/#sthash.36kbR5kc.dpbs

[10] Naomi Braine, “Terror Network or Lone Wolf?” Political Research Associates, June 19, 2015, https://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/19/terror-network-or-lone-wolf/#sthash.36kbR5kc.dpbs

[11] May Bulman, “Kellyanne Conway Defends Donald Trump’s Silence Over Quebec Mosque Shooting,” The Independent, February 8, 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/kellyanne-conway-defends-donald-trump-s-silence-over-quebec-mosque-shooting-a7568686.html

[12] Laura Koran, Elise Labott and Jim Sciutto, “Ex-National Security Officials in Both Parties Protest Trump Order,” CNN, January 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/30/politics/letter-opposition-trump-immigration-order/.

#First100Days Crash Course: Week 2

Coinciding with Trump’s first 100 days in Office — a period of time historically used as a benchmark to measure the potential of a new president — PRA will share readings, videos, and tools for organizing to inform our collective resistance based on principles for engaging the regime, defending human rights, and preventing authoritarianism. Daily readings will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and archived HERE.

Week 2: Islamophobia & Antisemitism

Contemporary Islamophobia rests on a long history of conflict and it is important to to be aware of how Islam was seen in Europe over many centuries, because these tropes are the basis for most contemporary narratives. There are complex interactions among Islamophobic prejudice, discrimination, exclusion, and violence and it may be more accurate to discuss the topic as “Islamophobias” rather than as a single phenomenon.

Antisemitism is a durable and unique historic and contemporary form of prejudice or demonization appearing at various times based on perceptions of religion, ethnicity, and race. In the U.S., Christian supremacist notions created systems of oppression that kept Jews in a second-class status until after WWII. While institutionalized antisemitism as a form of oppression is no longer a major force, prejudice and demonization remain. Although Jews are actually a diverse ethnoreligious group, their biased critics often project on them a racial identity that has motivated intimidation and violence.

Media: Click to download

Featured resources:

Additional Readings:

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Do’s and Don’ts for Bystander Intervention
If you witness public instances of racist, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Trans, or any other form of oppressive interpersonal violence and harassment, use these tips on how to intervene while considering the safety of everyone involved.

Pro-LGBTQ Smokescreens for Anti-Muslim Attacks

Two activists with placards at London’s vigil in memory of the victims of the Orlando gay nightclub terror attack. Photo: Alisdare Hickson via Flickr.

In a press release issued after last year’s Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, where a Muslim-American gunman killed 49 people at a gay dance club, Donald Trump said, “Hillary Clinton can never claim to be a friend of the gay community as long as she continues to support immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists to our country who suppress women, gays and anyone who doesn’t share their views.”

His solution? Ban Muslims.

“When I am elected,” he said, “I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”

“I don’t want them in our country,” he declared. Less than a year later, Trump’s recent executive order—regarded by many as a “Muslim ban”—went into effect.

As Dylan Matthews reported in Vox, Trump’s post-Orlando rhetoric is a favorite trick of the European Far Right. The strategy of invoking LGBTQ rights as just cause for anti-Muslim policies first gained popularity in 2002 when Dutch activist Pim Fortuyn, an openly gay man, rose to political prominence based, in part, on his advocacy for zero immigration. Fortuyn, who aspired to be the Netherlands’ next Prime Minister, once argued, “In Holland, homosexuality is treated the same way as heterosexuality. In what Islamic country does that happen?”

Like Trump, Fortuyn was described as a demagogue and populist, and in the weeks leading up Holland’s 2002 election, a journalist for The Guardian observed, “Fortuyn believes he dares to say what most people are thinking. On 15 May he will discover whether his instincts are right. If they are, the ripples of his success will radiate far beyond the Netherlands’ borders.” But before the Dutch could cast their ballots, Fortuyn was assassinated by a lone shooter: a vegan animal rights activist who later confessed that he killed Fortuyn in order to “protect Muslims.”

Fortuyn’s contemporary, Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ far-right Party for Freedom, is keeping his mentor’s legacy alive, using the same twisted trade-off that pits gays (as well as women and Jews) against Muslims. In a recent op-ed, Wilders argued, “Islam is a totalitarian ideology. Muslims are its victims. … [T]he more Islamic apostates there are, the less misogyny, the less hatred of gays, the less anti-Semitism, the less oppression, the less terror and violence, and the more freedom there will be.”

Dubbed “the Dutch Donald Trump,” Wilders promises to return the Netherlands to its White, Christian roots. In a rare interview with NPR last December, Wilders said, “Donald Trump did the job in America, and I hope that here in Europe, we will see a patriotic spring in Holland and also in Germany, in France—in many other countries where parties like mine are getting stronger every day.”

While his European admirers cheer him on, Trump has issued an onslaught of regressive executive orders. His actions have encompassed a wide range of targets including health care, the environment, immigrants, refugees, and, of course, Muslims.

Shortly after last week’s anti-Muslim executive order, rumors began to circulate that LGBTQ people would be next on the list. The White House issued a statement indicating that Trump was not seeking to roll back the protections for LGBTQ federal workers that Obama established by way of executive order in 2014, but this small concession was no kind of victory. LGBTQ Muslims and LGBTQ immigrants are still squarely in the crosshairs of the Trump Administration, and outside of the federal workforce, LGBTQ workers in more than 20 states remain vulnerable to discrimination.

Meanwhile, a draft order on “religious freedom” obtained by The Nation on February 1 included language that would “create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity.” Legal experts described the document as “sweeping” and “staggering,” and argued that it may be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The threat of the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) also looms. FADA is the most threatening chapter in the Christian Right’s ongoing effort to redefine religious freedom in order to impose oppressive ideologies and justify discrimination. The law, which Trump has vowed to pass, would open the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people (and countless others) by granting legal protections to people, businesses, or institutions that believe “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Specifically, it prevents the government from revoking tax-exempt status, issuing fines or penalties, canceling contracts or grants, or “otherwise discriminat[ing] against such a person.”

Any supposedly “pro-gay” concessions made by the Trump Administration should be seen for what they really are: a smokescreen through which to push through other regressive attacks on Muslims, immigrants, women, and other marginalized and threatened communities.

The ACLU’s Ian Thompson, a legislation representative specializing in LGBTQ policy, warns that FADA “would impact LGBTQ people everywhere,” even in states where LGBTQ people are otherwise protected by civil rights ordinances that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

So regardless of whether or not Trump moves forward with the draft religious freedom executive order (or something close to it), LGBTQ rights are still at grave risk, and any supposedly “pro-gay” concessions made by the Trump Administration should be seen for what they really are: a smokescreen through which to push through other regressive attacks on Muslims, immigrants, women, and other marginalized and threatened communities.

 

 

Terror Network or Lone Wolf?

Disparate Legal Treatment of Muslims and the Radical Right

Click here to see the full issue.

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This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The Public Eye magazine.

In April 2014, an armed encampment formed at the Nevada cattle ranch of Cliven Bundy as news spread through militia networks about the confrontation between the 67-year-old rancher and the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM began to impound Bundy’s cows after he’d failed to pay grazing fees for approximately 20 years, claiming the federal government had no right to regulate the public land where he brought his livestock. Confronted with this armed encampment, the federal officials backed down, ultimately returning Bundy’s cows. He was not arrested for the confrontation,1 and as of December, he bragged to reporters, he was continuing to graze his cattle, for free, on federal land.2 Most media accounts treated Bundy as just a cantankerous oddball or, as an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times put it, “a scofflaw with screwy ideas about the Constitution.”3

Michigan Militia members, bearing guns and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, participate in a statewide militia training event called the WOLF Challenge. Image via Photobucket and courtesy of Southeastern Michigan Volunteer Militia (SMVM).

Michigan Militia members, bearing guns and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, participate in a statewide militia training event called the WOLF Challenge. Image via Photobucket and courtesy of Southeastern Michigan Volunteer Militia (SMVM).

More attention has been paid to the U.S. Far Right in recent years, but the media and federal representatives rarely use the word “terrorism” to describe their actions. When Larry McQuilliams, who followed the racist Phineas Priesthood ideology, shot more than 100 rounds at the Austin, TX, police station, federal courthouse, and Mexican Consulate, Austin police used the label, calling him an “extremist” and “American terrorist,” but media reports shied away from such terms, emphasizing his personal struggles.4 At the recent White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the focus was primarily on the threat of global jihad,5 and the 2014 Congressional Research Service report on countering violent extremists discussed only Muslims (although it claimed the material applied to all forms of extremist thought).6 This February, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did release a report on the sovereign citizen movement, one element of the Far Right, but it amounted to barely three pages of substantive text and offered few recommendations for action.7

In the nearly 14 years since 9/11, more people have died in the U.S. from politically-motivated violence perpetrated by right-wing militants than by Muslim militants.8 As in the McQuilliams episode, the majority of these assaults target people who work for the government, particularly law enforcement,9 but perpetrators rarely receive harsh penalties unless they kill or severely injure someone. The disparity between treatment of Muslims and right-wing militants highlights the centrality of political power and vulnerability as factors shaping law enforcement anti-terrorism measures. The “War on Terror” creates tremendous political and social vulnerability for Muslims in the U.S. by associating U.S. Muslims with global jihad.

Right-wing militants, in contrast, benefit from the power of mainstream conservatives. For example, in 2009, the domestic terrorism unit of the DHS released a report10 indicating that right-wing activity posed the most significant terrorism threat in the United States, and that such activity was likely to increase during the Obama administration. Conservative bloggers declared the report was politically motivated and painted all conservative activists as potential terrorists, and conservative politicians reacted negatively as well.11, 12 As a result, the report was taken out of circulation, but the report’s analysis and predictions have since proven accurate.13

The ways in which federal law enforcement agencies describe and classify “terrorism” obscures the extent of violence 
by, and even local policing of, right-wing and Christian mili
tants. To begin with, there is 
some inconsistency in how different types of incidents are labeled in practice by different federal offices, even within DHS, which complicates internal communication.14 The Department of Justice (DoJ) is the lead agency for domestic law enforcement, and they classify “international terrorism” and “domestic terrorism” separately15 (see diagram). The distinction, however, lies more in motivation or organizational affiliation than in geography; for example, a terrorist incident in the U.S. will be characterized as international if the perpetrator is seen as motivated by Islamist beliefs, and domestic if motivated by militant right-wing beliefs. (It’s also a difference that becomes clear when reading the lists of official “terrorism” cases—a list that does not include, for instance, the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.)

Figure 1. FBI/DoJ Classifications of Terrorism

Figure 1. FBI/DoJ Classifications of Terrorism

“Terrorism,” unmodified, is used to refer to international terrorism, involving people or plans that include a demonstrated or attributed link to an international entity. Cases involving Muslims that clearly originate in the U.S. are classified as “homegrown” international terrorism, even though any links to international networks or entities may exist only in the eyes of law enforcement.

The Congressional Research Service defines “domestic terrorists” as “people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based militant ideologies and movements.”16 This somewhat confusing FBI and DoJ distinction between “homegrown” and “domestic” terrorism produces interesting contradictions: in domestic cases involving Christian militants, antisemitism is cast as a U.S.-based ideology, but in “homegrown” cases, it’s evidence of global jihad among Muslims.

The DoJ lists 403 cases of (international) terrorism from September 2001 through March 201017: 11 percent non-Islamist (mostly FARC or Tamil Tigers), 45 percent Islamist, and 44 percent undetermined (mostly cases of fraud or financial misconduct involving someone with an “Arab-sounding” name). The Islamist category includes 30 cases considered to be “homegrown.”

The FBI and DoJ do not provide publicly accessible lists of domestic terrorism cases, which complicates direct comparisons between domestic and homegrown cases. The data that do exist on domestic terrorism, or politically motivated violence, result from examining local, state, and federal law enforcement activity to identify relevant cases. A few nonprofit institutes track domestic political violence and terrorism cases, although their definitions and exact lists vary. For the purposes of this report, I have drawn upon the two most extensive and widely cited.

The Southern Poverty Law Center focuses primarily on right-wing activity, and has the most detailed and comprehensive list.18 The period from September 2001 through December 2010 lists 50 cases, almost double the number of “homegrown” Islamist cases in a similar period, and 21 of the 50 took place in 2009 and 2010, following President Obama’s inauguration. All 50 domestic cases involve elements of the Far Right, from Christian Identity to various militia movements to the KKK and other white supremacist groups. Terrorist acts often involved significant caches of weapons and explosives, with targets ranging from the murder of government representatives to assaults on synagogues or mosques and other Islamic centers.

According to the New America Foundation,19 which tracks cases explicitly classified as terrorism within the U.S., only 41 percent of jihadist plots in the U.S. since 9/11 involved weapons, and in almost one-third of those cases, the weapons were supplied by U.S. government agents. By contrast, 89 percent of domestic terrorism cases involved weapons, and in 92 percent of these cases the arms were acquired without assistance from government agents.

Based on the statistics and analysis of available cases, there are significant differences in the procedures, charges, and penalties in domestic (non-Islamist) and homegrown (usually Islamist) cases. Despite the greater prevalence of incidents and deaths resulting from right-wing violence, U.S. Muslims experience more aggressive surveillance, greater use of informants, more severe charges, and greater use of restrictive confinement once incarcerated.

The differential treatment of right-wing and Muslim cases draws attention to the political contexts surrounding terrorism-related law enforcement, as these disparities only make sense within politically-driven calculations. Mainstream conservative politicians and media personalities protest depictions of right-wing militants as anything more than troubled but patriotic Americans, while Muslim men—particularly young men— are constantly monitored as intrinsic security risks. In the process, Muslims lose Constitutional protections for belief, speech, and association—forced to inhabit an ambiguous territory as “un-American” and presumptively foreign.

SURVEILLANCE AND INFORMANTS

The disparate treatment of the two groups of alleged terrorists begins before charges are ever filed, with how the two are investigated. Covert surveillance is, by definition, difficult to prove unless specific prosecutions or other evidence bring it into public view. A report by the New York University School of Law20 describes systematic surveillance of Muslim communities by the NYPD, FBI, and other law enforcement entities in the U.S. The widespread use of informants in homegrown terrorism cases also indicates an ongoing undercover presence. No evidence exists of similar routine surveillance of communities with significant right-wing activity, and reports and other materials about the Right produced by the FBI, DHS, and Congressional Research Service all emphasize the right to freedom of speech and expression, including the importance of differentiating beliefs from actions. Based on available case summaries, the majority of domestic terrorism prosecutions occur after the perpetrator has taken concrete action or as a consequence of other law enforcement contact, which suggests a low level of ongoing surveillance of right-wing movements.

The New America Foundation data indicate that 46.8 percent of Islamic terrorism cases involve use of an informant but only 27.5 percent of non-Islamic cases do.21 According to a report by Columbia University Law School and Human Rights Watch, 50 percent of federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases, and almost 30 percent were stings.22 (A “sting” refers to a case in which an informant or undercover agent actively developed the case, leading defendants to escalate their activity and often providing explosives or other materials.) The Columbia Law School report found that all but four of the high-profile homegrown terrorism plots of the last 10 years were FBI sting operations. While informants play a role in domestic cases, there is little recent evidence of right-wing cases being built through stings (although there is some history of FBI stings with environmental activists in the early 2000s).

A 2009 case in Newburgh, NY, that became known as the Newburgh Four23, 24 provides an example of an FBI sting operation. Newburgh is a small, formerly industrial city about 60 miles north of New York City, with a substantial African-American population and relatively high poverty rate. In 2011, the city was declared the murder capital of New York state. In the winter of 2009, an FBI informant developed a relationship with an openly antisemitic Muslim man who had a history of drug addiction. The informant offered him $250,000 plus additional luxuries if he would gather a group of Muslims to carry out a terrorist attack.

The man recruited three friends, each of whom had significant financial needs. Each received small amounts of cash during the time the informant guided them in developing a plan to attack Stewart Air National Guard Base and bomb a local synagogue, using explosives and a vehicle provided by the informant. The men were arrested after the informant delivered the men and the explosives to cars provided by the FBI. All four were charged with conspiracy, attempt to use weapons of mass destruction, and plotting to kill U.S. government employees, and were sentenced to 25 years in prison. A judge rejected an appeal based on entrapment, accepting the government’s rationale that the men would have eventually committed terrorism on their own—a theory called “radicalization” that has been used in multiple prosecutions of accused Muslim terrorists.

In contrast, the participation of informants and undercover agents in right-wing cases has been much more limited, and does not involve either initiating a plot or being the only source of weapons or explosive materials. In 2002, Larry Raugust, an anti-government militant well known to law enforcement, gave an explosive device to an undercover agent; he ended up pleading guilty to 15 counts of making bombs, and served just over five years in a federal prison.25 Similarly, in 2005, Gabriel Carafa, a man with ties to the neonazi World Church of the Creator and a racist organization called The Hated, was arrested after he and another man asked an informant to build them a bomb. They were charged with selling 11 guns illegally to police informants and providing 60 pounds of urea for use in building a bomb; Carafa was sentenced to seven years and his accomplice to 10.26 In both of these cases, not only did the defendants acquire their own weapons and explosive materials, but the men had extensive histories of right-wing activism.

The Internet plays an increasingly central role in the development and communication of beliefs, as well as law enforcement monitoring of potentially violent activity. However, the consequences of posting beliefs that signal the potential for violence varies considerably by religion. Adel Daoud was a socially isolated 17-year-old Muslim boy in suburban Chicago who found refuge online. In 2012, he began to post on message boards and write emails relating to violent jihad, at which point the FBI drew him into planning an attack with an undercover agent. In 2013, the agent drove Daoud to a jeep filled with fake explosives, and he was arrested after he tried to trigger the explosives outside a bar they had agreed to target. He was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, and the case is still in court.27

Compare that to the 2010 case of 26-year-old Justin Carl Moose, who described himself as the “Christian counterpart to Osama bin Laden” and posted threats of violence against abortion providers along with information about the use of explosives on his Facebook page. The FBI were tipped off, and Moose pled guilty to distributing information on the manufacture and use of explosives. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and was released early, despite having demonstrated knowledge of explosives and his alignment with a movement that has an extensive track record of murders and destruction of medical facilities.28

SEVERITY OF CHARGES

As the five cases described above suggest, the charges and prison sentences faced by defendants in right-wing terrorism cases are significantly lower than those in homegrown cases. The key difference is usually in the specific charges brought. Many right-wing acts of violence are simply never prosecuted as “terrorism,” which has significant consequences due to terrorism “adjustments” to sentencing guidelines that increase the penalty for any given offense.29 Domestic cases largely involve charges of weapons possession (including explosives and/or assault weapons), murder, or attempted murder; most of these are filed and prosecuted at the state and local level.

While weapons possession may sound like a minor offense, and often results in sentences of less than 10 years, the actual quantity of weapons involved can be considerable. David Burgert, the leader of a militia-style group called Project 7 who was wanted for assaulting police officers, was found with 25,000 rounds of ammunition and multiple pipe bombs; he was sentenced to seven years.30 In a separate case, a series of raids on militia members in rural Pennsylvania netted 16 bombs and at least 73 other weapons, but none of the militia members served more than three years in prison.31 The quantity of armaments involved in many of the right-wing terrorism cases calls for a response of a corresponding order of magnitude, especially in light of the sentences given to Muslims who never independently obtained a weapon of any kind.

Marchers with the Project SALAM Journey for Justice protest the incarceration of Mohammed Hossain and Yassin Aref, Muslim men convicted of providing material support for terrorism as part of an FBI sting. Photo via Flickr, courtesy of Vanessa Lynch, orangeinkeducation.wordpress.com.

Marchers with the Project SALAM Journey for Justice protest the incarceration of Mohammed Hossain and Yassin Aref, Muslim men convicted of providing material support for terrorism as part of an FBI sting. Photo via Flickr, courtesy of Vanessa Lynch, orangeinkeducation.wordpress.com.

Homegrown terrorism cases, on the other hand, are prosecuted using a wider and more severe array of charges. Sixteen of the 30 homegrown cases listed by the DoJ included conspiracy charges, which can carry high sentences even in the absence of a completed criminal act.

Prosecutors may combine both “conspiracy” and “attempt to commit” charges in cases in which no actual violence took place, including sting cases where the only weapons involved were provided by FBI agents or informants. Domestic terrorism cases that include charges of attempt to assault or murder almost always base the charge on the active use of a weapon—usually shooting at a law enforcement officer but sometimes activating an explosive device.

The issue of conspiracy charges throws into stark relief the demonization and excessive surveillance of American Muslims. In 2008, five men were convicted of conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military, and four of the five were convicted of possession of firearms. Four of the men were sentenced to life and the other to 33 years, even though no actual assault or violence took place. The case of the Fort Dix Five, as it came to be known, was primarily built through the use of an informant who actively guided the youngest of the five men—then just 19 years old—to collect videos depicting jihad-oriented violence, develop a hazy “plot” to attack Fort Dix, and recruit his friends to participate. The evidence at trial included a map of Fort Dix that one of the defendants had used to deliver pizza, and the claim that paintball games and camping trips were “jihadi training.”32 However absurd this may sound, this interpretation of both paintball and camping while Muslim has been used in other trials, and notes from the NYPD’s surveillance of the Brooklyn College Islamic Society include references to “militant paintball trips.”33

The 2010 Hutaree militia case provides a very interesting contrast to this treatment of Muslims. In 2008, the FBI planted an informant with the Hutaree militia group in Michigan, and followed their activities for two years before initiating an arrest with charges of seditious conspiracy and attempt to use weapons of mass destruction based on the group’s plan to kill police officers and plant bombs at their funerals. A judge dismissed the conspiracy charges and dropped all charges against six of the nine defendants on the grounds that their hatred of law enforcement was not evidence of a conspiracy.34 Three men in the group pled guilty to weapons possession, and two of them were released on just two years’ supervision.35 While the informant taped conversations with the militia members, he does not appear to have conducted a sting operation. When Muslims express hostility towards the U.S. government or law enforcement, this has been treated as evidence of radicalization and intent to engage in acts of terrorism, but, at least in this case, a U.S. judge heard these same sentiments much differently when uttered by right-wing activists.

The majority of cases of homegrown terrorism analyzed in the report by Columbia, and a significant percentage of international cases, involve charges of material support for terrorism.36 The original statute on material support for terrorism,37 passed in 1994 after the first World Trade Center bombing, criminalized the provision of weapons, physical goods, money, or training to terrorists and terrorist organizations, but included specific free speech protections and exemptions for humanitarian aid.38 Subsequent versions of the law removed the free speech protection, narrowed the humanitarian aid exception, broadened the scope of what counts as “material support,” and increased the penalties for conspiracies and attempts to provide support. The material support statute applies to “designated terrorist organizations,” but the FBI’s list of designated terrorist organizations, available on its website, includes no domestic organizations of any ideological 
bent. As a result, material support charges have no analog among domestic terrorism cases, despite 
the existence of longstanding right-wing organizations associated with political violence.39 In
 blunt terms, if a person gives money to the KKK, they will not be prosecuted for material support to terrorists. Although it might technically be possible to bring such charges, in practice, it simply doesn’t happen.

But the material support statute has become central to the prosecution of Muslims accused of terrorism. One of the more prominent prosecutions on material support concerned the Holy Land Foundation, a large Muslim charity in the U.S. that provided aid to zakat (charitable) committees in the West Bank and Gaza. The zakat committees were not involved in violent activities but supported the social services instituted by Hamas, which was designated a terrorist organization in 1997. This secondhand connection to the social services arm of Hamas resulted in the use of material support charges to close down the Holy Land Foundation and convict the senior administrators on terrorism-related charges in 2009, with sentences from 15 to 65 years.40

The Holy Land Foundation case is not an outlier or an isolated example. In fact, 65 percent of the homegrown cases analyzed in detail by Columbia included charges of conspiracy and/or attempt to provide material support to terrorists, resulting in sentences ranging from five to 30 years in prison. The Columbia analysis of all terrorism prosecutions conducted by the DoJ from 2001 to 2011 found that more than 25 percent involved charges of material support or conspiracy, indicating that these charges are more common among homegrown cases than genuinely international ones.

Beyond individual cases, the surveillance of Muslim communities, the use of informants, and the question of material support create a fear that limits development of community support for those caught in terrorism prosecutions, effectively isolating family members of accused or convicted “terrorists.”

While the discourse of terrorism situates Muslims accused of violence as part of a worldwide terror network, their right-wing counterparts are usually depicted as “Lone Wolves,” acting alone.

CONDITIONS OF INCARCERATION

The limited data available on domestic cases makes a direct comparison of the conditions of incarceration difficult, although some inferences can be made. The U.S. penal system has developed stringent conditions of confinement and management that can be applied under a variety of circumstances, especially at the federal level. The federal system includes the Administrative Maximum Penitentiary (ADX) Florence supermax prison in Colorado, where almost all prisoners are held in solitary confinement for 23 hours of every day. According to the Bureau of Prisons, in 2013 the ADX was holding 41 prisoners designated as “terrorists,” the majority of whom are of Muslim background. The UN Committee Against Torture has raised the question as to whether the extensive use of solitary confinement in the U.S. constitutes a form of torture.41 (See sidebar: Brutality Made Visible)

While virtually all U.S. prisons have the structural capacity for solitary confinement, the federal system has the additional ability to impose two highly restrictive forms of communication control. Communication Management Units (CMUs) were created in 2006 to isolate certain prisoners from contact with the outside world; all forms of communication with family, friends, and other prisoners are limited, and physical contact with family and friends is completely banned. Muslims make up over two-thirds of prisoners in CMUs, even though they account for only six percent of the total federal prison population.42 Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) also restrict a prisoner’s communication and contact with others in ways that vary from case to case, and have become routine in terrorism cases, including during pre-trial detention.43 Since the vast majority of cases formally designated as “terrorism” in the U.S. are “homegrown,” these extreme forms of control and confinement overwhelmingly affect Muslims. Almost 50 percent of the homegrown cases reviewed by the Columbia Law School report involved significant pre-trial solitary and/or restricted communication, which had a negative effect on the development of a legal defense. These high levels of isolation and control of communication are justified by the portrayal of Muslims living in America as representatives of global terrorist networks.

While there are no comparable reports on the conditions in which right-wing terrorists are held in U.S. prisons, the disproportionate use of pre-trial solitary, SAMs, CMUs, ADX, and other highly restrictive settings with Muslims indicates differential treatment, as does the extent of organized community support for incarcerated right-wing activists.

For prisoners who are not subject to isolation and restrictions on communication, contact with the outside world can be a vital source of affirmation, in addition to mundane assistance like commissary credits or care packages. Organizations on the Right openly provide support for and maintain contact with incarcerated individuals who share their political perspective, even those convicted of murder, such as Scott Roeder44, 45 and Timothy McVeigh.46 The anti-abortion movement, in particular, generally does not sever ties to those who have been incarcerated for violence against abortion providers. This level of organization reflects how much right-wing violence is grounded in social movements, even if individual perpetrators appear to be lone actors.

SIDEBAR: Brutality Made Visible

Terrorism trials have drawn some attention to the use of harsh pre-trial detention as a method for extracting guilty pleas, and of solitary confinement for prisoners convicted of terrorism. However, extended pre-trial confinement has become the norm for low-income Americans who cannot afford bail, and solitary confinement is used extensively throughout U.S. jails and prisons, including for people awaiting trial.

In 2010, 76 percent of defendants in federal district courts were detained pre-trial, up from 59 percent in 1995.1 The Center for Constitutional Rights currently has a class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at a California prison who are serving indeterminate sentences in SHU (Security Housing Unit, a form of solitary confinement), usually on the basis of their alleged gang membership or affiliation. Five hundred men in the CCR lawsuit have been in SHU for at least 10 years.2

Incarceration practices based on extreme methods of control and isolation also predate the “War on Terror”: the federal supermax prison ADX Florence opened in Colorado in 1994, and special administrative measures (SAMs) to control communication and contact began in 1996. Over the last 10 years, the process of resource adaptation has become bidirectional, as institutional architecture designed for the War on Terror has been used for other purposes. The use of military vehicles on the streets of Ferguson was a nationally visible example of militarized policing, but it’s not the only one. Away from the public eye, “intelligence fusion centers,” which bring together multiple levels of law enforcement, were originally intended to monitor terrorism threats but have instead focused the majority of their activity on drug and immigration cases.3

As these examples demonstrate, repressive measures and violations of civil or human rights spread outward from their original context, whether the example is solitary confinement for alleged gang members or expanded intelligence gathering systems brought to local police. Similarly, the procedures and processes permitted in federal terrorism trials also create precedents that could be drawn upon in other circumstances.

INDIVIDUALIZATION OF RIGHT-WING VIOLENCE

While the discourse of terrorism situates Muslims accused of violence as part of a worldwide terror network, their right-wing counterparts are usually depicted as “Lone Wolves,” acting alone. As a result, the social and organizational contexts for right-wing violence are systematically erased.

When the authors of the April 2009 DHS report on right-wing extremism put out a draft version for review, the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties argued for a narrow definition of “right-wing extremist” that would be limited to persons known to have committed violence themselves and exclude those who were members of or who donated money to organizations with well-known histories of violence, such as the KKK.47 The DHS report maintained a broader definition that included groups and social movements, but the overall trend has been toward viewing perpetrators of right-wing violence as isolated actors. The February 2015 DHS report on right-wing extremists, for example, focused exclusively on the sovereign citizen movement, which was described as engaging in low levels of often spontaneous violence that take a highly individualized and non-symbolic form, such as a threat or assault towards a specific individual law enforcement officer or government representative.48 For example, the DHS report describes an incident in which a sovereign citizen in Alaska conspired to murder an Internal Revenue Service officer and a judge who oversaw legal proceedings against him.

The individualized “Lone Wolf ” model of viewing right-wing violence reflects an intentional change in strategy by right-wing militant groups. In 1987, the government indicted a core group of 14 visible national leaders within right-wing militant movements, all associated with the 1983 Aryan World Congress, on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government. They were acquitted at trial, but the experience led one of the men, Louis Beam, to republish an essay he had written calling for “leaderless resistance” as a way to evade infiltration and surveillance.49 Over the past 10-15 years, most incidents of right-wing violence have been carried out by individuals or small groups, in keeping with the philosophy of leaderless resistance and Lone Wolf action. However, a decision to act alone does not mean acting outside of social movement frameworks, philosophies, and networks.

Research has shown that, at the time they engage in political violence, the majority of so-called Lone Wolves are over 30 years old. A comparison of case descriptions shows that many have had significant histories of participation in Hard Right movements.50 Preliminary findings from a study of individual radicalization point to the importance of social ties with other militants as a key element of the radicalization process, again casting doubt on the model of the isolated actor.51 Another study found that organizations whose members commit violence have higher levels of interconnection with other movement organizations than groups not associated with violence.52 The findings from these two studies fit with the age and movement experience of Lone Wolves while challenging the model of the isolated actor. Scott Roeder, Dr. Tiller’s assassin, saw himself as acting as part of a movement even if he was not representing a specific organization.

Scott Roeder, Dr. Tiller’s assassin, saw himself as acting as part of a movement even if he was not representing a specific organization.

Politically, the organizational and national contexts for right-wing activists disappear in the focus on the individual, while the individuality and immediate social context for the actions of Muslims are rendered invisible by the focus on the global.

SEPARATE LAW ENFORCEMENT RULES FOR MUSLIMS?

Law enforcement action shows two substantially different patterns in relation to Muslims and right-wing activists. The (appropriate) concern for protecting free speech and association expressed in law enforcement materials on right-wing organizations and activists stands in stark contrast to the criminalization of both speech and association among Muslims. Reports by the Columbia and NYU schools of law describe the targeting of vulnerable individuals and communities, with informants building relationships with men who have expressed certain political or religious beliefs but who have not independently voiced an intent to commit violence. The cases of the Newburgh Four and the Fort Dix Five illustrate the centrality of informants and the lack of evidence of independent violent action—or the necessary resources for such—in the prosecution of these cases. These cases stand in sharp contrast to the large weapons caches and self-organization of right-wing activists, who, like Larry Raugust, are more likely to give explosives to an informant than to acquire them from one.

The prosecution of Muslims in the absence of independent action has been justified by using a theory of radicalization that argues defendants would have eventually committed terrorism without the assistance of informants. Multiple theories of radicalization exist within the study of militant movements, including some that examine processes across diverse political or religious movements. In law enforcement, models of radicalization have been part of larger frameworks that heighten the fear of hidden dangers.53 For example, the theory of radicalization used in prosecutions of Muslims caught by sting operations derives from a 2007 NYPD report that described a “religious conveyor belt” from belief to action.54 This theory has no support in social science research and situates constitutionally protected beliefs as evidence of the probability to commit violence. The core constitutional principles of freedom of religion and freedom of speech and association are repeatedly violated in relation to Muslims in arguments made in the courts as well as in surveillance practices, recruitment of informants, and day-to-day law enforcement.

POLITICS, RISK, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT

Data on militant violence in the U.S. suggest that the primary factors directing federal attention involve political calculations and Islamophobia, not any danger posed by their communities. Speaking anonymously, a former DHS agent compared the FBI’s sting operations in Muslim communities to the practice of police leaving an expensive car unlocked in a poor urban neighborhood: if law enforcement provides a large enough incentive, he suggested, then eventually someone will make criminal use of it.

While it’s politically useful for federal authorities to demonstrate progress on prosecuting terrorism—even if it often involves trumped-up cases—the flip side of that political reality is the conservative politicians and writers who see discussions of right-wing political violence as a threat to their own constituency, downplaying the severity of the threat from the Far Right. A July 2014 study found that law enforcement rated sovereign extremists the number one terrorist threat in the U.S.,55 and the February 2015 DHS report on right-wing extremism documented the extent of assaults on law enforcement and other government personnel.56 But saying this publicly has consistently led to hostile responses from conservative media. The DoJ Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee was re-launched in June 201457 but, as of February 2015, had not yet held a meeting, according to a former DHS analyst. It’s worth noting that right-wing violence has also increased in Europe58 and Israel59 over the past several years, but this trend is similarly invisible across the Western political discourse of terror- ism. In Europe, it was the Charlie Hebdo attacks that became emblematic of terrorism, not the Anders Breivik massacre in Norway, even though Breivik’s attacks were six times deadlier.

Many Muslims convicted of terrorism can only be understood as dangerous if their actual life circumstances are subsumed by a narrative of global jihad.

The differential treatment of Islamic and far-right terrorism cases only becomes explicable through the lens of political calculation. The Right Wing is an entrenched element of the U.S. cultural and political power structure, raising the costs of high profile law enforcement action. The primary targets of federal anti-terrorism investigations have been Muslim men defined by their vulnerability rather than their power. In late February, the latest case to hit the news involved a young man who wanted to go to Syria to fight for ISIS, but his FBI handler had to procure his travel documents, because his mother wouldn’t give him his passport.60

This 19-year-old can only be understood as dangerous if his actual life circumstances are subsumed by a narrative of global jihad. This pattern of systemic targeting and differential prosecution is fully in keeping with well-documented law enforcement practices of racial/ethnic profiling of African Americans and with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. The suppression of information about right-wing movements creates a double-erasure in which Muslims can only be seen through the lens of the global “War on Terror,” while right-wing militants continue to be depicted as isolated and troubled individuals instead of social movement actors. This combination may serve a range of political and economic interests, but it does little for the health and safety of the U.S. population.

The FBI and DoJ distinction between “homegrown” and “domestic” terrorism is a political creation and should be ended. The “homegrown” classification locates Muslims as foreign agents operating in the U.S., not as part of the social fabric of this country. The portrayal of U.S. Muslims as potential or actual representatives of global jihad is used to justify the denial of constitutional protections and leads to representing ordinary men—asking religious questions, criticizing the U.S. government, or even going camping with their friends—as a threat to society. It is past time to apply the same constitutional protections to everyone, and develop a response to terrorism based in analysis of patterns of violence instead of political costs and benefits.

Naomi Braine is an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Brooklyn College, CUNY, and a lifelong activist in struggles for social justice. Her political and intellectual work has addressed mass incarceration, the “War on Drugs”/drug policy, HIV and collective action, and, more recently, the “War on Terror.”

Endnotes

  1. Jaime Fuller, “Everything You Need to Know about the Long Fight between Cliven Bundy and the Federal Government.” Washington Post, April 5, 2014. Online at http:// www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ the-fix/wp/2014/04/15/everything- you-need-to-know-about-the-long- fight-between-cliven-bundy-and-the- federal-government/.
  2. Valerie Richardson, “Cliven Bundy Taunts Feds by Enjoying the ‘freedoms’ to Graze His Cattle on Disputed Land.” Washington Times, December 29, 2014. Online at http://www.washingtontimes.com/ news/2014/dec/29/rancher-cliven- bundy-still-grazing-his-cattle-on- d/?page=all.
  3. David Horsey, “Cliven Bundy’s Militamen Are Neither Terrorists nor Patriots.” Los Angeles Times. April 22, 2014. Online at http://www. latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/ la-na-tt-cliven-bundys-militiamen- 20140421-story.html.
  4. Chase Hoffberger and Michael King, “Shooter Had ‘Hate in His Heart.’” Austin Chronicle, December 5, 2014. Online at http://www. austinchronicle.com/news/2014-12- 05/shooter-had-hate-in-his-heart/.
  5. Paul Shinkman, “Obama Continues Push to Separate Islam, Extremists.” US News & World Report, February 19, 2015. Online at http://www.usnews.com/news/ articles/2015/02/19/amid-criticism- obama-continues-push-to-separate- islam-extremists.
  6. Congressional Research Service. Countering Violent Extremism in the United States. By Jerome P. Bjelopera, February 19, 2014.
  7. Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Sovereign Citizen Extremist Ideology Will Drive Violence at Home, During Travel, and at Government Facilities. Dept. of Homeland Security, February 5, 2015.
  8. “Deadly Attacks Since 9/11.” New America Foundation. Online at http://securitydata.newamerica.net/ extremists/deadly-attacks.html.
  9. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages SinceOklahomaCity.January1,2012. Online at http://www.splcenter.org/ get-informed/publications/terror- from-the-right.
  10. Office of Intelligence and Analysis Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Dept. of Homeland Security, April 7, 2009.
  11. “DHS’ Domestic Terror Warning Angers GOP.” CBSNews. April 16, 2009. Online at http://www. cbsnews.com/news/dhs-domestic- terror-warning-angers-gop/.
  12. Heidi Beirich. Southern Poverty Law Center. Inside the DHS: Former Top Analyst Says Agency Bowed to Political Pressure. January 1, 2011. Online at http://www.splcenter.org/ get-informed/intelligence-report/ browse-all-issues/2011/summer/ inside-the-dhs-former-top-analyst- says-agency-bowed.
  13. Heidi Beirich. Southern Poverty Law Center. Inside the DHS: Former Top Analyst Says Agency Bowed to Political Pressure. January 1, 2011. Online at http://www.splcenter.org/ get-informed/intelligence-report/ browse-all-issues/2011/summer/ inside-the-dhs-former-top-analyst- says-agency-bowed.
  14. Personal Communication with former DHS Agent.
  15. The FBI’s official definitions of terrorism differentiate only between “international terrorism” and “domestic terrorism,” however the list of “terrorism” cases formerly available on the DoJ website includes 28 cases considered “homegrown” and no cases involving the radical right. Online at http://www.fbi.gov/about- us/investigate/terrorism/terrorism- definition.
  16. Congressional Research Service. The Domestic Terror Threat: Background and Issues for Congress. By Jerome P. Bjelopera, January 27, 2013.
  17. Department of Justice. Introduction to National Security Division Statistics on Unsealed International Terrorism and Terrorism-Related Convictions. 2010. Online at https://fas.org/irp/agency/ doj/doj032610-stats.pdf.
  18. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  19. “Homegrown Extremism 2001- 2015.” New America Foundation. Online at http://securitydata. newamerica.net/extremists/analysis. html.
  20. NYU School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the “Homegrown Threat” in the United States. 2011. Online at http://www. nlg-npap.org/sites/default/files/ targetedandentrapped.pdf.
  21. “Homegrown Extremism 2001- 2015.” New America Foundation. Online at http://securitydata. newamerica.net/extremists/analysis. html.
  22. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/ files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  23. NYU School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the “Homegrown Threat” in the United States. 2011. Online at http://www. nlg-npap.org/sites/default/files/ targetedandentrapped.pdf.
  24. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/ files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  25. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  26. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  27. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/ default/files/reports/usterrorism0714_ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  28. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  29. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/ default/files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  30. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  31. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  32. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/ default/files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  33. Chris Hawley and Matt Apuzzo, “NYPD Infiltration of Colleges Raises Privacy Fears.” October 11, 2011. Online at http://www.ap.org/Content/AP-In- The-News/2011/NYPD-infiltration-of- colleges-raises-privacy-fears.
  34. Julia Greenberg, “Michigan Militia Members Acquitted of Conspiracy; Leader Faces Lesser Charges.” CNN. March 28, 2012. Online at http:// www.cnn.com/2012/03/28/justice/ michigan-militia-trial/.
  35. Southern Poverty Law Center. Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. January 1, 2012. Online at http:// www.splcenter.org/get-informed/ publications/terror-from-the-right.
  36. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/ default/files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  37. Congressional Research Service. Terrorist Material Support: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. 2339A and 2339B. By Charles Doyle, July 19, 2010.
  38. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/ default/files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  39. Steven Chermak, Joshua Freilich, and Michael Suttmoeller, “The Organizational Dynamics of Far-Right Hate Groups in the United States: Comparing Violent to Nonviolent Organizations,” in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. Routledge, 2013.
  40. Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions. July 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/sites/ default/files/reports/usterrorism0714_ ForUpload_0_0_0.pdf.
  41. “Submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture.” Human Rights Watch. October 20, 2014. Online at http://www.hrw.org/ news/2014/10/20/submission-united- nations-committee-against-torture.
  42. “CMUs: The Federal Prison System’s Experiment in Social Isolation.” Center for Constitutional Rights. March 1, 2013. Online at http://ccrjustice.org/ cmu-factsheet.
  43. Andrew Dalack, “Special Administrative Measures and the War on Terror: When do Extreme Pretrial Detention Measures Offend the Constitution?” in Michigan Journal on Race and Law, vol 19(2). 2014.
  44. Amanda Robb, “Not A Lone Wolf.” Ms. Magazine. January 1, 2010. Online at http://www.msmagazine.com/ spring2010/lonewolf.asp.
  45. Robin Marty, “Meet Joe Scheidler, Patriarch of the Anti-Abortion Movement.” Political Research Associates. January 23, 2015. Online at http://www.politicalresearch. org/2015/01/23/meet-joe-scheidler- patriarch-of-the-anti-abortion- movement/.
  46. Prior to McVeigh’s execution, there were multiple websites that facilitated communication between McVeigh and his supporters.
  47. Heidi Beirich. Southern Poverty Law Center. Inside the DHS: Former Top Analyst Says Agency Bowed to Political Pressure. January 1, 2011. Online at http://www.splcenter.org/ get-informed/intelligence-report/ browse-all-issues/2011/summer/ inside-the-dhs-former-top-analyst-says- agency-bowed.
  48. Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Sovereign Citizen Extremist Ideology Will Drive Violence at Home, During Travel, and at Government Facilities. Dept. of Homeland Security, February 5, 2015.
  49. Ryan Lenz, “The Age of the Wolf.” Southern Poverty Law Center. February 12, 2015. Online at http://www. splcenter.org/lone-wolf.
  50. Ryan Lenz, “The Age of the Wolf.” Southern Poverty Law Center. February 12, 2015. Online at http://www. splcenter.org/lone-wolf.
  51. Jensen, Michael, Patrick James, and Herbert Tinsley, “Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States: Preliminary Findings.” National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. January 2015. Online at https://www. start.umd.edu/pubs/PIRUS%20 Research%20Brief_Jan%202015.pdf.
  52. Steven Chermak, Joshua Freilich, and Michael Suttmoeller, “The Organizational Dynamics of Far-Right Hate Groups in the United States: Comparing Violent to Nonviolent Organizations,” in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. Routledge, 2013.
  53. Jeffrey Monaghan, “Security Traps and Discourses of Radicalization: Examining Surveillance Practices Targeting Muslims in Canada.” Surveillance and Society, vol 12(4). 2014.
  54. NYU School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the “Homegrown Threat” in the United States. 2011. Online at http://www. nlg-npap.org/sites/default/files/ targetedandentrapped.pdf.
  55. David Carter, Steve Chermak, Jeremy Carter, and Jack Drew, Understanding Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes: Report to the Office of University Programs, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. July 2014.
  1. Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Sovereign Citizen Extremist Ideology Will Drive Violence at Home, During Travel, and at Government Facilities. Dept. of Homeland Security, February 5, 2015.
  2. “Reestablishment of Committee on Domestic Terrorism: Statement of Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.” Main Justice. June 3, 2014. Online at http:// www.mainjustice.com/2014/06/03/ reestablishment-of-committee-on- domestic-terrorism-statement-of-atty- gen-eric-holder/.
  3. Vidhya Ramalingam, “The European Far Right Is on the Rise, Again.” The Guardian. February 13, 2014. Online at http://www.theguardian. com/commentisfree/2014/feb/13/ european-far-right-on-the-rise-how-to- tackle.
  4. Inna Lazareva, “Far-Right Extremism on the Rise in Israel as Gaza Conflict Continues.” The Telegraph. July 26, 2014. Online at http://www. telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/ middleeast/israel/10992623/Far- Right-extremism-on-the-rise-in-Israel- as-Gaza-conflict-continues.html.
  5. Marc Santora and Nate Schweber, “In Brooklyn, Eager to Join ISIS, If Only His Mother Would Return His Passport.” The New York Times. February 26, 2015. Online at http://www.nytimes. com/2015/02/27/nyregion/isis-plot- brooklyn-men.html?ref=nyregion&_ r=0.

Sidebar Endnotes:

  1. U.S. Department of Justice. Pretrial Detention and Misconduct in Federal District Courts, 1995-2010. By Thomas H. Cohen. February 2013. Online at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ pdmfdc9510.pdf.
  2. “Torture: The Use of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons.” Center for Constitutional Rights. Online at http://ccrjustice.org/solitary-factsheet.
  3. U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Federal Support for and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers. October 3, 2012.

Rand Paul’s Islamophobic Speeches a Ploy to Win Over Conservatives

Sen Rand Paul speaks at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

Sen. Rand Paul speaks at the 2013 Values Voters Summit

At the recent Values Voters Summit, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) spoke on the “War on Christianity”, but his speech was not about prayer in schools or the so-called ‘war on Christmas,’ his focus was radical Islam. Our live blog of the summit outlines his argument, which stresses that Christians around the world are being threatened by “a fanatical element of Islam,” and used isolated incidents of violence against Christians as an excuse to paint every Muslim worldwide as radical and evil. The speech has been widely condemned as hateful, bigoted, and wildly inaccurate.

In all likelihood, his hyperbolic war rhetoric was simply a dramatic attempt to broaden his support beyond the libertarian wing of the GOP to curry favor with the wider Tea Party movement, neoconservatives, and the Christian Right. If so, it is a dangerous game.

This is not the first time Rand Paul has used the threat of a radical Islam boogeyman for political advantage. His PAC ran advertisements against Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), attacking foreign aid to Egypt, Libya, and Pakistan, and painting the governments and citizens of those states as “Anti-American regimes and radical jihadists.” He has also argued for those that attend radical speeches promoting the overthrow of their governments to be deported or put in prison. All the while, Paul continues to support American citizens who continually and frequently threaten to overthrow the U.S. government. While Paul does not attack Islam nearly as much as some of his Tea Party colleagues, he is no stranger to using Islam for political advantage. Not only has he attacked Muslims before, but he gave a very similar speech back in June, at a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. This message is nothing new, but it is being hammered home.

What is consistently and glaringly missing from Paul’s anti-Muslim speeches is any mention of the multitude of attacks by Christians against Muslims, or most other faiths for that matter. There is still, for example, widespread discrimination against Muslims in Bulgaria, a predominantly Christian country. This does not mean that there is a ‘War on Islam,’ but neither do Paul’s examples prove a ‘war on Christianity.’

According to Paul, the “war on Christians … came to Boston this year just in time for the marathon”. Beyond the awful phrasing used, he then goes on to completely undermine his argument, admitting that the bombers didn’t target Christians specifically. Despite this admission, he suggests that the motive of the bombing was to attack “us as a people, a Christian people.” Not only is that logic insulting to religious freedom in the U.S., but logically makes any terrorist attack against Americans an assault on a particular faith, rather than on our people as a whole and on our nation.

Beyond simply attacking Islamic radicalism, his other stated goal is to stop the U.S. giving “giving aid and comfort” to these countries, with an emphasis on aid. With specific mentions of refusing aid to the Muslim Brotherhood, and halting the arming of rebels in Syria, he is moving closer to the Tea Party consensus on those issues, whilst still offering his libertarian base spending reductions. One of his more bizarre statements was that “I say not one penny more to countries that burn our flag,” referring to an incident in Egypt in which private citizens, not the Egyptian government, burned a U.S. flag. Obviously, withdrawing foreign aid designed to assist in the prevention of widespread poverty and disease for such reasons would establish an absurd precedent.

Assuming he did not make this speech purely out of a conviction that Islam threatens Christianity, why would Paul use a speech at the Values Voters Summit to attack Islam, rather than talk about the much more topical government shutdown?  Considering the audience at the summit, an audience that is not traditionally libertarian, the reasons becomes clearer. This is just one speech in a process of “quietly making himself acceptable to the ‘conservative mainstream.’” One of Paul’s and the libertarian movement’s most striking weaknesses within the GOP is foreign policy. To the largely hawkish Republican mainstream, and the similarly inclined Tea Party movement, the stances of Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul before him have, by and large, been unpalatable. By accusing Islamic states of supporting a radical “war on Christianity,” Paul has found a common scapegoat. Alongside the ‘strong’ foreign policy stance against these Islamic nations, his narrative also matches the tone of the Christian Right, alleging that Christianity is under fire, even if the circumstances in Egypt are utterly unlike any situation in the US. In covering so much popular ground, Paul may be increasing his chances in a possible GOP presidential primary, at only a slight risk of alienating his base.

With only 6% of the vote in the Values Voters straw poll, Paul hardly won over the crowd. Despite trying to find common ground in his speech, more Far Right conservative candidates, including Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, proved considerably more popular. Nevertheless, through the cherry-picking of instances of religious violence, Rand Paul has brought himself closer to the Tea Party movement as a whole.

Is the Obama Administration Serious about Anti-Muslim Demonization in Law Enforcement?

On August 4, 2011, the White House released a new strategy to counter violent extremism. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) expressed support for the plan, Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States, which must be seen as a rejection of the Senator Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) and Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) narrow focus on Islamic-inspired terrorism as the pre-eminent domestic threat. The administration’s plan recognizes that “individuals from a broad array of communities and walks of life in the United States have been radicalized to support or commit acts of ideologically-inspired violence.”

The vagueness of the plan combined with its calls for monitoring, more policing of communities, and early intervention to stave off undefined “extremism,” may undermine civil liberties and constitutional freedoms. Plus, the strategy’s emphasis on violence inspired by ideology may do more to elevate fears of terrorism that are out of proportion with the actual threat. As Charles Kurzmanreminds us this week, 15,000 people are murdered each year in the United States:

Islamic terrorism, including the Beltway sniper attacks, has accounted for almost three dozen deaths in America since 9/11—a small fraction of the violence that the country experiences every year. The toll would have been higher if the perpetrators had been more competent . . . Even so, the number of perpetrators has been relatively low. Fewer than 200 Muslim-Americans have engaged in terrorist plots over the past decade—that’s out of a population of approximately two million. This constitutes a serious problem, but not nearly as grave as public concern would suggest.

But there is good news in this document. The Obama White House takes a decided stance against the fearmongering and scapegoating of Muslims that is on the rise in our political discourse, and even with domestic security and law enforcement circles.

White House Plan Cautions Against Demonizing Muslim Americans

While the White House prioritizes the threat from al-Qa’ida in this strategy, it calls on law enforcement and federal agencies to counter propaganda that the United States “is somehow at war with Islam.” The plan reminds the public once again that

The United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Islam is part of America, a country that cherishes the active participation of all its citizens, regardless of background and belief. We live what al-Qa’ida violently rejects – religious freedom and pluralism.

The White House calls for a paradigm of engagement with Muslim communities based on mutual respect, warning that “our words and deeds can either fuel or counter violent ideologies.”

Here, the White House rhetorically condemns any “actions and statements that cast suspicion toward entire communities, promote hatred and division, and send messages to certain Americans that they are somehow less American because of their faith or how they look.” Such actions “reinforce violent extremist propaganda and feed the sense of disenchantment and disenfranchisement that may spur violent extremist radicalization.” But so far, federal agencies have not taken decisive, official action to prevent such destructive and counter-productive messages from being promoted within the ranks of the intelligence community.

Is Law Enforcement Getting the Message?

The White House is relying on local, state, and federal law enforcement to interact with individuals and deter them from using violence. Yet groups like the International Counter Terrorism Officers Association (ICTOA) are sending divisive messages to those very same ranks. The ICTOA is a private association of law enforcement and security professionals founded by NYPD officers. The ICTOA was profiled in a recent report by Political Research Associates called Manufacturing the Muslim Menace because it belongs to a pattern of flawed and biased trainings for law enforcement.

As reported by blogger Richard Bartholomew, the upcoming Ninth Conference of the ICTOA will include Senior Intelligence Analyst William Gawthrop. Speakers like Gawthrop cast suspicion on Muslims in precisely the way the White House has condemned.

Senior Intelligence Analyst Cites “High Birthrates” as Islamic “Tool of Penetration” 

A retired U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, Gawthrop once worked as program manager for the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). According to the ACLU, CIFA was responsible for amassing secret databases on peaceful protest until the program was shut down in August 2008. In October, Gawthrop will be speaking to police officers, sheriffs, and intelligence analysts from around the country whose travel to the event is made possible by public tax dollars. He will present on the “Influence of the Sharia on Law Enforcement Investigations.” In a paper on the same topic, Gawthrop echoes GOP presidential candidates like Hermain Cain when he questions whether Muslim police or intelligence officers can effectively interview terrorism subjects, based on an assumed “divided loyalty.” After detailing what he described as Islamic legal prescriptions on keeping secrets and lying, Gawthrop writes:

Conflicting ideological beliefs impose an encumbrance on the believer. If the believer is also an investigator or analyst shouldering the responsibilities of an intelligence or law enforcement investigation, and he is confronted with a divided loyalty situation, it is logical that the believer may adhere to the calling of the higher authority. 

(Wm. Gawthrop, “The Influence of Islamic Law on Intelligence and Law Enforcement,” The Vanguard: Journal f the Military Intelligence Corps Association, Vol. 16, No. 1 Jan 2011, p. 9-19).

In other contexts, Gawthrop’s observations on Islam are far more inflammatory. In a working draft paper on “Islam’s Tools of Penetration,” Gawthrop cites Muslim immigration and “high birthrates” as methods for Islam’s supposed conquest of the world. He writes:

  • Westerners are not able to maintain their present numbers
  • Only Poland, Ireland, Malta, and Israel have naturally growing populations.
  • Muslims have some of the most robust birth rates in the world.
  • John R. Weeks study: Countries with large numbers of Muslims have a crude birth rate of 42 per thousand.
  • Developed countries have a crude birth rate of just 13 per thousand
  • 6 children per Muslim woman, 1.7 per woman in the developed countries

(Wm. Gawthrop, “Islam’s Tools of Penetration,” Working Draft, p. 39). This birth rate motif emerges from folks who worry about the “Islamicization of Europe” and the “Demographic Winter.” The message is both fundamentally racist and white supremacist, with close ties to the neoconservative and Christian right xenophobia toward Muslims. “Demographic Winter” is a code phrase for fears among white people that they are being outbred by people of color, and is pushed by the World Congress of Families, says PRA Senior Analyst Chip Berlet.

Gawthrop also casts mosques and the services they perform for communities “as the guarantor and essence of lines of communication penetrating and consolidating Islamic footholds in unconquered tterritories.” (p. 86) Citing former Muslim turned Christian evangelist Mark Gabriel, Gawthrop characterizes mosques as “a place of worship, weapons depot, [and] military planning headquarters.” (“Tools,” p. 85)

Biased FBI Training Manual on Arab Culture and Islam

This week, we learned that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alsorecommended Mark Gabriel’s Islam and Terrorism to new recruits as part of atwo-day training on Arab and Islamic Culture. The ACLU obtained a 62-page PowerPoint training presentation used by the FBI to teach new recruits ways to deal with “individuals from the M.E. [Middle East] during interviews and interrogations.” The briefing provides facts about Muslims and their religion which are replete with over-generalizations and over-simplifications. The training material acknowledges that there are more than fifty-one Muslim majority countries stretching from Mali to Malaysia and Afghanistan to Algeria, it paints the Muslim or Arab world as homogeneous. On a slide called “Islam 101”, four bullet points list:

  • No separation between church and state.
  • Hard for Westerners to understand.
  • Transforms country’s culture into 7th century Arabian ways.
  • Regulates most aspects of life.

On a slide entitled “Language,” one bullet point reads: “It is the characteristic of the Arabic mind to be swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.” Wired’s Danger Room blog reported on the presentation and received this statement from representatives at the FBI: “The FBI new agent population at Quantico is exposed to a diverse curriculum in many specific areas, including Islam and Muslim culture. The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.” While the training document is no longer in use, the latest revision date listed on its first page is January 15, 2009, notes Al Jazeera coverage.

I was happy to read in the August 4, 2011 New York Times that “the administration promised to identify accurate educational materials about Islam for law enforcement officers, providing an alternative to biased and ill-informed literature in use in recent years, including by the FBI.” Clearly, there is much work to be done in rooting out hateful or divisive stereotypes about Muslims which cast suspicion on entire communities. Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake offered this poignant critical reflection:

The strategy presents a decent foundation for addressing whatever extremism the nation should address. However, it is an utterly meaningless strategy if some of the poorest communities in America continue to be used by the FBI as a laboratory for launching entrapment schemes to catch so-called terrorists. It is purely prose if law enforcement continues to train agents or police to investigate and monitor not just crime but the religious practice and social behavior of entire communities. And, it is merely something officials in law enforcement can use to cover their ass and argue they are not targeting Muslims if Muslim Americans continue to have reason to believe their government is conducting surveillance on the mosques they pray in because of their religion.

 

John Guandolo: Another Counterterrorism Expert Exposed

PRA’s groundbreaking exposé of how tax dollars fund anti-Muslim trainings for police and counterterrorism personnel won the attention of news outlets and policy makers at its release this spring. We’ve been keeping the pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to stop funding flawed and bigoted training courses and in the last week our efforts have gotten a boost from CNN and National Public Radio.

NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston, one of the first to report on PRA’s findings, broadcast a “Morning Edition” story this week about a counterterrorism training in Ohio that smeared a Jordanian-American professor with accusations of links to terrorism. NPR reports that the professor had worked with the Department of Homeland Security on a highly effective outreach program to the Muslim community. The only “evidence” the trainer, former FBI agent and ex- Marine John Guandolo, gave NPR for singling out the professor was a photograph of the man with members of a Muslim-American civil rights organization.

John Guandolo is a 1989 graduate of the Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps until 1996, when he joined the FBI Washington Field Office. In 2009, he left the FBI after having a sexual affair with a key witness in the corruption trial of former Congressman William Jefferson. Guandolo is currently Vice President for Strategic Planning and Execution at Strategic Engagement Group, Inc. (SEG), a consulting firm specializing in “unconstrained analysis in defense of America.” SEG offers trainings for law enforcement on the Islamic threat in America; options of varying lengths ranging from 1 day to 3 days, 1 week and 2 weeks – with each session advancing in detail.

SEG’s specialty – so-called “unconstrained analysis” – draws on a catch phrase that has cropped up in Islamophobic parlance. “Unconstrained analysis” functions as shorthand for analysis that is not constrained by respect for Muslim Americans’ voices and concerns. Nor is it constrained by the reality millions upon millions of followers of Islam do not experience or relate to the narrow-minded, bigoted interpretation of Islam promoted by so-called counter-terrorism experts who view warfare against non-Muslims as a central tenet of Islamic teachings and law. Whereas explicit calls for racial and religious profiling could result in “experts” being shunned in official circles, it’s critical that watchdogs in government recognize the codewords that could justify profiling or discrimination.

Guandolo focuses on the Muslim Brotherhood and its alleged activity in the U.S. According to Guandolo and many self-appointed counter-terrorism experts like him, the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating our fundamental institutions through front organizations: “From several major terrorism trials in the United States, and other information, we now know nearly every major Muslim organization in North America is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or a derivative group.” The alleged “front groups” include authentic Muslim advocacy and civil rights groups such as Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA).[1] According to Guandolo, the ultimate goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in theU.S. and Shariah doctrine as the supreme law of the land.[2]Guandolo cites examples such as the installation of footbaths or separate pools for men as women as evidence of the growing Islamic Threat and complains that the reason why law enforcement has thus far abstained from action is due to potential lawsuits and political correctness.[3]

A number of experts on the Muslim Brotherhood have debunked the conspiracy theory voiced by Guandolo. For instance, Nathan Brown, a George Washington University professor of political science, testified before Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a violent organization in most places it operates. The Brotherhood’s rejection of violence, said Brown, is “not a mere tactical adjustment” but a “deep strategic commitment.” He noted that the Brotherhood is not on any U.S. terrorism list and argued that the U.S. should not have any official policy toward the Brotherhood any more than it has a policy toward the greens, feminists, or nationalist right.

During the same hearing, Tarek Masoud, a Harvard Universityassistant professor of public policy, also criticized videos on Rep. Myrick’s website for giving too much credit to the Muslim Brotherhood and for using this conspiracy theory to tar Muslim groups as a “Fifth Column.” Masoud noted that communism did not make much headway in the U.S. with the backing of a major superpower. The Brotherhood could not likely “infiltrate” the States even if it wanted to. Masoud emphasized that an Islamic caliphate envisioned by some Brotherhood groups is a federation of Muslim states, not a grand global conquest. He also debunked a “1991 Exploratory Memo” used by the right-wing to justify their claims of a Brotherhood campaign to take over America. This memo, authored by Mohammed Akram, is an example of a Brother writing to people back home to urge them to make the U.S. a proselytizing priority. When the author said, “these are the organizations of our friends in America,” he followed that by writing, “imagine if they all marched together.” The list of Muslim groups contained in that memo, says Prof. Masoud, is properly interpreted as one individual’s aspirations, rather than as “arms of the Muslim Brotherhood octopus.”[4]

Setting aside basic problems such as selective reading, Guandolo’s analysis also suffers largely as a result of its paranoid associative tactics. In one example, which was highly publicized by NPR, Guandolo falsely accused Omar al-Omari, a 59-year-old Jordanian college professor who is an American citizen and has lived in Ohiofor 30 years, of having ties with terrorists.[5] During a training session with the Columbus Division of Police, Guandolo showed a picture of Omari with members of CAIR as evidence of his guilt. However, several training attendees had worked with Omari before in his work in Muslim outreach for the Ohio Department of Public Safety and found the accusations ludicrous. NPR interviewed almost a dozen members of the national intelligence community including current members of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, all of which disagreed with Guandolo’s assessment.

Fortunately, since Guandolo can play guilt-by-association, so can his critics. Guandolo’s partner at SEG is Stephen Coughlin, a right-wing proponent of the thesis that Islam is inherently violent and Muslims are our enemies. Along with Coughlin, Guandolo also co-authored a report at the Center for Security Policy with other Islamophobic activists Frank Gaffney, Clare Lopez, and David Yerushalmi called “Shariah: The Threat to America” which jumbles as many Islam conspiracy theories as possible into one book.[6] The report mentions terms like “demographic jihad” and “stealth jihad” in the hope to scaring readers into fearing the Muslim disease. Moving forward, those defending the rights of Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners, Sikhs, and South Asians nationwide should heed the danger behind such racist rhetoric. Government officials should be especially mindful of the risk of spreading inflammatory ideologies among domestic security personnel, especially where they blatantly contradict stated U.S. policies of treating Muslim Americans as full partners and respecting Islam as a religion of peace.

Special thanks to PRA intern Ryan Katz for his work researching and drafting this post.

Sites on John Guandolo:

On the Guandolo scandal:http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/individuals/john-guandolo

On the Guandolo scandal:http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/09/the_strange_case_of_the_philandering_fbi_agent.php

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/guandolo/0018504 – Great article on Guandolo by Sheila Musaji on theamericanmuslim.org

The Muslim Brotherhood in America Part I:http://bigpeace.com/jguandolo/2011/03/02/the-muslim-brotherhood-in-america-part-i-understanding-the-threat/

The Muslim Brotherhood in America Part II:http://bigpeace.com/jguandolo/2011/03/06/the-muslim-brotherhood-in-america-part-ii-mb-history-their-arrival-in-america/

The Muslim Brotherhood in America Part III:http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=42562

The Muslim Brotherhood in America Part IV:http://bigpeace.com/jguandolo/2011/04/10/the-muslim-brotherhood-in-america-part-iv-crossing-the-bridge-the-implications-of-the-holy-land-foundation-trial-part-1/

“The Islamists Battle Plan” featuring both Coughlin and Guandolo:http://bigpeace.com/smandel/2010/12/17/the-islamists-battle-plan/


 

[1] Guandolo, John. “The Muslim Brotherhood in America Part I – Understanding the Threat.” http://bigpeace.com/jguandolo/2011/03/02/the-muslim-brotherhood-in-america-part-i-understanding-the-threat/

[2] Guandolo, John. “The Muslim Brotherhood in America Part IV – Crossing the Bridge: The Implications of the Holy Land Foundation.”http://bigpeace.com/jguandolo/2011/04/10/the-muslim-brotherhood-in-america-part-iv-crossing-the-bridge-the-implications-of-the-holy-land-foundation-trial-part-1/

[3] Musaji, Sheila. “John Guandolo, terrorism ‘expert.’”http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/guandolo/0018504

[4] “Open Hearing on the Muslim Brotherhood,” House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, and Analysis, hearing chaired by U.S. Representative Sue Myrick (April 13, 2011). http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/TheMusli (see video at 1:29:40).

[5] Temple-Raston, Dina. “Terrorism Training Casts Pall Over Muslim Employee.”http://www.npr.org/2011/07/18/137712352/terrorism-training-casts-pall-over-muslim-employee

[6] Ibid. Musaji.

FBI Raids Reveal Repressive Apparatus Run Amok

A recent Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s investigations of certain domestic advocacy groups from 2002-2006 found that the agency considered routine civil-disobedience violations, such as trespassing or vandalism, potential terrorism. For example, the Bureau determined that spilling human blood on walls, an American flag, and pictures were “forceful acts” sufficient to trigger inclusion on terror watchlists. The FBI today threatens to label peace activists – and a wide swath of people with whom they associate – as “terrorists” because of First Amendment activities that include travel and public education. Apparently, the bad practices under the Bush administration have not been reformed.

As a think tank that grew out of opposition to the FBI’s coordinated assault on dissenters during the 1970s, Political Research Associates (PRA) has witnessed and studied the penchant of American intelligence systems to treat peoples’ movements as subversive. The FBI belongs to a post-9/11 domestic security apparatus that is unprecedented in size, and largely unaccountable to democratic control. A recent Washington Post article estimated its size at 845,000 public and private personnel. As protectors of civil liberties, Congress must embrace its oversight function and reign in homeland security agencies that continue to confuse ideology for crime.

PRA adds its voice to those of other progressive and civil liberties organizations, and all those who value democracy and dissent, in denouncing these raids. We believe that all Americans should stand in defense of the Constitution and all individuals who have been wrongly targeted for their principles objection to U.S. military interventions abroad.

Anti-War Activists Targeted by FBI

Days after the release of the IG’s report, the FBI raided the homes of twenty peace activists from Minneapolis to Chicago under the guise of fighting terrorism. The harsh manner in which the raids were conducted, the sweeping scope of the warrants, and the lack of any credible threat of terrorism all suggest that the FBI may once again be abusing its power to intimidate social change movements.

Beginning on Friday, September 24, the FBI executed search warrants against at least eight homes and offices in Chicago, upstate Michigan, the Twin Cities, and Ohio. In Minneapolis, a SWAT team knocked on activist Mick Kelly’s door at about 7 a.m. When Kelly’s partner asked to see the search warrant, the agents busted down the door, causing it to fly across the room and break a fish tank.

About twenty agents spent most of the day searching the Chicago home of activists Stephanie Weiner and Joseph Iosbaker. “We aren’t doing anything differently than we have in twenty years,” said Weiner, a teacher at Wilbur Wright College. The FBI carried thirty boxes of papers dating from the 1970s from Iosbaker’s attic to sift for evidence. In Jefferson Park, FBI agents removed boxes and electronic equipment from the apartment of community activist Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network.

The FBI also raided the homes of Jessica Sundin and Meredity Aby, who helped organize rallies at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. The FBI and local law enforcement infiltrated advocacy groups prior to the RNC and charged several protestors with terrorism offenses, which were later dismissed outright. Sundin called the suggestion that they were connected with terrorism “pretty hilarious and ridiculous.” Mick Kelly’s lawyer, Ted Dooley, explained that the FBI agents were looking for “everything related to potential co-conspirators, including Kelly’s personal contacts in the United States and abroad. It’s kind of unconstitutional and hideous.”

The activists targeted are involved in numerous groups, including the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (a Colombian political prisoner).

At least a dozen activists were served subpoenas from a grand jury seeking records of payments to Abudayyeh’s organization and groups on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

No arrests have been made, suggesting that prosecutors lack probable cause for an indictment against anyone. An FBI spokesperson admitted to the Associated Press that the bureau knows of no “imminent threat to the community.” He said the FBI was seeking evidence related to “activities concerning material support for terrorism” as part of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation.

Several of the FBI’s targets belong to FRSO and occasionally contribute to a socialist newsletter that is critical of the U.S. wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The subpoena issued to FRSO activist Thomas Burke requested “items related to trips to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian territories.” Burke said he had toured Colombia eight years ago with members of an oil workers union. He told the press, “We barely have money to publish our magazine. We might write about [revolutionary groups] favorably, but as for giving them material aid, nothing.”

Labeling Free Speech as Subversive

These raids mark a disturbing pattern of criminalizing Americans’ international solidarity work.According to Thomas Cincotta, the Civil Liberties Project Director at PRA, “the FBI has played fast and loose with the definition of terrorism, abusing its power to intimidate and repress challengers of U.S. foreign policy.”

Political Research Associates maintains a library and archive that documents the U.S. government’s long history of red-baiting and demonizing the Left, from the Red Scare of the 1920s to McCarthyism to J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal COINTELPRO program during the 1960s and 1970s, which aimed to “neutralize” the Black Panther Party and other civil rights organizations. Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress were labeled terrorists during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. In the 1980s, the FBI closely monitored U. S. activists who supported the resistance to dictatorship and U.S. intervention in Central America. When all the facts were revealed in 1988, Congress repeatedly criticized the FBI for interpreting “support for terrorism” to include peaceful political and humanitarian activities. According to the civil rights expert David Cole, the FBI admitted that its investigation of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, in particular, had been overbroad, improperly focused on activities permitted under the First Amendment, and a waste of resources.

Anti-terrorism laws have given the FBI wide latitude to repress political activists as well as American Muslims. The FBI felt that reforms instituted following the CISPES investigation tied its hands in domestic investigations. In response, Congress included a “support for terrorism” provision in the 1996 Antiterrorism Act that has paved the way for the FBI to slide back to the days of Hoover.

Since 9/11, PRA has witnessed the selective prosecution of Muslims, South Asians, Arabs, and people of Middle Eastern descent using the “material support” and immigration laws. Under Attorney General Ashcroft’s direction, thousands of Muslim immigrants were rounded up and deported or interviewed, but no actual terrorists were uncovered. PRA’s 2010 Report, Platform for Prejudice explains how the Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative encourages law enforcement and the public to profile on the basis of race and religion and treat dissenters as potential terrorists. Just as the Justice Department cast a wide net over communities of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern and Arab nationalities, the FBI seems to be imposing collective guilt over an entire network of peace activists.

PRA shares the concerns of the Charity and Security Network, which sees connections between the recent raids on activists and discriminatory scrutiny of Muslim charities. In both circumstances, the “material support” law has been used to tar Americans with the terrorist label even where no threat exists. The government has even tried to punish groups for interacting with people or groups that are not on the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations. For example, leaders of the Holy Land Foundation were convicted of providing material support because they gave aid to local zakat committees that were not on the list, but that the government alleged were controlled by Hamas, which is on the list. (zakat committees distribute charity for the poor and aged, in accordance with one of the Five Pillars of Islam). The trial court did not require the jury to find that the defendants knew or even should have known that these committees had Hamas connections.

In the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Court held that it is constitutional for Congress to prohibit a broad range of interactions with designated terrorist groups, including attempts at peace building and support for nonviolence. Offering advice, training, and service to a designated terrorist organization, the Court said, constitutes material support for terrorism under the 1996 law. It emphasized that the prohibition does not apply to pure political speech, naively asserting, “the statute is carefully drawn to cover only a narrow category of speech…in coordination with foreign groups that the speaker knows to be terrorist organizations.” However, the opinion provides no definition of “coordinated,” leaving room for overly broad interpretations.

Tell Congress to Stop Political Repression

PRA has observed that liberals and right-wing groups tend to tolerate state repression when it targets political opponents. Just as PRA criticized Homeland Security reports on Right Wing Extremism in 2009, we now call on all people of good conscience to defend the Constitution. The conservative blogosphere – the same one that warns of a creeping fascism in the United States – is trying to use the raids to smear Obama and unions. A blogger at the conservative Red Stateclaims that trade unionists who will march on Washington on October 2nd to demand jobs are unpatriotic Leftists, linked to terrorism abroad. Another right wing pundit tries to slander Obama by pointing to his past “ties” with the Arab American Action Network. Says Cincotta, “These narrow-minded responses illustrate the destructive power of the terrorism label. They underscore the need for constant vigilance to defend the presumption of innocence and respect for the First Amendment no matter where you stand.”

So far, progressives and civil libertarians are responding with action. Groups such as the National Lawyers Guild pledged support for the protestors. Bruce Nestor, former president of the guild, calls the raids “a direct attack on people who are strong, dedicated advocates of freedom, of the right of people to be free from U.S. domination. It is an attack upon anybody who organizes against U.S. imperialism abroad.”

Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at PRA who helped litigate against illegal FBI surveillance in the 1960s, emphasized the need for Congressional oversight, no matter who is in the White House:“Since its beginning, the FBI has proved itself incapable of discerning the difference between free speech and dissent, and subversion and terrorism. By repeatedly conflating dissent with terrorism, the FBI defies the clear mandate of the Constitution, which it is sworn to uphold. They only thing that reigns in this marauding is Congress. And the only thing that will force Congress to act is a swift kick by people across the political spectrum.”

Although the tactics of intimidation are familiar, we cannot ignore them. People are already organizing loud, visible protests to challenge the legitimacy of the FBI’s raids. To show your support, you can:

  • Call the attorney general’s office at (202) 353-1555 to demand an end to intimidation of peace activists.
  • Call your congressional representative to demand that the FBI stop harassing activists and close the “material support” loopholes that give the FBI room to target peaceful domestic advocacy.Congress should hold hearings on the violations identified in the Inspector General’s recent report and uncover the full extent of the FBI’s misuse of counter-terror laws and watchlist practices.
  • Participate in local actions to protest these raids, including outside the Grand Jury convening inChicago on October 12.

____________________________

Sources

Anti-War Activists Targeted by FBI Speak Out,” CBS News (Sept. 26, 2010).

Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, “One Key to Litigating Against Government Prosecution of Dissidents: Understanding the Underlying Assumptions – Part II,” Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Reporter, Vol. 5, No. 14 (March-April 1988).

Charity and Security Network, “Searches, Grand Jury Investigation Target Anti-War Activists in Chicago, Minneapolis,” (Sept. 27, 2010).

James X. Dempsey and David Cole, Terrorism & The Constitution (First Amendment Foundation, 2002), pp. 25-33.

Frank Donner, “Terrorist as Scapegoat,” The Nation (May 20, 1978).

Editorial, “A Reminder for the F.B.I.,” New York Times (Sept. 27, 2010).

FBI raids homes of anti-war activists,” Chicago Breaking News (Sept. 24, 2010).

Mara H. Gottfried, “FBI raids six locations In Minneapolis as part of terrorism investigation,” Twin Cities (Sept. 24, 2010).

Praying as Suspicious Behavior in the Henderson 7 Case

Since 9/11, practicing Islam has been unfairly viewed as suspicious in some circles, including among many in law enforcement. On December 20, 2009, in Henderson, Nevada, a concerned caller notified police that seven Muslim men were praying in a gas-station parking lot. The men had been traveling through the area and had stopped to perform one of the five daily prayers required in their religion. Although the caller did not describe any illegal conduct, the Henderson police investigated the “incident,” detaining the seven Muslims for approximately forty minutes and searching their vehicle. No arrests were made that night, but the FBI recently questioned five of the men again. [1] Muslim advocacy groups have raised alarms about this unfair and prejudicial treatment, emphasizing that the men were doing nothing suspicious and should not have been placed under so much scrutiny for an innocuous, legal activity.

Although police claim that local policy required them to check out the scene since they received a terrorism-related tip, it is unclear why they needed so much time to investigate the men. Indeed, it is disquieting that the simple act of praying prompted suspicion, on the parts of both U.S. citizens and police. Would they respond the same way to yoga, tai chi, or other peaceful movements in a public space?

One of the seven men recorded part of the investigation on his camera phone. In the recording, a police officer says he doesn’t know what the Muslims could be praying about and ignorantly suggests that they could be chanting, “I want to kill a police officer today.” [2] Police later admitted that “they were not trained well enough to know how to appropriately respond to Muslim religious behavior.” [3]

This is not the first time practicing Islam has been deemed suspicious activity by authorities. The Henderson Seven case is similar to a May 2002 incident in Stoughton, Massachusetts, in which fire trucks, police officers, and the bomb squad converged on a BJ’s Wholesale Club after Muslim men were sighted there praying at sunset. [4] The police evacuated the entire establishment and questioned the men. Clearly, racial bias influences these kinds of 911 calls about “suspected terrorists.”

Muslims, Middle Easterners, and South Asians are often subjected to slurs, and hate crimes on the streets and discrimination in housing, public accommodations, education, and employment. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recommends training police about Muslim religious practices and civil rights, and disciplining officers who inappropriately target Muslims. Perhaps flagrant abuses from law authorities will serve as catalysts for ensuring better treatment of ethnic and religious minorities.

Continued unfair treatment, in contrast, is bound to result in the alienation and even disenfranchisement of Muslim American communities, just when the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and President Obama recommend that we develop relationships of mutual trust. John Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor, has publicly recognized that domestic counterterrorism efforts will fail if Muslims are not involved as partners. [5] When police officers and FBI agents spend their time pursuing innocent people because of ethnic or religious bias, they waste time they could spend on developing real leads.

Sources
1. Ritter, Ken. “Muslim Group Says FBI Still On Nevada Prayer Case,” SFGate, June 21, 2010. (accessed 6 July 2010). http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-06-21/news/21920575_1_fbi-agents-fbi-spokeswoman-laura-eimiller-henderson
2. see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0qxUATacuc
3. Blasky, Mike. Las Vesgas Review Journal. “Racial Profiling Alleged: Muslims Criticize Henderson Police Tactics” (accessed 6 July 2010). Mar. 06, 2010 http://www.lvrj.com/news/muslims-criticize-henderson-police-tactics-86706812.html
4. “Evacuation Due to Muslim Prayers Sparks Debate,” by Ray Henry, The Boston Globe, May 16, 2002.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/685014/posts?page=1
5. “John Brennan’s Counterterrorism Vision vs. American Muslim Reality,” by Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent, June 17, 2010. http://washingtonindependent.com/87386/john-brennans-counterterrorism-vision-vs-american-muslim-reality

Recipe for Profiling: Boston Transit Police Study the “Legal Wing of Jihad in America”

Why are Boston Transit Police Studying Islam?

While reading the February/March 2010 issue of the industry magazine Counter Terrorist (a publication of Security Solutions International), I came across a troubling advertisement.

On May 10-12, 2010, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is sponsoring a three-day seminar in Florida that takes participants through the “formative phases of the Islamic religion” and the branches and ideologies of Islam to help them “really understand how extremism is organized in Radical Islam.”

The MBTA is promoting a discriminatory seminar, led by SSISecurity Solutions International, which raises concerns about whether such training is counter-productive, promotes racial and religious profiling, and makes local residents less safe. Why is the cash-strapped MBTA using limited funds to study the political or religious motives of potential terrorists? Is this the best way to keep T riders safe? How will this training affect religious and ethnic/racial bias among intelligence officials and the police?

The course content, according to the advertisement, includes “Arab naming conventions,” “Women in Islam and Female Suicide Bombers,” and “The Legal wing of Jihad in America.” Of what concern is the LEGAL wing of [alleged] jihad in America to theBoston’s transit police since it is, by that definition, legal?

This course promotes thinly-disguised Islamophobia that harkensback to McCarthyistic witch hunts for communist front organizations. It has nothing to do with effective law enforcement. Indoctrinating metro Boston law enforcement with these inflammatory views is a recipe for racial, ethnic, religious, and political profiling. Unquestionably, courses of this nature will lead law enforcement attendees to subject individuals to increased scrutiny (and possibly illegal searches) based on their appearance and beliefs, rather than conduct. Law enforcement resources are better spent protecting infrastructure and observing criminal conduct, not studying (or tracking) peoples’ religious belief systems and political motivations.

Security Solutions International is a Miami-based company founded in 2004 [1] that bills itself as a frontline defense against the threat of “radical Islam” and prime provider of “homeland security training” to a range of clients, including local police forces, corporations, and federal agencies. [2] Employing alarmist rhetoric about Islamic groups’ purported existential threat to the United States in the “war on terror,” SSI’s website encourages “first Responders and interested members of the concerned public to help Security Solutions International fight the war on terror. Radical Islam has an agenda and wants to destroy our country. As part of our mission, we are dedicated to keeping you informed about the enemy and developments in this global conflict.”[3]

According to the bio of SSI’s CEO, Solomon Bradman, he formerly managed “Diplomat Trading, a multi-million dollar exporter of Electronic Equipment specializing in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College in Aviation. His management and administrative training and experience began while running the fixed base operation at Marathon Airport back in 1984 where he eventually ended up manager, chief pilot, and head flight instructor until moving to Denver to pursue a pilot position with Rocky Mountain Airways. … Over the last three years his responsibilities as CEO of SSI have required his experience and full attention to Administration, Marketing, Sales, Product Development and Public Relations, including being a spokesperson for SSI and appearing on news casts on NBC, CBS, and ABC commenting on SSI programs and security issues. He also provides articles on Aviation-related security issues to top publications such as Business Aviation, Helicopter Monthly and others.” [4]

SSI lists two products that are presumably provided to people who sign up to be SSI “Patriot Partners”: the Counter Terroristnewsletter, an SSI publication that claims to keep readers “up-to-date with developments, technologies, successes and … failures in the global struggle against Islamofascism”; and “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West,” a controversial film described as “hate propaganda” by some critics and distributed by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization closely linked to both the U.S. and Israeli right-wing. [5]

Among the activities SSI advertises on its website are a training course for law enforcement agencies that is entitled “The IslamicJihadist Threat” and a Department of Homeland Security-funded training program in Israel for U.S. clients. According to SSI’s website, this course is a two-day program “designed to give First Responders a deep understanding of the terror mindset and an explanation of the reasons for the Global Jihad as well as practical tips for Law Enforcement in detecting, preventing and responding to acts of terror.” Course topics include “Where does the hatred come from?- Arab naming conventions – Jihad – The Five Pillars of Islam – Ramadan – Domestic Terror groups – International Terror groups – Understanding the culture of Jihad.”[6]

The course has been harshly criticized. In 2008, for example, theWashington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) argued that SSI’s training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission promoted stereotypes that could lead to prejudicial profiling of Muslims. A CAIRrepresentative told the Seattle Times, “Most police officers don’t have a basic grounding in Islam, so before you teach them about Islam, how can you teach them about radical Islam? It just makes you nervous because when a law-enforcement person pulls someone over, when they see a Muslim person or someone who appears Muslim to them—all this information they just learned kicks in.”[7]

In August 2009, Political Research Associates attended a two-hour presentation by Long Beach, California, Police Detective EbrahimAshabi, SSI’s purported expert on Islamic culture. Det. Ashabi says he is trying to help law enforcement “gain a better understanding of how terrorists think and why they are terrorists.” He offered an explanation of the political and social origins of Islam, the Spread of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Ottoman Empire, The Crusades, the Muslim brotherhood, Hezbollah, and the long-term goals of terrorism. Such lessons are counter-productive; by suggesting that violent terrorism finds its roots in the Islamic religion, SSI is legitimizing claims by terrorist organizations that their acts are justified by faith, when in fact they are distorting Islam for their own political aims.

Det. Ashabi provided a window into the mindset of some counter terrorism specialists who believe that there are no good Muslims, only bad ones. Ashabi contends that the Muslim Brotherhood aims “to destroy Western civilization from within, through subversive means, legal, political and non-terrorist means, and by changing laws and U.S. constitution. He cited several examples of Islamic “infiltration,” such as the July 29, 2009 arrest of 7 men in North Carolina charged with terrorist conspiracy to wage an Islamic holy war overseas; the Holy Land Foundation case (wherein individuals were accused of giving aid to a group with ties to Hamas that was not on the U.S. government’s list of forbidden charities); and the shooting of police deputy in Fresno by a Kashmir group.

However, with those criminal cases, Ashabi lumps in “on-going threats of lawsuits against police and other law enforcement agencies that offer counter terrorism and race awareness training programs (alleging racial, religious profiling) as means of intimidating police departments to stop training programs.” He cited the July 2009 case (above) of the Seattle Police Department taking criticism from CAIR over its race awareness program. PRA’s investigator, Mary Fischer, observed, “It’s Ashabi’s belief that CAIR is a serious threat to U.S. safety and that the organization continues to permeate all facets of our society in effort to undermine it. One strategy it seeks to use–nominate Muslim sympathizers to political office and law enforcement ranks to then gain access to computer databases.”

So, the MBTA is sponsoring a seminar which views as suspect Muslim-Americans’ participation in the democratic political process. We need to tell MBTA officials that the public does not approve of this religious prejudice. This is not the first time that MBTA has partnered with SSI. In August 2009, PRA requested records related to a similar course held in Massachusetts last year, but the MBTA failed to supply the requested materials. No law enforcement agency should not be lending its name or funds to SSI, whose aim is to stir up suspicion of all Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian persons, or to get rich trying.

* UPDATE: In response to community concerns, the MBTA canceled its sponsorship of the seminar run by Security Solutions International on March 31, 2010.

Sources

1. Market Wire, “Miami Becomes the Homeland Security Capital of the USA during the UASI National Conference April 10th-April 13th,” April 5, 2007.
2. See Security Solutions International website.
3. SSI, “Patriot Partners,” (accessed September 28, 2009)
4. SSI, “Corporate Officers,” (accessed September 28, 2009)
5. SSI, “Patriot Partners,” (accessed September 28, 2009)
6. SSI, “The Islamic Jihadist Threat,” (accessed October 1, 2009)
7. Janet I. Tu, “Does Course on Islam Give law Enforcers Wrong Idea?” Seattle Times, May 26, 2008.

Information for this posting also comes from Right Web, a project of Political Research Associates, http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/bradman_solomon